Our top tip
Buy a good guide book. You invest so much time and money in your holiday, you work all year for it, you look forward to it. To really get the most from it, buy a good quality guide book and do some research (link to buy a guide book). It really is worth the £15 or so a guide book costs.
- Buy good quality insurance. Compare the prices and cover on our travel insurance page before you buy.
- Almost a third of travel insurance claims are for cancellation. Take out insurance as soon as you book your holiday to ensure you are covered for this. Check exactly what your insurance does and does not cover. Make sure your policy cover provides for:
a. all medical bills
b. an air ambulance in case you need to be flown home
c. bringing your family home in the event of your illness or injury
d. any potentially hazardous sporting activities you may be planning
e. replacing and / or bringing your car home if you are taking it abroad
- If you plan to rely on free cover provided as a benefit on your credit card, get a copy of the cover and read it carefully. For example, it may not cover your return journey, or may only cover you if the full amount of the holiday was paid via the card.
- Consider leaving valuables and jewelry at home. If you do take valuables with make sure your insurance cover is sufficient and that you abide by the policy terms (such as storing them in a safe). Consider covering them under your household contents insurance.
Holiday health & safety
- If you're travelling within the EU, get a Form E111 from the Post Office, complete it and have it stamped, for free or reduced cost emergency medical care.
- Check the vaccinations you need at least 6 weeks before you travel - see the links on our travel health page or ask your doctor.
- Pack any medication in your hand luggage.
- Carry a spare doctors prescription for your medication in a separate bag. Note the generic names of prescription drugs as brand names may vary.
- Carry a prescription for your glasses.
- If you or any of your party requires emergency treatment, make sure you call your travel insurer's emergency help line as soon as is practical, and take their advice. If you don't, they may refuse to pay for any treatment required.
Holiday money & Travellers Cheques
- Make sure you have enough to cover emergencies.
- Don't rely on one thing - take a mixture of cash, travellers cheques and credit / debit cards.
- Keep a record of your travellers' cheque numbers in a different place to your travellers cheques.
- Travel insurance policies only pay out for stolen cash if is taken from a safe. We suggest that you rent the safe in your room or use the hotel safe. The small cost is worth the additional security.
- Take sensible precautions - don't carry all of your cards, travellers cheques and cash with you - you'll be stuck if you do and they're stolen. Carry only as much money as you need for the day, plus a little extra for emergencies.
- In most of Europe you now need euros. For the US always take dollar denominated travellers cheques, which are accepted in most stores and restaurants. Also take dollars to Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Taking your credit cards on holiday with you
- Check credit / debit card expiry dates before you travel
- Only take the cards on holiday that you are likely to use - leave store cards, company credit cards, and any other cards you won't use in a safe place at home - and be 100% positive you know which cards you have with you.
- When is your statement / payment due? Consider making an advance payment if it falls due during your holiday. You don't want your card to be put on stop when you might need to use it.
- If you intend to spend heavily on your card, especially if this is outside your normal spending pattern, let your card issuer know before you travel. Your spending might be picked up by the card issuer's automated fraud programs, which also put your card on stop!
- Make sure the card is accepted in the country you are visiting, especially if you plan to draw cash on them.
- Check sales vouchers carefully before signing - especially the number of zeros. Put a line through any blank space and always keep a copy of the sales voucher.
- Whilst on holiday don't carry all of your cards with you - leave at least one in the hotel safe.
- Don't lose sight of your cards in shops or restaurants - dishonest merchants only need a few seconds and one swipe of your card to get all of the information they need to make a copy of it.
- Report lost or stolen cards to your card issuer immediately - quick reporting limits your responsibility for unauthorised use.
- Make a note of debit and credit card company emergency telephone numbers.
Passports and other travel documents
- Even when visiting EU countries you should take a passport. I may not be checked checked, but some authorities ask for it as proof of ID. You do not need a passport to visit Ireland.
- Check your passport will be valid for the whole trip. Remember that some countries also require that your passport is valid for at least another 6 months.
- There is a semi-online application process, but it's slower than the normal offline service! You can complete an application form online at this UK Passport Office Website. The passport office will print the form and post it to you for you to sign and enclose the relevant documents. But note: you can't submit online and, because it's a slow service, you shouldn't use it if you are travelling within the next 4 week.
- The UK Passport Agency aims to process all correct passport applications within 10 working days. Alternatively, for a fee of £4 main Post Offices will check your application is correctly completed and forward it to the Passport Agency for you. If you use this service your passport should be returned within four days. You can find information on UK passports at the UK Passport Office Website.
- Take a photocopy of your passport, visas and any other important documents. Make a note of passport numbers, dates and where they were issued. Also take a note of your travel insurance policy number.
- Check if you need any visas and how long the visa is valid for.
- When you reach your destination, keep your travel documents in a safe place (the hotel safe again). Don't carry them around with you.
