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There is a LOT to do before going on holiday, and it can be brain-explodingly, panic-inducingly stressful. To help save your sanity, I have compiled a pre-holiday checklist. It is a holiday planning to-do list of all the things to do before jetting away on holiday, from booking to departure. Grab the free printable version and feel instantly more in control and organised. 


To the uninitiated, those who go on holiday but never organise it, ‘organising’ a holiday involves deciding where to go, booking it, packing (well, some don’t even do that) and going. 

Those of us who organise family holidays know that there is much more to it than that!

Consider this pre-holiday checklist as your planning assistant that takes you through a timeline of all the important stuff you need to do before you head off on holiday.

Starting from the important things to do when booking your holiday right the way through to what you need to do before you set off.

This holiday to-do list will serve you well whether you are going away for a mini-break or a long family holiday. 

The aim is that when your day of travel arrives, you are totally prepared to head off safe in the knowledge that everything is covered and ready to relax and enjoy your holiday.

Related: Holiday packing list for a family (plus free printable)

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Scroll down to grab your free printable checklist.


I’ve broken the to-do list into sections based on a timeline of when it is best to do everything. 

The sections are as follows:

  • Holiday booking and organisation
  • One month before you go
  • One week before you go
  • The day before you go
  • The day of travel

Ready to dive in? Let’s get started – and don’t forget you can scroll down to grab a free printable version of the checklist.



The following tips are things to cover 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 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 before it expired.

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:

It’s also worth checking if you need a visa to travel and apply for it in plenty of time.

3. Immunisations

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, ensure the car can fit passengers and luggage if you’re using it to and from the airport at your destination.

Ensure you have a good SatNav: Whilst some hire cars have SatNav, many hire companies charge extra or don’t offer SatNav. So make sure you have a reliable way to navigate your way around.

There are a number of good SatNav apps, Waze is incredibly popular, and Google Maps comes in very useful. Here is a list of some of the best SatNav apps.

You could also take your own SatNav. However, you must ensure it meets the regulatory requirements for the country you will be using it in.

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: Ensure your car is insured for the country where you will be driving it.

Breakdown cover: Make sure you have roadside recovery and breakdown cover in your country and country/countries of destination.

6. Airport to accommodation transfers

If you haven’t booked a package holiday and aren’t planning on hiring a car, you must organise your transfer from the airport to your accommodation.

I always use Holiday Extras to book taxis to and from the airport/hotel. I like to get this done sooner rather than later after I’ve booked the holiday to ensure I get the best price.

Use Rail Europe to book train tickets in Europe or Wanderu to book train or coach tickets across the US and Europe.

7. Travel Insurance

Make sure you take out travel insurance for everyone in your family. I used to leave insurance until much later, but since 2020 I have taken to organising holiday insurance as soon as my holiday is booked.

Some banks offer travel insurance as part of their current account offering, so ensure you don’t already have insurance! And if you do have it with your bank, let them know the travel dates.

Use comparison sites to book holiday travel insurance and compare the cost to travel insurance your holiday or airline company offers.

I’ve used Post Office Travel Insurance a few times and have most recently used ABTA Travel Insurance.

8. 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.

9. 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 for a benchmark price. Then use price airport parking comparison sites, such as Travel Supermarket, to see if you can better the price.

I always use Holiday Extras because you can enter your holiday destination, the airport you’re travelling from and dates, and it comes up with all the parking options from the cheapest to the most expensive.

10. 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.

11. Holiday Shopping List

Start a list of everything you need to buy for your holiday. This allows you to spread out the purchasing over a few weeks and look for the best prices and discounts. It also keeps you focused on not buying too much.

I tend to create one big holiday shopping list, let my other half know it’s there, and then we can tackle ticking stuff off the list together.

I’ve created a free printable version of my holiday packing checklist, which you can grab if you visit my Family Holiday Packing Guide

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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 an extra cleaning session for a few days before you go so you return 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.

Online supermarket order: Update your online supermarket if you have a regular weekly order.

2. Spending abroad

Unless you are going somewhere really off the beaten track, most of your holiday spending will likely be done with a card, be it a debit, credit or specialist travel card.

Check to see what fees your bank or card issuer charges for spending abroad. If the card/s aren’t fee-free, consider getting one that is. Here is a good guide to the best UK travel debit and credit cards.

Look out for tips on getting foreign currency later in the list.

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 it up when you’re away, so you don’t need to worry so much about having a wedge of cash with you.

3. Transport to and from the 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.

4. Luggage

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.

Think about buying some packing cubes. They are utterly brilliant for organising everything inside your luggage. I have a guide to the best family packing cubes to help you decide which ones to buy.

