Preparing for a holiday can be exciting, but it’s also vital that you focus on the task at hand and make sure you’re totally prepared for your trip. Here’s a useful guide to tying up and loose ends before you go - from holiday insurance to packing like a pro, here are ten things you need to know.
1. Which vaccinations will I need?
Many destinations don’t need vaccinations - but some places, such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia will require you to take a trip to the doctor’s surgery for your jabs.
Vaccinations for cholera, diphtheria, polio and tetanus booster, hepatitis A, combined hepatitis A and B, and typhoid are free on the NHS. You may have to pay for injections for hepatitis B, meningitis C and other meningitis vaccines, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, tick-borne encephalitis, tuberculosis and yellow fever. A full list of destinations which require vaccinations, the injections you’ll need and their cost can be found on the NHS website.
It’s wise to seek your doctor’s advice around eight weeks before you travel. Your doctor should also talk to you about anti-malaria drugs, if needed, and how your vaccinations will affect any other medications you may be taking. If you’re concerned you’ve left it too late to get an appointment, you can arrange to get your jabs in a private clinic, but this can be expensive.
2. What size of cabin baggage is allowed?
This varies from airline to airline, and it’s always best to check online before you start packing your carry-on luggage. For example, EasyJet allow a maximum size of 56 x 45 x 25cm, including handles and wheels, for carry-on luggage. Ryanair allow one cabin bag per passenger weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. They also allow you to carry on an extra, smaller bag of 35 x 20 x 20cm.
Don’t think that you can cheat the system, and smuggle on a larger cabin bag - cabin crew may measure it before you board, and if it’s too large, they’ll pop it into the hold. This is inconvenient for many reasons, the most pressing being that the airline may charge you for stashing the bag in the hold. This is also means that you could be left without your phone, iPad, or any books that you may want to read during the flight.
However, there are a few sneaky tips and tricks you can use. You’re normally allowed to carry one bag of duty free shopping, so if you’re desperate and the bag’s unsealed, you can pop some items in there. If you’re running low on space, don’t forget that you can wear your clothes onto the plane, then repack them once you’re on the aircraft. It’s a bit of a pain, but ultimately worth it.
Our brand ambassador, Chemmy Alcott, is a pro at travelling with non-standard luggage - but she knows how to make it work. “If you’re travelling with skis and bulky sports equipment, you will learn how to Tetris-pack your car,” she says. “You’ll have loads of gear - and excess luggage and checking in for flights will become your enemy if you’re not careful!”
3. Is my passport valid?
Most countries stipulate that your passport is valid for at least six months after the date that your trip ends. If your passport expires sooner, you should renew it as soon as possible.
You can renew your passport at any time, but it can take up to three weeks - and your request can be delayed if you haven’t provided the correct information. It will cost £72.50, or £82.25 if you use the Post Office’s Passport Check and Send scheme. It doesn’t matter if you have some extra time left on your existing passport - when you renew, the time left is added onto your new one (up to a maximum of nine months).
4. What about liquids in my hand luggage?
Much like your cabin baggage allowance, airports are notoriously stringent when it comes to liquids in carry-on luggage. Each bottle or container must be no more than 100ml, and must be carried in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag (these are normally supplied for free at the airport).
Don’t think that your life will be easier if you just breeze through and buy your toiletries from Boots - you’ll be charged double. It’s easier to buy a set of empty plastic bottles before you leave (Primark and Superdrug stock these), and decant your own shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Don’t forget that you’re only allowed to use one plastic bag, and make-up counts as a liquid, a paste or a gel, so only pack what you really need.
5. How can I pack effectively?
Packing well is a skill in itself - don’t just throw everything into your suitcase and sit on it. Firstly, find all the clothes that you want to take. Then put half of them back. You’re now ready to pack. For a 3-5 day trip, you’ll need five tops, two pairs of trousers or leggings and one skirt, along with some tights. Knitted, cotton and woollen clothes are more resistant to creasing, as a rule.
