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23 September 2020
The Foreign Office lifted travel restrictions for dozens of countries in early July. However, the warning's now been reinstated for a number of countries, including Spain and France. See our Coronavirus - Travel Rights guide for full help and the latest on Covid-19 travel restrictions.
In light of the current situation however, some of the tips below may no longer be up to date. We’ve left the info here for reference, and hope it will become relevant again in the not-too-distant future.
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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 near-perfect exchange rates which beat even the best bureaux de change. Pocket one just for spending overseas (always repay IN FULL to avoid interest). Generally you'll need to apply between one and three weeks before you go.
Our current top pick is the Barclaycard Rewards card, which has near-perfect rates, no fees on spending or withdrawing cash abroad and no interest on either as long as you pay it off IN FULL every month. Plus, you get 0.25% cashback on spending worldwide.
As an alternative, the Santander Zero card also has no fees on overseas spending and withdrawals but withdrawals incur interest even if you pay off the card in full – so it's better to spend than withdraw.
If you've a smartphone with GPS there's a nifty, free way to turn it into a sat-nav you can use abroad. Simply download one of the following free apps to your phone (if an Android user, you may already have Google Maps).
While the apps won't have the bells and whistles of a traditional sat-nav, crucially, you won't have to use any data when overseas.
Download the apps and maps before you go and then they're stored offline in your phone – the apps use your phone's built-in GPS to locate you and you don't need data or Wi-Fi.
Here are our three top-pick sat-nav apps – all free to download and use:
Google Maps works offline too – so download before you go: The Google Maps app (for iPhone and Android) is easy to use, and includes restaurants and reviews. You can use it offline, as long as you download maps in advance. It also offers real-time traffic and train info, though for that you'll need a Wi-Fi or data connection.
Great for driving and country-by-country apps: Navmii is free for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone (though the Blackberry and Windows Phone apps are no longer being updated). It comes with pre-loaded maps, route planning, voice prompts, mileage tracking and real-time hazard reporting.
Navmii has maps for around 200 countries, including the UK – to find them, search in your phone's app store for Navmii plus the country, eg, 'Navmii France'. If you prefer, you can download a worldwide app to cover the lot.
Top for detail including hiking trails and ATMs: Maps.Me allows users to add data to maps – such as places of interest or trails, for example. It works in a similar way to Wikipedia with users making contributions, which is why its maps are so detailed. It also includes islands in addition to whole countries – great if you're going off the beaten track. It's available for iPhone and Android.
By contrast, sat-nav maker TomTom has an iPhone app with offline maps that offers a seven-day free trial (£1.99/month or £4.99/three months after) or a 30-day free trial (after that £8.99/six months).
Don't go direct to an airline – use the price comparison sites below to get lots of data in a very short time.
Kayak for a comparison incl baggage fees. Kayak* lets you filter flights by baggage allowance, so you can compare costs more accurately.
Skyscanner for the very cheapest time to fly. Skyscanner* gives you fare options spread over a month to find exactly when's cheapest. It has particularly strong coverage of budget flights, searching over 1,200 airlines and travel sites in total.
Momondo for its flight data info. We like Momondo* for its nifty tool that tells you the cheapest and most expensive dates around your flight, as well as helpful insights such as the cheapest airport to fly from/into. It doesn't do it for all destinations, but it has the biggies – New York, Dubai, Sydney, Cape Town.
See the Cheap Flights guide for more tips on finding cheap flights.
Navigating public transport in an unfamiliar city can be daunting. But don't be tempted to automatically fork out for cabs – the free Citymapper app will have you hopping on and off the metro or subway like a true Parisian, New Yorker etc.
The 'Get me somewhere' function is easy to use – enter your destination and starting point to find the best route from A to B. It finds various public transport options, including bus-only, rain safe – for routes that minimise travel outdoors – and wheelchair accessible. Not only that, it will show you how long it would take to walk, cycle or take a cab.
The app covers a number of public transport options, which will naturally vary depending on the city you're in. These include bus, metro/subway, rail, tram and cycle docks. You can also use it to view transport maps, such as bus routes.
While it's a handy app to use abroad, make sure you don't rack up big data charges. Unless you're able to use your data for free, it's best to switch off mobile data and use Wi-Fi to plan your route (eg, at your hotel or a café). You can then save your journey offline using the star in the top right of the screen.
