The ultimate holiday travel checklist: What you need this year

Travel Essentials

Even if you’re used to holiday travel, what you need this year may be slightly different than usual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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What do you need on your ultimate holiday travel checklist?

The holidays are a busy time for travel, so it can get fraught at train stations and airports. Making a holiday travel checklist will help minimize packing stress and help you make sure you have everything you need when it’s time to board your plane, train or bus. 

When considering what you need this year, bear in mind there are different rules and restrictions for travel due to COVID-19. Make your list and check it twice to ensure your holiday travel is as smooth as possible.

COVID considerations while traveling

Holiday travel can be stressful at the best of times, but this year there’s something extra to think about — travel rules and restrictions in the time of COVID. When traveling domestically, vaccination isn’t required, but those who are traveling by plane, train or any other form of public transportation should get a negative COVID test 1-3 days before travel and get tested again 3-5 days after travel, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control

When traveling internationally, you may or may not need to get tested before travel (depending on the rules of the country you’re traveling to), but you’ll need to get a mandatory COVID test before returning to the U.S. — whether or not you’ve been fully vaccinated — and carry all relevant documentation with you. Fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals must all wear masks during travel. Bear in mind that these guidelines may change, so double-check before travel.

Consider where you’re traveling to

When traveling over the holidays, you might be heading home to spend time with your extended family or perhaps your household is traveling somewhere warmer or more scenic to see out the holidays in style. Whatever your plans, consider your destination when packing. An international packing checklist is likely to be somewhat different from a domestic travel checklist, particularly when traveling to a tropical international destination. If you’re heading to the Caribbean, you can safely leave your wool sweaters at home.

Pack your holiday gifts

If you’re travelling home for Christmas, Chanukah or any other holiday where gifts are exchanged, remember to pack your gifts. Sure, you could buy and wrap them when you get to your destination, but it’s likely that you’ll have limited time and it will only add to the stress. Where possible, choose physically small gifts that won’t take up your whole suitcase. 

Holiday travel checklist: The basics

There are some essentials that you absolutely mustn’t forget when traveling for the holidays. 

  • Your passport (or international travel) or other ID (for domestic flights).
  • Your vaccination card or digital proof of vaccination, where applicable.
  • Any COVID-related paperwork you need for international travel, such as proof of a negative test.
  • Train or bus tickets or airline boarding passes.
  • One fancy outfit you can wear for holiday celebrations.

What you need for holiday travel

Kenneth Cole Reaction Madison Square Hardside Chevron Expandable Luggage

Kenneth Cole Reaction Madison Square Hardside Chevron Expandable Luggage

The right luggage can make or break your holiday trip. The expandable design of these wheeled cases means you can fully expand them to give yourself a little extra room for gifts on your way out, plus the hard-sided design offers extra protection for gifts and the rest of your luggage. You can choose between a range of sizes from compact carry-on cases to larger pieces of hold luggage. 

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Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

E-readers are perfect for taking on holiday trips — not only for entertainment while you travel to your destination, but to give you something to do when you’ve had a little too much family time. Alternatively, if you’re using your time off over the holidays to get away somewhere warm, the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite is ideal for reading by the pool or at the beach. 

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Morfone Travel Bottles Set for Toiletries

Morfone Travel Bottles Set for Toiletries

If you’re doing your holiday travel by plane, you’ll need to meet TSA requirements for traveling with liquids in your carry-on luggage. This set of travel bottles meet TSA guidelines, so you can decant your larger toiletries into them. Plus, they come with a transparent zippered case that meets the requirements for all your liquids to be placed in a transparent quart bag while you go through security. 

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Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

These noise canceling headphones will make your holiday travel a far more pleasant experience — you can get immersed in an audiobook, album, podcast or in-flight movie without hearing the sounds of other travelers. You’ll be equally glad of the noise canceling properties when you get home for the holidays and your siblings won’t stop bickering over whether or not “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. 

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Peter Pauper Press Celestial Journal

Peter Pauper Press Celestial Journal

At some point, you have to embrace the chaos of the holidays, so bringing a journal gives you a place to write down any funny anecdotes or family drama. Some elements of the holidays might not seem fun as they unfold, but you might read about them in your journal in years to come and laugh about it. Not to mention that if you look busy writing stuff down, people might not bother you so much. 

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Honest Free & Clear Hand Sanitizer Spray

Honest Free & Clear Hand Sanitizer Spray

It’s important to stay safe while traveling and while out and about on your holiday trip, so it’s a good idea to always carry hand sanitizer with you. These small 2 ounce bottles of hand sanitizer spray are small enough to carry with you on an airplane and are generally convenient for day to day use. 

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WeCare Disposable Face Masks

WeCare Disposable Face Masks

If you’re traveling for the holidays on any kind of public transportation, wearing a mask is a requirement. Although they aren’t the most eco-friendly choice, disposable face masks often feel easier to breathe through and not as hot as cloth face masks, so you may find them more comfortable when traveling long distances. 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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