It can be very expensive to get medical treatment in some countries. Some hospitals won’t treat you unless they know that they will get paid. If you need to be flown home, the costs are literally sky high (sorry).
If you are uninsured, you may end up losing your home to pay for the bills, or even made bankrupt.
Always mention pre-existing conditions
It is vital that you mention any pre-existing condition to the insurance company before you buy the policy. You may find that you will not be covered for any treatment for that problem. Don’t worry, they will find out should you need to make a claim. You should also tell the insurers about any change in your health before you go away.
Remember that by taking the insurance you are allowing the insurance company to ask your GP for your medical history when you make a claim.
Different parts of the world have different premiums partly because of the local cost of medical treatment. You will need higher cover for a trip to America, for example. This includes some neighbouring countries as well as you may be evacuated to the States for treatment.
As well as knowing what medical treatment you will be entitled to, double check that you will be covered for an emergency flight home.
Cancellation or curtailment and flight delays
Holidays are one of the few things that you have to pay for up front. Also, most travel companies have firm cancelation procedures in place.
If you cancel far enough in advance, you may just lose your deposit. Leave it too late and you could lose the whole amount. So your insurance must cover you should you need to cancel your holiday.
Does the insurance just pay for one person who can’t make it, or can you claim for the whole trip if the others don’t want to go without you? Also, does the insurance actually cover the cost of the holiday?
You may experience problems if you don’t have cover from the day you book the trip. There may be a suspicion that you only bought the insurance at a later date because you knew that you would need to cancel. Also, should you be refused boarding at the airport for any reason, you will not be covered.
If your trip has to be curtailed and you have to come home early, check to see what cover is offered. It will probably be a percentage of the full cost based on the amount of time left. It should also cover you for additional expenses (such as buying another flight ticket if you are unable to rebook your existing ticket).
Your insurers may pay you an amount of money (not a high amount, but this should be excess free) if your flight is delayed for incidental expenses incurred while you wait in the airport. This is in addition to the compensation that your airline should give you. You should keep all your receipts, and this cover may not include connection flights, just the original departure and return. Also, these payments do not kick in as quickly as the airline compensation – typically only after a 10 hour delay.
If you decide that the delay is so great that it has ruined the holiday, you may be able to cancel and claim the holiday cost back. This is not on all policies, and the conditions set by the insurance company do not cover all eventualities.
There’s no legal requirement for you to have insurance when you travel abroad, but for most tour operators, you having suitable travel insurance is part of the terms of the sale for the booking.
However, it really is essential to have travel insurance, as each year holidays are ruined by illness, robbery or natural disaster, and these can be expensive to resolve.
I haven’t come across many people who have actually read the cover that they have purchased. It’s only when they need to claim that they find out what they’re not covered for. This is usually what they want to claim for.
But why should you get insured? Here are a few reasons;
You need to cancel your trip due to illness
You’ve had an accident or become ill and you need hospital treatment (maybe a medical evacuation)
You’ve been robbed
If you’ve booked a packaged holiday, then things like a terrorist incident just before you leave, cancelled flights and tour operator bankruptcy may already be covered. But if you’ve put your own trip together then you should take insurance that will cover you in case of such incidents.
Buying travel insurance can be really easy; you can now just buy insurance when you visit your local supermarket. But if you want to ensure that you are fully covered, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition or want more specific cover, it can be hard work reading all the small print.
Of course, the travel insurance market is just as competitive as the travel market. This gives you a massive choice, but you shouldn’t compare on price alone.
Check the small print before checking the price
You shouldn’t look at any prices at all until you have decided on what cover you want. Also remember to compare the excess. Is it ‘per claim’ or ‘per person claiming on the policy’? If you need medical treatment after being robbed, do you have to pay excess for the treatment and again for the lost items? Is it worth saving £15 on the policy, but then have to pay an excess 100% greater than the slightly more expensive cover?
A few years ago, I had a trip to an animal sanctuary for a holiday. I had insurance through my bank current account. I called the bank to see if I was covered for attacks by lions, leopards and wild dogs. After much prompting it was admitted that I wasn’t covered. I looked online for insurance, but in the end I called a broker and got insured without any fuss. Any questions were quickly answered and I knew exactly what I was covered for.
Brokers are also good for explaining the exclusions, such as skiing or riding a motorbike. One of the biggest problems with travel insurance is the list of things that are excluded.
Typical exclusions include:
Being under the influence of drink and drugs
Destination – if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel to a country
Activities which the insurer sees as a high risk
Being over 28 weeks pregnant
Acts of terrorism are not always covered
Pre-existing medical conditions
So what should you look for, apart from the exclusions, when looking for a policy?
Don’t just book a cruise because it is cheap. Even if it is the right cruise a mistake on the booking can ruin it for you.
Here is a run down of the things that you should consider before handing over your credit card details.
Choosing a cabin
If you’re worried about being seasick then the middle of the boat has less movement than the front or rear. There are two basic types of cabin, inside and outside. The inside ones don’t have any portholes, so at night-time the only light while you sleep will be whatever light gets through the cabin door. Some people find this too dark. The only advantage is that inside cabins are the cheapest of any cabin type.
