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Here’s a comprehensive family holiday checklist covering off all the things you need to plan and prepare for in the run up to your family holiday or vacation.
Family Holiday Checklist
I do sometimes wonder if the terms ‘holiday’ and ‘vacation’ are misnomers once you’ve got kids. I think ‘going away from home’ is a much better way to put it.
Still, I find that if I get myself mega organised right from the planning stage onwards, I stand more chance of having some energy and enthusiasm left to enjoy the holiday once we’re all there.
Bring forth the family holiday checklist
Me being me, I find a family holiday checklist goes a long way to helping keep me organised. Here’s the one that I’ve built up over the year.
I’ve broken it down into sections to keep it easy to use – and to stop it scaring the life out of me and anyone else who looks at it.
- Holiday booking and organisation
- One month before you go
- One week before you go
- The day before you go
- The day of travel
List making methods
So, what to use to make your family holiday checklist? A good old Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet works well for simplicity, but they’re not so good on your mobile.
Family organisation Apps can work really well, we’ve long been fans of Cozi, which is free and also very simple to use.
What I love is that I am the keeper of Cozi, but my husband – and anyone else in the family I choose to add – has access, so can take responsibility for ticking stuff off as well.
Pop over to Cozi and go to ‘Features’ to take a look at Cozi ‘To-do lists’.
Right. Ready to dive in and get prepared for your next holiday? Here you go…
FAMILY HOLIDAY CHECKLIST
HOLIDAY BOOKING AND ORGANISATION
The following tips are things to cover off when you first start planning your holiday. Get this stuff sorted up front and you won’t be having any last minute panics.
1. Clear your cookies before you visit holiday websites
A little tip that could save you a lot of money. Always delete the cookies in your web browser history before you start visiting holiday websites, because prices can increase based on the number of times you revisit a website.
2. Check your passports aren’t about to expire
I’ve experienced this panic. I also know friends who were turned back from the airport because one of their children’s passports didn’t have enough time left on it.
Most countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months beyond the completion of a trip. If a passport expires sooner than that, you should apply to renew it in good time. Source: http://visacentral.co.uk/passport-faqs
It’s also worth checking if you need a visa to travel and applying for it in plenty of time.
Going long-haul somewhere exotic? Check which immunisations you need and when. Get them booked in.
4. Car hire
Book early: Much like budget airlines, the earlier you book, the cheaper the cost.
What you hire: Make sure the car you hire suits your wallet, but also that it suits the terrain you’ll be driving on. Also make sure the car can fit both passengers and luggage if you’re using it to and from the airport at your destination.
Take your own SatNav: A little tip I picked up a few years ago. Car hire companies make their big money by charging high prices for add-ons. Buy your own SatNav and you’ll be able to use it year in, year out. You’ll also know it’s up to date and can be relied on.
5. Driving your own car
Fit for purpose?: Ensure the car is in a good state of repair.
Stickers: You will need a country identity sticker when driving your own car in Europe… for example, GB if you’re from Great Britain.
Insurance: Make sure your car is insured for the country you will be driving it in.
Breakdown cover: Make sure you have road-side recovery and breakdown cover in your own country and country / countries of destination.
6. Arrange Pet Care / Organise House Sitter
These services can get booked up very early, so if you need your pets to go into holiday care or you need to organise a house sitter to look after the house and pets, do it as soon as you know your holiday dates.
7. Airport Parking
Book this as soon as you know the date and times of travel. The earlier you book, the better the chance of snaring a good deal.
Where to get the best price: Check the official airport parking site first to get a benchmark price. Then use price airport parking comparison sites, such as TravelSupermarket, to see if you can better the price.
8. Holiday packing checklist
Use our family holiday packing tips to plan everything you need. You can then draw up your holiday shopping list for the stuff you don’t yet have.
9. Holiday Shopping List
Start a list of everything you need to buy for your holiday. This gives you a chance to spread out the purchasing over the course over a few weeks and to look for the best prices and discounts. It also keeps you focused on not buying too much.
This is where the family organiser app Cozi comes in mega-handy again. I tend to create one big holiday shopping list, let my other half know it’s there, then we can tackle ticking stuff off the list together.
ONE MONTH BEFORE YOU GO
1. Cancel regular services for the dates you will be away
Don’t get caught out by not cancelling or rearranging services you use regularly. For example…
Cleaner: Let them know your holiday dates. Consider booking in an extra clean for a couple of days before you go, so you come back to a super clean house.
Childcare: You may be tied into paying for the time you’re on holiday anyway, but it’s still good to let childcare know your holiday dates in advance.
2. Travel Insurance
Make sure you take out travel insurance for everyone in your family.
Some banks offer travel insurance as part of their current account offering, so make sure you don’t already have insurance! And if you do have it with your bank, make sure to let them know the dates of travel.
Make use of comparison sites to book holiday travel insurance and compare the cost to travel insurance your holiday or airline company is offering.
Work out which currency you need and how much. If you’re a UK resident, you could do what we do and use the Post Office Travel Card to avoid potential charges for using a credit card overseas.
You can also load it up with currency before you go and you can top up when you’re away, so you don’t need to worry so much about having a wedge of cash with you.
4. Transport to and from airport
If you aren’t driving to the airport, this is the time to book your train tickets or book a taxi in plenty of time.
Check your luggage is in good working order / big enough / not too big. Make sure locks or padlocks work – and that you’ve noted the codes!
If suitcases are falling apart or feeling heavy, this is the tie to upgrade them to super light suitcases to max your luggage weight allowance.
