The essential Christmas checklist
If you're making arrangements to travel and see family, friends or places, planning in advance is essential. By ensuring you've prepared as best you can be, you can look forward to a stress-free journey knowing you've not forgotten anything.
Our handy Christmas checklist will ensure you've covered the basics, so let's get started.
Decide your travel dates
Before you can start thinking about your festive plans with family and friends, it's important to determine the exact dates you're going to be away. This decision not only allows you to book travel tickets early and get the best prices, but also helps you understand how to make the most of your time before and during your trip.
If you're heading home for Christmas well in advance of the main holiday period, there will be more things you need to consider than if you're travelling on Christmas Eve. For example, you'll need to do your Christmas shopping much earlier. Once you've decided on your travel dates, you can work backwards with everything else you need to do to make sure you’ve got it organised.
Make travel arrangements
With your dates of travel decided, you can make your travel arrangements. We always advise planning your journey as early as you can so you can take advantage of savings by booking in advance. Use our handy journey planner to help you decide the most convenient route and ensure there are no disruptions to your journey — and don't forget to book your return ticket at the same time.
With Avanti West Coast, you can book train tickets up to 12 weeks ahead of your departure date. It's a good idea to try and avoid peak times when considering your travel dates as these tickets will likely be more expensive and you might not be able to book your preferred seat.
Train travel gets very busy during the Christmas countdown and over the festive period, so if you're travelling with a bunch of luggage and gifts, avoiding those peak journeys can help make your journey a less crowded and stressful one. Just be sure to book the right ticket type to make the best savings.
Another top tip when booking your train travel is to consider a railcard if you don't already have one, as these can also offer great savings.
Complete as much work as you can
Whether you're a student or worker, you won't want to come back to a ton of work after Christmas. That's why it's always worth finishing as much work as you can before you travel home for the big day. This also ensures you don't need to bring work with you to complete over the festive period, so you can take the time to relax, enjoy the festivities and spend more quality time with your loved ones.
If you're a student, planning your Christmas holiday in advance means you can take stock of your deadlines and complete your work accordingly. For example, if you have deadlines in January, try to get these assignments done before the holiday season so you're not cramming in the new year. We'd advise making a checklist with any work you need to complete a few weeks before Christmas so you can get ahead of the game.
Finish your Christmas shopping
When it comes to Christmas shopping, our tip is to start early – especially if you're planning to travel home at the beginning or middle of December. We'd recommend making a checklist of all the gifts you need to buy for both people you see regularly and those you're going to be travelling home to see, a few weeks before you intend to travel. That way you can ensure you've bought, wrapped and delivered gifts to people who live near you or whom you won’t see over Christmas before you leave, and packed all the gifts ready to travel home with you.
If you're ordering presents online, do this as early as you can to make sure everything is delivered in time. Try to keep abreast of any planned postal strikes and ensure you know the last day to post before Christmas to ensure you receive your goods.
For items on the cusp of delivery around your travel date, consider ordering a day or two later and having them delivered to the place you'll be staying over the holiday period – just be sure they come in discreet packaging so your loved ones aren't tempted to peek at your parcels before you get to them. And remember to bring some wrapping paper with you so you're not stuck wrapping with newspaper on Christmas Eve.
Post your Christmas cards
For those who love to take part in the traditional sending of Christmas cards, don't forget to have them written and sent ahead of the last posting date before Christmas. There's nothing worse than putting in the effort to write or even craft your own Christmas cards, only to have them delivered after the big day.
You can usually find the last day or dates for post before Christmas on the Royal Mail website, and on other courier websites if you're sending via alternative delivery companies. The same applies for personalised card and gift companies like Moonpig and Funky Pigeon, so check their websites.
Consider any arrangements that need to be made while you're away
For some of us, it’s just a case of packing up, locking the door and heading home for Christmas without considering anything else. But for those of us with pets and other responsibilities, it's not so simple. Make sure you've arranged for someone to be around in your absence if any of the above apply – whether it's feeding the fish, taking out the bins or watering the plants. You don't want to come home to a dead poinsettia and an overflowing rubbish bin!
Be sure to leave a list for your guest so they don't forget anything and you can relax safe in the knowledge that everything is sorted while you’re gone.
Pack your bags
With everything organised, it's time to get packing ready for travel. We'd recommend starting by writing a list of everything you're going to need so you can tick it off as it goes in your suitcase. This list can also be used when you pack for your return journey, to ensure you don't forget anything on the way back.
What to pack when coming home for Christmas
Depending on how long you plan to be away for, you could need a small holdall or a few suitcases – especially if you're a student who's travelling home with washing to do. Here are a few essentials you'll definitely need to take with you when making your way home for Christmas day:
- Clothes – including something for all seasons, a warm and cosy coat, a Christmas Day outfit and some comfy loungewear (for after your Christmas dinner)
- Skincare, toiletries, hair products, makeup
- Mobile phone, charger and any other electronic devices you might need – or valuables you don't want to leave
- A good book for the train journey
- Presents for your loved ones
- Try to pack as lightly as you can when travelling by rail, especially if you're heading on a long journey during peak times where space in your carriage may be limited. If you do need multiple bags, ensure they are all labelled so you can be contacted should you forget to pick one up en route.
Take down your Christmas decorations
If you're going to be away until the new year, it's worth spending a bit of time taking down your Christmas decorations before you leave. This is especially important for those who will be heading straight back to work after Christmas. The last thing you want to be doing the night before you go back to the office is taking your Christmas tree and decorations down. Beware, though – a home that once had decorations suddenly returning to normal before Christmas is a sign to burglars that the home is empty, so make sure you keep blinds and curtains closed if you’re doing this. Some people prefer to just leave the lights on a timer so it looks like someone’s in.
Just like taking your Christmas decorations down early, having a bit of a tidy up is also a great idea if you want to return to a sense of normality as soon as you walk back through the door after Christmas.
No one wants to come home from a fun Christmas break to an untidy house, dirty dishes or an unmade bed. It doesn't need to be a major clean up operation, but making sure you've had a declutter and a quick hoover around can really help you relax when you come back from a busy time away. Plus, it will make it easier for you to find new homes for your Christmas gifts.
Additionally, if no one is going to be at your place while you're away, you should empty the fridge of anything perishable or likely to smell before you go and consider defrosting the freezer so you don't come back to a thick build-up of ice.