Top Ten Tips: Holidays

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WITH the Easter break upon us and the summer looming, many people’s thoughts are turning to holidays.

Most of us are keen to maximise our precious time off to ensure we have a stress-free break and at a reasonable price. It can all go wrong very easily, however, and at great cost. Ian Scholes of Colpitts World Travel shares his top tips on keeping your travel costs down and avoiding expensive mistakes.

1 Can you afford cheap?

Don’t always assume the cheapest ticket will give you the best deal in the long run. Some so-called bargain travel offers come with additional charges that are often buried in the small print. Any last minute changes to your travel plans can end up costing you a whole lot more than you anticipated.

2 Saturday night’s alright

When travelling abroad, especially in the US, look at the option of adding a Saturday overnight night stay as this will often result in a cheaper price for your flight, which can more than offset the cost of an extra night in a hotel. While this can be an issue for a business traveller who is often keen to get home before the weekend, it tends to be less of a problem for the holiday-maker.

3 Fill that tank

When hiring a car ensure you return it with the fuel tank filled up – you’d be amazed at the penalty charges that some car hire firms impose for not doing this. There may be a small hassle factor of finding a petrol station in an unfamiliar place but the savings make it worth your while.

4 Get a flexible friend

If you are a regular rail traveller, especially on one particular route, consider using a flexi pass for frequent trips. If travelling regularly between Edinburgh and Glasgow, for example, a book of ten flexipasses will cost you far less than ten single tickets.

5 Join the club

It may involve a bit of online form filling but it is worth joining the alliance programmes offered by the major airlines. Not only can this give you special privileges such as lounge access and priority boarding, but it could also prevent you being faced with additional charges that are beginning to emerge. KLM, for example, recently announced it will be charging non-loyalty programme members to check in baggage on European flights.

6 Points mean prizes

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of joining the loyalty programmes is that you can redeem air miles. These don’t have to be exclusively used for flights – some initiatives, such as Emirates Skywards programme, will allow you to use your points for hotels and shopping discounts.

7 Get your papers ready

If your documents are not in order you could be refused entry onto the plane or into the country you are visiting, making it potentially a very expensive mistake to make.

Many countries require at least six months’ validity (sometimes a year) on your passport. As soon as it gets within a year of its expiry date, get a new one. Also check if you need a visa and, if you do, get it early. If you are travelling to the US under the visa waiver programme then you still need a current Electronic System Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Make sure you get this on the US government’s official ESTA website and not from one of the more expensive fakes.

8 Get on the case

If you do frequent short- haul flights with low-cost airlines, it’s worth investing in some regulation size hand luggage to maximise your carry on-allocation. Otherwise you could face extra baggage check-in charges or be faced with the prospect of being caught short in the wardrobe department during your trip.

9 Book early

While it is not always possible to plan ahead, bear in mind that longer-term travel planning will often end up costing you less. Whether it’s local rail or international flights, the earlier you book the better chance you will have of securing advance purchase and restricted capacity fares.

10 Accidents will happen

It may sound obvious, but make sure your travel insurance is up to date as accidents do occur even when you are away. There are many good travel insurance deals available online and elsewhere so there’s no reason to have to incur a large medical bill due to a holiday mishap.