After many a European city break under my belt and some serious time spent in the sun, I’ve certainly learned my fair share of travel related lessons and picked up some top tips for travelling abroad. Like the time I came home to £200 worth of data roaming charges, burnt my skin so bad that I had to stay in the apartment for two entire days (ginger skin probz) and that terrifying moment I left my handbag complete with camera, passports, money (i.e everything) on a bench outside Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Some of these travel mishaps can be avoided and some of them are just a part of travelling or, if you’re like me, being forgetful/clumsy.
You can’t plan for every eventuality when travelling, that would be impossible, but there a few important things you can keep in mind to make your trip easier, cheaper and less stressful.
Dialling & Data
There are horror stories of people who have come home to huge mobile phone bills because they’ve simply forgotten to check their data plan before travelling. Making phone calls, sending texts and uploading of those amazing pictures to Instagram can work out pretty pricey if you haven’t planned ahead. Most mobile networks these days have add on plans designed with travel in mind, however, you may need to activate these before you fly to take advantage of the savings.
- With Vodafone EuroTraveller you can take your UK minutes, texts and data with you for just £3 a day (a day is midnight to 11.59pm, local time).
- With O2 Travel it costs just £1.99 a day in Europe, £3.99 a day in Turkey and £4.99 in selected destinations outside of Europe gets you all the data, minutes and texts you need.
- Choose EE Travel Data Pass and use your phone abroad in our most popular destinations just like you do at home. It gives you a massive 500MB of data for a fixed price per day – £3 in our Europe Zone, £4 in America & Canada, and £5 in 9 other countries.
- One of the best offers is 3 Feel At Home where calls and texts back to the UK and using data will come out of your existing Pay Monthly allowance, if you have one. This means you can use your device there at no extra cost unless you’re on one of their new Essential Plans.
We’ve all been hooked by bargain flight fees only to see that price double or even triple once you’ve added enough checked luggage to allow you to take three pairs of shoes, 14 changes on clothes, a hairdryer, straightener, curling wand, dressing gown, the kitchen sink and six handbags. Put the XL suitcase down and introduce yourself to the capsule (and cheap) travel wardrobe of your inclusive hand luggage allowance. Most budget airlines allow up to 10kg of hand luggage as long as they fit within their cabin size (you can find this on the respective website) and Ryanair also allow you take a handbag or man bag in addition to cabin luggage. You’ll have to adhere to the cabin liquid restrictions and no aerosols, but with most airports having a Boots or Superdrug after security, the money saved means you can afford to spend a couple of quid to grab hairspray, deodorant and shower gel before you fly. One of my favourite things about travelling purely with hand luggage is that you’re spared the wait around the luggage carousel once you’ve landed in your destination.
Learn the Lingo
You don’t need to be be fluent in French or silver tongued in Spanish but learning a few common phrases in the local lingo goes a long way, especially if you want to tap up the locals for recommendations for somewhere to eat/places to visit. A simple “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry” goes a long way and you can even download specific apps to help you get your tongue around some of the trickier words.
Prepare & Plan
They say that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail and with that in mind I am admittedly a planner when it comes to travelling and although it may drive other people up the wall, I’d rather know exactly what bus I’m getting to my resort, from what stand and how much it costs than feel bemused and lost once I’ve landed in my destination. The internet is a font of knowledge when it comes to public transport timetables, excursions and recommendations/tips from fellow travellers on the likes of Tripadvisor are a godsend. Plan in advance and you can save yourself money and stress than booking on the spot.
Dependent on how long you’re away for and with exchange rates fluctuating on a daily basis, you may want to look at how you spend when you’re abroad. Waiting until you get to the airport offers the worst exchange rate so as a rule of thumb I always use a travel money comparison website to look at where I can get the best bang for my buck (or euro). I split my spending money between a prepaid travel money card and cold hard cash. I want to have enough currency to hand in case there isn’t a cash point at the airport/I need a drink once we’ve landed or arrive early/late and the rest of my money on a prepaid card loaded with the currency of the country I’m visiting because I find it so much more secure and reassuring. Carrying wads of cash means that there is always the risk of it being lost or stolen and even when you reach your destination you have the worry of where to save it safely. With hotels/apartments sometimes charging for the additional luxury of a safety deposit box (among other things), it saves to stick everything onto a card to lock in your exchange rates AND you’re protected if you do lose the card.
First Aid First
Being ill abroad can be horrible and often a costly experience, I was once £300 down in resort after developing an allergic reaction and having to visit an emergency doctor. It made a major dent in my money and I was lucky that I was covered by my travel insurance and able to claim back the cost once home. You can also pick up a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and pack yourself a First Aid kit with any prescriptive medications (such as the contraceptive pill) as well as a couple of “better safe than sorry” pills should you need them. Painkillers, cold medication, antihistamines, diarrhoea tablets, water purification tabs, plasters and an antiseptic cream all make their way into a travel pouch for me and more often than not, I use them. Even if it is just painkillers for a post party hangover.
Phone charger? Check. Headphones? Check. Camera charger? Check. Travel adaptor? Er… I’m sure it’s in here somewhere! There’s a reason there’s a stand of electronics and adaptors in duty free and that’s because they’re the items that most people will forget to pack. There’s no point having your electrical items packed if you don’t have an adaptor for the country you’re travelling to and an iPhone lightening cable without a plug is nigh on useless. Make sure any batteries are fully charged and take a USB travel charger pack just in case, that way you’re covered if your plane is delayed and you have to entertain yourself with your phone in the airport.