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Essential Items To Pack For A Holiday Abroad

Updated on September 23, 2013

What To Pack For Your Next Vacation

I have been holidaying abroad every year since 1986, mainly to Turkey but also a few other European countries. Over the years I have built up a list of holday essentials to take with me.

Some of the items may not seem important to you, but this is the list I refer to every year and I am never without anything I need. In fact, when we holiday with friends they often ask me for something that they have forgotten or not thought about taking.

I always think it is better to be safe than sorry and maybe pack some items that you may not use. I have also included some travel tips that I have picked up over the years.

Picture above of Olu Deniz in Turkey taken by me.

Holiday Smiles - Happy holiday photo to introduce you to some of my family

From left to right - my sister in law Suzanne, my daughter Jodie. friend Mandy, hubby David, me, niece Sherise and friend Steven in front of the pool at our hotel. Photo taken by my son.

Passport Holder on Amazon
Passport Holder on Amazon

Passport - Top Priority

This may sound obvious, but many people have forgotten to take their passports only to find themselves unable to travel when they reach the airport.

Last year, my son and his family were on holiday in Tenerife with a couple of friends and were due to return home one week before them. When they got to the airport in Tenerife they realised they had their friend's passports instead of their own. My son had to get a taxi back to the hotel where they were staying, change the passports over and get another taxi back to the airport. Luckily he managed to do this in time to still board the plane, but if the hotel had been further away I doubt that would have been the case. So always check you have the right passport and always check that it is in date - which takes me to another story......

Six years ago I planned and booked another holiday to Turkey for my own family, a few in-laws and a couple of friends, happily arranging all the details and making sure everybody got their paperwork and taking out travel insurance for everyone, but what I didn't do was to check my own passports!

The night before we were travelling I started to pack and took a look at mine and my husband's passport - shock, horror, they had both run out! I could not believe I had not checked this, but it just goes to show that it does happen. Luckily I was able to book an appointment for new passports to be issued at 9.30a.m. the following morning. We had to travel to Peterborough which took a few hours so we left at 4.30a.m. in the morning with my daughter driving. They told us it could take up to 4 hours to get the new passports, so we were really glad when they were presented to us at 11.30a.m. My daughter drove us back home and we only had a couple of hours spare to get our flight.

Checking your passports is a top priority. Check you have got the right passport and also that it is in date. Don't wait until the last minute like I did, that really was a nightmare.

Travel Insurance Policy

Travel insurance is a must have. You never know what is going to happen. Hopefully nothing does, but accidents do happen and people often fall ill, so always make sure you are protected. It is also extremely important that you choose the right policy for the activities that you might do whilst you are on vacation, such as paragliding, parasailing, canoeing, quad bikes etc etc because not all activities are covered.

As an example a few years back, we were on holiday again in Turkey with a group of friends and we also met up with other friends who were holidaying there. A couple of the fellas went on a quad bike safari and during that Mark hit a large stone with the quad, went head over heels down a steep cliff edge and nearly sliced his foot off. He spent the next few days in hospital before being allowed to return home. Luckily his insurance covered the use of quad bikes, but if it had been Richy who went over the cliff, his insurance would not have covered him.

Image by blhphotography

Plane Tickets

Many flight bookings are now done online and only require you to print out the airline tickets. Just make sure your printer is working or you have enough ink if you are printing them out at the last minute.

If you are being sent plane tickets through the post, make sure you have them at least a week before you fly and always check the details are correct. One year I was sent tickets with the wrong return date and so I had to get them changed and there wasn't enough time to send them out again, so we had to pick them up at the airport.

Flying Plane by Petr Kratochvil

Accommodation Voucher

If you don't book your holiday at a Travel Agents you will probably be issued with an accommodation voucher to present to your hotel on arrival. Make sure to double check the hotel details and the dates booked on this paper work.

A lot of hotel names are very similar and there would be nothing worse than actually booking the wrong hotel.

Photo taken by my friend Trish of her own holiday accommodation in Hisaronu Turkey.

Transfer Details

Transfer details always give the time of your expected arrival and who to look out for at the airport. It is important to check with the driver as to what time they will be picking you up on the return journey home. I remember the first year we went to Turkey, our return transfer forgot to pick us up. Luckily the hotel had a minibus and we managed to get to the airport in record time, much to my daughter's dissmay with a horrible case of travel sickness.

