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Holiday Secrets

Here our 50 holiday experts spill the beans on the travel tips that they have gained from their more than 500 years of combined travel experience!

1) Airport lounges beat traffic jams: Not many people know it but you can buy a place in executive lounges at most airports. It usually costs around £15-£20 per person and you can enjoy unlimited food and alcohol for anything up to 3 hours before departure. This means you can travel down early and not any panic if there are traffic jams. It also gets your holiday off to a good start in a private lounge away from the hustle and bustle of a departure terminal.

2) Airport hotels can save you parking costs: If you stay at a hotel near the airport the night before you travel then often parking is included which can save you money. It also means you can start your holiday without having to get up in the middle of the night.

3) Photocopy travel documents- It’s a good idea to keep a photocopy of your travel documents as it can save time at the consulate if things go missing. This includes your passport information page, travel insurance policy and your wedding certificate (if you are honeymooning!).

4) Check the cost of using your credit and debit card before you travel:- Many debit and credit cards now carry hefty charges for being used abroad. It can be 2-3% and a poor exchange rate on top. If you do need to take cash out abroad then use a debit card, don’t get a cash advance on your credit card or you will get clobbered for charges.

5) Exchange money before you get to the airport: Bureaus de change at airports can give rates 5-10% worse than those in nearby town centres ....even if they are part of the same company! Go commission free and check their buy/sell rate versus the mid market rate on the internet. If you are very organised then search online for companies that can deliver currency to you before your holiday as they are generally cheaper.

6) Car hire can be cheaper away from the airport:- When booking car hire look at the costs of hiring it from the city centre rather than the airport. Many hire companies charge extra for an airport pick up/drop off. Buses/trains are often very quick and cheap to/from airports and so it might be easy to pick up from the centre of town. Also picking up from the city centre might save you a day on the car hire as you may not need it until the next day. Likewise you can probably return it a day early if you travel back to the airport on public transport on the final day of your holiday.

7) When you pick up a hire car check, check and check:- Check for every dent, scratch and scrape and make sure it is on the sheet they give you. Light in car parks can be quite poor and so if you can’t see drive it to a well lit area first. Run your hand down panels to check for dents. When you return the car take photos of all aspects of the car to prove you returned it in a good condition.

8) Look smart, smile and chat at check in: Check in staff have the power to choose free upgrades if the flight is full. They will give these to the nicest people who look like they would fit in business/first class without raising eyebrows amongst the fee paying passengers.

9) If the hotel isn’t up to scratch complain straight away: It is very difficult for travel companies to solve problems after the event. If the room isn’t as advertised in the brochure then complain to the general manager there and then. They will often be able to rectify things for you. If they can’t move you to another room they will sometimes offer you other services at the hotel to help make your stay better.

10) Eat “safe” to start with:- Sometimes it can take your body a little while to adjust to foreign food. Don’t dive straight in with the most exotic food on the menu as it could ruin your holiday if it doesn’t agree with you. Go for simple things like fresh fruit, vegetables and meats without sauces to start with. You can build up to the more exotic things at the end of the holiday and if it means you have to take a couple of days off work with a “funny tummy” then so be it!

11) Pre-book excursions:- Have a plan with what you want to do before you travel. Too many couples end up spending hours on holiday knee deep in literature deciding what are the best activities to go on. Even arguments can break out. The internet can provide you with ideas, customer reviews and prices. You might even be able to negotiate a bit of a discount online as they will not be paying the hotel/tour operator any commission for the referral.

12) Take our protection:- For holidays other than cheap city breaks we suggest you take out packages from ATOL protected tour operators. Ash clouds, rising fuel costs, global unrest are all putting some holiday companies in difficult positions so make sure that if yours goes bust that you are covered.

13) When booking late works: You have heard that booking late can get the best deal? This is only true if you are 100% flexible as to which country you are willing to go to. It only takes a couple of big groups to fill empty seats on an airline and then suddenly all flight prices to that country are more expensive than they would have been. It takes years for airlines to schedule flights and so they won't just lay on more flights if planes fill up. If you are willing to go to any country then, yes booking at the last minute works.

14) Save for the holiday over months:- Put aside money each month to pay for the holiday. This is so that you have funds to pay for the holiday on a debit card. Too many people pay for holidays on a credit card. The holiday company will often charge 2%-4%  as that's what they are charged by the banks. Add to this the interest you have to pay if you don't pay your credit card balance by the due date. A £3,000 holiday could end up costing £3,235 if you pay on your credit card and borrow the money for 2 months. 

15) Take out travel insurance before you book not before you depart:- It's a common fallacy that travel insurance only covers you on holiday. It can also cover you before you travel. For example it may be able to offer you a refund on your holiday if you cannot travel for some prescribed reasons. The hotel or airline won't do this.

16) Save on honeymoons with a gift list:- If you already have duvet covers and salt & pepper shakers then why not have something more exciting on your gift list like upgraded flights, a romantic dinner on a beach or scuba diving lessons. Honeymoon gift lists usually attract around £1,000 in donations which is about 30% of the average honeymoon.

We hope this tips help. We have a few more articles that may be of interest such as:  free flight upgrades, a travel checklist, how to get cheaper holidays and deciding between a Maldives beach villa or water villa

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