Although it's not cut and dried, booking a whole year ahead can be MoneySaving.
If you like flying with a specific airline or know the exact flight you want, 'codesharing' could be a way to get a flight with that airline, via another one. It's when airlines buddy up to sell seats on each others' flights, sometimes at a different price.
For example, when we looked in March, we found a Virgin Atlantic return flight from London to Las Vegas in September for £881, booking via Virgin Atlantic. But exactly the same flights booked via its partner Delta cost £816, saving £65.
This works best on popular medium or long-haul routes. For a full 'how to' and list of codeshare partners see the Cheap Flights guide.
We've found a clever way to bag cheaper flights using Easyjet's 'Flexifares', which let you switch dates by a few weeks without paying anything extra.
It only works with 'Flexifare' tickets, but once you've booked you can switch dates by a few weeks without paying more. It works the whole year round – but it's particularly useful when prices shoot up during the school holidays. This means you can bag a cheap term-time flight, then swap for your chosen school holiday dates.
Full details and more tricks to flying with the orange-loving airline in Easyjet Flexifare Trick.
Whether you're hiring a car or making a quick dash to the airport in a taxi – then if you've young children with you, they should be in a car seat.
Renting one can be pricey though. It can add around £5/day to the cost of hiring a car, and hike taxi fares sharply too – for example, we were quoted an extra €12 for a one-way journey from Barcelona airport to the city centre.
There are alternative options – for instance, some airports have stalls like Malaga's Tots Store where seats can be rented at half the cost. But your best bet may be to take your own.
Many airlines let you check in a car seat and fully-collapsible pushchair for free, in addition to your usual luggage allowance. Eg, Easyjet lets you take two items for free, including travel cots, buggies and car seats. The rules can, however, vary by airline.
It's worth noting some car seats can also be used on the plane (if you've paid for your child to have their own seat). The car seat'll have to meet certain criteria though and it depends on the plane you're travelling on, so check in advance.
For more tips on taking your own car seat, see MSE Steve's blog: How bubble wrap and a roll of Sellotape has saved me £100s on family holidays.
The UK's a melting pot of different immigrant and ethnic communities, and this can be used to great advantage for a cheap flight booking. Niche travel agents often specialise in finding deals to the relevant communities' linked countries.
For example, Shepherd's Bush in London and the surrounding area has some Caribbean specialist tour agents, or buy the Jewish Chronicle, which has firms advertising cheap flights to Israel.
Don't forget to check prices elsewhere before you buy, to make sure you're getting a good deal. If you know of a cheap specialist travel agent, please let us know in the forum.
Airport lounges aren't just reserved for first class, business class or elite frequent flyers. Access can be free with certain credit cards or bank accounts, or you can get it cheaply via frequent flyer schemes such as Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club.
One-off passes start from around £20 per person. Given you could pay that for food and drinks alone at the airport, it can be good value, especially when you usually get a comfy seat in peace, and a newspaper or magazine thrown in too.
Our Free or Cheap Airport Lounges guide has top tips, including the credit card that'll get you two free visits to 350+ lounges.
You can learn over 35 languages completely free via language-learning app and website Duolingo. It has all the standards such as French, Spanish and Italian – but there's even 'High Valyrian' and 'Klingon' for Game of Thrones and Star Trek fans.
You can set yourself goals of practising for five to 20 minutes each day, and it tries to make learning fun by turning each lesson into a game (eg, you lose lives when you get questions wrong).
You can also join 'clubs' where the app matches you up with other learners, so you can chat to each other and practise what you've learned. Forumite Hermia has been learning French via the app:
I love it. I honestly have learned more from the app than I have from three years of classes at school!
Restrictions on taking liquids in hand luggage mean passengers often shell out for pricey bottles of water once in the departure lounge, or on the plane.
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 'em.
To help, we've compiled a handy guide to exactly where you can find free drinking fountains at 18 of the UK's biggest airports. Simply take an empty bottle with you through security – the Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed this IS allowed – and fill it up before getting on the plane.
Where to find free water fountains - airport by airport:
It's the biggest airport in the UK – and one of the best when it comes to free drinking water. Its website says: "We have over 100 water fountains across Heathrow's four terminals clearly signposted and located at most toilets where you are welcome to fill up your water bottles."
