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50+ Overseas Travel Tips

Tricks to bag cheap flights & more

If you're planning a trip overseas, don't just wing it. Whether chilling in Chile or roaming in Rome, there are loads of hidden tricks to save cash and ensure you're Havana great holiday.

We've 50+ travel tips to help, from finding the cheapest flights and top overseas spending cards to reclaiming cash for flight delays.

Whether chilling in Chile or roaming in Rome, there are loads of hidden tricks to save cash and ensure you're Havana great holiday.

We've 50+ travel tips to help, from the cheapest flights and top overseas spending cards to reclaiming for flight delays.

Pocket a super-cheap overseas spending card

Most cards add a 3% cost to the exchange rates banks themselves get. You can avoid this by packing a specialist card that doesn't add this 'load', meaning you'll get perfect exchange rates which beat even the best bureaux de change. Pocket one just for spending overseas (always repay IN FULL to avoid interest). You'll need to apply at least three weeks before you go.

The Halifax Clarity* credit card has no foreign exchange fee anywhere in the world for the best rate possible. Plus we've a canny eligibility calculator, which leaves NO credit file mark and lets you see how likely you are to get it. ALWAYS fully repay by direct debit to minimise the 12.9% representative APR.

Last updated 1 Sept 2014. See the Cheap Travel Money guide for the full list of best buys.

Free app turns phone into international sat-nav for 50 countries

If you've a smartphone with GPS, such as an iPhone, here's a nifty way to turn it into a sat-nav abroad, with local maps, for free - without using up any pricey data overseas. It isn't a fully-fledged system like paid sat-navs, but it's handy for a one-off trip.

Use the right cheap flight-finding site

Freeze! Donít search the first knock-down flight site. You need to use the right type - here's what you should try:

Is your EHIC still valid? Over 4m expire in 2014

EHICIf you're off around Europe, ensure you've an up-to-date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Free Android app translates 80 languages - get it before you go

overseas travel tipsIf you're travelling to a country where English isn't widely spoken, here's a handy trick to turn an Android smartphone into a translator for free - without using any costly data abroad.

Grab the best plane seats

Once you've bagged flights, use specialist sites Seatguru or Skytrax to check the plane's seating plan and see whether 18E beats 19C. If it's a budget flight with unassigned seats, turn up early and lurk by the boarding entrance.

For 2+ trips abroad each year, get annual travel insurance from £13

Get travel insurance as soon as you book. If not, you won't be covered for cancellation or changes. Plus if you'll go away two or more times a year, annual policies are usually cheaper.

Don't pay airport prices for travel accessories - try pound shops

travel kit

Pick up travel accessories like adaptor plugs, eye masks and travel cushions at the airport and you risk paying inflated prices for last-second shoppers.

Uncover secret bargains on 5* hotels

The secret hotel section at* has bargains on four- and five-star hotels worldwide (including London), because you only know the description and star rating before you pay. This means rock-bottom prices for classy establishments.

Liquids are banned through airport security - not food

Budget airlines make extra cash by flogging snacks to hungry flyers at sky-high prices - a splurge on airline snacks could easily undo the savings on your ticket.

Find WHEN to go for super-cheap budget flights

If you're looking for a cheap getaway and want to know the cheapest time to go, we've built a nifty FlightChecker tool to uncover the cheapest budget flights across the web from European budget airlines and British Airways.

Don't trust the hotel star system

The star rating system isn't standardised worldwide, and it's usually just an indicator of facilities, rather than quality. A 5* may not live up to its hype - it just means it has extra facilities, so don't just rely on this if you're after a swanky getaway. Plus the star system differs within countries, never mind worldwide.

Flight delayed in last 6 years? £100s in compensation possible

A blockbuster European Court of Justice ruling means some can net up to Ä600 compensation (£480 based on the exchange rate in early Sept) for flight delays if the airline was at fault.

Never wait until the airport for foreign cash

You're a captive customer at an airport or ferry terminal, so you'll probably be lumbered with the worst rates. If you must get your travel cash from the airport, order ahead then pick it up to get a better rate.

Wear your luggage!

