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What to pack when going on holiday – frequent traveller RICHARD BROWNING shares his checklist

Inflight Map Addict: Arrival in Barbados

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

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

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.


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.

Happy Holidays.

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

Boarding card

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

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

Torch, binoculars


Credit and debit cards

Sleep masks

Covid masks

Up-to-date Covid certificates – now only a precaution if the rules change at the last minute

Seasickness bands

Medicines, plus Imodium, paracetamol, antihistamine, malaria pills

Emergency antibiotics

Copy of prescription

First aid kit

Antibacterial hand gel

Wet wipes

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

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

Play cards

Sealable plastic bags for toiletries and stupid airport security

Large plastic bags for dirty laundry

Sunscreen, after-sun


Corkscrew, bottle opener


Money belt

Shopping bag(s) for life

Water bottle for the flight – allowed from summer 2024 hopefully

For self-catering – if traveling by plane

dishwasher tabs

Tea towel, tea towel, scouring sponge


Salt and pepper


Bites, peanuts


Boil Pouch Rice, Pasta, Smash


Stock cubes

kitchen roll

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.

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

bluetooth speaker

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.

We suggest:


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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