Money Belt

I would never holiday abroad without a money belt. I always put our spending money or travel cheques in the money belt and one of the last things I do before leaving for the airport is put my money belt on underneath my clothes.

Eagle Creek Travel Gear Silk Undercover Money Belt (Rose)
Eagle Creek Travel Gear Silk Undercover Money Belt (Rose)

I would never feel safe putting all our money or cards in my handbag or hand luggage. The one I have linked to here is a soft, lightweight silk design, much like the one I use, so it is not at all bulky. They also do this design in black.


Luggage Padlocks

I always padlock my suitcases with a padlock and key, even though some people think it is pointless because if someone wants to get into your case they will, whether there is a padlock or not. My train of thought is to make it as hard as possible for anyone to open my suitcase.

Master Lock Padlock, Keyed TSA-Accepted Luggage Lock, 7/8 in. Wide, 4683Q (Pack of 4)
Master Lock Padlock, Keyed TSA-Accepted Luggage Lock, 7/8 in. Wide, 4683Q (Pack of 4)

If you uses a padlock with a key, remember to put the keys somewhere safe. I put them in my money belt which works just fine. Some people prefer to use a padlock with combination lock, that's just a personal preference.


Plug Adapter

A plug adapter is another essential item for me to be able to plug in my mobile phone charger, my husband's razor and sometimes my hairdryer if there is not one supplied. There are many times you may need to use a plug adapter such as for a laptop or a flat iron.

Ceptics Grounded Universal Plug Adapter for Europe, Germany, France (Schuko) (Type E/F) - 3 Pack
Ceptics Grounded Universal Plug Adapter for Europe, Germany, France (Schuko) (Type E/F) - 3 Pack

These plug adapters are highly rated on Amazon with nearly all 5 star reviews. I think it is a good idea to take at least a couple with you.


Headphones For The Aeroplane

I always pack several headphones (depending on how many of us are travelling) in my hand luggage to save buying them or renting them on the plane. Most people have lightweight headphones that they can take and then enjoy watching an inflight movie or listening to music.

HDE Airline Headphone Adapter for Airplanes/Flying
HDE Airline Headphone Adapter for Airplanes/Flying

I have many of these because my brother in law was the warehouse manager of a firm that dealt with airline services and I managed to get quite a stock, so I always pack a few in case they are needed to use headphones.


Mosquito Repellents

Mosquito Repellents are very important and I would never go without them being packed in my suitcase. I hear many people say 'I'll buy some mosquito spray when I get out there' and then 9 times out of 10 they get bitten before they've had a chance to buy it. Always buy at least one bottle of mosi spray so you can apply it as soon as you arrive at your holiday destination.

I have mainly used plug ins, but they seem to be really hard to get hold of now and even harder to find the refills. The options I have included below have excellent reviews and are some of the best products available at the present time.

Thermacell MR-GJ Mosquito and Midge Repellent - Olive
Thermacell MR-GJ Mosquito and Midge Repellent - Olive

A mosquito repellent appliance is an absolute must if you don't want to get bitten. One of the first things you should do when you enter your hotel room is either plug in a mosi plug or activate the one shown here. Friends of mine got bitten to pieces one year thinking they would be ok without mosquito protection.


Sun Tan Protection Lotion

Never forget to pack your sun tan lotion! Although most times you can purchase sun cream abroad, you may not be able to get the sun cream of your choice and it may be a lot more expensive. Always apply the cream or lotion before stepping out in the sun for the first time. Many people I have holidayed with have thought to themselves that it won't hurt without sun cream just for a while, but it does! That very first time in the sun is probably the time you are most likely to get burnt.

I start off with a high factor cream at the beginning of the holiday and a lower factor towards the end, but you have to take into account your own skin type and the protection you need. I also take a sunblock (factor 50 and above) to use on delicate areas or areas of skin which are more prone to burning such as your feet or nose.

Sun Cream Debate

Do you think it is important to use sun protection cream?

After Sun Spray

Image by NYCgal

I apply after-sun every evening after I have taken a shower. I buy one that contains aloe vera which really soothes the skin. Even if you feel you don't need to use this, it is a good idea because the sun really dries out the skin. If you do actually burn your skin an after-sun spray is an absolute must.

