Getting away on holiday is harder when you haven’t prepared in advance. It’s not always possible to find a bargain holiday package when booking a few months’ ahead of your time off work. Sure, you can get a small early bird discount perhaps, but not the kind of steep discount offered by package holidaymakers when booking a last-minute deal. Similarly, even if you’re booking a flight and hotel shortly before your trip is set to start, it’s a rush to get ready in time to leave.
To help you, here are eight tips to prepare for a last-minute holiday abroad.
1. Check Whether Your Passport Has Expired
The passport is often the last thing we remember when packing for a holiday. Some people even get to the airport before they realise that they’ve left it at home. Actually, the passport should be the first thing you check.
If you haven’t traveled out of the country for years, it might have expired already or have less than six months remaining (some countries won’t admit you in that situation). Alternatively, if you travel frequently on business or for personal trips, there might not be enough blank pages left to be admitted on an international flight. This is because there needs to be sufficient space to fit the entry and exit stamps. In which case, you’ll probably require a fast track passport.
The Passports Office, an independent company, helps its customers with the need for an urgent passport. Whether you’ve discovered that your travel documents have become damaged from the last trip – residual moisture can make a passport unreadable and so it won’t scan in the machine – or you cannot find the passport at all, there’s a solution at hand.
With emergency passport situations, the Passports Office company (www.passports-office.co.uk) can rapidly speed up the time it usually takes to get a new passport arranged. If you have this issue, get in touch with them and see if they can help you.
2. Ready to Travel?
Does the country you’re travelling to require that you have an approved visa ahead of time? If you’re getting a new passport, then you’ll need to receive that and then apply for a visa for the country (or countries) that you’ll be visiting.
Some countries have a standard visa on arrival arrangements with the UK in a dual agreement and some do not. Check on their respective embassy’s website to verify the latest requirements to not get caught out at the airport and denied travel.
Make sure you have the ticket printed out and your boarding pass too. Some countries and airlines expect to see a hotel reservation, a return flight back to your home country, sufficient money to fund your travel expenses, and a planned itinerary. Keep the information together in a folder that’s easy to access before leaving for the airport.
Also, keep important information secured in case you have a wallet or purse stolen while away. The emergency contact numbers to get bank cards stopped is useful to have and store them away from where you’ll keep your travel money.
3. Plan to Drive?
If you plan to hire a car or rent a motorbike during your stay abroad, then check that you have a valid driving licence. UK driving licences have a long expiry these days, but if it was issued many years ago, it might be coming up to that time. You don’t want to find out too late that your driving licence has expired, especially if it’s a foreign authority doing a roadside check. If the driving licence has expired, get a new one quickly before you travel.
Also, check that you’re allowed to drive in a foreign country using your UK driving licence. There’s a lot of confusion over international driving licences vs domestic ones. It’s good to know the correct rules there before setting off.
4. Check Bank Cards Aren’t About to Expire
Take a look at your debit and credit cards to make sure they’re not about to expire.
Some travelers have run into difficulties recently either because the new replacement card wasn’t working correctly or because the card that they traveled with was replaced by a new one after they left the UK.
ATM machines can mysteriously gobble up a card because of an error and this could leave you without one for the duration of your holiday too. It’s a good idea to have more than one card and keep access to funds in multiple accounts. This way, if you run into card trouble, you have a backup plan.
5. Travel Insurance
Taking out travel insurance is an essential item, yet it’s still something that many holidaymakers skip to save a few pounds. That’s a very bad idea.
There has been an increasing number of cases of holidaymakers running into trouble because of getting into an accident while away and not have travel insurance to cover it. For just a few pounds, the insurance protects them from hospital bills which can run into the tens of thousands or even six-figures in some cases. Needing to be evacuated and repatriated to the UK can be incredibly expensive should that be required too.
If you’re travelling in Europe, get a European Health Insurance card to allow you to get reduced cost or free healthcare in the EU. The card is free, despite what some sites try to tell you. Just apply via the NHS.
6. Don’t Forget Your Creature Comforts
When flying on a plane, don’t forget your travel pillow. It avoids you falling asleep, waking up with a bad neck, and being stuck like that the rest of the day.
If you’re planning to bring your smartphone to listen to some tunes or watch video, don’t count on the plane’s Wi-Fi always working. Using the YouTube app, it’s now possible to download videos for offline viewing, which is perfect for a long (or delayed) flight. Similarly, don’t rely on streaming music services – get yourself some digital music stored on your phone instead.
7. Don’t Like Airline Food? Bring Your Own Snacks
While you’re limited with what you can bring on the plane, snacks are usually permitted as long as they’re pre-sealed.
Dried fruit, energy bars, cookies, and other treats work well. Consider how messy a food item will be in the cabin. Will it have too much crunch that it will annoy your neighbours?
Also, don’t bring any liquids with you. Stick to the in-flight beverages offered instead.
8. Have Enough Travel Money?
It’s always a good idea to arrive with some travel money in the local currency. While you hope that your ATM card will work at the airport’s ATM machines, if there’s a problem, you’ll be immediately stuck.
Bring enough funds to carry you over for a few days. However, don’t bring too much otherwise there will be questions asked before you even get on the flight (there are sniffer dogs that are trained to smell bank notes when passengers are carrying a suspiciously large amount). So, bring enough in low denomination notes, but not too much that you’re risking a pickpocket or awkward questions while the plane is idling on the tarmac.
As long as you make some fast preparations before you have to fly out, everything should be okay. Because same day passport services are now available, it’s easier than ever to get yourself out of a jam should you discover your passport is out of date or it’s lost forever.
Image Credits: Nicole Harrington