If you're flying with a budget airline and want to stow luggage in the hold, expect to pay a hefty whack. Plus the weight allowance for budget airlines can be lower than elsewhere, at roughly 15kg to 20kg. Yet there are nifty ways to get round this.

Don't needlessly buy new sun lotion

sun lotion

Many simply buy new bottles of sun lotion every time they jet off. Yet don't shell out if you don't need to - open bottles can still be effective for up to two years.

Package holidays can undercut DIY bookings

The internet's great for flights or DIY city breaks. But if you're going away specifically for seven, 10 or 14 days to a traditional holiday destination, then good old-fashioned package holidays can often come up trumps.

Free flights - if you play your cards right

Credit cards offer all sorts of free gifts to new cardholders, so it's possible to sign up for the card and grab the freebie. This is handy if you're travelling as there are loads available, including flights around Europe, Eurostar returns and more.

Dress kids in bright colours to stop you losing 'em at the airport

If you have kids (or you've ever seen Home Alone), you'll know what a nightmare it is to keep an eye on them in crowded places - especially if you're hurrying to catch a plane or transfer. So one way to keep tabs on the tiddlers is to dress them so they'll stick out like a sore thumb.

Turn off mobile 3G and data roaming to avoid shock charges

If you're not careful, using the web abroad could rack up a bill of £100s or even £1,000s. The cost per MB is capped in the EU at Ä0.20/MB (about 20p/MB incl VAT). Outside the EU, providers are free to charge what they like, some as much as £8/MB.

Ensure your passport's valid

If you're jetting off, remember to check your passport's expiry date before you book. Some countries demand your passport's valid for at least six months from arrival, so check the Government's foreign travel advice before you go.

Haggle down package costs

Tour operators make holidays while travel agents sell 'em. Therefore, many big tour operatorsí holidays are sold by multiple agents. If youíre booking one, once youíve found a specific deal, try calling up different agents to see if they can beat the price. You could save up to 10% more. See Cheap Package Holidays.

Pay the right way for extra protection

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 owt goes wrong.

Beat budget airline check-in fees

Sadly, budget airlines can charge up to an eye-watering £140 per person, per return, just to check in at the airport. So do this free online first, though Monarch still charges to check in online. See the Beat Budget Airline Charges guide for more tricks to avoid check-in fees.

Always book car hire BEFORE you go


Holiday car hire can save a hefty whack on taxis to and from the airport. If you're going to need it (see below for alternatives), book the right way to grab it as cheaply as possible.

Driving abroad? Check if your UK licence is valid

IDPA 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).

Book a cheap package just for the flight

Scheduled flights to tourist places, such as Orlando and Sri Lanka, can be silly money, yet packages there can sometimes come in much cheaper.

Don't assume a pricier sun lotion is safer

Sun lotion can cost up to a whopping £25 for a 200ml bottle on the high street. Yet it's possible to grab sun lotion for a quid in pound shops, while MySupermarket* quickly compares prices in the big supermarkets, Boots and Superdrug.

Beware car hire firms' pricey excess insurance

If you're hiring a car, hopefully the closest you'll come to crashing is post-holiday ice-cream withdrawal. But if the worst happens, bear in mind that while there's some cover for hire car damage, there's usually a big problem:

Always book cheap airport parking

Airports often make more from parking and shopping than planes. Leave the car there without booking first and you risk sky-high rates, so don't just turn up. Booking first, even on the day, could save money. See the Cheap Airport Parking guide for the full technique, plus safety tips, how to snaffle hidden local discounts and more.

Posh villas can cost £1,000 less than posh hotels

If you donít fancy battling for a sun-lounger each morning, villas offer space for large groups of friends, or families with kids who need to let off steam.

Avoid the 'perfect trip' trap

For many of us, a holiday's an invaluable way to relax and unwind - or gear up and party. Yet before you splash out, remember, the holiday industry is a beacon of commerciality. Travel marketing is honed to make you spend more and more, using emotive language such as "precious moments" and "magical memories". Don't be sucked in.

Get local travel info for free before you go

If you plan to explore beyond a trip to the pool, pick your must-sees and transport before you go (see Car Hire Alternatives below).

