Travel checklist: 19 things not to forget before your holiday

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Whether you have a two-week trip or simply a day-off planned over the holidays, here’s how to stay organised before the festive break begins
The ultimate pre-trip, travel to do list. Photo: Shutterstock
The ultimate pre-trip, travel to do list. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Tackle your timetable

Make time to properly schedule the final few weeks approaching Christmas and what you need to achieve by when. Think of it as your festive countdown: when do you need to have trips organised, presents bought, work completed by? Having a weekly or even daily to-do list means you’ll stay on track with planning and the time approaching the holidays will be a breeze. 

2. Arrange a budget… And stick to it

Whether it’s for a Christmas trip or just for gifts, you need to plan out what to spend where. Always wanted to travel first class? Or take a sunset cruise? Whatever you want to splurge on, by following a budget, you can easily manage your funds to make sure everything’s covered. And, if you plan it right, you'll have a little left over to treat yourself to something extra too...

“We all know the festive season can be quite an expensive time,” adds Kirsten Smith of Flight Factory. “And we all forget how long the month of January is until that next paycheck. Set aside money for the December holidays, discipline yourself with spending and you won't run out of money sooner than expected.”

3. Check the status of your health

Depending on the location of your vacation, you might want to arrange a pre-trip check-up with your GP or health advisor. Ideally, you should organise this around 6 weeks before your trip, in case you need vaccinations, booster jabs or to organise medication. If anything has been troubling you, which would be a pain to get checked out while you’re away, ask your doctor about this too. 

4. Travel insurance: get it organised

There’s no question about it: travel insurance is a must. Micha Pratt, of travel insurance company obrella, says it pays to be prepared: “The last thing we want to think about is something bad happening. But the reality is, you should always be prepared for everything.  Read through your travel insurance policy to check the finer details; are you covered if the trip is cancelled due to weather? Or if your baggage is lost? Or, heavens forbid, you suffer an injury? It's better to be safe than sorry.”

Before purchasing anything, however, make sure the policy you’re investing in covers you for your chosen destination, as well as any special activities. Taking on a high-altitude trek? Learning to surf? Experiencing an elephant safari? These are often additional and not included in a standard policy. As Micha explains above, make sure you check the small print. 

As well as this, travel with a company that offers you extra security. Insight Guides offers a money-back guarantee, for example, which keeps your money secure.

5. Save on specialist equipment

If you’re taking a first-time trip, you don't necessarily have to buy everything first-hand. For example, kitting yourself out with an entire ski outfit can run into the $100s and, quite frankly, you might not even like it… Same goes for camping, photography, cycling or any other activity-focused trip. There are plenty of companies online which let you rent equipment or buy it second-hand for a fraction of the cost. 

Rentluggage is like the Netflix of the luggage world,” explains Jim Barry, the company’s marketing officer, and frequent traveller. “Items are shipped through the mail such as luggage, sports equipment, and even rooftop carriers to allow people to save time, money and space. We have helped countless people save, on average, $100 with our services.”

Packed suitcase of vacation items. Photo: ShutterstockPacking ahead of time is essential to ease pre-trip stress. Photo: Shutterstock


6. Achieve packing perfection

We get it. There’s a lot to remember when it comes to packing for your trip. Personally, we think the best place to start is by writing up a list of everything you need to include, depending on your location, trip duration and what you’ll be doing once there. You can add to it or amend it as your trip approaches. 

Be sure to get all of your clothes, kit or accessories ready well in advance too; this translates to laundry being done, batteries being charged or items being cleaned before departure date. 

When it comes to the packing itself, I prefer to get everything spread out on my bed or across the floor in orderly categories (clothes in one area; accessories in another; beachwear altogether etc). This helps me visualise all the things I need for my trip and allows me to squeeze everything into one suitcase or backpack. You'll be a packing perfectionist in no time at all.

7. Remember to plan what you carry too

If you’re taking a flight, your carry-on kit is just as important to organise. Alternatively, if you’re taking a long drive, train trip or other transport, the bag you’ll have with you needs to be prepared too. Make sure you include a spare change of clothes (you never know what might happen with your main bag); a copy of your documents and bookings (what happens if your phone battery dies?); as well as a few snacks (purchasing on-route is often more expensive and less satisfying). 

If you’re heading for a long-haul flight, remember a few treats or things to freshen up with on arrival. My bag always includes my eye-mask (cashmere, of course!), a face spritz (The Body Shop do a good one with a zesty fragrance) and toothbrush, at the very least. 

Don't forget a pen. It's a simple item often left off the list. It will help you avoid queues on arrival at your destination when you're travelling through immigration and need to complete those all-important forms.

8. Check... And recheck

While there are plenty of things that can be bought in transit or on arrival, it saves to double check your kit list before departure. An object I often forget? A travel adaptor for my electrical devices. I currently own four.  

Be sure to officially check the currency too. I once arrived at a destination to discover I’d brought the wrong money with me… 

9. Get savvy with security 

Plenty of people travel over the holidays; don’t leave your home open to break-ins or crime. Invest in light-timers or radio alarms to set while you’re away. Tell a trusted neighbour your travel plans so they can report anything unusual. Before departure, always double check your door and window locks – these little tricks can save you a lot of stress, hassle, and worry in the long-run.