Make your luggage unique so it’s easy to spot on the luggage carousel. Try a colourful sticker (borrow from the kids) or a brightly coloured ribbon.

Or, do what I did last year and buy some brightly coloured silicone luggage tags that you can attach around the handle of each piece of luggage.

These are the bright yellow silicone tags that I have. They proved super useful at spotting our suitcases on the luggage carousel.

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Brightly coloured luggage tags help your luggage stand out on the carousel.

5. Everybody needs good neighbours

Tell your neighbours when 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.

6. The mail

If you don’t have a friendly neighbour to rely on, UK residents can use 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. 

7. 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.


1. Double-check the time of check-in or baggage drop

Avoid panicking at the airport by arriving in plenty of time – but not too early, which can be equally stressful with kids in tow.

If you travel from the Uk, allowing the recommended three hours for international flights and two hours for European and domestic flights is best.

It is amazing how quickly time can pass when you need to take the kids to the toilet, buy food and get through security and passport control, especially during peak travel times.

2. Vital communications

I like to double down on contact information in case a mobile gets lost or stolen. So, I suggest ensuring you have the following contact details on your mobile and a separate piece of paper / in a diary or somewhere you can access online remotely.

  • Airline
  • 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:

  • Groceries
  • Milk
  • Newspaper
  • 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 set up roaming via its website or app to avoid being unable to use your mobile phone or with an eye-watering bill on your return.

5. Bills and your bank

Make sure all your bill payments are up to date, especially if you’re going away for more than a week.

Let your bank/credit card provider know your holiday dates so they don’t stop your card when you try to use it abroad. You can usually do this online or using the bank’s app.

6. Foreign currency

There will be times, such as giving tips in restaurants or at street markets, when it is useful to have cash.

Just because you have a fee-free card with a good exchange rate doesn’t guarantee you won’t incur charges when taking money out at ATMs overseas.

So remember to take a small amount of local currency with you is good. Use the MoneySavingExpert Travel Money Exchange compare tool to find the best rates. You can usually opt to collect or have the currency delivered.

7. 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.

You aren’t allowed to take full water bottles through security. However, it is worth ensuring everyone has a water bottle they can bring and then fill up in a restaurant or water fountain once they have been through security. 

8. 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, and it doesn’t help the post-holiday blues.

Bread freezes well, and milk can even be frozen and then defrosted quickly in water, so you can have that vital cup of tea!

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1. Packing!

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 ensure there are no nasty surprises at the airport.

It is always worth checking what is and isn’t allowed in carry-on bags to ensure you don’t lose stuff at airport security.

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.

I put all the documents into an A4 size clear plastic zipper bag. Sometimes I don’t even look at the documents the whole trip, but it’s good to know they’re there as backup.

  • Itinerary
  • Airline check-in 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.

4. Empty the rubbish

No one wants to come home to a foul-smelling house!

5. Quick clean

Give the house a quick spruce up, so it’s not a complete tip to return to. This is an opportunity for the kids to tackle a room and your husband/wife or partner!

6. Plants

Make sure all plants are watered! Gather them all together in a sensible place if that makes it easier for a neighbour or whoever will keep an eye on your house to come in and water them. 

7. 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
  • Ensure there is enough pet food and/or kitty litter to last the duration of your time away
  • Your contact details/contact details of a local friend or family member in case of emergency
  • Alarm details + emergency details for accidentally setting off the alarm!

8. Security

Light-timers: Set up light timers to help make your home look less empty whilst you’re away. Not got any? Buy some quickly here on Amazon.

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: Do not 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.

9. 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.

10. Cuddly travel buddy

If your 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, you have some negotiating to do!


1. Final home check

Before you leave, spare a few minutes to walk around your home to double-check that 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 are like me, you will do this process around three times at home, 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!


I thought it would be really handy for you to be able to print out a copy of the pre-holiday checklist, so I’ve created a simplified version of it that covers all the things you need to do before going on holiday. 

If you’re already a subscriber to Mums Make Lists, you can click the image or link below to download your copy of the pre-holiday checklist.

Yet to subscribe? Then you will need to unlock this exclusive content by subscribing. It literally takes seconds.

So there you have it, a pre-holiday checklist to take you step-by-step through everything you need to do to ensure 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!


THE BEST EVER PRE-HOLIDAY CHECKLIST FOR FAMILY TRAVEL - Every list you need to help you plan, book, prepare, pack and get ready for your next family holiday or family vacation. This is the essential holiday planning checklist for busy parents planning family travel
Free printable pre-holiday checklist