Going on holiday and not sure where to start? Here are eight suggestions that won’t fail you…
- Don’t book weekend flights. It’s not always the rule, but generally fights from Friday night to Monday morning tend to be more expensive. Why? Because that’s when most people leave and return – understandably to make the most of their time off. Business trips tend to take place on Monday mornings, too. A Tuesday or Wednesday flight is often cheaper on most airlines.
- Plan visas early – there is nothing worse than getting to the airport and not being allowed to board the plane (which the Check In staff can do) because you haven’t pre-organised your visa. A lot of countries now allow you to book your visas online and either pay via their embassy website or pay on arrival. Everywhere from the US (ESTAs) and Australia to Sri Lanka and Kenya are on board this e-visa method. Check the FCO website as soon as you confirm your dates to check what kind of visa you need – some applications can take a day, a week or longer, if they are submitted through an embassy.
- Check in online – this could save you an hour and a half at the airport. Most airlines allow you to check in online between 24 and 36 hours before you fly. These days you can choose your seat, any special meals and print boarding passes on most airline websites too through the ‘Manage Your Booking’ section. You’ll be surprised at how many people don’t check in online when you stroll by them in the ‘bag-drop’ queue.
- Splash out on a sarong. Remember that sarong you bagged for a bargain on the beach in Thailand? That is probably the most versatile piece of material you own. Sarongs can act as beach towels, skirts, tops, shawls, head-scarves and double up as a bag if yours unexpectedly falls apart. I’ve even seen them used as slings (when bandages are in short supply), baby carriers and – from my own experience – they make very handy shelters for camera equipment when the rain catches you off-guard.
- Clear your Internet browser search history before booking. You know how Facebook always seems to show you ads from websites you’ve recently been browsing? Well that’s because your IP address (a distinct code linked to your computer) logs your visitor history in the form of ‘cache’ – telling the Internet gods exactly what you’re interested in. Hence very specific advertising tailored to your desires. In the same way, when you search for a flight route, that website remembers your query – and next time you get searching (which indicates you might be serious about booking that ticket) the prices will mysteriously hike up. Delete your browsing history and they’ll often budge back down.
- Shop around! Don’t just check one website for flight prices – compare a few different prices and preferably over a few dates – and you’ll find a bargain. The more flexible you are on your dates, the better. STA Travel is great for low, affordable flights all over the world and shows you the price differences over a week from your chosen date. Just watch out for budget airlines that require you to pay extra for check in luggage, seat booking and food on board.
- Invest in duct tape. Seriously, duct tape is a lifesaver. Your suitcase cracks: duct tape it. Your backpack rips: duct tape it. Your zip is busting: duct tape it. Your headphones snap: duct tape it. Your luggage tag falls off: duct tape it. You charger chords come loose: duct tape them. You sit under a broken air conditioning duct and it’s bloody freezing: duct tape it. Duct tape has saved my sanity on many occasions.
- Carry clear zip-lock bags. When international airports upped their security after 9/11 and introduced the idea of the zip-locked bags (to carry liquids and gels under 100ml in your hand luggage), they didn’t realise what genius they were bringing into our lives. Zip-lock bags are great for travelling – they store the above-mentioned liquids, they hold snacks for day trips, keep items that may leak separate from your clothes, keep charger chords and adapters protected from rain. Buy a few from the supermarket beforehand, and save time at the security gate. Why waste time when you <could> be duty-free shopping?