Travelling Hints and Tips:

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Most cards add a 3% cost to the exchange rates to get money back. This can be avoided by packing a specialist card that doesn’t add the charge, meaning you’ll get perfect exchange rates which beat even the best bureau de change. Pocket one just for spending overseas. You’ll need to apply at least three weeks before you go.

If you have a smartphone with GPS, such as an iPhone, there’s a free way to turn it into a sat-nav you can use abroad. Simply download one of the following free apps to your phone: Google Maps, Navmii and Maps.Me.

The biggest expense when travelling can be your flights to get to your wonderful destination. The three top websites to help you find the best flights deals are Kayak, Skyscanner and Momondo. Kayak includes baggage allowance and payment fees, Skyscanner shows you the cheapest time to fly and Momondo helps you retrieve flight data info for main cities such as Sydney, Cape Town, Paris and New York.

  • Another main tip for travelling abroad is to book your flight tickets as early as possible even a year ahead; as that’s when airlines release their seats. This could be the cheapest deal you could get, even though prices could drop later on. Seats for major budget airlines Ryanair and Easyjet have not yet been released for next year summer until March of the next year so keep an eye open for this.
  • Restrictions on taking liquids in hand luggage mean passengers often have to pay for pricey bottles of water once in the departure lounge, or they may have to pay for expensive drinks on the plane, particularly on shorter journeys. But many airports have water fountains after security where you can fill up an empty water bottle or Thermos flask for free – you just have to know where to find them.
  • If you’re travelling to a country where English isn’t widely spoken, here’s a handy trick to turn a smartphone into a personal translator for free – without the need to use any costly data or even Wi-Fi abroad. The Google Translate app’s available on Android and iPhone. It’s free, and lets you translate words and phrases to and from your chosen language. You can do this by typing the text in or using your camera to take a photo.
  • Get travel insurance as soon as you book. If not, you won’t be covered for cancellation or changes. Plus if you go away two or more times a year, annual policies are usually cheaper.
  • The star rating system isn’t standardized worldwide, and it’s usually just an indicator of facilities, rather than quality. A 5* may not live up to its standard – it just means it has extra facilities, so don’t just rely on this if you’re after a glamorous getaway. Plus, the star system differs within countries.
  • A package holiday is an all-in-one, where the tour operator provides flights, connections and accommodation for one price. They’re best suited for standard breaks of standard length. So, if it’s a traditional holiday destination like Kavos or Ayia Napa, it’s worth checking to see if you can get a package for less than the DIY route.
  • New rules which came in on 15 June mean that the cost of using your mobile phone in most parts of Europe have been reduced. Outside the EU, providers are free to charge what they like – some as much as £8/MB – so if you’re not careful, using the web abroad could get an extortionate bill.
  • Many non-EU countries specify entry requirements. Some countries offer visas on arrival, others require visas in advance – sometimes a costly and lengthy process. If you’re heading to the USA, you may be eligible for the ESTA visa-waiver scheme – though you’ll still need to pay and hold a ‘chipped’ passport.
  • If your flights or package hols cost over £100, pay by credit card to nab extra protection. This is because when the transaction’s over £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means the card company’s equally liable if anything goes wrong.
  • A UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, but if you’re planning a road trip further afield, check if you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is required or recommended in about 140 countries, including the USA, Thailand and India. Drive without one where it’s needed and you risk trouble with the authorities, and may be refused a hire car.
  • If you’re jetting abroad, ensure you’re vaccinated against any nasties before you go. Your local GP will offer some vaccinations for free, but others can cost around £50. Some even require more than one dose, meaning costs shoot up quickly.

Delayed Flights and Compensation:

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  • If you’re delayed by more than three hours or your flight’s cancelled, under EU rule 261/2004 you are often entitled to between £110 and £530 in compensation – and it’s possible to claim this for free.

  • For the flight to qualify it must be EU flight meaning it is any flight leaving a European Union Airport or any flight arriving to a EU country providing it’s on a European carrier.