6. Everybody needs good neighbours
Tell your neighbours the dates you will be away and ask them to keep an eye on your house. If you don’t have anyone pet sitting, give them a set of keys and ask them to move letters away from the door / out of the mailbox, so there’s no sign that you’re away. You could also ask them to water the garden and return the favour.
7. The mail
If you don’t have a friendly neighbour to rely on, UK residents can make use of Royal Mail Keepsafe to keep letters and parcels for up to 66 days (strange amount of time I know!) and then deliver them on your return.
8. Online check-in
You can check-in online up to 30 days ahead of departure with many airlines. Do it early and nab the best seats if that’s an option.
THE WEEK BEFORE YOU GO
1. Double-check the time of check-in or baggage drop
Avoid panics at the airport by arriving in plenty of time – but not way too early, which can be equally stressful with kids in tow.
2. Vital communications
I like to double-down on contact information, just in case a mobile gets lost or stolen. So, I suggest making sure you have the following contact details in your mobile and on a separate piece of paper / in a diary.
- Hotel / holiday accommodation company
- Car hire company / airport transport
- Airport carpark
- Pet care
- Bank – in case of your card being declined, banks can be so overzealous these days
- Mobile provider
- Holiday insurance line
- One family member’s phone number – I couldn’t tell you a single person’s mobile number other than my own.
3. Cancel regular deliveries
Cancel any regular deliveries, for example:
- Beauty boxes
- Kids activity boxes
Ensure one-off deliveries are put off until after your return if they can’t be delivered before you go
4. Mobile Roaming
Speak to your mobile company or go online and set up roaming so you aren’t left in the lurch with no mobile or an eye-watering bill on your return.
5. Bills and your bank
Make sure everything is up to date with bill paying, especially if you’re going away for more than a week.
Let your bank know the dates of your holiday, so they don’t stop your card when you try to use it abroad.
6. Food for your travels
Eating en route can really eat through the holiday budget. If you’re flying with an airline that doesn’t offer an inclusive meal, consider taking your own food. Make sure to add supplies to your weekly shop, so you can pack everything fresh the day before you go or the morning you’re leaving.
7. Food for your return
Make sure there’s something in the freezer for your return. There’s nothing worse than getting home to no food, it doesn’t help the post-holiday blues.
Bread freezes really well, milk can even be frozen and the defrosted pretty quickly in water, so you can have that vital cup of tea!
THE DAY BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Use the family holiday packing tips to ensure you’ve got everything you need in your suitcase.
If you can, weigh your bags once they’re packed to make sure there’s no nasty surprises at the airport.
Make your luggage is unique so it’s easy to spot on the luggage carousel. I’m thinking a colourful sticker (borrow from the kids) or a brightly coloured ribbon.
2. Holiday documents
Print out a copy of each piece of holiday documentation – I do this as a precaution even if there is an App or online service. Never. trust. the. tech.
- Airline checkin information
- Holiday company / accommodation information
3. Double-check your travel itinerary
Always double-check your itinerary the day before you travel. It’s amazing how easy it is to have the wrong time in your head – or is that just me?! Airlines and travel operators can also switch things around.
3. Empty the rubbish
No-one wants to come home to a foul smelling house
4. Quick clean
Give the house a quick spruce up so it’s not a complete tip to come back to. This is an opportunity to rope in the kiddos to tackle a room each eh!
Make sure all plants are watered!
6. Handover essentials for house / pet sitter
Make sure you’ve got everything together to hand over to your house sitter / pet sitter or neighbour who is watching your house. For example:
- A set of keys
- List of instructions
- Your contact details / contact details of a local friend of family member in case of emergency
- Alarm details + emergency details for accidentally setting off alarm!
Don’t be tempted to leave the hall light on for the duration, it’s like a beacon that says ‘we’re away’.
Hide valuables: Try not to leave valuables, such as your TV, stereo or computer, where thieves can see them.
Unplug: Unplug all appliances to protect them from power surges and save energy from standby functions.
8. Heating and hot water
If your holiday isn’t in the summer months, you might want to change the settings on your central heating, so you aren’t paying for the house to be heated constantly whilst you’re away – that said, it’s worth ensuring it is going to be warm for your return.
9. Cuddly travel buddy
If you’re kids are at the stage where they have cuddly toys, check with them the night before which cuddly toy they’d like to bring with them as their travel buddy. Of course, if it’s the giant teddy, then you have some negotiating to do!
THE DAY OF TRAVEL
1. Final home check
Just before you leave, spare a few minutes to walk around your home to double check everything is safe and secure. Check windows as well as doors are locked. Double-check that cat flaps are working and that you haven’t shut any animals in rooms.
2. Hand luggage check
Go through your hand luggage to ensure that you’ve got everything on your hand luggage checklist -if you need some tips, check out the family holiday packing tips post, which has some top hand luggage tips ! If you’re me you’ll do this process around 3 times at home, plus once on the way to the airport and once at the airport.
3. Carpark selfie
Parking at the airport or station? Take a photo of your car’s location so you can find it easily on return
4. Deep breaths
And finally. Take a deep breath… and off you go to enjoy your holiday!
So there you have it, a family holiday checklist to take you step-by-step through everything you need to do to ensure that you and your family can enjoy your time together on holiday.
Don’t forget to check out our Family Holiday Packing Tips post for a list of super useful tips for taking the stress out of packing for the whole family.
Found this post useful? I’d love it if you’d share it to help other busy mothers. Thank you!
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