Ten Point Checklist For Holidaymakers
Whatever your holiday plans, our Holidaymakers' Checklist can help you get organised, save money and generally have a better break.
1. Consider the Currency Exchange Rate
Consider the currency exchange rate when booking your trip abroad. Not only could you benefit from a lucrative exchange rate, you could save on shopping and eating out whilst on holiday, too.
The £ to the US$ has been at a relative high recently, making a trip to America more affordable. The rate against the Euro has not been as good though.
2. Foreign Currency / Traveller's Cheques
Once you know the currency required you'll need to find the cheapest place to buy it. Foreign currency seems to be available everywhere, most notably at the airport, but never forget that convenience comes at a price. Not only will you undoubtedly suffer a poor exchange rate, you'll probably be charged a stonking commission too. After all, you're a captive audience.
A far more sensible solution is to have a think about what you'll need a week or two in advance and order it. Unless you're in the habit of booking your annual holiday a day in advance there's no excuse for not having enough time!
Remember to note both the commission fees and the rate of exchange, so-called free commission often hides a dire exchange rate. Try asking the question "How many *Euros* (substitute with your required currency) will I get in exchange for £100, including charges" to help you compare deals.
For information on how to get the best deal, visit our foreign currency page.
Ensure you're properly prepared when travelling to the EU or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland by carrying a new (a new one came in on 01.01.05) E111 and CM1 form. This form entitles UK citizens to free, or reduced cost medical treatment.
They're free to pick up from the Post Office (don't forget to get them stamped) and many travel insurance providers insist their policyholders carry one.
Ask your doctor at least six weeks in advance if there are any recommended vaccinations for your destination and remember to check the Foreign Office website for any travel restrictions before you go.
4. Travel Insurance
Every holidaymaker should ensure they have adequate travel cover. Apart from the health aspect, travel insurance will cover your possessions and provide personal liability and cancellation cover, too.
If you shop around it is not too expensive. Check out the price comparisons on our travel insurance page.
5. Spending on Plastic
Although we generally travel with at least some foreign currency / travellers' cheques, there's always a time when paying by card is simply more convenient. Hotel stays, car hire and restaurant bills are easy to cover with the plastic, and careful card use can be prudent when currency is running low (you can avoid changing more money up).
However, you should realise that spending abroad on many credit cards can involve an unexpected charge, as although you tend to get a good exchange rate, each transaction is bumped up by a loading fee of up to 2.75%.
You can avoid these charges by choosing your card carefully. Two card issuers - Nationwide BS and Lombard Direct - do not charge for transactions anywhere in the world. If you're happy with the credit card you've got and travel abroad more than once a year, taking out an additional card for holidays only could save you a packet in fees.
6. Airport Parking
Booking car parking online a few weeks in advance can save you up to 60% in parking fees. You can quickly check the price of parking at 5 suppliers via our airport parking page, to ensure that you get the cheapest price.
Alternatively, why not check out the local hotels and B&Bs to your airport, many offer special packages that include two weeks parking and can make catching a very early flight much easier. Just like the airport parking page above, you can quickly compare prices at www.airport-hotels-guide.co.uk.
If you're planning to take your trusty vehicle with you on your holiday, make sure you check the details of your insurance policy carefully. The AA has revealed that over a quarter of a million drivers will take to European roads this year, unaware that they are not fully insured.
The AA recommends all drivers to take a copy of their insurance policy (insurers should be able to provide translations if required) as well as taking out European breakdown cover.
8. Don't forget your home
Although you may be looking forward to your trip, don't forget to ensure your home and possessions will be safe while you're away.
Useful advice includes buying some timer switches for your lounge and bedroom. Making your lights come on for a few hours each night will make your house look lived in, fit an external security light, lock all doors, windows, garage and shed, ask a trusted neighbour or friend to hold a set of keys and take the post in and photocopy your passport and travel documents and leave them with friends / family in case you suffer any loss or theft whilst away.
9. And if it all goes wrong?
Unfortunately, not everyone will have holiday that they dreamed of. Remember, if you are travelling under a package deal, let your holiday rep know as soon as possible about any problems you experience, to allow them to try to sort them out. If travelling independently, let the hotel or company involved know, so they can take action.
When booking a holiday it is well worth checking that the company is a member of ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) as they can take action if you don't reach a suitable conclusion yourself, and provide compensation should your holiday firm goes bust.
Independent travellers should ensure that firms used hold a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) license known as an ATOL to provide protection should things go wrong.
Remember to keep notes of all problems, backing them up with photographic evidence where appropriate and follow up all phone calls in writing. You can find a help on what to do if things go wrong at the Citizens' Advice Bureaux website.
A report from Clerical Medical has revealed that 20% of us have fallen out with our partner over their spending habits whilst abroad. Nearly 40% of those asked said it would take up to three months to pay off holiday costs, and a third said it would take them six.
However a fifth admitted it could take them longer than six months to clear their deficit and a worrying ten per cent claimed it would take a whole year!
The obvious thing to do therefore is try to put some money away each month into a holiday account. Set up a direct debit to leave your account when your salary goes in and watch your savings grow.
If you pick an account paying a good rate of interest you can rest assured that your money is working as hard as it can, too. Then try to stick to your holiday spending budget when you go!