Ruth Emery
By Ruth Emery
Finance Journalist
Updated 04 September 2023
|Read time: 5 mins

The essential holiday checklist

Whether you’re off on a beach holiday or a city break, the idea of packing can leave some people feeling frazzled.

Maybe you start weeks in advance but become stressed trying to juggle packing with everyday life. You forget what you already packed and have to start again. Or, you leave it to the last minute, and realise the clothes you washed still haven’t dried properly, and you can’t find your noise-cancelling headphones or the insect repellent you thought was at the back of the bathroom cupboard. 

We’re here to help. Our holiday checklist can help ensure you don’t leave any essentials behind. So, you can tick the items off, and relax as your trip approaches.

Whether it’s a beach break, ski trip, holiday with young kids, a walking holiday or a city break to see the sights, we’ve put together a checklist for travelling, plus a pre-flight checklist, to help you keep track of what you need to pack.

Before you start packing

There are several travel priorities you need to address before you begin packing:

  • Check you have a valid passport (some countries require passports to have six months left on them before they expire. Check the UK government website for the latest travel advice).

  • Check you have any necessary vaccinations

  • Arrange travel to your destination (or to the airport, train station or ferry terminal)

  • Take out a travel insurance policy

  • Check to see if any roaming charges will apply if you use your mobile phone abroad (if they do, it’s a good idea to turn off your voicemail)

  • Make sure your pets are looked after while you’re away

Important documents to take with you

  • Passport – take a photo of it and keep it on your smartphone, and email yourself a copy

  • Visa, if needed. Print out physical documents too to be safe

  • Any Covid documents/forms, and test results, if required

  • Driver’s licence – plus car hire details, if necessary. If you plan to drive while abroad, make sure to check the country’s driving regulations

  • Travel insurance documents – there may be a card you can take with you which will have your policy number and the insurer’s phone number

  • Your EHIC or GHIC if travelling in Europe

  • Boarding passes, train tickets, hotel bookings, and any bookings for planned excursions

Pre-flight checklist: what to pack in your hand luggage

If you're flying to your destination, you’ll need to consider what to pack in your hand luggage. Don’t forget to check the maximum dimensions and weight for hand luggage (airlines have different rules), and take note of banned items like razors, scissors and liquids in containers over 100ml in size.

Here’s our essential hand luggage checklist:


  • Mobile phone and charger

  • Wallet or purse (with local currency)

  • Medication

  • Glasses, contact lenses and hearing aid

  • Book or magazine, plus a pen

  • Empty water bottle (you should be able to fill it at a water fountain once you’ve cleared security)

  • Snacks

  • Tissues

  • Hand sanitiser

  • Jumper or scarf (in case it’s chilly on the plane)


If you have space in your hand luggage, and depending on how long the flight is, you could add:


  • Tablet/laptop, charger and headphones

  • Change of clothes

Holiday checklist for travelling with young children

You can make travelling with a baby, toddlers or children much less stressful by ensuring you have a range of essentials to hand. Remember that they have their own luggage allowance for flights – and kids often like carrying their own backpack or a small suitcase - so this will give you more space and less to carry!

Here’s our hand luggage checklist for travelling with children:


  • Toys, games and books (consider packing favourite ones, and new ones that may hold their attention for longer)

  • Nappies, wipes and baby milk, if necessary

  • Change of clothes (and one for yourself if you have space)

  • Wet wipes for sticky fingers

  • Dummy or comforter

  • Snacks 

  • Tablet or smartphone plus headphones so they can watch TV shows or play interactive games (download a few beforehand, so they can be viewed offline during the flight)

  • Any essential medication


Here’s what to pack generally for a family holiday:


  • Painkillers, including children’s liquid painkillers

  • First-aid kit

  • Extra games and toys 

  • Books and magazines

  • Muslins, nappy creams and bibs 

  • Children’s sun cream and sun hats (if it’s a warm location)

Ultimate checklist for travelling

So, you’ve already packed your passport and other important documents, and organised your hand luggage. Well done! Here’s our ultimate holiday checklist of practical items to consider popping in your checked suitcase, regardless of destination:


  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Deodorant

  • Face wash

  • Face moisturiser

  • Lip balm

  • Hairbrush and/or comb

  • Contact lens solution

  • Soap and/or shower gel

  • Shampoo and conditioner

  • Razor and shaving gel

  • First-aid kit

  • Sun cream and after-sun

  • Sunglasses

  • Mosquito repellent and bite cream

  • Small hairdryer

  • Bags for shopping (and for dirty laundry)

  • Guide book

  • Travel adapter


Checklist: beach holiday

Here’s our checklist of extra things to take if you’re off on a beach break:


  • Beach towel

  • Beach bag

  • Swimwear

  • Swimming goggles

  • Flip flops

  • Sun hat

  • Fan 

  • Books and magazines

  • Tablet / eReader / music player (download some music, podcasts, audiobooks, TV shows or films before you travel)

  • Beach ball/inflatables


Checklist: city break

Here’s our holiday checklist if you’re going on a city break:


  • Comfy shoes

  • Backpack

  • Map app on your phone (download the city data so you can view it offline)

  • Layers for different climates, such as lightweight jackets, cardigans, scarf or shawl

  • Umbrella

  • Camera

  • Portable battery charger for your phone/camera


Checklist: walking holiday

Off on a walking holiday? Don’t forget to pack these items: 


  • Walking shoes or boots

  • Waterproof clothing

  • Walking poles

  • Sun hat (or woolly hat if it’s cold!)

  • Backpack

  • Maps or a map app on your phone (consider downloading “what3words” on your phone too, which shows your precise location – very helpful if you get lost)

  • Water bottle or thermos

  • Snacks like energy bars and trail mix

  • Plasters, and pain relief cream or spray to soothe aching muscles

  • Torches, plus batteries, and camping gear if needed


Checklist: skiing holiday

If you’re hitting the slopes, you’ll need to make space for some essential apparel. Here’s what to pack:


  • Ski boots, helmet, poles and skis/snowboard (if you’re not hiring when you arrive)

  • Goggles and ski gloves

  • Ski jacket

  • Sunglasses

  • Ski socks

  • Thermal layers

  • Walking boots

  • Warm hat

  • Normal gloves (for when you’re not skiing)

  • Backpack

  • Thermos

  • Hydration bladder

  • Pain relief cream or spray to soothe aching muscles 

  • Swimwear, in case there’s a hot tub or pool at your accommodation

A final tip

We hope you’ve found our checklists for travelling useful. The key to stress-free packing is not to leave it to the last minute. This also applies to getting your travel money sorted. Make sure you plan ahead when buying foreign currency.  

At John Lewis, you can buy currency without commission fees  - pop to a Bureau de Change in our John Lewis & Partners shops, order online or click and collect.

You need to report and cancel a lost passport as soon as possible to prevent any fraudulent activity.

Here we explain the answer to “how much money can I take abroad?” as well as rules around bringing cash into the UK.

If you’re thinking of using a bank card abroad, make sure you check what fees you could be charged.

John Lewis Finance and John Lewis & Partners Bureau de Change are both trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc introduce the panel of carefully chosen providers in Bureau de Change products and services, whom each hold the appropriate licences with the Financial Conduct Authority and HMRC.

Foreign Currency online from both John Lewis Finance and John Lewis & Partners is provided by First Rate Exchange Services Limited registration number 04287490 (Money Service Business licence number MLR-64068), whose registered office is at Great West House, Great West Road, Brentford, West London, TW8 9DF England.

Copyright © John Lewis Partnership
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