The world’s most popular travel quotes include more than a few clichés. But even clichés can ring true and this one in particular makes sense: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Shouldn’t we all pay more attention to our journeys to ensure we enjoy our travels?
With travel mired by increased security, it pays to have some travel tips and hacks up your sleeve to make your journey stress-free and pleasurable. After all, getting to your destination should be just as much a part of your holiday. So the better your travel experience - from door to door - the better your chances of starting your holiday relaxed, happy and raring to go.
Here are some top travel tips to ensure your journey goes well, broken down into the planning stages and what you should book and pack, and then what you should do to make your time at the airport and in flight more comfortable. You will also find travel tips to help you handle jetlag.
What to book
• Where possible try to book long haul flights that arrive in the afternoon or evening rather than first thing in the morning. If you’re struggling with tiredness on arrival you will only need to stay awake for a few hours rather than needing to nap on arrival. This will help you better manage jetlag and get you onto local time more easily.
• Choose your plane with care - book an airline flying a Dreamliner or Airbus’ A350. These newer wide body planes have more space in the cabin, wider seats, higher ceilings, improved air quality and they are also much quieter than other aircraft. Add to that, the Dreamliner claims to have a lower cabin altitude and better humidity, which can minimise the effects of jetlag.
• Many airlines allow you to choose your seat either in advance or at check-in. But before confirming your space in 36F check your airline’s seat configuration to ensure you are choosing a comfortable seat. SeatGuru has seat maps for nearly every airline and flight route so you can avoid potentially troublesome bulkhead seats, or those close to the galley or lavatories. The website also has details of seat width, pitch - the amount of space between your seat and the one in front, and services such as Wi-Fi and at seat power.
• Book an upgrade. The days of free upgrades are almost at an end with many airlines now charging for space-available upgrades at check-in - yes, you can treat yourself to a first class upgrade, even if only one way. For a more affordable option consider booking an economy upgrade. Many airlines, including Virgin, United and Delta, now offer an upgraded version of their economy cabin.
Usually described as Economy Comfort or Economy Delight, they offer extra legroom, premium check-in and priority boarding. Conversely, be aware of options such as Virgin’s Economy Light, which is a pared back service with no checked luggage and seat selection only available at check-in.
• Always travel with insurance. Policies largely offer similar features - medical cover, cancellation, curtailment and cover for cash and valuables. But the best policies have a minimum of £10 million in medical cover. This may seem an unnecessarily large sum, but don’t be tempted by lower amounts. Medical fees can quickly build up if you need surgery or an extended hospital stay so it makes sense to have considerable cover.
• Consider how you will travel to and arrive at the airport. Book meet and greet airport parking to breeze through to departures. Alternatively you could take the stress out of the journey altogether by booking a chauffer-driven transfer with a company like Blacklane.
What to pack
• Before you start packing for your trip, check your luggage allowances. Most long haul-flights allow for 23 kilogram of hold luggage per person but it’s always best to confirm this. Cabin baggage weight allowances vary by airline so check your ticket or on your airline’s website.
• Travel with a currency card. Spending money abroad can be expensive with high fees and low exchange rates from high street banks. However, by far the worst option for trading your money is at the airport. With airport rents high, currency exchange booths try to make money by keeping exchange rates seriously low and their fees high. There are however, an increasing number of competitive currency options available including pre-paid cards such as those from the Post Office and Caxton FX. There are also online bank accounts with benefits such as fee-free international payments from Revolut and TransferWise.
• Photocopy your passport to take with you or scan it and upload to cloud storage. This way if you lose your passport while travelling you will have all of your details to hand when you visit the British Embassy. I’ve even been able to use my scan as photo ID when visiting a bar in the US.
• If you are checking bags, double bag toiletries to avoid leaks ruining your clothes and place them in hold luggage.
• For hand luggage, take a few items so you can freshen up before you land - such as a change of clothing, facial wipes, a toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste. Also consider packing a change of underwear or other clothing in case your luggage is delayed.
• Pack devices with lithium batteries - smartphones, tablets, laptops, and cameras - in hand luggage. They are a potential fire hazard if packed in bags that go into the hold and are not permitted.
• Pack all medication in your hand luggage in case your hold luggage is lost.
• Invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Not only will they vastly improve your viewing of inflight movies, but they are fantastic at blocking out the hum of the plane’s engines and cabin chatter when you want to sleep. Alternatively be sure to take earplugs.
• Purchase a world charger with USB ports, plus cable for charging devices. You can also take the cable into the cabin - many long-haul airlines have USB ports built into the flight entertainment systems.
How to travel
• Check in online and download your airline’s smartphone app. Registering for the app will usually provide you with flight updates such as your gate number or information on any delays.
• Prepare for security checks to breeze through quickly and hassle free. The less you have that could lead to extra scanning, the better. Do you really need those liquids in your hand luggage? Wear things you won’t need to take off - do away with belts, swap heeled shoes for flats and you won’t have to remove them.
• Make for an airport lounge to escape the busy terminal. They start from £25 per person for day access to a lounge, or if you travel regularly sign up for a service like Priority Pass, which offers lounge access around the world for an annual subscription. Lounges have food and drinks, including wine, beer and some spirits, Wi-Fi, and relaxing spaces included in the price. Some even have spas offering a range of treatments.
• Alternatively you can find a range of free travel beauty treatments, mini massages, and makeovers at the duty free cosmetics counters. Just ask assistants what they have on offer at the likes of MAC, Estée Lauder, Clarins and Clinique. They can leave you feeling relaxed and ready to hit your destination.
• During your flight watch films to while away the hours, or if you’re an avid cinemagoer and think you will have seen it all, download your favourite programmes to your tablet or phone. Apps such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix allow you to carry your favourite films and TV series with you.
• Wear compression stockings, especially for long haul journeys. And don’t forget to get up and stretch your legs every hour as long as the seat belt sign is off. As a minimum do seated leg exercises to avoid the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
• This one is open to some debate, but it’s increasingly seen as poor etiquette to recline your seat unless you are on a long flight and settling in to sleep, so be considerate of your neighbours.
• Try to get as much sleep as possible on overnight flights to reduce the chances of suffering from jetlag.
• It helps to set your watch to the local time of your destination as you take off, even if it only tricks your mind that you’re on the new time zone.
• Avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks inflight will help reduce the impact of flying. The air in the cabin is re-circulated and much drier than on the ground. Also the impact of alcohol can be worse at altitude, so drink water instead.
• No matter which airline you fly with, be sure to collect your air miles. Most airlines are members of one of the three main alliances - oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam, which means, for example, if you’re a member of British Airways’ Executive Club, you can still collect miles when you fly with other oneworld airlines such as American Airlines or Iberia. Even if it takes a few years, miles can add up to a free, or heavily discounted flight.
• If your flight is delayed for more than three hours or it’s cancelled you have a right to up to €600 in compensation under European Law.
So, now you know all the best tips and hacks for travelling abroad. Put them into practice and get your next holiday booked. For RCI members, that means clicking on the RCI Resort Directory below and choosing from over 4,000 affiliated resorts around the world. From sizzling shores, to snow-packed slopes or family fun in the sun, your dream holiday is just a couple of clicks away...
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