Outside cabins come with one of the following
The partial view cabins are the cheapest outside cabin. They have a window but the view is blocked (usually be a lifeboat). The partial view cabins that I’ve seen should change the word ‘partial’ to ‘no’. The life boat has covered the whole window. The advantage of this type of cabin, apart from the cheaper price, is that they can be good for claustrophobics as at least they are not fully boxed in.
The cabins with a view have windows that don’t open, it’s just a question of selecting a cabin that you can see land from during some of your cruise, or just look out at the sea. Use the ship plans to ensure that you don’t look out onto a public space. The windows in these cases are meant to be one-way, but…
Balconies can be seen from the bridge..
Balconies are promoted as a chance to get away from everyone and you can sit in your own private world and watch the land/sea go by. However the peace and quiet can easily be shattered if your cabin is in the wrong place, or if you have noisy neighbours. Also they are not private; I’ve been in the bridge of a ship and there is a good view of most balconies with or without the need for CCTV. So behave yourself.
Use the ship layouts to ensure that you get the cabin position that suits you best. It may be handy to be near the bars, nightclubs or restaurants, but it can be noisy at night. Also the closer you are to the public areas, the more footfall there is past your cabin door.
Cabins are divided into classes, this means differing facilities and prices. One option that the cruise line offers is a kind of ‘allocation on arrival’ scheme. You pay a slightly cheaper price for your class of cabin and there is a chance that you might get a free upgrade. However you can’t usually decline the upgrade if it’s in a part of the ship that you don’t want to be.
Shore activities are the main reason why most people go on a cruise. They want to see the destinations (although there are those who prefer to stay on board all the time). It can be cheaper to book locally, but please remember that if you go off on your own the ship will not wait for you if you are late returning. If you miss your ship it’s your responsibility to catch it up at the next stop.
If you do decide to book your own shore trips, please remember that at some destinations there isn’t much available during ship visits. Most of the popular trips will have been blocked booked (every available seat will have been booked) by the cruise line. There will only be one helicopter trip, one good beach bar, etc. One tip though is to contact the concierge desk at the ‘best’ hotel in the port area and get them to book something for you. Then you will get a more exciting city or area tour.
When researching online for excursions check to see if the tour company is a member of any trade organisations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), local chambers of commerce or if they are recommended by the local tourist board. Also, does the price include transfers to and from the port?
A typical complaint of an ‘official’ tour is that too much time is spent at a trading establishment instead of the actual activity. When looking into reviews or asking on forums always check to see if this has happened to previous travellers.
Tell your bank!
Finally, it is very important that you notify your bank/credit card company of your itinerary so that your cards are not blocked. It can be very expensive to call them from your ship if you need to unblock them.
Simple steps can reduce risks of illness or crime while on a cruise
Health and safety
News of cruise ships in quarantine always makes big news. Nearly everyone has an upset stomach and you can’t get away. It is usually the norovirus that causes the problem as it is highly contagious. In your home or a hotel, it’s not too bad as you can get away from the problem, but even though it only lasts 24-48 hours, when in a confined space it is a real problem. It is rare though, despite the news stories.
After all the media isn’t going to report ‘cruise ship docks at end of tour. No illness and everyone had a great time’ are they?
You can reduce the chances of illness
Just remember to always clean your hands before handling your food, smoking or even brushing your teeth.
Ships do have their own medical centres on board as well, which isn’t surprising when you think about how old the average age of the passengers used to be (yes ships do have a morgue). However, they may not be able to replace your prescription drugs, so ensure that you have a spare supply when you go away. Also check that your travel insurance covers the cost of treatment.
Finally, you will probably eat more than usual while on a cruise, and not all the food will be good for you, so take it easy with the cream cakes.
For cruise lines that visit the USA, there is an inspection by The Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which issues a ‘Green Sheet’ report of the Vessel Sanitation Program of the inspected ship. To check out the latest inspections go to the list.
The VSP carried out the following on all ships based in the USA that carry more than 13 passengers and all foreign ships that have an itinerary that includes USA ports;
Periodic and unannounced operational sanitation inspections and scheduled construction inspections
Monitors gastrointestinal illnesses and investigating or responding to outbreaks
Training of cruise ship employees on public health practices
Provides health education and current public health information to the cruise ship industry, the public, and health professionals
There are some drawbacks to being stuck on a floating hotel. Sinkings have occurred (think Titanic), also people fall overboard, people go missing and there are sexual assaults. A larger cruise ship is full of people, and people means crime.
Just because you’re having fun, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t forget to take the same precautions that you would on land.
Use the ships safe for your valuables
Don’t overdo the alcohol. Decks are very dangerous places when you think that you’re invincible
Don’t go off with a stranger
If you win big at the casino don’t go mad with the celebrations. Also use the ships safe for your cash winnings
While ocean cruises on large ships are the most common type of cruising, there are many different types available for those who don’t want to spend their time on a large floating resort. It is possible to take a more intimate cruise, or you can save money while staying on a large ship by booking a repositioning cruise.
