20 tips for a trouble-free summer holiday from the UK - karta.com

20 Tips For a Trouble-free Summer Holiday From the UK

News Jun 3, 2024

It’s less than two months before schools start to break up and the summer holiday rush begins. Time to start planning ahead. Being prepared will save you time, money, and stress. Here is our checklist to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Passports

First, double-check your passports, especially if you are traveling to the EU this summer. Since the withdrawal agreement, new regulations have been confusing some travelers. These rules relate to the expiry date of British passports, some of which were renewed to have a validity of a few months more than the usual 10 years.

However, countries in the Schengen area enforce a strict 10-year limit on all passports. They use the date the passport was first issued as the starting point and also require it to be valid for at least three months after you plan to leave the area. To be sure, ignore the expiry date and check your passport was issued less than nine years, nine months before you plan to return to the UK. Other countries like Egypt and Thailand require at least six months of validity left on the passport before departure. You can check individual countries on the Government website. The Passport Office says it usually takes three weeks to issue a new passport, but it's wise to allow for more time.

2. Vaccinations

If you are traveling long-haul, there is a high chance you will need vaccinations. The NHS recommends seeing your GP or a private travel clinic at least six to eight weeks before you are due to travel because some take time to become fully effective. It has a useful reference site here.

3. House- and pet-sitters

Those who prefer to have someone present in their house while they are away – maybe because there is a pet to look after – should be sure to book a house-sitter well in advance. Agencies providing these services include Homesitters and Universal Aunts.

4. Travel insurance

If you haven’t already got holiday cover, get it now. Travel insurance is normally valid from the moment you buy it so that, if anything goes wrong with your plans, you already have protection in place. Our guide to finding the right policy is here.

5. Holiday protection

If you have booked a package holiday covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) rules, then your money is protected if the operator or airline goes out of business. If you are traveling independently, it is worth investing in travel insurance which includes additional financial protection (see our guide above).

6. Car hire

In the summer peak, the earlier you book your hire car, the cheaper it is likely to be. If you haven’t arranged yours yet, you certainly don’t want to leave things much longer. Brokers, which negotiate with local and international suppliers, are usually the best places to start when comparing prices. Zest and Auto Europe are two of the best. But always make sure you are comparing like with like and have included all the extras, especially the cost of waiving the excess (see below). Our full guide is here.

7. Car hire insurance

Standard insurance sold with cars doesn’t cover the excesses charged on claims and which are often set at £1,000 or more. To avoid the risk, take out additional cover in advance of collecting the car. Most hire companies will try to sell you a policy which either reimburses the excess or reduces it to zero. But independent insurers are normally cheaper. Which? recommends Chew and ReduceMyExcess.

8. Your own car

If you are driving to an overseas destination, check that your normal car insurance covers you abroad and print out a copy of the certificate in case you are stopped. You will also need the new UK sticker (rather than the old GB one) and you may want to buy additional breakdown insurance (AA for example). The RAC has a useful checklist for what you need to take with you.

9. Airport Parking

Booking ahead of time usually results in significant savings compared to last-minute reservations. For instance, at Manchester Airport, pre-booking is essential for most official parking lots (the short stay lot, which is available for immediate use, charges £464 for eight days, whereas the advance rate is £92). During busy periods, early reservations are even more beneficial.

10. Airport Hotels

For early morning flights requiring check-in before 8 am, an airport hotel might be convenient. Look for options through brokers like Holiday Extras and Park BCP. If parking is also needed, consider packages that combine both accommodations and parking.

11. GHIC

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) provides British citizens with access to free or low-cost healthcare in EU countries, replacing the previous EHIC. While it is not a replacement for comprehensive travel insurance, which covers private medical treatment, emergency repatriation, trip cancellation, third-party liability, lost luggage, and more, it serves as a valuable backup in emergencies. The GHIC can be ordered for free, and delivery takes at least 15 days.

12. Spending Money

Using an ATM upon arrival at your destination is often the most economical way to obtain cash, provided you have a debit or credit card with favorable terms. Direct card payments are also typically efficient. Familiarize yourself with your card issuer's terms before traveling to ensure you get the best deal. For instance, I use a Monzo card. Our detailed guide offers more information.

13. Roaming Rates

Be cautious as the automatic ban on roaming charges for UK phones used in the EU has ended. Data usage and calls might incur charges unless your contract includes free roaming. Check your provider's details for your destination in advance. It might be worthwhile to consider an e-sim depending on your situation.

14. Restaurants, Events, and Babysitters

Traveling during peak season requires early planning. For dining at special restaurants, attending shows, or visiting popular exhibitions, make reservations well in advance. The same applies if you need a babysitter for your children.

15. Airport Trains

Booking train tickets to the airport in advance can often be cheaper. For example, Stansted Express single tickets from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport can be as low as £9.90 compared to the usual price of £23. Tickets can be reserved up to six months ahead.

16. Fast-track security

During peak hours, like early Saturday mornings in summer, security lines can be frustratingly long. To bypass them, many airports now offer a fast-track pass (typically around £7 per person), which you need to book in advance on the airport's website.

17. Check-in

Different airlines have varying check-in windows, some allowing check-in weeks ahead, while others only 24 hours before the flight. Regardless, don’t procrastinate – it’s better to check-in early when you have ample time instead of rushing at the last minute.

18. Luggage restrictions

Many of us are aware of the hefty fees imposed if your luggage exceeds the airline's size or weight limits. For example, Ryanair charges £24-£60 if your cabin bag exceeds the limits and needs to be checked into the hold at the last minute. It's almost always cheaper to add extra bags or weight before you check-in, so check the rules for your flight (they vary widely) and consider doing a trial pack a week or two in advance if you think you’ll be near the limit.

19. Home security

If you don’t want to hire a house-sitter, there are other steps you can take to secure your home while you’re away. Asking a neighbor or friend to keep an eye on things is a good idea. Leaving a car in the driveway and using pre-set timers for lights and the radio are also smart measures. Some people even conceal their address on luggage tags at the airport, in case potential burglars are scouting for targets, while others avoid taking taxis directly from their home to the airport.

20. Copy documents

Having paper copies of all your important documents can save a lot of time if you lose them or something goes wrong. I also keep photos of all the cards in my wallet on my phone. If my wallet gets lost or stolen, it’s a handy reminder of what needs to be canceled and replaced.


Oliver Hughes

Oliver has over 15 years of experience in travel journalism. He focuses on European travel, providing expert reviews of vacation rentals and cultural experiences across Europe.