Beach Towels

I pack two beach towels per person, one large and one small. The reason for this is because most beach towels are not the length of a beach bed or lounger and if you only use one, your feet will be on the very hot part of the lounger where the towel does not reach and it is very uncomfortable and extremely hot.

Beach Bag

A beach bag has to be big enough to carry all the things you need during the day, such as towels, sun tan creams, books or an e-reader, mp3 player, magazines, packed lunch, sea shoes and more.

Waterproof Jumbo Blue Canvas Beach Tote Bag Sea Turtle Design Zipper Closure 24 x 15 x 6"
Waterproof Jumbo Blue Canvas Beach Tote Bag Sea Turtle Design Zipper Closure 24 x 15 x 6"

I found this beach bag which has excellent reviews and is everything I look for in a bag. It is waterproof, has a zipped top, a small inside pocket for keys etc, is large enough to carry all your daytime essentials and is a lovely colorful design.



If you're anything like me a camera is a must, although we have so many pictures of our holidays in Turkey, I really don't think we need to take anymore. I use a case with a long strap so I can put the camera over my shoulder making it easier to carry about. I also make sure I take some spare batteries with me just in case they run out of life.

Luggage Weight Scale

I have been behind people at the check-in desk where their luggage has been over the weight allowance and they have been charged a fortune. This can easily be avoided by weighing your suitcases before you travel.

EatSmart Precision Voyager Digital Luggage Scale w/110 lb. Capacity & SmartGrip
EatSmart Precision Voyager Digital Luggage Scale w/110 lb. Capacity & SmartGrip

This digital luggage scale is extremely popular, accurate and very easy to use. If you don't want to pay for excess weight, but at the same time make the most of your luggage allowance this weigher is a must have. It is also lightweight which makes it great to pack for the return journey.


Bottle Opener

Who wants to be without a bottle opener when you and your friends have bought a few bottles of beer and soft drinks for a before dinner get together. I had that happen on occasions, so I never pack without one these days.

Water Spray

I have very short hair and use a small water spray every morning to style my hair back into shape. My hair really does stick up all over the place after I have slept on it, so a water spray is an essential item for me on holiday and my husband finds it very useful as well.

Rescue Remedy

A few of my family get very nervous about flying and I remember one of my friends spending the whole journey with her head in her hands and leaning forward. Not a very pleasant or comfortable way to spend a few hours.

Alarm Clock

I have a small alarm clock which I use at home and I take this on holiday every year. I find it very useful if we book a trip and are being picked up very early in the morning, I can set the alarm and not have to worry about waking up on time. I know some people use their mobile phones for this, but I still prefer to take an alarm clock.

MP3 Player on Amazon
MP3 Player on Amazon

MP3 Player

My husband doesn't like the sea or going in the swimming pool. Sounds odd doesn't he? He says he doesn't like cold water but the water in the height of the season is really warm, not only in the pool but also in the sea. Anyway, he spends a lot of his time relaxing on a sunlounger and listening to music.

He wouldn't be without his MP3 player, so while we all enjoy the water he enjoys his music!


A hat is very important to me because I got sun stroke many years ago after my hat blew off on a boat trip and I can tell you it was a very unpleasant experience, one that I do not ever want to repeat, so I always wear a hat in the sun and when we go on a boat trip I make sure it stays securely on my head.

My children laugh at some of my hats. My favorite was a green and black safari hat which I wore for years. It covered the back of my neck and had a peak to shade my eyes. When I find a photo I will post it here.

Beach Shoes

I discovered beach shoes a few years ago and now wouldn't be without them. I pack them in my beach bag whenever we venture to the beach. I am one of those people who find it extremely painful to walk on stones and also hate not knowing what I'm stepping on in the sea.

Speedo Women's ZipWalker Water Shoe,Black/Hot Pink,8 M
Speedo Women's ZipWalker Water Shoe,Black/Hot Pink,8 M

These sandals are great for walking on hot sand, over stones and in the sea. We go on a lot of boat trips and these shoes always come with me so that I can climb on and off the boat, up sand banks and over rocks without hurting my feet. My husband also wouldn't be without his pair.



Sunglasses not only protect your eyes from the sun, they also stop you squinting which can give you headaches. It is a good idea to invest in sunglasses that have a high protection factor, because some of the cheap fashion sunglasses don't offer any protection at all. My husband wears eye glasses all the time, so he purchased some sunglasses that cip over his own glasses and they work perfectly.