Here are some examples of the types of cruises that are available.
The large ships do offer a lot of entertainment, but they are large resorts. River Cruise ships offer a much more sedate and intimate experience. Also you get to see the world pass by as you’re floating down a major river.
You won’t get the swimming pools, open air cinema or late night buffets, but you will get to see more of the destinations.
Barge Cruises/Narrow Boats
These are flat bottomed boats that travel along canals and rivers. The narrow boats are usually self-drive and the barges are larger and come with a small crew. Barges also usually come with meals included, but narrow boats are self-catering. The pace is a lot slower (around 4 miles an hour) so you just leisurely travel along and stop off to explore (usually pubs if you’re on a narrow boat).
These come into their own if you are trying to travel without flying, or if your looking at visiting far off destinations that are impossible to reach by other means, such as Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic , which is only accessible by a 7 day boat journey from Cape Town, South Africa. These ships are travelling between A and B to deliver cargo, but you can also travel along in your own cabin. Only a few passengers and crew occupy these vast vessels, so if you want to get away from it all, then consider going on one of these. Facilities are few, just an en-suite cabin and somewhere to eat.
You don’t just have to travel from A to B. You can end up doing a world cruise on a working ship, with the advantage of probably not putting on too much weight!
The only real disadvantage is that you are travelling to the ship’s delivery needs, which may mean only being in port for a few hours, or during the night.
Instead of a large ship powered by massive motors, step back in time and travel by wind power (OK, they also have engines). These cruises vary from an afternoon sailing around the coast to proper week long or longer cruises. Just because they don’t have the climbing walls, ice rinks and outdoor cinemas, it doesn’t mean that you will have nothing to do while on-board. The ships range in size from yachts to large ocean going tall ships.
Cruises can be a great place to learn more about your favourite hobby or pastime. One of the growing cruise types are ‘specialty ‘or ‘participatory’ cruises. If you are into cooking, sports, or painting, there are cruises that include hands-on workshops, lectures, and excursions in your chosen activity.
These may not be exclusive cruises, so you will get to mix with ‘normal’ people when your education periods get too much. Cruises can also be great for golfers, as they’ll get to play on a different course nearly every day.
The advantage for ship owners is that when seasons change they can move the ship to better weather. Of course the owners don’t want to have an empty ship while it sails from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, so they sell cabins on the ‘repositioning cruise’.
You may not get all the shops that a normal cruise offers, perhaps just a couple, but you will still get the same on-board activities.
How many times have you set off only to find that you have left something behind? Have you checked everything carefully before booking? This handy travel checklist will help you to remember what you need and what to check.
When and how long for?
Set price range
List of desired locations
Checked these locations on the FCO Website
Check for cheaper alternative dates
Checked the dates for local holidays and festivals
Check for flights from preferred airport
Check to see if alternative airports will be cheaper
If I’m doing a multi-centre tour, does the order in which I visit the different places change the prices?
Check the average weather conditions
Check the various airlines on the review websites
Will I need a car?
How will I get to the accommodation?
Is a package holiday cheaper or safer?
Can I choose my seats for the flights?
Have I explored options for things to see and do, etc.?
Have I explored options for restaurants?
Check local newspapers for adverse stories or suggestions of things to do
Do I have routes for possible taxi journeys so I can check if the taxi driver is trying to rip me off?
Do I need fall back hotel contact details at connecting and main airports in case of delays?
Airport parking or valet service arranged?
Do I have all booked hotel contact details in case of delays?
Do I need a visa(s)?
Do I need vaccinations?
Is my passport current?
If you’re travelling within the EU, get an EHIC card for free or reduced cost emergency medical care
Can I get my clothes cleaned locally, so that I reduce how much I need to take?
Do I want to send my luggage ahead?
No valuables have been put into checked luggage
No prescription medicine in your luggage (unless there is too much for hand luggage (get local names for medicine in case you need to replace any)
Check current airport security notice and make sure hand luggage is clear of prohibited items.
Create an inventory of everything that is packed (with receipts if possible. Take copies in your hand luggage, leave a copy with someone and if possible, scan and email to a web based email account)
Note the brand, the size, a description, and other identifying characteristics of your luggage in case they get lost by the airline
Mark all your bags and cases distinctly (not with anything that can easily be pulled off)
Put your contact details inside the case in the event it gets lost. Use a third party contact details if you are worried about your home security.
Have I left a copy of my itinerary and contact details with someone?
Scanned passports and other travel documents and emailed them to a web based email account
Here are some (108) travel tips to help you to research, plan and book your next trip.