Next, roll all of your ‘soft’ clothes, such as underwear and skirts, and fold stiffer ones, such as shirts. The rolled up items will go in first and create a base for the stiffer items to lie on top of.
If you’d like to avoid creasing your clothes, cover each ‘layer’ of packing with a bin bag. The clothes won’t be able to stay in one place long enough to wrinkle, due to its slippery surface. This is also great for separating certain outfits; if you don’t want to disturb your packing, you can just slide one layer out without messing up the rest of your clothes in the case. Remember to add the clothes you’ll be needing first - such as pyjamas - in last. Belts and ties can be snaked around the edge of the bag - no need to roll them.
6. Do I need travel insurance?
Yes, you do. A lot of people think that their EHIC card will do the job if they fall ill or have an accident abroad, but sadly, this isn’t the case. The same goes for credit card accident cover and private health insurance; they’re unlikely to give you the protection you’ll need if something happens while you’re abroad.
If you need medical assistance while you’re on holiday, and you’re not insured, it could cost you thousands of pounds - the treatment fees will be charged back to you. The Association of British Insurers have worked out that the average cost for overseas medical treatment is £2,040. If you were to need a coronary artery bypass and an emergency flight from the US to the UK, that would cost nearly £50,000. We recently wrote a story about a lady whose insurance didn’t cover her - she was left with £167,000 worth of debt.
Not only does travel insurance make sure you’ll receive the best treatment as quickly as possible, but it’ll also take care of any costs if you miss your flight home and have to book a new one. It’s a simple, effective way of making sure you can travel with peace of mind, knowing you’ll be taken care of if something unexpected happens. Discover Columbus Direct’s great value holiday insurance you can trust to keep you safe.
7. Is it a good idea to learn some first aid?
You should always know a few first aid essentials, whether at home or abroad. It’s vital that you know how to call an ambulance in a foreign country. Write this down or save it on your phone before you leave, and encourage the rest of your party to do the same.
In Europe, 112 is the number for the emergency services. There are plans to eventually make this the worldwide emergency number – but until then, an internet search is necessary.
You should also know how to treat sunburn, heat exhaustion, food poisoning and dehydration. We’ve written a handy guide to first aid for beginners.
Does my bank need to be notified if I’m going away?
If your bank recognises that your card’s being used in an unfamiliar place and your spending patterns have changed (shopping, eating out, etc), it may stop or delay granting authorisations for payments. The transaction may not be totally stopped - but it can mean you have to phone the bank to confirm who and where you are, which can be unnecessary hassle.
Not all banks need to be told you’re going away, but Money Saving Expert recommends that Bank of Scotland, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds and Nationwide customers contact their bank before they jet off.
9. Can I make sure my home is safe?
You could ask a family member or close friend to move in and watch your property, but if that’s not possible, there are some precautions you can take.
Keep your upcoming holiday off your social media accounts, and encourage your family to do the same - you never know who’s reading your posts. Make sure your mail isn’t stacking up (you can arrange to have it delivered to your local post office) and cancel milk and paper deliveries.
You should also check the entire property from top to bottom, and ensure that all windows and exterior doors are locked before you leave. We wrote a ten-step guide to keeping your property secure, which has some other handy hints for homeowners.
10. Is airport parking sensible?
It’s always worth to look into pre-booking your airport parking; not only will you save money in the long run, but you’re also guaranteed a space. There are normally three main types of airport parking for you to choose from:
Secured parking: This is when you park near to - but not at - the airport. Transfers to and from the airport are arranged via bus or coach. This is much cheaper, but can take longer, so make sure you leave plenty of time for the transfer on your outbound journey.
Meet and greet parking: It’s a slightly pricier option, but it’s great if you have lots of small children and you don’t want to hang about. You drive to the terminal where your driver is waiting for you, take your bags out, and your driver will take your car away and park it. When you come back, they’ll be waiting for you with the car.
Hotel parking: Hotel stays before a big flight are a great idea - arrive the night before, park your car, spend a leisurely evening in a hotel and get a quick transfer to the airport the next day. No more super-early starts on worrying about traffic jams delaying you.