Bag 'free prints' promos for cheap holiday snaps

Once you're back, there's a quick trick to grab massive savings on getting holiday snaps turned into glossy photos.

Tell your mobile provider you're going abroad

Taking your mobile abroad can turn it into a cash assassin in some places, costing as much as £2.50/min to receive a call. Of course, the easiest solution is not to take your phone with you. But if you know you're going to use your phone overseas, it's possible to cut the cost.

Don't get stung by luggage fees on the way back

Many people jet home from a holiday with more than they took. Yet if you plan to shop, ensure you leave space in your luggage for the return journey when you pack. Forget to do this and you may be forced to pay extra charges to get it all home, or risk having to ditch your sombreros and straw donkeys at the airport.

Off to the US? Beware unofficial ESTA sites

Everyone going to the States by air or sea needs to fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) form.

Hidden loophole gets up to 70% off posh hotels

picture of key

Giant US site Priceline* flogs posh hotel rooms at colossal discounts, and it's especially strong for US hotels.

Max Avios points for flights 'n' more

Avios is the points scheme formed from Air Miles and BA Miles in 2011 (see the Avios launches MSE News story) - you can use it to grab free flights, ugrades and more.

Asked to pay in pounds or euros? Say euros

Many overseas banks or shops ask this, especially in Spanish tourist resorts. If you choose pounds then the retailer does the currency conversion - rates are often poor compared to letting your card do it (by choosing the local currency), although things are closer than they used to be.

Try hostels for cheap accommodation

Don't think hostels automatically mean dorm bunks. Many offer singles, twins and doubles, and they can offer massive savings over hotel prices.

Make your own travel-size toiletries

Travel-size lotions and potions can be pricey. Retailers know they're convenience goods and charge accordingly - but you don't have to pay through the nose to smell like a rose.

Driving in Europe? Check insurance, breakdown and road rules

Caron Map

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning an overseas road trip, yet forget these tips and your dream drive may look more like a Mad Max outtake.

Don't waste cash on energy while you're away

Don't just turn off the biggies like lighting and heating before a big trip - also ensure you remember to turn off any TVs and gadgets on standby too.

Find the cheapest way to call ANY country

If you'll make pre-holiday calls abroad for bookings, transfers or to arrange airport pickups with relatives, the International Callchecker tool quickly finds the cheapest way.

Compare travel meds prices to get 'em for less

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.

Check big excursion ticket prices before you go

clown shoes

Whether it's Disney, Universal Studios, a balloon trip or an aquapark, search early doors to see if there are web vouchers or cheap tickets. Specialist ticket agents can undercut buying direct, so use the theme park's own prices as a benchmark to beat. For full details see our Cheap Disney Tickets guide.

Free apps to keep track of travel plans

If you're planning a big trip, don't just let a mass of disorganised booking confirmation emails pile up. These could include car hire, flights, accommodation, travel cash pickup, pet kennels, transfers and more. Fail to keep track and you risk a nightmare finding it all before you go - or worse, forgetting 'em altogether.

Get a FREE printable wallet-size travel guide

The Little Lifesaver is a free, passport-sized printable travel guide packed with key holiday info, including which plastic is cheapest to use and your flight cancellation rights. It also includes space for you to fill in your passport number and other key travel details. Just print it and refer to it in an emergency (we hope you won't need to!).

Nab cheap France day returns for under £25

If you're hopping across the Channel, it's often possible to get super-cheap day returns for under £25, sometimes even with a free case of wine thrown in. You can even swap £10 in Tesco Clubcard vouchers for £30 in Eurotunnel* vouchers. See the Cheap France Day Trips for the latest deals.

Consider car hire alternatives

Before you book car hire for your hols, don't forget to consider the alternatives. Unnecessary car hire can be an expensive, unused hindrance.

Add your travel tips on the forum

Picture of people chattingThe Overseas Holidays and Travel Planning forum board is a great place to share your travel experiences with others. Whether you want to natter about MoneySaving in Las Vegas, What to do near Calais or tips on Singles' holidays, it's well worth a visit. Plus share your tips in the 50 Travel Tips discussion.