This month I’m about to go on another short break abroad but this time with a friend. Just in case you missed them last time, here are my tips for a stress free trip, whether travelling alone or with a friend(s). Hopefully these will help to smooth out potential hiccups with packing, getting there and having an angst free time when you arrive. You can’t plan for the unknown or unexpected – but you can be prepared in advance for many things!
Be prepared for your location
• If you haven’t done it before booking, do some research online about the country/area you are visiting, including the extent to which English is spoken. A phrase book might be useful. No-one else will be ordering your food and drink for you!
• Google the Top10 things to do in your location/area, which will tell you what’s available, cost, proximity to your location and whether you need to book – especially for well-known tourist sights. It will help you to select and plan your own (safe) list of must-dos and must-sees for the time you have there.
• If you are on a package trip/tour, check if the travel company offer an excursion bundle that you can buy in advance, with a cost saving compared with buying when you arrive.
• If you have food allergies/ intolerances can your hotel/ the local restaurants/supermarkets cater for your dietary needs? If you have booked accommodation with meals, tell them about your dietary requirements in advance. A hotel with an ‘international buffet’ will cater for most dietary needs.
Be prepared for smooth transfers
• Arrange travel in advance to get to and from your arrival and departure points. Whether you are going by train or plane, what are your options and what does each cost? Can you get to your departure point by local transport in time? Do you need an overnight stay at an airport hotel?
• Don’t rely on a local taxi at the rail station/ airport at the other end unless you know the service is reliable and the local charge is not extortion on wheels. Is there a free shuttle bus/ local train from the airport to hotels/ city/ town centre?
• If flying, take advantage of advance online check-in (some travel agents will do this for you) especially if you want extra legroom or must sit by a window.
Be prepared for flight luggage restrictions
• If you are putting luggage in the hold, check the maximum weight limit and weigh your suitcase to make sure it is not overweight before you leave home. You can get a luggage scale from most places that do travel accessories.
• Unless you have a case in the hold included in your package price, take only carry-on luggage, even for a week. It’s a great discipline. Payment for luggage carriage is one of the ways in which the airlines hike up our costs and their profits. Check the weight limit of your cabin baggage (usually 10kg) and whether your airline allows a handbag as well as your main carry-on piece – some don’t, as I once found out to my cost!
Be prepared to meet air travel security restrictions on liquids!
• The definition of ‘liquids’ includes creams and gels, moist wipes (hand/baby/eye make-up remover); cosmetics (eg lipstick/gloss, mascara, eyeliner); medication such as drops/sprays (eg eyes/ears/noses); and antiperspirants and perfume.
• If you will have a suitcase in the hold put everything as above in it except essential ‘liquids’ for your journey. These will all need to be up to the maximum of 100ml each and fit into one regulation plastic bag per person. (Rymans sell packs of travel bags for liquids.)
• If you are travelling with cabin luggage only, ALL your ‘liquids’ will need to be the required size or below, and fit into the regulation plastic bag. You won’t be sharing shampoo with your best friend/room-mate. So choose what really is essential.
• Before departure day, practice putting your items in the bag and closing it! I need to have some medication with me at all times, so this has to fit into my bag alongside my lipstick and toothpaste etc. Here’s one I packed earlier!
• Once through security and into Departures, buy travel sized items in Boots to replace liquids that you have had to leave at home (shampoo/conditioner/shower gel/toothpaste/ sunscreen). You can take these onto the plane even if they don’t fit into your hand luggage. Don’t forget that at your holiday destination, you will be able to get any other items you need. Be prepared to leave some behind as the same restrictions apply to liquids on the journey home.