To see the exact location of each one, search this interactive map for 'drinking fountains' and you'll see where to find them in each terminal.
Gatwick has water fountains available before security in both terminals.
There are also water fountains in the immigration halls of both terminals, outside the toilets before going through passport control.
Manchester Airport has water fountains in each of its terminals:
Stansted has water fountains in the following locations:
It told us the newer fountains in the main departure lounge, immigration and baggage reclaim are specialised water bottle refill stations.
Luton Airport has water fountains just after security. You can find them beside the lifts to the departure lounge.
Edinburgh has a water fountain in the departure lounge, on the left as you leave the World Duty Free area.
Birmingham Airport told us it has a number of water fountains, before and after security:
Glasgow Airport has one water fountain after security, next to the Travelex store in the main walkway as you leave the duty-free shop. There should be signs pointing it out.
Bristol Airport has two water fountains in its terminal building – one for departures and one for arrivals.
The water fountain in departures is at the entrance to the walkway leading to gates 8-16. The water fountain for arrivals is in the walkway before passport control and baggage reclaim.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport has now installed two water fountains. It says they're located at either end of the departure lounge - one by the picnic area near gate three, the other near gate 30.
It says free drinking water is also available from all food and drink retailers at the airport.
East Midlands has a water fountain at the back of its security hall.
Aberdeen Airport has now installed a water fountain in its departure lounge. It says it's near gate 5, at the top of the ramp.
You can now fill your water bottles for free at Belfast City Airport – it's confirmed it has installed a water fountain in the departure lounge, after security.
You'll find it in the customer seating area opposite House of Ireland.
Southampton Airport has one water fountain after you go through security. As you enter the departure lounge through World Duty Free, turn left and the fountain is next to the toilets on the ground floor.
It provided us with this handy map to show where the fountain is located (it's by the orange arrow).
Since we launched our investigation, Cardiff has installed a water fountain in its departure lounge and another in the baggage reclaim hall. It says it's considering installing more in the future.
Jersey Airport has two water fountains - one immediately after security and another in its airside lounge area outside the toilets after World Duty Free.
Since we launched our investigation, Exeter Airport says it has installed a water dispenser in the corridor leading to the boarding gates.
Inverness Airport has designated drinking water taps in its bathrooms.
MSE is campaigning to ask all UK airports to provide free drinking water fountains for passengers. Sadly not all do – these airports all told us they don't have any:
Belfast International, Bournemouth, Cornwall Airport Newquay, City of Derry, Doncaster Sheffield, Durham Tees Valley, Glasgow Prestwick, Leeds Bradford, London City, London Southend, Newcastle and Norwich International.
A number of them said you're welcome to ask cafés and restaurants to fill up bottles for free however, even if you're not making a purchase.
Since we launched our campaign in 2017, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Exeter, George Best Belfast City and Liverpool John Lennon have installed water fountains, London City and Norwich International have confirmed they will be installing them, and Glasgow Prestwick is considering having them.
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There’s NO legal or security requirement for you to show your boarding pass in any airport shop, with the exception of Duty Free (you must show it there whatever you’re buying).
Shops ask because if you're travelling outside of the European Union, they can reclaim the VAT paid. Your boarding pass simply proves where you're flying. Yet this VAT should really (in our view) be passed back to the customer. So make a point and politely decline showing them your pass unless they do.
Thankfully as this campaign has been running a couple of years, it’s already started to have an impact. For example, if you’re travelling outside the EU, WH Smith does now give back the VAT for individual items over £6, and Boots does the same for items over £5.
Full info in Martin's Do I need to show my boarding pass at airport shops? blog.
Our investigation found 19 of the UK's busiest 30 airports make you pay for a 10-minute drop-off, with fees ranging from £1 to £5.
The two biggest players, Heathrow and Gatwick, do still let you drop off for free. However, the next three busiest airports make you pay for a 10-minute drop-off outside the terminal building. Manchester charges £4, Stansted £4 and Luton £3.
The airports that do charge often have little-known free drop-off areas, albeit a bus ride or short walk away from the terminal. See a full list of which major airports charge plus ways to beat the charges in the Airports hike 'kiss and fly' drop-off charges MSE News story.
