Flying over Christmas? Don’t forget to pack these 8 essential items

Most of us dread packing; always panicking that we’re going to forget to pack an important item that will ruin our holiday if we forget it.

The best way to ensure you pack everything needed is to prepare a list and refer to it when packing. Actually, having two lists works well: one with absolute essential items that you can’t do without whatever holiday you’re taking – keep this in a safe place and refer to every holiday – and a second list with items required for your specific holiday.

The essential list should include the following:

  1. Passport
    It really does go without saying, that a passport is an essential item that you simply must pack, but do make sure that it’s in date and has a sufficient amount of time left on it – some countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months from the date of travel. It’s best to check entry requirements on the Foreign and Commonwealth website well in advance of your travel date.
  2. Tickets
    Tickets, self-printed boarding passes, booking reference, or sms text, whichever method of boarding your airline requires make sure you have it with you.

    If you are staying at a hotel the night before your flight, don’t forget to take your booking confirmation with you. And, likewise, if you’ve booked airport parking, such as meet and greet, don’t forget to take your booking confirmation; details of where to drive to; and the company’s contact telephone number with you.

  3. Travel insurance
    Whether you are taking a domestic, European or International holiday it’s essential to have travel insurance. If you’re travelling to Europe, don’t assume that an EHIC card is sufficient coverage; this only covers you for reduced-cost or sometimes free medical treatments and does not holiday cancellations, loss of possessions, or repatriation should you become ill or injured while on holiday.

    Don’t forget to take details of your travel insurance with you.

  4. Driving License
    If your holiday plans include car hire while on holiday, you will be required to show your driving license. Take both parts with you, not just the photo ID part.
  5. Money and Cards
    You won’t get too far on holiday if you forget to take your foreign currency with you, however, this can be overcome if you have your credit or debit card with you.

    Always purchase your foreign currency before you get to the airport, as you will have more time to compare rates and how much you get for your money. In the case of cards, you should inform your bank that you are going away and plan to use your credit / debit card abroad.

  6. Medication
    Whether you are required to take regular medication or not, it’s always advisable to take some painkillers, diarrhoea pills, plasters, hangover treatment etc. with you. It’s best to pack these in your hand luggage so that if your suitcase is lost or delayed you will be okay.
  7. Suncream
    Don’t forget to pack suncream – you will need it for most holidays, including skiing. Pack aftersun too, just in case you do burn.
  8. Mosquito Repellent
    If you’re travelling somewhere warm, it’s always advisable to pack mosquito repellent.

A further tip for packing is to allow sufficient time for packing. If you leave yourself too little time you are likely to feel rushed and hassled and you’re more likely to forget something important.

The above eight items should feature on your regular holiday packing list – do you have anything to add to this list? Feel free to add your suggestions to the comments below.

Top tips to ensure a stress free ski holiday this year

A skiing trip can be great fun, whether heading to the slopes for the first time, or making an annual return to that favourite resort. Buying essentials, booking ski passes and finding the right accommodation all need to be done beforehand, though understanding what to do if things go wrong is also vital. Ensure a smooth run on your ski trip and swot up on the procedures to follow in the event of a holiday accident.

Prices are often hugely inflated in ski resorts, so make sure you pack all the essentials before you leave. The obvious items like hats, gloves and scarves should be included – and duplicates too, if space allows. A thermal layer is also important, and for ultimate comfort opt for silk garments. Helmets are a sensible idea for preventing injuries, especially if you are a novice: if on a one-off trip it’s usually more cost-effective to hire these. It may be chilly but don’t forget the dangers of the sun too, and pack a high factor sunscreen, lipbalm with SPF and sunglasses with suitable protection. An aloe face cream or aftersun is also helpful for calming sun-beaten skin. Many resorts and hotels have chic bars and restaurants for après-ski drinks and dining, so be sure to look the part and remember to pack a formal outfit or two.

To save money, time and hassle pre-book your ski pass rather than doing it on arrival. Many websites offer discounted passes and, if holidaying in Europe, these have the added benefit of allowing you to pay in sterling online, rather than Euros on location. Make sure you do this as early as possible, as many operators have sussed this money-saving trick and restrict the number of passes available in advance.

Skiing is no longer seen as a holiday option for the elite, as it once was. As such, accommodation options vary widely. An all-inclusive resort or chalet may be handy for those who have a set budget and want to know what their costs are upfront. Alternatively, if you are thinking of driving or taking the train a self-catering chalet can be a good option, especially for families, as provisions can be bought cheaply in the UK and brought with you.

The dangers of skiing should not be forgotten and accidents and illness can easily occur. To enjoy your holiday it’s important to both take preventative action beforehand and understand what to do if things go wrong. To avoid muscle pulls and strains start a fitness programme before you leave, and warm up every morning pre-ski. Always check weather conditions on the slopes and heed any warnings from local authorities. Always check your equipment is maintained to a high standard and, even after skiing, ensure you’re kitted out correctly by wearing non-slip shoes.

It is essential to take out travel insurance beforehand. Companies usually offer specialist insurance for winter sports, and the best deal can easily be found using a price comparison site. If you suffer from an accident which wasn’t your fault whilst skiing, it may be possible to claim compensation by seeking professional legal help. Being in a foreign country and not knowing the language can make things tricky, but these firms can usually be relied upon on to provide guidance at each point of your claim. If you are sick or ill whilst on a skiing trip inform your insurance company and, in severe cases, the British Embassy. If holidaying in Europe remember your European Health Insurance Card, and don’t forget the value of safety measurements, like wearing a helmet.