Use a Travel Researcher – This is the easiest method in finding the ideal holiday for you. But I would say that wouldn’t I? Of course, if everybody did this then there wouldn’t be any need for this book
Use a Good Travel Agent – It can take a while to find a good travel agent. You need somebody who really understands your requirements. They should remember that just because they had a great time at a particular hotel, it does not mean that you will. Be careful as some agents work to gain incentives; the hotel that is recommended may give the agent a free holiday
Brainstorm Your Trip Planning – As part of your planning and research, you shouldn’t worry about the cost at first as this will only restrict you. Just write down everything that you want to see, do, eat and drink. Of course, budgets are very important, but it’s quicker and more fun to find a holiday that matches your requirements and budget instead of finding a holiday to match a price limit
Health – You may be required to have vaccinations when visiting certain countries or taking part in activities. Websites can be a good source of information, but you should always consult your GP or visit a good travel clinic. When using a GP, some jabs are free and some require a private prescription. A travel clinic will charge for all your jabs
Passports – Some countries have a requirement that there is a minimum of 6 months validity left; others need a blank page for the on-arrival visa. Check that your passport meets all the requirements
Visas – For some countries it will be necessary for tourists to obtain a visa. Some are easier to get than others and should never be left until the last minute. You may be able to board a plane without a visa, but you will be sent back on the next available flight if you try to enter a country without one. It is down to the traveller to obtain these and not the travel company, although they should tell you if you need one or not. Check using the relevant website
Thursday, Friday or Saturday? – If flying away for a long weekend it is cheaper to fly out on Saturday instead of Thursday or Friday
Ignore ‘Price From’ Ads – These rarely have any relationship to the final cost. They are usually based on low season and full room occupancy
Days or Nights? – When you are comparing prices for holidays from different suppliers, check to see if the duration is given in days or nights. Days may include travelling time; nights may include flying overnight and not nights in a hotel. An example is an ad for a trip to Boston. The headline said ‘6 days’ but the trip only included 4 nights at the hotel
Use Online Forums -People love to talk about their holidays and help others to enjoy their time away. Forums are websites where people offer their opinion and respond to cries for help. Questions may be answered by locals or tourists that have visited there
Always double check – If you are unsure of a source of information when researching your own trip, always double or triple check
Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Website – Check the travel advice for your chosen destination. Here you will find advice on crime, safety and other useful tourist information about your chosen country. There may be warnings not to travel, which will mean that you won’t get travel insurance
The Weather – You should always check the average weather conditions and seasons before booking. The information supplied by the tour operator could be based on average daily temperatures or the average highs. Use a detailed website to check this, and look for seasons of adverse weather conditions, such as cyclones and hurricanes
Have an experience holiday as well as a relaxing one – Split your break to try something new. This could be a safari, mountain climbing, walking through the desert with goats, anything out of the ordinary. You can still relax on the beach for a few days before you fly home
Vary your Daily Plans – If you are touring or exploring, vary the itinerary so that you are not busy every day and that you have time to relax
Don’t Forget Your Own Needs – Travelling with others will mean compromise, especially if travelling with children. However, this is your break too so ensure that you get some ‘me time’
Use Tourist Offices – This could be their overseas offices and local ones. They will be able to give you up-to-date information on places to eat, things to see and any events or occasions that may enhance your trip, or may make you delay it if it’s going to be too busy, or suffer disruption due to major civil engineering for example.
Choose the Hotel, not the Star Rating – Hotel stars or the local equivalent are not always interchangeable around the world. Also, why stay in a 5 star hotel which may have loads of facilities if the 4 star next door has all you need. A 5 star hotel with a golf course does not mean better food or service than a 4 star hotel without a golf course
Use Hotel Review Websites – But READ every review and don’t just go by the rating. Somebody may complain about something that you find acceptable
Use the hotel website – This will have far more information than a tour operator’s description and may even include guides and suggestions for the local area, how to get there and special offers. When using a hotel website, check the pictures carefully to see if you can get a rough idea when they were taken. They may have been taken when the hotel was built, or when it had its last makeover 20 years ago
Contact the Hotel Direct – This can be for examples of their menu or for suggestions for things to do. If the hotel is given enough notice they may be able to cook your favourites. If you don’t get any response to your request for information, at least you know what level of service to expect if you book
Search for Adverse News Stories – By using search engines such as Google or Alta Vista you may find news stories about the hotel. This will pick up complaints and problems that may not be on any review website, such as investigations by TV shows such as BBC’s Watchdog. As an example use TripAdvisor to check ‘Holiday Village Turkey Sarigerme’. Then Google ‘Holiday Village Turkey Sarigerme Watchdog’…
Use Google Maps – This can be used to check the hotel’s neighbours. An overhead photo may show a quarry, business centre, waste ground, etc. The map option may show if a nightclub, police station, airport or hospital is next door
Google Maps can also be used to look for restaurants, clubs and pubs, etc. in the area close to your hotel
Book Before You Leave – When you have found restaurants, etc., book them before you leave to avoid disappointment and to ask for special requests
Protection – Check how your trip is financially protected before paying. If it’s a package holiday with flights, there should be an ATOL in place. The ATOL number can be checked on the Civil Aviation Authority website You need to know what will happen if the tour operator, travel agent or hotel goes bust.
Cancellation – Before booking any element of your trip ensure that you understand all the cancellation policies. This is very important if you put your own trip together. For example, if your flight is cancelled, you may still have to pay for your hotel if there is a 100% late cancellation fee
Finally Booking – Only book flights or package holidays when you have everybody’s passport in front of you. It can be very expensive to correct somebody’s name so that it matches the name on the passport. Is Sue ‘Sue’ or ‘Susan’ or ‘John’, ‘Jon’ or ‘Jonathon’?
