plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

July 21, 2008

7 last minute tips for travel

Filed under: frugal — Tags: , , , , , , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

If you’re going away this summer, I expect that you’ve already got a great deal on flights and accommodation, here are a few little tips for some of the last minute stuff that will help you have a great time.

1. take out travel insurance

You need insurance for travel abroad. You might be covered by your own home insurance and medical insurance if you have it, but you’re more likely not to be. Travel insurance is relatively inexpensive, you can use a comparator service for single trips, or take out an annual multi-trip policy if you’ll be away several times in a year.

Insurance needs to cover the likely risks of your holiday. Some trips will need adventure sports cover, others might need cover for medical evacuation by air. If you’re travelling to the USA get very comprehensive medical cover as it’s more expensive to be hospitalised there than anywhere else in the world. Cover for your luggage and tickets is also good, especially if any of your travel tickets are non-refundable.

If you’re an EU resident travelling within the EU don’t forget that the form E111 is no longer valid. You need to get an EHIC card which will entitle you to the same medical treatment that locals get (not necessarily as free or as comprehensive as the NHS). This is one of the reasons that travel insurance is much cheaper within Europe, as insurance companies expect you to have one if you are entitled to.

2. avoid emergencies

Lots of people are the victims of theft whilst travelling. You can avoid the risk a little by using the safe in your accommodation if there is one, carrying around no more cash than you would at home and using a money belt.

The other big emergency that you can avoid is health related. Know the risks of your destination before you go.

If the tap water isn’t safe to drink, don’t brush your teeth in it either and avoid ice in your drinks. In some places – parts of Morocco spring to mind – the tap water is generally safe to drink but the differences in the minerals mean that you are likely to be ill when you first start drinking it. In this case you drink (cheap) bottled water, but it’s ok to brush your teeth and use ice made from tap water.

If there is malaria, then you should probably be using some kind of prescribed anti-malarial drug. But it’s actually much more important to avoid being bitten, so cover up and use malaria nets.

If you have ever lived in the British Isles you probably associate travelling with better and warmer weather. The downside of course is that you’re at risk of sunburn and sunstroke. Use sunscreen even if it’s cloudy, cover up, keep cool, wear a hat, drink plenty of liquids. Basically do all the things that your mother probably told you to do in the heat.

If like me you are afflicted blessed with very fair skin, then just decide that the bronzed look is not cool because you will never achieve it on vacation, and any attempt will leave you red, peeling and in the worst case blistered (yes people, I’ve been sunburnt so badly it’s blistered :( ).

3. make any emergency easier to deal with

Nothing is foolproof, so try and ensure you have a little spare money in a different location to your main stash, and keep a note of all your important details like insurance claim number, passport number, and relevant phone numbers somewhere. One idea is to email then all to yourself, I’m planning on doing this as well as writing some of them in my travel notebook.

On some trips I have also left photocopies of key pages of my passport at home, and copies of my intinerary. I normally only do this if it is a particularly long or complicated trip. If it’s somewhere that my dad thinks is dangerous – which apparently is anywhere where he doesn’t know someone in the same or a neighbouring country – I might try and appease him by telling him my plans.

Important reference numbers:

  • passport number
  • visa numbers
  • travellers cheque numbers
  • serial numbers for cameras etc
  • flight details – including reservation numbers
  • insurance policy number
  • EHIC card number
  • credit card numbers
  • Contact details:

  • embassy / high commission / consulate
  • insurance company
  • credit card companies
  • airline
  • tour operator / travel agent
  • key contacts at home
  • 4. pay less for foreign money

    Folks this is a personal finance blog. Over here we don’t believe in overpaying for no good reason, so shop around if you’re getting any currency in advance. Often the charging structure can be complicated (I wonder if they do it on purpose 😐 ) so the key question to ask is how many shekels / dinar / taka / lira / etc that you get for your £100 (or $100).

    How you take money abroad will depend on the countries that you’re visiting – you’re choices are typically cash (local, £ sterling, US $, €), travellers cheques (Visa, Mastercard or Amex), credit cards and debit cards. Generally credit cards will be cheapest for purchases, but more expensive for withdrawing cash, where debit cards win. I haven’t used travellers cheques for about seven years now, but whether they’re a good idea depends a lot on your destination (I haven’t strayed very far off the beaten track). A guest post I had a while back from brip blap should give you some more ideas about money abroad.

    PS In the UK, there are two good credit cards (Nationwide and the Post Office) and one debit card (Nationwide) which charge less for overseas usage than anyone else.

    5. take less with you

    I know, I’ve written about this before, but for most people you will have a better time if you take less stuff than you think. If you’re going away for 1 or 2 weeks for a standard holiday then you shouldn’t need any more than would fit into a medium suitcase and a small carry on bag. You are not moving there, if you didn’t pack it and you can’t buy it whilst you’re there, you probably don’t need it.

    Taking less saves money because it leaves you more flexible about transport options whilst you’re away. It means that you’re less likely to suffer a serious back injury trying to carry things. It might stop you being targeted by a thief, although you should still be vigilant.

    6. home is still there

    You can be burgled if you’re away. I’ve come back from a business trip before to find that someone tried to break into my house (fortunately the best word to describe these particular people was incompetent). The same thing can happen on a fun trip.

    Consider cancelling the mail, milk and newspaper deliveries. Set up a timer to switch your lights on and off (cost about a tenner for two). I leave the curtains and blinds half open, plus you can no longer see into my house from the front. If you have nice neighbours you might want to ask them to keep an eye out on the house for you.

    7. have a great time

    Take more than the minimum amount of money. Yes, you should still be frugal whilst you’re away, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t spend money on experiences.

    It’s usually cheaper and much, much more fun to try and eat and drink what the locals do. Especially street food from busy stalls and local beer, wine or spirits.

    Maybe buy some souvenirs, if they’re things that you would actually like – I’m still hankering after a djellaba, but I didn’t need the little wooden camels from the same trip.

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