Things to remember before you go on holiday

Top travel tips for a stress-free time

Marcus Webb – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist


Holidays should be a time for blissful relaxation and mental recuperation. Sadly, however, they are all too often preceded by a panicked dash in which you desperately try to do all your preparation on the morning of departure, leaving you hyperventilating and tearful before the car’s even been packed. 

To help your holiday start off in the right way, here’s our checklist of holiday tips – your wallet and your cardiologist can thank us later.  

Travel insurance

Most people leave buying their insurance until the very last moment. Rookie error. Get yourself covered as soon as you’ve booked your holiday. That way you’re protected should anything go wrong in the run-up to your trip, like a cancellation or a medical issue. 

Consider purchasing multi-trip insurance, as a year is a long time for just one getaway: a good policy will cover everything from a trekking trip to Nepal to a naughty weekend in Bognor. [Editor’s note: you may find our other article on this subject, What you need to know about travel insurance, helpful.]


Spending money

If you are planning on using your credit or debit cards while abroad, keep in mind that some cards are better than others. Look for ones that don’t have cash withdrawal or foreign transaction fees, and when given the option it tends to be better to pay in the currency of the country you’re in rather than sterling. Offering you an option in pounds might sound like they’re doing you a favour, but all too often is a way to charge you their own vastly inflated exchange rate. 

When it comes to cash, sort yourself out before heading off for the airport. [Editor’s note: for more information check out our article, Travel money tips for better trips.]


Packing

Thinking ahead while packing can save pounds in both senses of the word. Avoid getting stung by extortionate excess baggage fees by weighing your stuff with luggage scales before you leave home (you can pick them up for around a fiver). Also get your tape measure out to make sure your bags meet the airline’s capacity requirements. 

It’s also worth investing in small squeezable travel tubes and filling them from your big-bottle liquids at home to avoid paying over the odds for travel-sized toiletries. Save a tube for handwash detergent – you could probably halve the number of clothes you take by doing a bit of laundry while away – even if that’s only a quick rinse in your hotel sink. Don’t forget to pack adaptors for the country you’re going to, as well as chargers for your phone, tablet or laptop. Whether you’re skiing, city-breaking or taking the kids on a beach holiday, it’s a good plan to Google suggested packing lists to see if you’ve thought of everything you’re likely to need.

Finally, ‘roll up, roll up’ needn’t only be the mantra of fairground workers and smokers: carefully rolled clothes take up far less room than folded clothes and are less likely to get wrinkled. If you are taking more than one case, it’s worth splitting your outfits between them so you have something to wear should one of them go missing. At the end of your holiday, separate unworn clothes from those in need of a clean to reduce your load when you get home. My other article on this site, The insider’s guide to packing, gives more tips on the subject.


Pet and plant care

If you’ve got a pet or houseplants that you want to enjoy your holiday as much as you do, you’ll need to make some plans. Kennels and catteries need booking well in advance and neighbours need some skillful buttering-up before you ask them to do the rounds with the watering can while you’re off gallivanting round Cyprus. Consider asking friendly neighbours to collect your post and put your bins out so it’s less obvious you’re not at home. A strategically placed lamp on a timer can also help keep the burglars away. 

One alternative is to look into house sitters. A friend might jump at the chance at two weeks of rent-free accommodation in return for keeping both cat and cacti alive: if not, sites like trustedhousesitters.com can find somebody who will.


Subscriptions

While fewer and fewer of us are having newspapers delivered every day, it’s worth considering what you do have subscriptions to. Obviously you should put a stop to any milk or food deliveries, but if you’re away for a long time it might also be worth cancelling your streaming accounts (unless you plan to spend the holiday binge-watching Game of Thrones). This often has the additional bonus of a special ‘come back to us’ offer you can take up on your return. 

Your phone is key too – it’s often worth paying for data while away, giving you the option to Facetime your jealous friends back home, use it as a sat nav in your hire car or, if you really must, binge-watch Game of Thrones from the beach.


Getting to the airport

Whether you’re planning on getting to the airport by public transport or driving yourself and parking, the earlier you can book, the better the price. As a rule of thumb, public transport is usually the cheapest option, but if you are planning on driving, off-site parking more often than not offers the cheapest rates. 

However, if you have an early morning flight – or live a long way from the airport – then it’s worth considering getting a room the night before. Many airport hotels will offer room packages that include parking for the length of your trip and they often only cost a little more than parking alone. 


Once you’re home

Going home can be a bit of a downer, especially if you’re returning to wretched British weather. For advice on how to return to reality smoothly, read my other article, Six ways to beat the post-holiday blues

Many Bureaux de Change offer a buy-back option, sometimes for a small additional fee, which means you can change back any unused travel money at the end of your trip. So hold onto your receipts. The same advice applies if you need to make a claim on your travel insurance – the relevant receipts for things like medical treatment or replacement goods are essential for supporting your claim. Contact your insurer as soon as possible after getting home so you don’t miss the claims deadline, and check the small print in the T&Cs to ensure you’re entitled to make a claim. 

If your luggage is damaged or has gone missing, don’t stay silent – as an airline passenger you have certain rights. [Editor’s note: these are explained in our other article, Lost luggage: what are your rights?]

Finally, it’s never too early to start planning next year’s holiday – and you might be able to get a great deal if you book a whole year in advance. 


Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.