If you're off to Europe, ensure you've an up-to-date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
The EHIC is an agreement between countries in the EU and European Economic Area. Until the end of 2020, you'll be able to use your EHIC card, and apply for a new card or renew yours if needed. However from 1 January 2021, after the Brexit transition period ends, the EHIC's future is less certain.
The Government says it is discussing the future of reciprocal healthcare arrangements, including the future of the EHIC, with the EU. See our Brexit need-to-knows for more info.
Here's how the EHIC scheme works:
Our destination guides include how to bag cheap flights, the top 10 free things to do and where to stay without breaking the bank, plus a host of MoneySaving tips unique to the place:
While it's not overseas, we also have London MoneySaving Tips – including how to bag a free guided tour of the Houses of Parliament or a flight over the Thames for £3.50.
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. If you have internet access, you can translate between over 100 languages.
You do this by typing the text in or using your camera to take a photo. The app can automatically translate text via your camera in real time (though this works only with a select 38 languages – including Chinese, French and Spanish).
The real boon though is that you can download free language packs in advance, which means the app will then work offline overseas. Each language pack is about 150MB, so ensure you download it in the UK via Wi-Fi.
To get these, open the app, press the menu button and select "offline languages" then tap the pin button for each language you want to download. There are 59 to choose from.
The offline translation feature's only available if you're running a later Android system – which version you'll need depends on your phone.
To check which version yours is on, go to "Settings", then "About device" or "About phone". You should be able to update the phone's software from here too.
You'll need IOS 9.1 or later in order to download the app.
Once you're using the app on iPhone, it's also possible to save translations to your phone while you're online. To do this, press the star icon next to each phrase you want to store offline in the app.
It isn't perfect, but this can be a handy workaround if you're keen.
Yet choosing the ideal seat can come with a price premium – up to £30 each way for a standard seat, or as much as £60 each way for extra legroom.
For full info on your seating rights and how to sit together for free on big airlines, see our Airline Seating guide.
Get travel insurance as soon as you book. If not, you won't be covered for cancellation. Plus if you go away two or more times a year, annual policies are usually cheaper.
See the Cheap Travel Insurance guide for full best buys and help.
Pick up travel accessories such as eye masks and travel cushions and adaptors at the airport and you risk paying inflated prices for last-second shoppers.
So plan ahead – you can often bag 'em cheaply at pound shops. It's also worth checking prices at supermarkets, plus Boots and Superdrug. For adaptors the Travel Adaptor website has useful country-by-country info.
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.
Yet as it's only liquids that you can't take through security, you can plan ahead and bring your own snacks and sarnies with you. For example, just the £2 spend on a single airline muffin can often buy eight of 'em in a supermarket, making it nearly 90% cheaper to bring your own.
Packed meals don't need to be drab – you could even theme it around your holiday destination. This can be a great way to get kids (and big kids) excited about the trip. Canny forumites have compiled a huge list of cheap and delicious packed lunch ideas, from Spanish omelettes to Greek salads.
One MoneySaver recommends taking juice drinks that are under the liquid allowance limit – "We take these, they're only 85ml so are OK," @ShedOnBeach told us via Twitter.
If you're already at the airport, forumites report Boots meal deals can come in cheaper than plane equivalents, though always check. See the What to eat on a flight? forum discussion for more.
Different airlines and airports may have their own restrictions, so check first. For example, Ryansir says passengers can take their own food and drink onboard, but not hot drinks. You can usually also take an empty water bottle through security to refill and bring onto the plane with you, though overseas you'll need to check what different airports' policies are – see how to find free water.
The Civil Aviation Authority says while there's no obligation for airlines to provide free water, it's in the cabin crew's interest to avoid passengers becoming dehydrated. So don't automatically buy pricey drinks if you're thirsty – try asking. Also do check out our Free Tap Water Q&A.
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..
Stars may be given by governments, review organisations or even the hotel itself. Package tour operators tend to be overly generous, often a star higher than independent reviews.
To uncover a real gem, use TripAdvisor* feedback to help you find a hotel. It isn't perfect, but ignore the very best and very worst feedback and it's a handy gauge.
