We’ve all had one of those holidays where something big goes wrong! Here, Alison explores how to avoid travel disasters, ensuring you a smooth stress-free holiday…
You may not realise this, but I have a bit of a secret skill: I have the ability to mess up even the easiest of trips because of a passport mishap. My run of bad luck began when I was 19 and heading to New York with 3 of my friends. We were flying out to spend New Year’s Eve there and SO excited. I went to get my passport from my parents’ filing cabinet and…. it wasn’t there. That’s when I realised I’d taken it to uni with me, to use as ID, and it was in my student flat – 500 miles away. Determined to get to NYC, the following morning, I took the first flight from Glasgow to London, got my passport, flew back to Glasgow and MADE MY FLIGHT to New York! *fist pump*
A few years later, I was booked to fly to Boston to visit my brother. A couple of weeks before we were due to go, I double – triple – checked that my passport was in the house. Nothing was going to come between me and my transatlantic adventure this time. Or so I thought. My mum casually mentioned that I’d need to make sure I had at least six months left on my passport. I checked. Three months before it expired. D’oh! Cue: frantic calls to the Passport Office, queuing for a Fastrack Passport Appointment and an anxious week, waiting for the new passport to arrive. (It did. Hurrah!)
You’d think after all this, I’d have learned. No.
The following year, Mr P and I were flying to Sicily for a wedding. Luggage? Check! Tickets? Check! Passports? Check! Except, when we were at Heathrow, we realised Mr P had picked up my old out of date passport (the one I’d replaced a year earlier) instead of my new one. So I had to get in a taxi back home, collect my passport and cab it back to Heathrow, all the while sweating that I wouldn’t make the flight and I’d miss the wedding. But I made it! Yippee.
All of this happened over 10 years ago, and since then, it’s been pretty plain sailing as far as me and passports are concerned. I feel like I’ve turned over a new leaf! In fact, knowing we are flying to Orlando in October, I even checked that ALL of our passports will have at least six months left on them, come October- although apparently this rule has now been waived for British citizens – and also that we have ePassports with integrated chips (required for entry into the US).
So how can you avoid a travel disaster? Here are my tips:
- Check the passport validity required for the country you’re visiting, check whether you need additional visas and whether you need an ePassport or not.
- Make sure you know where your passport is at all times and check that you have it before you leave your home.
- Have up to date travel insurance – really read the T&Cs of the policy to ensure you’re happy with it and that it covers everything you might need.
- Check the cancellation policy of your accommodation and travel – if you have a family emergency and need to cancel your holiday, it’s worth knowing how much money – if any – you’ll get back.
- If your flight’s delayed for three hours or more, contact the airline direct to complain – you could claim compensation of up to £460 per traveller, depending on the flight’s distance and length of delay. (FYI you’re only eligible for compensation if the cause of the delay was “within your airline’s control” which excludes bad weather, strikes or unforeseeable technical issues.)
- Budget your whole trip, and don’t forget to include spending money – we love Luxury For Less, a nifty tool which helps you work out where you can go for the budget you have, and tells you how much will be left over to exchange into foreign currency. (I just tried it out and apparently I should book 3 days in the Seychelles!)
- Order foreign currency before you go, to get the best rate, rather than doing it at the airport – it will save you money and give you more time at the airport for a cuppa!
- Warn your bank that you’re going abroad. They might stop your debit or credit card if they see a string of transactions in a foreign country, thinking you’ve been the victim of fraud.
- Don’t forget plug socket converters. I spent an hour searching for one in Paris recently because otherwise I’d have no way to charge my phone or camera.
- If you’re flying with a budget airline, make sure you’ve either paid to book seats together or ensure you know the airline has a policy of seating you all together. You don’t want to be separated from any little ones on the flight!
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