Flying off on your hols is great fun, but it does come with its own kind of stress. Here are some of my tips for a stress-free summer getaway!
Check in early
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen friends panicking because they’ve left checking in online til the last moment, only to find out that they can’t all sit together on the plane. If you’re travelling with a budget airline, you may have to pay an additional fee to check in early. But it’s the best way to guarantee that your family isn’t spread throughout the cabin.
Top Tip: You can also make sure that you are sitting in your preferred area of the plane. I hate waiting around to get off the plane, so I always try and pick seats as close to the back doors as possible!
Book Airport Parking in Advance
If you are driving yourself to the airport, then it’s definitely best to book your airport parking in advance. Not only will you have the reassurance of having a guaranteed space in the car park you want, but you’ll also get a better price than if you pay on the day. I always try to book the nearest carpark to the airport, so that I only have a short walk to the terminal
Remember to allow enough time to find a space on the carpark, which can take a little time especially during the school holidays. Or if your budget allows, why not book valet parking. This way, you simply drop your car off in front of the airport and it is taken to secure parking. When you get back to the UK, you call the parking service once you have cleared passport control and collected your luggage. Your car is then brought back to you at the airport within around 10-15 minutes. This service is especially useful if you’re travelling in the colder months, as your car will be returned to you with the windscreen defrosted and the inside nice and warm!
Top Tip: If the car park spaces have numbers, use your phone to take a photo of the one that your car is in. That way you will be able to find it easily on your return.
Speed through Security
By now, most people are used to the rules regarding liquids and electronics in hand luggage. But it’s worth checking over them just to be sure that you don’t get caught out. I was recently stopped at security because I had left a cream blusher loose in my bag. You can carry up to 100ml of each liquid or gel product, in a clear resealable bag that is no bigger than 1 litre.
Don’t forget that you will need to take laptops out of your bag to be scanned. They also need to be charged so that you can turn them on if requested.
Or if you want a really quick trip through security, booking Express Security allows you to be fast-tracked to the head of the queue. It feels a bit odd being escorted past the other lines, but it makes this stage of your journey quicker and less stressful. You can either pay on the day, or book in advance for a slightly cheaper price.
Top Tip: It may sound odd, but I use a pour-and-store food bag for my liquids. The plastic is quite durable, it reseals reliably and I can reuse it for several flights.
Travel hand luggage only
I definitely couldn’t have done this when the boys were little. But deciding to travel hand luggage only has made our summer holidays a lot easier. Instead of having to wait around for our suitcases to appear on the carousel, we can just head straight on to our destination.
It does mean that you have to do some laundry while you’re away. And it’s true that you have to be a bit more choosy about which clothes you pack. But if you’re anything like me, you probably don’t wear half the things you take anyway!
Top Tip: There are some simple guidelines to travelling lightly, such as rolling clothes to fit more in your suitcase. You can also use packing cubes to make travelling hand luggage only much easier.
Get More for your Money
The UK pound has taken a bit of hit in recent months. Compared to a few years ago, you definitely don’t get as many dollars or euros for your money. So it’s really important to be well prepared so that you can get the best exchange rate possible.
Do your very best to avoid exchanging money at the airport. You are a captive audience there, and you will get a much worse exchange rate than pretty much anywhere else. Likewise, don’t use your regular debit card unless you know that your bank offers a particularly good deal on foreign currency. Check out websites like Money Saving Expert to find the very best deals.
Top Tip: I have a Caxton Fx pre-paid currency card which I use specifically for this, and which usually gives me a fairly competitive exchange rate. You can use it for 14 different currencies, including euros, US dollars, Australian dollars and South African rand. It’s also very convenient to use. I can just load money on to it every few days using the app on my phone.
Make Sure You’re Covered
No, I don’t mean sun tan lotion – although that’s really important too!
But it’s really important to make sure that you have adequate travel insurance. In 2010 we ended up stranded in Portugal when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted during our family holiday. There were no flights to the UK for around a week, and we could only claim £500 of expenses on our insurance. Since then I’ve always made sure that our insurance covers a reasonable amount of expenses. I even add on the optional ‘catastrophe cover’ in case something like that happens again.
If you’re travelling to the EU, then don’t forget your EHIC card (at least for now). This card doesn’t replace insurance, but it allows you to access local health care services in the same way that locals can. It’s free of charge and you can apply for it easily online.
And if you are planning several trips within 12 months, it’s worth looking into an annual policy. This year, our policy has saved us money just with our trip to Berlin and our main family holiday – not to mention the other trips I’ve taken to Malaga and Dublin.
Top Tip: Cashback sites like Quidco are a good place to look for the best value policies. You can compare pricing, and also get cashback on your purchase to bring the cost down further.
What are your top tips for a stress-free getaway?