Travel Insurance – Always get travel insurance and use a broker. Get them to explain all the small print and what is and isn’t covered. A ‘one size fits all’ policy may be very expensive to include your health requirements and belongings. A specific policy may work out a lot cheaper in the end
Credit and Bank Cards – Inform your bank and credit card companies that you will be using your cards overseas. Otherwise you may find that they are blocked and it’s an expensive phone call to make from your resort
Travel Documents – Scan all your travel documents, including passports and email them to a secure online email service, such as Hotmail, so that you can print copies in an emergency
Food Allergies/Dietary Requirements – If you have a food allergy or a specific dietary requirement, ensure that you have cards printed in the local language explaining this
Medication – If you are on medication, check that you can legally take this medication into the country that you are visiting and/or connecting through. You may need to arrange for a permit
Misleading Brochures – Expect that something may not be as described in the brochure or website, and don’t let it spoil your holiday. Make a note, report it if possible and mention it on your return
Your Contact Details – Always have your contact details inside the case as external ones may fall off. If you are worried about security only have your name and mobile number listed, or ask your travel company if you can use their address to return the lost luggage
Emergency Contact Details – Put all the phone numbers for your holiday in your phone. This includes the hotel, travel company, airline and emergency numbers back home. Make sure that they are stored in the phone’s memory and not on the sim card. Then if you use a local sim card to save money you will still have the numbers to hand
Flight Research – There are review websites for flights as well as hotels, so check to see what previous passengers have thought about their flight. It may be worth choosing a more expensive carrier just to ensure that your flight isn’t too stressful
Flight Times – Try to fly as early as possible as delays snowball throughout the day, so the earlier the flight, the better the chance of missing delays or only having a minimal one. It follows on that you should avoid the last flight home if possible as if this one is cancelled it’ll be a day or two before you finally get to leave
Stopovers – If you are flying an indirect route, think about an extended stopover to explore somewhere new.
Save Money – Never buy anything at the airport unless you really, really have to
Connecting Airport – Also if flying indirect research the connecting airport. You may be able to take a quick city tour, book a hotel room for a few hours, use a gym or do some shopping
Airport Toilets – Queues for the toilets are always longer before passport control, especially if your plane has been stacked for a while (with the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign on). Try to wait until luggage reclaim, or you will find yourself at the back of a long queue waiting to clear immigration
Check-in Online – If possible check-in online, this will ensure that any specific meal requests will be ordered and you can choose your seat (if available). Use SeatGuru to find the best seats in your class
Don’t Leave it to the Last Minute – Most flights are oversold as the airline banks on a certain percentage of passengers becoming a ‘no-show’. If everybody arrives the last to check-in may be bounced. Allow time for the security checks, as airlines are becoming stricter in gate closing times
Dress for the flight and not the destination – It may be 100°F when you arrive, but it’ll be a lot cooler on the plane
Beach Towel – Use a beach towel as a blanket while flying. It will be warmer and larger than an airline blanket, and it will save space and weight for your suitcase
Airport Security – Check the airport security checks for all the airports that you will be travelling through. It will save time and prevent you losing items due to confiscation. Sometimes connecting passengers just travel through special channels to their next flight, other times full checks are in place. For example all checked luggage travelling to/from/through the USA must be unlocked, or locked with a certified TSA padlock
Departure Taxes – Make sure that you keep enough local currency to pay any departure taxes. Credit and debit card or travellers’ cheques may not be accepted
Wine – If you have to drink wine only have white wine to reduce the chances of staining your clothes, especially if travelling with children, as it can easily spill. Also turbulence can occur at any time, so take care if drinking hot drinks
In-flight Entertainment – Most airlines list the in-flight entertainment online. If they don’t, then try giving the reservations department a call. A portable DVD player may be the best solution if flying with children
Luggage Claim – Make your cases stand out so that it’s easier to see them on the carousel and to track if they get lost. Colourful string and straps can help but if they are fitted incorrectly they may come loose and jam the conveyor belt. A colourful case is the best solution
Trial Size – Trial size toiletries and medicine are handy for travelling. Collect free samples
Hotel Staff – Hotel staff can be a great source of local information. A friendly word could get you a unique experience. If your hotel doesn’t have a concierge service, be brave and walk into one that does (remember to tip)
Always be polite to staff as the level of service may increase
Small Dollar Bills – If you have low denomination dollar bills at the end of a trip, keep them. They can be used as tips around the world
Housekeeper – Leave a daily tip with a small gift
‘Please Sir, can I have some more?’ – If you are staying all inclusive, don’t be afraid to order a meal that you have never tried before. If you don’t like it you can always order something else. Also if the portions are too small – ask for more!