  • The delay itself needs to be more than three hours long and it has to be the airline’s fault. This including political disruption in the country, geographical issues such as volcanic eruptions, bad weather. However, the situation that mean it’s the airlines fault are if the pilot is late, if the pilot is sick and there is no one to replace them, not arranging runway landings and take-offs delaying the take-off time.

  • If you have grounds for a claim you can write to the airline stating that under EU regulations you have grounds for compensation, include your flight number, length of delay and the nature of the fault. The claims for compensation can be made dating back to 2011. Airlines can sometimes try and offer you vouchers even though you are entitled to cash. If they still decide that they do not want to pay then you can seek advice from CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). How much you are entitled to depends of the distance and the duration of the delay.

ATOL:

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By law, every UK travel company which sells air holidays and flights is required to hold an ATOL, which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence. If a travel company with an ATOL ceases trading, the ATOL scheme protects customers who had booked holidays with the firm. It ensures they do not get stranded abroad or lose money. The scheme is designed to reassure consumers that their money is safe, and will provide assistance in the event of a travel company failure.

ATOL was first introduced in 1973, as the popularity of overseas holidays grew. After a number of travel company failures left people stranded, the UK Government realised consumers required protection should firms in the unregulated travel sector fall into difficulties.

The scheme was designed to cover charter flights and package holidays, and functioned well for years. However, the holiday market has changed considerably and a rise in online booking means many people now book the components of their holidays separately.

As a result, changes were made to the ATOL scheme in April 2012. It now covers all overseas air holidays where a flight and accommodation have been booked together. It also covers some flights booked separately, and applies in some other circumstances too.

Most overseas air holidays booked with UK travel companies must be protected. There are several ways to check:

  • Look before you book. Check for the ATOL logo on travel company websites, brochures and advertisements. If you are not sure, ask your travel company or agent to tell you about ATOL protection.
  • Use our Check an ATOL facility. This allows you to check that the travel company you are booking with is part of ATOL.
  • Make sure you are given an ATOL Certificate. The law says you should be given a certificate to show you are covered as soon as you have booked and paid any money towards a holiday or flight.

It is important that you book your holidays with a reputable travel company. If you book with a company that is not a member of ATOL then you will not be covered by ATOL protection.

ATOL is run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It is funded by contributions from the travel companies, who must pay £2.50 into the scheme for each person they book on a holiday.

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This money creates a fund that is used by the CAA to ensure consumers either complete their holiday or – if they cannot get away – receive a full refund.

Holiday Protection:

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  • If your flights, hotel or package holiday cost over £100, pay by credit card to nab extra protection if you book direct with the airline, hotel etc.
  • It usually costs more to book by credit card – typically about 2% with some firms – but for the extra £10 per £500 spent, it can be worth it if something goes wrong. Just see it as ‘insurance’ against a firm going bust.
  • This is because when the transaction’s over £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means the card company’s equally liable with the retailer/supplier if something goes wrong.
  • If you’ve paid but don’t have insurance, and you need to cancel because you fall ill or suffer a bereavement, you won’t be covered. Insurance won’t just cover you while you’re away – it’ll also cover you for cancellation or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip.
  • With annual policies, you can choose the start date so ensure they begin as soon as possible, not the day you travel. Also ensure that cover is continuous if you switch annual cover, so the new policy starts as soon as the old one ends.
  • A significant event such as these can lead the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to warn against all but essential travel to affected areas or leave you unable to travel due to grounded flights or other transport.
  • Often airlines or transport companies offer refunds or alternative arrangements to passengers when major events occur.
  • It might be the airline, hotel, tour operator or travel agent. Whichever has gone bust, don’t panic, as there may be a way out. What you do and what you’re entitled to depends on the type of holiday you’ve booked, whether you’ve booked it with a UK-registered agent or operator and what it includes (for example, air travel or not). We’ve full help depending on your holiday type below.
  • Before we get into it, we’ve focused on protection via Government schemes, via the travel industry or from your card firm or travel insurer. In theory, if a firm goes bust, administrators are appointed to split whatever cash is left among those it owes money to, such as customers. However, in reality customers are so far down the pecking order they rarely get anything back.