10. A few boring tasks…

We know these are the mundane pre-trip tick-offs we have to complete before leaving but they’re important too. Don’t forget to keep your heating on low, if it’s forecast to be super cold while you’re away; burst pipes are not what you'll want to return home to. Eat up any perishables and remove all rubbish – no-one likes nasty smells! Take an hour or so to clean-up your home – trust me, when you're suffering from those post-trip blues, it's nice to get home to a fresh house.

If you’re taking electrical devices with you (think laptops or smartphones), back-up all data, files and photos before leaving. If you lose or break something on your trip, you won't miss anything special. If you’re taking a camera check your memory cards too – ensuring there’s plenty of space for more holiday snaps. 

Paying taxi ride by card. Photo: ShutterstockPlanning your trip to the airport before departure day helps avoid panic. Photo: Shutterstock

11. Fix-up your finances 

This one is key: remember to advise your bank and credit card companies of any potential overseas activity. You don’t want to be travelling with a cancelled or frozen card because your bank thinks your card has been cloned. Most companies can be notified online; alternatively, pop into your local branch. 

12. Plan your journey like a pro

Your trip is drawing closer – it’s almost time for departure. Before you start, make sure you know exactly how your journey is going to go. Need to take a train to the airport? Work out what time it’s at. Booking a taxi to the train station? Prep this in advance. Also, add buffer time in case of delays; you never know when there may be a late train or closed road. Having a journey itinerary will keep you organised while you’re on your way. The worst start to a holiday is with a frantic dash to departures; here's how to keep it cool once you're at the airport too.

13. Organise your arrival

This one is often missed. In the excitement of getting on the road, we can forget to plan what to do when we arrive. If you’re flying, how do you get to your accommodation from the airport? How expensive are taxis in your destination? Can you take a train, bus or even share a ride? Having an arrival plan will ensure you take the most economical, fastest and comfiest route, to get your holiday off to a good start. 

Using Insight Guides wide range of guidebooks and maps can help you find your feet on arrival. Our guidebooks include travel info on how to get around your chosen destination, while our maps will keep you on track when you're out exploring. 

14. Share your trip plans

Not everyone feels the need to do this. Maybe I have over-protective parents… Or just curious ones! But before I depart, I always share a rough outline of what I’m doing or where I’m going. This has covered everything from solo hiking routes to two-week trip plans. It means if something does go wrong (I am a sucker for getting lost), someone somewhere knows roughly where I am. 

It also means they can track your flight (try or check out your chosen treks on Google Earth. Or maybe it’s just my fretting-father that does that… 

15. Ensure it’s a real break

Whether you’re taking a two-week trip or just a few days’ break, it’s key you switch off and spend at least a little time relaxing. Of course, how you relax is up to you, but try not to plan too much to do on your holiday. It’s easy to want to see and do everything a destination has to offer but you don’t want to burn-out half-way through your holidays. 

Andrew of the Travel Tart agrees: “Make sure you take it slowly. You'll actually 'experience' more and be a lot more relaxed. Also, be open to spontaneous activities – the best experiences I've ever had have been the ones I hadn't expected!”

Real break on a beach. Photo: ShutterstockWhen you're on holiday it's important to make the most of the actual break away: don't try to do too much! Photo: Shutterstock

16. This also means steering clear of work

It’s important before you depart to make sure you’ve got things covered at work. For some, that’s easier than others. Compile a proper handover well in advance of your last day and brief colleagues of ongoing projects or work they may have to cover. Hold a meeting where everyone knows what they’ll be responsible for and even trial the cover out a day or two before you’re due to depart. No-one wants an emergency call when they’re sunning themselves on the beach. 

17. Make a schedule for your return

Unfortunately, prior to taking the trip, you need to think about your return. Before signing-off from work, ensure you have a schedule for your first week back in the office. Make sure you’re aware of any meetings or appointments you’re required to attend. Note any deadlines or pressing projects that will need to be completed too (although, if you’ve followed number 16 properly, this should be covered). 

Making a work schedule ensures you can ease into your first week back, there will be no nasty surprises, and you’ll have plenty of time to get through the avalanche of emails you’ve received (either that, or chat to your colleagues about your adventures). 

18. Set your OOO

We’re almost there. Not much longer to go. Before ditching your desk on your final day, make sure you’ve created an Out of Office auto-response for any emails you do receive. This means your clients, colleagues, and other contacts know when you’ll return, and that you’re not ignoring them. State that you won't respond during this time – that will mean there’s no temptation to check your inbox while you’re away too. 

19. And relax...

By far the best one on the list. Here’s what you should enjoy when your flight is taking off, your train is set for departure or you finally hit the road. Whether it’s a glass of champagne mid-flight or singing along to your favourite road trip soundtrack, it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy the adventure ahead. 

Wherever you’re spending December, Happy Holidays from everyone at Insight Guides!

Not got your December holidays planned? There's still time! Talk to one of our local experts today to get a last-minute adventure booked

Don't forget, if you book a trip with us before 15 Jan, 2017, you may could receive 50% cashback; find out more here