Packing tips and advice
- Have your suitcases open and start packing well before your departure date. This allows you to put things in your bags as you think of it.
- Make a list of everything you need to take with you, and then cross them off as you put them in your bags. Double check the list before you close your bags.
- Take clothes that won't crease easily. Don't put easily crushed clothes at the bottom of your bags. Roll them or wrap them and wrap your best outfits in tissue to reduce wrinkles.
- Put items you don't mind creasing into bags and pack them into shoes and other nooks and crannies.
- Wrap shoes in plastic bags to stop them marking clothes.
- Ensure all toiletries and sun creams are sealed securely. Pack them in sealable plastic bags.
- Put valuables in your hand luggage.
- It's a good idea to carry a spare set of underwear and a top in your hand luggage too, in case of delays or lost luggage.
- Remember that many goods can often be bought more cheaply abroad.
- Hand luggage should measure no more than 23cm x 36cm x 56cm and should weigh no more than 4.5kgs.
- The length, width and depth of suitcases should add up to more than 158cm and should not weigh much more than 30kgs.
Five things we don't leave home without
- A small sewing kit - essential for repairing clothes and removing splinters.
- A small pack of baby wipes (in hand luggage) - to clean hands, face and toilet seats.
- A hat that you will wear.
- At least one toilet roll (if you're pushed for space, take the middle out and squash it).
- The basics of a first aid kit.
Enhanced Airport Security
After the tragic events of September 11th 2001 airport security has been upgraded and enhanced. Please note the following:
- Check-in times have been moved out. Ensure that you check-in at the time requested by your airline - usually 1 - 2 hours before a UK and European flight and 2 - 3 hours before other international flights.
- Checks are particularly stringent on hand luggage. Whereas you may have been allowed more than one item of hand luggage in the past, airlines are now taking a much stricter line.
- Sharp items are not allowed in hand luggage - pack them in your checked-in luggage.
- Do not pack any of the following in your hand luggage - toy / replica guns (metal or plastic), catapults, sporting bats, billiards or pool cues, tools, scissors, tweezers, razor blades, knives with blades of any length, household cutlery, knitting needles, darts, hypodermic needles (unless required for medical reasons).
Other things to do before you leave
- Think about your home - let neighbours know that you are away and ask a friend, relative or neighbour to make a regular check on it.
- Set lights and a radio on timers. Unplug televisions, videos and any electronic equipment that does not need to be left on.
- Use up perishables in the fridge or bin them.
- Lock everything.
- On your outward journey write your destination on your luggage tags, not your home address. And put your destination address inside your suitcase as well just in case.
- Know what airline check-in requirements are. These have changed since September 11th 2001 and do not appear to be consistent for each airport or airline.
- To get the best deal in airport parking book it in advance.
- Do not pack valuables, money, or fragile items into checked-in baggage. Keep them with you at all times.
- Never leave belongings unattended or with strangers, especially on beaches or at airports, nor in vehicles.
- Check your baggage for damage each time you reclaim it.
- It can be extremely expensive to use your mobile phone whilst abroad. Also you will usually pay to receive calls as well as to make them, and to receive and send text messages.
- If you plan to take your mobile phone abroad, make sure you can use it in your destination country.
- Check that you have international roaming for your phone - your mobile phone company will be able to set this up for you.
- Consider setting a credit limit on your phone. If it's lost or stolen this may limit your liability.
- If you plan to call home regularly, it may be cheaper to buy a phone card (prepaid or purchased locally) and use local phoneboxes rather than your mobile phone. Having said that using your mobile phone is usually cheaper than using a hotel phone!
If you have anything stolen whilst on holiday
- Report it to the local police and obtain a statement from them about the loss. This is not always easy, but you will need a police report if you want to claim on your travel insurance.
- You'll need to phone your bank and card issuers to stop your cards and phone your mobile phone company to stop your account. Your travel insurer will tell you how and where you can get a replacement passport from (they won't cover the cost though) and your tour rep, airline or travel agent will help you replace tickets.
Your Personal Safety whilst on holiday
Crimes against tourists are on the increase in may parts of the world. Use your common sense:
- Try to avoid 'seedier' areas.
- Do not wear expensive jewellery.
- Wear and use money belts.
- Before answering the door check through the spy hole.
- Leave a television or radio on when leaving your room.
- Take your room key with you, do not leave it at reception.
- Always use bolts or deadlocks on doors.
- Carry small change for drinks and busses. Keep small denomination notes or coins in a separate pocket so that you don't have to get your purse or wallet out on the street.
When you get home
- Check bank and credit card statements carefully. Raise any charges you don't recognise with your card issuer(s) immediately.
- If you were taking a course of anti-malaria tablets make sure you complete the course.
- Remember to tell your doctor that you have been on holiday if you become ill on your return.
- Make sure you put any complaint about your holiday in writing to the holiday company within 28 days.
- Report any claim to insurers immediately.