Less than a year since most of the Covid restrictions around the world – not yet in the US – were lifted, and with Easter but days away, many people will be excited to pack their bags for their first big trip for a while.
But what to pack? Can you even remember? Well, let me try to help you out – with my checklist of what to pack for your vacation.
Before we get too decrepit, my wife wants us to have visited 100 countries. It’s a tall order and frankly I don’t think it’s possible, not only because sometimes I feel decrepit already, but also because well-meaning travel purists have told us (there must be a word for that but it’s unlikely to be published) that a bunch of places we’ve been don’t count.
Reunion, a strange and disturbing neighbor of Mauritius? No, it’s part of France! Just like the Isle of Wight is a strange and disturbing part of the UK. But while Cowes is a few kilometers from mainland Britain, Reunion’s capital, Saint-Denis, is 6,000 kilometers from France. Come on!
Inflight Map Addict: Arrival in Barbados
Ignoring these rules, we reached 54 last month thanks to Avios flights to Barbados.
> Find out how to get the most out of your Avios here
Since we met, first Gulf War, we have been extremely fortunate to be able to spend much of our spare money on travel. Driving cheap used cars that last over a decade rather than shelling out £400 a month in car finance helps.
Of course, we also didn’t have to deal with unaffordable rents, exorbitant energy bills, student loans and post-Brexit food prices. It’s hard if you’re just starting out in adult life now and you’ve got the travel bug.
For us, an Interrail around Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Yugoslavia who vote for each other in Eurovision, plus a few cruises in our twilight years, could add another 40 countries and Bob is your uncle, Jane McDonald’s* your favorite aunt and the goal is still theoretically achievable.
I can’t help you decide where to go. It’s up to you.
But I can help with how to pack.
We are pretty good at packing very quickly through the list.
I initially tinkered with it from various websites and adapted it over time with our experiences. It still works as a quick visual checklist.
We tend to pack our bags an hour before we go. Some things aren’t on it because you just know you won’t forget them – pants, bathing suits, Macaulay Culkin.
Nice ferry: as long as you’re not traveling when it’s busy, getting to the mainland is pretty easy
Take note to keep copies of your documents. My wife had her passport stolen in France on the way to the station and was able to return home with the same Eurostar thanks to the photocopy she had kept.
I appreciate that there are no kids stuff on the list. We are beyond that and have made all the mistakes.
If I remember correctly, once they get past the many baby accessories phase, they don’t need all the toys they’ve ever played with, just a charged electronic device full of fun flying stuff without an entertainment system and maybe a pillow – and the same for long car journeys, plus boxing gloves if they have a sibling.
* Jane McDonald, a former cruise ship singer, presented the brilliant Channel 5 show, Cruising with Jane McDonald. Watch it on My 5, it’s addictive.
FOUR ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS
I worked at Heathrow Airport many years ago and it was mind blowing to see how many people showed up having forgotten their passports – or with expired passports – and watched their dream holiday in tatters so that they were yelling at me because not only couldn’t they get a window seat, they couldn’t go at all.
First tip: make sure your passports are valid and make sure they are with you when you leave home. This is the number one basic stress avoidance.
Tip two: have a pre-packed tote bag (other bags are available but somehow we ended up with more tote bags than there are countries) with your electric essentials that you stuff in your suitcase or carry-on every time you go.
Other than showing up at the airport or port without travel documents, there’s nothing more stressful at 4 a.m. trying to find those adapters, those phone charger cables you know you have, but where the hell are they?
Tip 3: Oh, for heaven’s sake, get travel insurance.
Tip 4: European breakdown insurance is essential if you drive an old vehicle. Being brought back from Paris with the car on a truck isn’t great but it’s free. Funny though, the least reliable family cars aren’t the cheapest – £400 a month in financing, even. Yes Audi, you.
Checklist of what to pack when you go on vacation
> You can download the list here to save, modify and print it
Please share your tips in the comments for anything missing.
Basic things to remember – but not all necessary
Passport and copy + sent by e-mail
Visa doc and copy + sent by e-mail
Insurance documents and EHIC+ emailed to myself
Driver’s license, car rental documents copied and emailed
Car insurance documents + reg V5 for the Netherlands, check the country’s driving requirements
France: spare bulbs, high visibility vests in the glove box, warning triangle, Paris anti-pollution sticker, UK sticker
Black tape or headlight deflector £4 on eBay
Phone – with downloaded movies and TV shows
Mains and portable phone charger
Adapters, 4-way plug – see “bag always ready below”
If you know how to get to St Pancras station in London, the Eurostar is the relaxing way to get to Europe
laptop and charger
Credit and debit cards
Up-to-date Covid certificates – now only a precaution if the rules change at the last minute
Medicines, plus Imodium, paracetamol, antihistamine, malaria pills
Copy of prescription
First aid kit
Antibacterial hand gel
Toothbrush / toothpaste
Flying Tuck: Pack your suitcase with snacks and basics, and if you’re going to Iceland or Norway, a box of wine or two – unless you’ve thought about taking out a mortgage to pay for their booze
Books, guides, conversation guide
Pens and notebook
Sealable plastic bags for toiletries and stupid airport security
Large plastic bags for dirty laundry
Corkscrew, bottle opener
Shopping bag(s) for life
Water bottle for the flight – allowed from summer 2024 hopefully
For self-catering – if traveling by plane
Tea towel, tea towel, scouring sponge
Salt and pepper
Boil Pouch Rice, Pasta, Smash
For self-catering – if you drive
Fill the car but no meat or dairy products allowed in the EU. You can bring back what you like
Often forgotten clothes
T-shirts and tops
Suits you: Until all airports copy Dubai and remove suitcases from the carousel for you, attach something to the handle to identify yours.
Shoes – beach, sandals
The bag always packed and ready for travel chargers
4-way adapter UK plugs
2 or 3 three adapters for sockets abroad
2 USB sockets
2 iPhone cables
USB to USB cable
USB to mini USB
How to compare travel insurance
The fastest and easiest way to save money on travel insurance and compare the best policies is to use a comparison site.
While the results are broadly the same on most comparison sites, they may differ slightly, so it’s worth checking a few out.
Compare offers from 35 leading providers
See how much you can save from a few days to an annual policy
Also check insurers such as Direct Line that don’t appear on comparison sites and if you’ve ever had serious medical issues, consider a specialist insurer or broker.
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