Hotel Name and Address – If you are staying at a small hotel, a hotel with a similar name to another one, or you can’t speak the local language, grab a hotel flier or business card so that you can show it to a taxi driver
Minibar – These can be very expensive to use, but if you’re happy to pay, or if it’s included, leave a note (with a tip) listing your preferences if the standard supply is not to your taste
Electric Supply – Check the power supply and whether your electrical items will work. Not all small appliances are dual voltage, this includes phone chargers
Plug Adaptor – One adaptor is never enough, so pack a four way extension lead as well
Large Valuable Items – If something is too large for the room safe, use the hotel’s main safe. Or use a secure box/case with a security cable
Foodbags – Pack some sealable food bags so that you can easily take food to your room if there is no room service. They will also be handy for grabbing extra fruit at breakfast
Cleaning Your Teeth – Unless you are 100% sure that the hotel water is safe to drink, always use bottled water
Phone calls – When calling home, use phone cards and not the phone in your room. You may be charged a connection fee, a minimum call fee, and then a fee per minute/part of a minute. Your mobile may be able to use a SIM card with cheaper rates, or you could use a computer phone such as Skype. Check the cost of computer access before using it as it may work out more expensive. If the WI-FI is free or with a reasonable daily charge use WI-FI phone
Humid Resorts – A humid resort may mean a musty smell in your room, so buy a perfumed plug-in. Do not be tempted to bring one from home and use with a plug adaptor. This may result in a fire
Doorcard Power Switch – Some hotels have a door card holder which also switches on the electricity in the room. If you really must have an ice cold room to return to, a shop rewards card may fit the holder
Dresscode – Check the dress code for the hotel and for any restaurants that you may use. These are stuck to (more rigidly in some places than others) and I have seen people turned away
Additional Costs – All additional charges must be made clear to you at check-in. If they are, ask the front desk for a list. If a charge isn’t mentioned to you, don’t pay it when checking out
Your Room -If you don’t like your room, say so before unpacking, either to the hotel porter, or to the hotel manager. Don’t leave it until later as the hotel may be fully booked
Free Room Upgrade – To increase your chances of a free upgrade, book for a non-peak time (over the weekend at an urban business hotel, for example), or let the front desk know that you are celebrating a special occasion
Cheap Room Upgrade – Ask if any special incentives are being run when you check-in. At off-peak times you may be able to negotiate a nominal fee
Delays – Always contact the hotel if you are delayed. They may put you down as a ‘no-show’ and give your room to somebody else. If you are on a 7/14 night package holiday you should not need to worry about this
Fire Safety – If you are staying at a large hotel, there is a feeling among some travel writers that you should not stay above a certain floor level. This varies depending on the writer, but the idea is that you shouldn’t stay on a floor higher than the tallest local fire engine ladder. This varies between 5 and 7 floors. When you have checked in, and especially if you are travelling with children, you should try the fire evacuation instructions. When you do this you will get familiar with the route, so hopefully there will be less panic if a fire should occur. Also, if you spot any problems, such as a locked or blocked fire exit or missing extinguishers, you can report it to the management. Then if nothing changes you can report the hotel to the local authorities.
Room Safety – If you are unsure about your safety in your room, use a rubber door wedge to jam the door closed while you sleep. This will prevent intruders with a door key from sneaking in
Car Hire – Not all car hire companies will accept debit cards for a deposit, only credit cards. This applies whether you book direct or through an agent
Local Driving Laws – Make sure that you know the local driving laws. In some countries there is a requirement for certain safety items to be carried at all times. It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure that these items are carried and not the hire car company
Private Transfer – If you are on a package holiday, book a private transfer to the hotel and back to the airport. This will save a lot of time hanging around for others and will speed up check-in at the hotel and at the airport
Taxis – If you had great service from a taxi driver, grab his card and use him for the rest of your trip. As he gets to know you he may come up with some suggestions for you to try
Always agree a price before getting in a cab. The hotel will give you a rough idea of charges to expect
Animals – Never touch any animals, wild or domestic, around the hotel. Apart from the chance of being bitten, you may pick up some nasty parasites
Local Laws – Always respect the local laws. If you are unsure about anything, such as drinking restrictions, minimum ages or dress code, check with the countries embassy before you leave. Even a small kiss could land you in trouble
Money – Never take out more cash than you think you’ll need when leaving the hotel. Always carry loose change with you for tips
Bottled Water – When buying bottled water, never let the vender undo the cap for you, always check for yourself that the cap was sealed correctly before you buy it. This applies in restaurants as well
Touts – Never sign anything in the street, take anything that is free or go off with ‘salespeople’ unless you are 100% confident that you are safe and will not get ripped off
Language – Learn a few words of the local language. It will go down well and may increase the level of service
Paying by Card – As when you’re at home, don’t let your card out of your sight. Also you may be offered the opportunity to use dynamic currency conversion. Don’t, as the rates are set by the business and will be poor, and you may still be charged extra by your card provider. Leave card payment exchange rates to your bank or credit card company
Toilet Breaks – Never miss the opportunity to take a toilet break. The next chance may be a long time coming
Fluids – Drink plenty of bottled water throughout the day
Hygiene – Wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizers
Photos – Be careful when taking photographs of public buildings. It may be against the law to photograph government, police or military buildings
Be Vigilant – Make sure that you feel safe and do not draw too much attention to yourself. Theft can happen in airports, so always keep your luggage within sight, check forums for the latest scams. The FCO website has advice on being safe and reducing the chance of being targeted by con artists
Packing – An online packing website may help to ensure that you don’t forget any essential items. This can offer a list of suggested items, either as a general list or a specific one for your destination. Some can also be customised
Tea Lights – Pack some tea lights (and matches) in case of power cuts
Gasses Repair Kit – Always pack this in your checked luggage and not your hand luggage as the screwdriver may be confiscated
First Aid Kit – Carry two, one for your hand luggage and a more comprehensive one for your checked luggage. Remember to check the contents of the hand luggage kit against the list of approved/prohibited items listed in the airport security checks
Bug repellent – Carry a small bottle or can of bug repellent in your hand luggage. Hotel check-in desks are a hot spot for little flying bugs
Waterproof Case – Use a waterproof case for the beach and snorkelling to hold your room key. Check how waterproof it is in the room, as the beach is too late to find out that it doesn’t work, especially if you have paper money in it
Food You Don’t Want to Try – If you are going to an event where you may be offered a local delicacy that you really don’t fancy, explain when you get there that you have traveller’s belly. Then not eating will not cause any offence
Travel Games – Travel games can relieve boredom when delayed, if the weather is poor, and to help you to meet new people
Clingfilm – Useful for sealing leaking containers, carrying food and covering burns
Head Torch – A head mounted torch has so many uses, from reading in bed to checking in dark places for bugs or dropped items. Remember to take spare batteries
Coach Trips – If you are on a coach tour, the rear seats don’t recline, the front seats may not have reading lights or any leg room. However, the further back you sit the more delays in getting off due to slow moving passengers!
Cruises – On a cruise, your luggage will be taken to your cabin for you. However there may be a delay, so ensure that you have enough items in your hand luggage to enable you to freshen up
Cruise Safety – A cruise ship is just like a holiday resort, and is not the place to take unnecessary risks with your own personal safety. Treat strangers, even staff, in the same way as you would in a hotel, city or resort
Ports of Call – On a cruise itinerary a stop off may be listed as a ‘port of call’. This may mean only a relatively short stay, only allowing time for official (and sometimes expensive) tours. Always check the length of time allowed in a port when choosing your cruise
Tenders and Multiple Ships – If a port isn’t large enough for your cruise ship, you will go ashore in a tender (or a taxiboat). Check the timetable for the port, as it is not uncommon for three or more ships to arrive on the same day. This can mean delays in tenders and a high chance of over subscription for the tours. If it is somewhere that you really wanted to visit try, to pick a cruise that has the port to itself
Remember that you’re on holiday – Accept things may be slower than you’re used to, but what’s the rush?
The following is a list of common travel jargon used by the travel industry.
APD – Air Passenger Duty is a UK government imposed charge in addition to other airport taxes. APEX FARE – Advance Purchase Excursion Fare (airline).This is a special fare at a lower rate. Restrictions will be in place which may prevent you from getting a refund or making any changes. ARNK – Arrival Not Known is used to show a surface/sea sector in a flight booking. For example, Heathrow to JFK New York, then Los Angeles to Heathrow. There is a surface journey between New York and Los Angeles. ATOL – Air Travel Organiser’s License. This is required by any company selling packaged holidays with flights included. It provides consumer protection if a Tour Operator goes into financial failure – if passengers have not travelled they will get their money back or if passengers are on holiday, arrangements will be made for their return.
CARRYON – This is hand luggage that passengers can take with them onto the aircraft. Size, number of bags and weight limits are set by the airline and by local government anti-terrorism instructions. Contents are also restricted, so make sure that you are fully aware of any restrictions before you check your hold baggage. CHECKED BAGGAGE -This is baggage up to a specified limit that is carried in the hold of the aircraft. There are two systems in place for checked baggage allowances.
The weight system is based on the total weight of baggage, no matter how many different pieces
The piece system is based on the number of pieces of baggage. Each bag must not exceed a maximum length made up of all three dimensions (length + width + height). There may be a total length limit for all bags combined.
Both systems will have a maximum weight limit per bag for health and safety reasons. This varies dependent on country of departure as well as airline. Subject to space availability, airlines will carry amounts of baggage in excess of the free allowance for an excess baggage charge. The maximum amount depends on the class of ticket, with economy having the lowest limit and first class having the greatest limit. CHILDREN – A reduction on the adult fare, depending on age. For most scheduled airlines children are aged between 2-12 years inclusive. Some hotels have a maximum child age of 16, so the flight could be full adult, but the room may be discounted. Do not assume that a child discount is applied. It may be cheaper to voluntarily pay an adult price for a room as in some cases this is cheaper than paying a child price and an under occupancy surcharge. Children have the same baggage allowance as adults.
DIRECT FLIGHT – A change of aircraft is not required but the aircraft is landing at an intermediate point.
E.T.A. – Estimated Time of Arrival EXCESS BAGGAGE – An excess baggage fee on baggage greater than that allowed for the free allowance included in the ticket price. The charge is generally l.5% highest normal direct adult one way economy class (in local currency) for each kilogram in excess of the free allowance. There are exceptions so check the airline’s terms and conditions before booking.