Gap Year Travel Advice: 7 Quick Tips

Going on a gap year can be a daunting experience, particularly if you’ve never been away from home for an extended period. Below are 7 tips that will hopefully make your gap year travel experience a little easier and learn some key tips before you leave…

  1. Speak to Locals
    Speaking to locals is a great way to find out the inside line on the place you are visiting, as well as immersing yourself deeper in the local culture. The more locals you speak to, the more likely you are to find the hidden gems which aren’t mentioned in a guide book.
  2. Eat Street Food
    People often turn their nose up at street food, but in many countries it is the most delicious food there is and the cheapest too. And it’s a great opportunity to speak to some locals!
  3. Take Photos of Friends and Family
    You’ll undoubtedly get a bit homesick at some point on your trip so it’s always nice to have some photos with you. They’re also a great talking point with local folks where you can give them a glimpse into your life at home.
  4. Always have a Toilet Roll in Your Bag!
    You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find toilet roll in some countries so it’s always handy to have one tucked away in your bag. You also might not be near a toilet at all and need to go ‘au natural’ (possible after some street food)!
  5. Keep in Touch
    It’s important to keep those at home up to date with your trip so they know you’re safe. They’ll miss you and want to know what you’re up to which is easy to forget when you’re out having fun.
  6. Test Local Transport
    Local modes of transport are a great, cheap way to get around. But they’re also unpredictable so if you’re thinking of going on a local bus, jumping in a tuk tuk or hopping on a motorbike make sure you give them a thorough check first and ensure the drivers are qualified and in a fit state of health.
  7. Enjoy it!
    It’s easy to forget that this is a once in a lifetime experience and take it for granted when you’re there. The key is to enjoy every second, throw yourself into everything and grab every opportunity that comes along. The more you do that the more you’ll get out of the experience.

This is a guest post from Tom at Top Backpacking Destinations.

Mobile phones abroad: check roaming fees before travel

Virtually everyone has a mobile phone these days. Let’s face it, how many of us could survive without one? We all want instant contact: make a short call; send a quick text message, and we simply have to check our emails whenever we get the chance. But how many of us stop to think about what happens when we go on holiday? What are the roaming charges and what sort of bill are we going to face when we get home?

Apparently, most of us don’t bother checking, in fact, in a recent survey of 7000 people almost 60 per cent of UK travellers are not aware of the new EU roaming cap for Internet access within Europe. This is despite over half regularly accessing websites from their smartphones when on an overseas trip.

The research, carried out by budget accommodation portal budgetplaces.com, discovered that, despite over a quarter of people making between five and eight trips abroad per year, 74 per cent of travellers do not contact their network operator to get the best deal before hopping on a plane.

A further 90 per cent confessed to not having any idea what their operators charge for accessing the web when overseas, with 60 per cent saying they considered the £45 cap too high and would be upset if charged this amount.

“The roaming cap is a positive step to prevent enormous bills on returning home, but it’s clear travellers don’t know exactly what they are paying while abroad. This is leading to unexpected, yet avoidable, costs on top of their holiday,” said John Erceg, MD at budgetplaces.com.

Based on its experiences, budgetplaces.com has put together its top three tips for cash-conscious consumers:

  1. Check before you travel – call your operator and find out what its pricing structure is. Quite often, they will have add-on ‘bundles’ available, meaning you’ll know what you’re paying before leaving the UK.
  2. Use smart apps – find the quickest and easiest apps to use, such as those that allow you to complete actions without using additional sites, minimising time online and therefore cost.
  3. Shop around – find areas that offer free Wi-Fi facilities, your hotel may have this (as do the majority of hotels bookable on www.budgetplaces.com), or cafes often allow customers access. Then you can surf to your heart’s content for the price of an espresso.

“By planning ahead and getting the best deal, travellers can ensure that more of their holiday budget goes on experiencing different cultures and exploring the sites rather than worrying about unexpected bills when you get home,” added Erceg.

Check local laws and customs before travelling

Travelling without checking the local laws and customs of your destination could land you in big trouble.

It’s easy to take the things we do in the UK for granted, such as topless sunbathing or even kissing in public, but in some countries these activities are illegal and can land you with a hefty fine, deportation, or even imprisonment. It’s often only when an arrest receives media attention, such as the arrest of a couple in November for allegedly kissing on the mouth in a restaurant in Dubai, that tourists become aware that we need to familiarise ourselves with other cultures.

As we expand our horizons and travel further afield out of the familiar Euro-zone, it’s important to be aware of local customs and laws. We spend time researching potential holiday destinations, checking flights, accommodation and even consumer reviews, but rarely do we stop and think about differences in culture and the implications they can have.

When researching your chosen holiday destination, spend some time investigating local customs and laws. You may be surprised to learn that it is illegal to sunbathe topless in the Maldives and Abu Dhabi. Or that homosexuality is illegal in some popular holiday destinations such as Morocco and Goa. Ladies, watch out for the length of your skirt too as wearing a skirt above the knee is some countries could result in receiving a fine or certainly an official warning.

Where to get more information and advice:

A great place to find out about local laws and customs is to check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, which offers up-to-date, country by country travel advice.