As overseas holidays become more commonplace, it’s easy to ignore the detailed planning that can make your trip truly memorable. Here’s a few things to consider when planning your next trip:
Holidays are a journey, not just a destination
You can start your journey in style by thinking about your choice of transport. The fastest, cheapest and most direct route is not always the most enjoyable. A flight from London to Brussels may take a fraction over an hour, but why fly when the Eurostar provides such a relaxing experience? You save time by avoiding airport check-ins, and you have more scenery to enjoy along the way.
Similarly, a holiday in the south of France can begin with an entire mini-adventure before you even arrive if you opt for a ferry ride and a laid back drive through the French landscape instead of a direct flight.
Choosing the best airport to fly into
Low cost carriers, especially Ryanair, keep their costs down by flying to what are known as “secondary airports”. These can often be a long way outside the city they claim to serve, meaning you will need to take a coach, a train, or hire a car in order to get to your destination.
By contrast, easyJet tends to fly to more “primary airports”, which are usually much closer to the city they claim to be in, meaning that although you might pay more to fly to that airport, you will almost certainly then pay less to get from the airport to your accommodation.
Of course, sometimes a secondary airport will be closer to your hotel, so take a quick look on Google Maps and find exactly where you are staying, and then see which airport is closest for you.
Plan for events, they can make or break your trip
Keep in mind that no place stands still all year round. Many of Europe’s most popular destinations offer all kinds of festivals, carnivals and special events. Consider how these might affect your own, personal plans, from increased costs, to unexpected crowds.
Equally, it is worth investigating the local monuments, historical sites, and museums before you venture off. Whether you have chosen a city break or a rural retreat, most people like to take in one or more of the famous attractions when they are visiting a new country. Just as in the UK, the admission fees for these locations can vary from place to place, or at different times of the year.
Over 60s should also look for places offering free entry to their age group – because even on holiday the discount factor can sometimes be all it takes to choose between one destination and another!
“Cheap” deals aren’t always the cheapest
When you book flights, remember that a lower up-front fee can often equate to much higher total costs, should you require any additional services. Budget airlines make their money on the “extras” – from food and seat selection to baggage allowances or accommodating any special health and dietary requirements.
If you think you may have to ask for extra services during your journey, maybe consider paying a little bit more to begin with, to avoid the hidden charges later on.
Price comparison sites can be misleading in this regard so don’t just choose the “cheapest” price, dig a bit deeper and consider national carriers such as British Airways, or Air France KLM, as well as the low cost carriers such as easyJet.
The best way to get the overall price, including all extras, taxes, etc, is to do a booking on each provider’s website and go all the way through until the last point where it asks you to pay. Then you will see the final, total price. When you’ve added everything up, you might get a surprise as to who is actually cheapest for you!
Stay Safe: check the government advice web site
Above all, stay safe. Research the local culture and how social and personal opinions may be different from one country to the next.
Within Europe these considerations can be as mundane as dress codes in public places such as bars and restaurants, or as important as your legal rights and medical entitlements.
There are also local customs as to how one is expected to behave. A good guide book will fill you in on the details, so it’s worth spending a few pounds to make sure you don’t get yourself into trouble!
The UK Government maintains a Foreign Travel Advice page which covers 225 countries, giving you details on safety and security, any terrorism advisories, local laws and customs, natural disasters, money, etc. Their advice changes from time to time as the political landscape changes, so it’s worth checking it just before you travel.
Keep in mind that health care is provided and funded differently in most European countries. Stay protected with EHICPlus traveller’s insurance and always keep your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you as you go.
Keep these tips in mind, and you are sure to have a fantastic time!