T Bags

There's nothing like a cup of tea! I always put in a dozen or so 'T' bags so I can enjoy a nice brew when we go back to our hotel room. I don't think it's so important to take coffee because you can normally get a decent cup of coffee abroad, but a cup of tea is just not the same.

Kitchen Wash Sponge

This may sound a bit odd, but where we go in Turkey your shoes or sandals get really dusty and a wash sponge comes in so useful to just wipe them over each evening. Obviously if you go self catering a wash sponge is also a good idea for washing the dishes as not all places supply one.

First Aid

Travel Bag Organizer on Amazon
Travel Bag Organizer on Amazon

First Aid Kit and Supplies

This is a list of all the items that I pack together in a small zipped canvas bag with a side zipped pocket, some are just as a precaution:-

-1) Echinacea and Milk Thistle - both of which I like to take every day on holiday to boost the immune system and help the liver with any excess alcohol.

-2) Pain killers - nothing worse than having a headache from the sun or too many tipples and not having your regular pain killers.

-3) Stomach Settlers - such as alka seltzers for settling your tummy after eating different food.

-4) Indigestion Tabs - we all eat and drink too much on holiday.

-5) Plasters - blisters are very common on holiday with so many people wearing new sandals.

-6) Small Scissors

-7) Needle and Cotton - many people have turned to me for this to sew back on a button or mend a seam.

-8) Insect Relief - if you do get bitten this is a must.

-9) Cotton Wool Buds

10) Laxatives and Diacalm - you never know which way a change in diet and temperature is going to affect you. Diacalm is particularly important to calm diarrhea and my family have called upon me many a time for these.

11) Temporary Filling - if you lose a filling on holiday this is a great temporary solution until you return home.

12) Ear Plugs - In case of noise and you want some sleep.


Toiletries Travel Bag on Amazon
Toiletries Travel Bag on Amazon

Essential Toiletries

I have a set of travel bottles which I picked up from my local pound shop that I fill with shampoo, shower gel etc if I don't need to take a full size bottle. This saves on weight and also on waste.

-1) Toothbrush

-2) Toothpaste

-3) Shampoo

-4) Hair gel or mouse

-5) Deodorant

-6) Face Rehydrator Cream

-7) Make up

-8) Hair Brush or Comb

-9) Razor and Blades

10) Shaving gel

11) Shower Gel

12) After Shave

13) Perfume

14) Wet Ones (great for the beach)

My Top Holiday Packing Tips

A Few Tips I've Picked Up Over The Years

1) Take a copy of your passport and pack that in your hand luggage. If you passport gets lost or stolen you will have all the details making it much easier to get a copy.

2) Never write your home address on an outgoing suitcase label but write it on a piece of paper and put it inside your suitcase. That way if it goes missing you will be able to be traced.

3) Always pack one swimwear item in your hand luggage so if your suitcase went missing you would at least have a bikini or swimming costume to wear. This is important if you find it difficult to find swimwear to fit you.

4) Mark your suitcases with bright colored tape so you can identify them easily as yours and people won't pick yours up as their own by mistake. This happened to a friend of mine last year and she didn't even realise she had the wrong case until she started unpacking.

5) If you take essential medi-cation, make sure to pack enough to last you the duration of your holiday in your hold luggage and also in your hand luggage. That way if one suitcase goes missing you still have your meds. to last you through your vacation.

6) I always put a pen, tissues and boiled sweets in my handbag. Tissues always come in handy, not least in toilets without toilet tissue and boiled sweets are a must for the flight take of and landing to help prevent painful ears.

How to Pack a Suitcase for Vacation - Some great tips here for packing your clothes

I haven't included a list of clothes that I pack because I think that is a personal choice and the clothes I pack are nothing like the clothes my daughter or my niece pack!

Have You Got Other Essential Items You Pack For Your Holiday?

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    • barberrela profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @goldenrulecomics: My husband recently purchased a Kindle, so that is packed in our hand luggage now.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      5 years ago

      Always carry a book with you in case you are delayed!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Great list for vacation travel! We spent last year traveling around the world and had to pack a bit differently.

    • ismeedee profile image


      5 years ago

      Great list and really helpful tips!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great information! I have to agree with checking your tickets when you get them. I had an issue with the name on my ticket on one of my last trips and almost couldn't leave home!


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