10 months, 20 days ago
Who doesn’t have a list of travel mistakes? Ours is long and inglorious, littered with humiliations and more than a few regrets along the way. But from great mispronunciations, epic food fails, lost luggage fiascos and minor (yet horribly embarrassing) health scares, comes great wisdom. Fellow travellers take a seat at the knee of the masters and heed well our tips for a safe, happy and successful 2016 wherever you’re headed.
1. Use flight comparison sites like Skyscanner, they’re free and fast and cover over 67,000 routes worldwide. And if you’re flexible on times, dates and destination try Adioso for flight price comparisons based on intuitive search ie. best cities for art lovers.
2. Take advantage of the free unlimited wifi Spanish airports introduced in October 2015 – all 46 airports in Spain are expected to offer it by spring 2016.
3. Pack Vaseline, it doubles as mascara and lip balm, soothes cuts and grazes, cheats as a moisturiser in a pinch and even cleans tar splashes off hire-cars.
4. Buy kid’s oversize plain white Ts in multi-packs as beach cover-ups, cool PJs for warm nights and full-on bibs for messy toddlers.
5. Scan all your travel documents before you go, including passports and driving licences. Store them on your phone in case of emergencies.
6. Take a travel mosquito net, they’re inexpensive, pack small and let you keep windows and doors open on hot nights.
7. Email any prescriptions to yourself in case you lose your medication or accidentally break your glasses or sunglasses.
8. Download a currency converter on to your phone for keeping track when you’re shopping.
9. Make up a basic First Aid Kit with antiseptic wipes, plasters, set of tweezers, travel thermometer, pain killers, rehydration sachets, antiseptic cream and nail scissors.
10. Always get up earlier than usual on holiday, you get more done and avoid the worst of the crowds and queues.
11. Pack comfortable shoes, they might not look pretty, but your feet will thank you and walking round cities in summer won’t feel so much like an endurance test.
12. Learn to live on local time and check out lunch and dinner hours – trailing three hangry kids round a small French town looking for a restaurant after 2pm is the stuff of nightmares.
13. Carry cereal bars or snacks wherever you go with kids, they’re the difference between magic and meltdown if you’re walking around a city or eating dinner later than usual.
14. Type ‘OK Maps’ to save sections of Google Maps offline on your phone. Just select the bit of the map you want, type OK Maps into the search bar then wait for the ‘saved’ message (about 15 seconds). Better than a screenshot because you can zoom in for detail even without a signal.
15. Pack an empty plastic water bottle in your carry-on and fill it at the drinking water fountain once you’re through airport security. You get to avoid the overpriced departure-side drinks and rehydrate in-flight for free.
16. Take jumpers in your carry-on and stay warm when the air-con on longer flights feels like it’s sub-zero – cosy kids are more likely to sleep a bit too.
17. Reserve an aisle and window seat if you’re travelling as a couple on a long flight. The middle seats are always last to go and often empty so you get a whole row to yourself. And if you don’t luck out, single passengers are usually okay about swapping to let you sit together.
18. Donate your loose change on departure day by putting it into charity boxes or giving it away – better than a drawer full of useless coins back home.
19. Use the USB port on TVs to charge devices if you forget or lose your plugs.
20. Put your passport and documents into a plastic bag for the beach – a sudden Atlantic swell on the Landes Coast or the Algarve can drench sunbathers in seconds.
21. Learn a few key phrases before you head off. It’s polite and people are friendlier and more helpful if you make the effort. And don’t be shy about teaching your kids, many a good queue has been successfully skipped with a cute French speaking toddler in tow, trust us.
22. Avoid restaurants with over-translated menus, the food is almost guaranteed to be disappointing or just plain awful.
23. Opt for the plat du jour at lunch in most French restaurants, it’s usually what was fresh and good that morning at market and will be beautifully cooked and best value. And, if you’re in rural France, don’t be deceived by extensive menus outside little restaurants at lunchtime, virtually nothing on them is available.
24. Take guided tours of huge museums like The Louvre, British Museum or New York’s Met. Touristy we know, but everyone’s a tourist in these places and you’ll get a lot more out of your visit.
25. Go to as many British museums and galleries as you can because all UK public collections are free.
26. Carry hand sanitiser, wet wipes and tissues with you at all times. If you’re travelling with kids it’s hard to avoid using public toilets and best to prepare for the worst.
27. Make the most of parks in your rental neighbourhood, children love them and they’re great places to meet other families and pick up insider info on the local area.
28. Book tickets online for major attractions to skip queues and get coveted time-slots for popular museums like The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam or Rome’s Galleria Borghese.
29. Pack spare underwear in your carry-on and, if your bags go missing, flights are delayed or the unexpected happens, at least everyone has clean pants.
30. Extend free airport wifi by putting the clock on your device back to the start just before the end of your free time limit. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try and easier than any other wifi hack.
But our top, top tip is, don’t worry. Relax, enjoy the adventure, get intentionally lost now and again. And remember, no one’s holiday was ever ruined because they didn’t pack spare socks or a phone charger.