Its two weeks before Christmas and by now you have probably arranged your blissful escape, whether you have almost all the stamps in your passport or are simply heading to the continent for a weekend city break. Some last minute tips to help you make the most of your time off and help you feel less of the pinch are always handy, where price isn’t the only important factor. Having a stress-free trip with added value services and convenience all play a part in creating a care free holiday experience.
1st Contact offers the following travel tips and secrets to make the most out of your Christmas holiday experience:
1. Online Specials – Keep an eye on internet holiday deal specials for any last-minute bargains, where you will need to be flexible with dates and flight times. Peak travel periods can be the best time to buy package deal specials, as the bundled pricing offered by packages can be very competitive. Ironically at times like these, the packages offered make it seem more expensive to stay at home! 1st Contact offers a myriad of package and adventure deals and what’s more as a registered 1st Contact customer, you will receive well-needed discounts with our various affiliates.
for a list of affiliates for all your travel needs from accommodation, transport to festival tours and more.
2. Tip Top Condition – Get a health check up to be sure that you are able to participate in all of your planned activities. 1st Contact Travel Clinic is a great place for free advice and can set you up with all the jabs and supplies in the weeks before your departure. Visit http://www.1stcontact.com/live/index.php?Category_ID=14 or call 0800 856 2475 from within the UK.
Do some research on your destination especially if you will be travelling to unfamiliar places. Be prepared and take precautions for things like malaria, or un-drinkable water. It’s also a good idea to determine if your destination is currently high risk, by taking a look at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Travel Website, which offers travel advice by country to help you prepare.
3. Cost Effective Shipping Could Make all the Difference – Consider shipping your luggage and gifts ahead of time, as doing this in advance could get you a substantial discount. 1st Contact Shipping can help you with any baggage and gifts that need to be at your destination on time, with or without you! Shipping costs less than the airport charges for excess baggage. Also think about doing your holiday shopping online and having your gifts delivered within your destination country. http://www.1stcontact.com/live/index.php?Category_ID=11
4. Be Money-Wise – Sort out your forex requirements before you fly. Don’t put it off until the airport or you’ll end up forking out extortionate fees. Here’s great idea if you are going home for a visit: 1st Contact Money transfer is a fast and safe way to get your money into a bank account at your destination, it can be yours or that of someone you trust. Also you can get really good exchange rates at the moment, especially if you use your debit card. http://www.1stcontactforex.com
5. Invest In A Sound Travel Insurance Plan – Whether it’s for your own safety or to safe guard your belongings, the small cost of the premium outweighs the risk of paying off your hospital bill for the next ten years! Travel Insurance policies that cover expensive gadgets such as mobiles, iPods and lap-tops are becoming more widely available. Visit http://www.1stcontact.com/live/index.php?Category_ID=775 for more advice on travel insurance.
6. Stick to Your Budget – You can be thrifty and still have a great time. Simple things like eating where the locals do rather than in the over priced and tacky tourist areas, and carrying a big cooldrink in your bag can help you keep all your finances in tact. Occasional farmers markets are a good place to pick up a few tasty treats and keepsakes at a much nicer price, and enjoy a new experience too.
Self catering options may be worth considering – some people can eat their money’s worth at the daily buffet, but look for accommodation with at least a fridge, kettle and a toaster for the other meals!
There’s no point in being too tight-fisted: imagine planning a ski trip and sitting in the bar because the ski pass is too expensive! Many destinations offer combo deals including sight seeing, transport and attractions: e.g.You can visit the Louvre gallery, the Eiffel Tower and have a Seine cruise as well. In some cities, tourist passes include the use of public transportation and discounts in certain shops as well. Some museums and sights have certain days of the week, or hours of the day, when the entry is free or discounted.
An International Student ID card (ISIC) will save you so much money or almost anything, if you are still studying. Or get a youth card for under 26’s for similar discounts. See http://www.isiccard.com for more. The Wildcard in South Africa is essential for free entry to certain nature reserves, picnic spots and special beaches. Search the web or get yourself a good guidebook with all the best advice.
If the attraction you have to see is not part of a combo deal, go online and pre-book the tickets if you can. Tickets bought at the gate tend to be much more expensive and time consuming to get than buying them online a few days ahead of time.
7. Keep Phone Costs Down – Mobile phone charges on international roaming are astronomical. Use it as little as possible and don’t forget that you pay to receive calls as well as make them when travelling abroad. Texting is also much more expensive when using international roaming facilities. So get your phone unlocked before you leave and get a local SIM card and make cheap local calls to keep in touch with your travel partners.
8. Reduce Transport Costs – Car rental is an expenditure that needs careful weighing up. Consider public transport first or hire a car with a few friends to split the cost. Returning the rental car with a full tank will alleviate any additional charges.
9. Pack Wisely…
- Always pack your medication and prescription scripts.
- If you head to a place that is known for dirt-cheap shopping, like Bali, pack less or even none of the items that you know you will buy and bring back.
- Depending on your destination, be cautious about drinking anything but factory-sealed drinks. Avoid ice cubes too, especially in undeveloped areas.
- Pack a list of all contact numbers for your local doctor, airports, hotel, taxi services, next of Kin, etc… as utilising directory enquiries tends to be very costly.
- Remember international rules about liquids, aerosols and gels? You may bring liquids and gels in 100ml or smaller containers, all packed within one 1L re-sealable, clear plastic bag. This excludes items purchased after you go through a security checkpoint from Duty-free. If you want to bring more than the 100ml amounts, you’ll need to pack the items in your checked luggage.
- Be aware of additional airline charges in the form of fees charged for checking in a second bag as well as additional surcharges. Do check ahead of time to avoid any unpleasant surprises!
- Do not wrap gifts in your luggage. There is a strong chance they will be unwrapped for inspection by security. Consider gift bags instead as you can easily remove the items and you don’t have to do a last-minute wrapping job at your destination.
10. Braving the Airport….
- Arrive very early to check in, to ensure you get a seat as flights are sometimes overbooked during the holiday season. Spending an idle hour browsing the gift shop is much nicer than missing your flight. With airlines continuing to cut back on service, it’s more important than ever to confirm your flight several days before you leave in case anything changes.
- Bring your own entertainment and food. Take along books, magazines, a music player, some healthy snacks and whatever else you need to pass the waiting time without getting bored. Just don’t leave valuables in open sight.
- Never lose your temper; it’s a recipe for NOT getting what you want as airline employees hold your fate in their hands. Keep a positive attitude, but also be mentally ready for setbacks. Delays happen, and airlines do the best they can to keep to the schedules.
- Check your flight status repeatedly. Know your airline’s number as well as your flight numbers and exact times.
- Checking-in online can get you a priority boarding as a bonus. With hand baggage only, a printed sheet of A4 with a barcode scanned at security control means you only have to turn up 40 minutes before the flight. The International Air Transport Association is agreeing plans for check-in by mobile phone. Passengers will receive boarding passes direct to mobiles or Blackberrys which will be read by airport scanners. When traveling on an E-ticket, carry a printout of your itinerary from your airline or booking site.
- Don’t overdo it at the airport booze, for everyone’s sake!