Now that the Christmas and New Year festivities have come and gone, we are deep into bleak January and February – my least favourite months of the year – and I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing that sentiment. The old year has passed – some might say hurrah to that – and the new one is here – but of course it’s still the middle of winter.
Is it any wonder then that as soon as we hit Boxing Day our TV’s and other media light up with those tantalising visions of warmer climes, of far flung exotic destinations – and of sun – do you remember that – it seems a long time since we’ve seen it! Yes – it’s the peak holiday booking season that has just hit us and many of you will have been tempted to pick up the phone, go online or go really old school and visit your High Street travel agent to book your holiday for 2017.
Now that it’s booked, and you’ve got something to look forward to, here are a few things you need to consider before you go.
The most important thing to do is to book your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday – and don’t take that offered by your holiday company either. This will always be more expensive than if you shopped around.
This will also mean that you are covered for any eventualities that may arise between you booking your holiday and you actually going, such as should you fall ill and be unable to travel.
The airport or point of departure
If you are flying then how long will it take you to get to the airport, how will you get there and if you are going by car where will you park it? If you need airport parking make sure you book it in good time – you don’t want to leave it until the last minute and then find it is expensive of there is none available. Likewise, do you need a hotel before you depart or on your date of return? If so it’s also advisable to book these early. If you are going on a cruise and you are driving to a UK port, is parking included for the duration of your trip?
You’ve hopefully got plenty of time before you leave on your holiday – so why use some of it to research your destination, especially if you are travelling to a country you have never been to before. Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? How will you get around? What are the local customs? How practical and easy is it to get between places? Am I expected to tip and if so who and how much? These are all questions that can be answered by a little online research and will help your trip run a lot more smoothly.
Do you need vaccinations?
Your tour or holiday operator should advise you of the requirements here when you book your holiday or you can always visit the NHS website which has comprehensive advice of what is required for each country. If you need vaccinations make sure that you have them well within the timeframe needed before you depart.
Also, whilst considering vaccinations, do you need to take any other medications with you? For example do you often suffer from an upset tunny, or do you need any insect repellents?
Again check whether a visa is required as these can often take some time to arrange – once again your tour operator should be able to assist you here.
Check your passport
It might seem a simple question – but do you actually know when your passport expires? If not please do check. You will also need to make sure that you meet the regulations of the country you are visiting – for example some countries will require a minimum amount of unexpired time on your passport. The Foreign Office website has all the information that you need here.
Always order your travel money in advance – try and avoid buying it on the day you depart direct from the airport. By buying in advance you will almost certainly save yourself money. If you intend to use your debit or credit card whilst abroad then also contact your card issuer and let them know the dates you will be out of the country and also the countries you will be visiting.
And just before you go make sure that you leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or relative as well as your contact numbers – this might well be your mobile – but if so then make sure that it is enabled for roaming in the country you are visiting. If you don’t take your mobile then make sure that you leave the emergency contact number of your tour operator or that of the accommodation where you are staying.
If you are visiting a country where English is not the main language then buy yourself a phrase book – this will not only help you understand and identify words on things such as menus and street signs, it might also help you to say the basics in the language of the country you are visiting. You’d be amazed at how many times the service in a bar or restaurant improves if you simply say please or thank you in the local language!
Once you’ve done all the planning and you are actually there don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself – after all that’s what a holiday is all about!
By Andrew Silk