FULLFARE – means that the passenger has paid in full. Full payment at the time of booking usually guarantees the price. Increased taxes will be passed on, so check terms and conditions before paying.
GROUPS – If 10 or more are on the same booking, a special group passenger’s fare may be applicable. For scheduled flights this may mean a higher price than when travelling separately. There are only so many seats at a certain price and there may not be enough to cover the whole group, so the next highest fare is used.
HEALTH – Always contact your GP before travelling for up-to-date advice. Private clinics may offer better advice, but do not leave it to your travel agent or tour operator as they may be out of date and are not qualified to give medical advice.
IATA – International Air Transport Association. Includes most of the world’s airlines and enables passengers to travel on different aircraft around the world after paying the fare at the start of their journey in one currency. It also promotes safety and cost cutting measures. An IATA License is required to sell scheduled flights, so your supplier may hold a license or may be an agent acting on a holder’s behalf. INFANT – A child under the age of two on the date of return. An infant does not have its own seat or meal on the flight. Infants have a reduce baggage allowance but may also include one pushchair.
LONGHAUL – A flight of more than 5 hours.
MAXIMUM & MINIMUM (MAX/MIN) STAY – All return flight prices are governed by the length of stay and other conditions. For example, Minimum could mean that the passenger has to stay on a Saturday night or for seven days. Maximum could be up to one year. The more restrictions placed on the ticket, the cheaper the fare.
NONSTOP – The aircraft does not land on the way to the final destination.
OK – An airline ticket that is booked or confirmed. OPENJAW – A term for a booking where the passenger arrives in one city and leaves from another i.e. travel from London to New York, with the return flight leaving from Boston to London. OW – A one way flight.
PRE-BOOKABLE – On most scheduled airlines it is possible to pre-book seats, and also special meal requests.
RQ – A flight ticket that is requested but not confirmed. RT – A return flight. R.T.G – Routing – This describes a journey from start to finish.
SEAT PITCH – This is the distance between the back of your seat and the back of the seat in front of you. SEGMENT – Each individual part of an itinerary is called a segment, for example a return flight will have two segments; the outbound and return flight. SHORT HAUL – A flight of less than 5 hours. SPECIAL FARES – Various lower priced fares with more restrictions and penalties on tickets. STOPOVERS – If the flight is not nonstop, then it may be possible to stay one night or more in a destination en route to a final destination.
TAXES – This is all the extras that have to be added onto the price of the ticket. Recently the EU stated that advertised prices should have taxes added. All other types of charges are added as ‘taxes’, such as airport security charges, fuel surcharges, passenger service charges. There are cases, even with flag carrier scheduled routes, where these extras cost more that the ticket. TOD – Ticket on Departure –When there is not enough time for tickets to be sent through the post, they will be ready for collection at the ticket desks at the airport. A charge is usually applied for this service.
UN-ACCOMPANIED MINOR – Any children aged up to 12 who are travelling without an adult. The adult fare may apply and the airline may also charge a fee to look after the passenger. Not all airlines accept unaccompanied minors.
VISA – Some Countries require certain passport holders to hold a visa to allow entry into their country. This should be checked by contacting the local embassy or visiting their website. Visas can be free of charge and allocated on arrival, but they mostly involve a fee and application before travel. If a visa is required but is not issued, then the traveller will be sent back to their last destination/country of origin. Some tour operators may offer a Visa application service for a fee. In some cases this fee is worth the money as visa applications can be a complicated procedure.
Cruises are now one of the most popular types of holiday. Once thought of as just holidays for pensioners, the average age of the passengers is dropping all the time.
Cruises can be researched just like other forms of holidays. You can find the best cruise for your plans; check all the itineraries to see what takes your fancy, check reviews on the ships, cabins and even the ports. And of course you can book your trip too.
This is probably the type of cruise that most people think about when asked to describe a cruise ship. These are vast floating hotels, travelling from country to country, or island to island. These types of ships seem to get larger and larger, and offer more and more in the way of on-board activities. No longer do you have to make do with a small pool, now there are outside cinemas, climbing walls, and even crown green bowling.
AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT CAN BE ON-BOARD
The Allure of The Seas, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, boasts
A fitness centre
2 Rock-climbing Walls
Ice Skating Rink
Royal Promenade Boutiques
H20 Water park
This should be more than enough to keep most people happy while sailing from port to port
Some people might be put off by the stuffy dress codes for dinner. There are still some ships that insist on dressing up in the evening, but as cruising increases in popularity more ships are offering a more casual approach. It is still likely that you will be sitting next to another party, but if you don’t get on you don’t have to put up with them for the rest of the trip, just asked to be moved.
There are extras
It may seem that everything is included in the price, but this is not usually the case. Drinks are not included; neither are any small dining options, such as a donut counter, or ice-cream. If there are any speciality restaurants these usually have an extra cost.
Then there is the ‘tipping’ fee with is automatically added to your bill. To get a rough idea of your tips, check out Cruise Tip.