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A blockbuster European Court of Justice ruling means some can net up to €600 compensation for flight delays if the airline was at fault.
You can claim back to February 2005, but it's harder for flights before 2013.
Under EU rules, you may get compensation for delays of three or more hours. In some instances you may also get your ticket money back, plus other costs such as meals and accommodation.
The Government is insisting these rules will still apply after we leave the EU as they will be written into UK law. See the Flight Delays Compensation guide for full details.
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.
Use our TravelMoneyMax comparison site to instantly uncover the best possible deal, including all fees and any commission.
The tool lists all the big currencies, and also lets you see who's cheapest for exchanging unused currency back to pounds when you get back (if you've any left).
Luggage charges can soon add up, but wearing your luggage is a great way to help cut down the amount you need check-in.
To minimise weight, wear your heaviest clothes and shoes. If you're near the weight limit, put heavy gear in your pockets, then stow your jacket under your seat on the plane.
Another option is a specialist big-pocket jacket. You could try to look out for any jacket with a poacher's pocket – a deep lower pocket at the back where hunters keep game.
These are common at outdoor or survivalist stores, but eBay and Amazon may sell them cheaper so try searching for terms like 'survival vest' to see if there's something suitable for all your travel essentials.
That's right... simply turn your old sun cream bottles around and you should spot a little number on the back which could save you big.
Many automatically buy sun lotion every time they jet off, but there's often no need to shell out – open bottles can still be effective for up to two years. The number you should find on the back of the bottle is a period after opening (PAO) number, which tells you how long you can keep using it for.
It'll normally look like a tub with an open lid and a number next to it (eg, 12 or 24) – that's the number of months after opening during which it should be OK to use.
The British Skin Foundation says: "Sun tan lotions may, given time, start to separate and become less effective, so it's always worth noting down on the bottle when it was first opened."
It also recommends storing your sun lotion in a cool, dark place, and avoiding leaving it in direct sunlight.
It's worth noting the PAO number isn't the same thing as the best before date, so check that too. The British Skin Foundation says you should always throw away sun cream which has passed its best before date.
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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.
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 Florida or Crete, it's worth checking to see if you can get a package for less than the DIY route.
Package holidays have long been protected under the ATOL scheme, so if something goes wrong you get your money back or help getting home.
For bookings made since 1 July 2018, most DIY package holidays bought in the same transaction get the same cover as 'traditional' package holidays - ie, full financial protection (so you're entitled to a refund or be brought home if necessary if the firm organising your package goes bust) AND legal protection (so you're covered if you don't get the holiday you paid for, eg, if a supplier like an airline goes bust, or if bad weather stops you travelling).
For more info, including the rules if you booked before 1 July 2018 and what protection other types of holiday offer, see Holiday Rights.
Once you've booked your trip you'll get an ATOL certificate – keep it safe as you'll need it if anything goes wrong.
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.
Ex-MSE Andrea uses this trick every time she goes away with her family.
I pop my kids in bright coloured hats or clothes with spots on so they stand out when we're travelling. We also take a photo of them on our phones in what they're wearing before they leave. If they get lost, we can show someone the photo – much easier than describing them.
Rules introduced in 2017 mean the cost of using your mobile phone in most parts of Europe has been slashed.
This means when making calls or sending texts to anywhere in the EU, or using data in one of those countries, you use your UK allowance (or pay-as-you-go rates) as you would at home, subject to 'fair usage' rules. See our 10 things you need to know about 'free' EU mobile roaming news story for full info.
These rules will continue to apply for the duration of the Brexit transition period - so nothing's changing until 2021. However, the Government's now said there'll be no requirement for mobile providers to offer free roaming from 1 January 2021, so you'll need to check with yours to find out what they plan to charge. See our Brexit need-to-knows for more information.
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 rack up an eye-watering bill.
The most sensible plan is to turn your phone off completely (or put it in 'airplane' mode) while you're on holiday abroad. If you can't, there are ways to slash costs, including data-roaming add-ons, free Wi-Fi hotspots abroad, and even switching your Sim. See the Cheap Mobile and Data Roaming guide.
Many non-EU countries require you to have certain documents in place or to meet other stipulations before allowing you in. Depending on where you're travelling, you may need a visa (basically a certificate giving you permission to enter a country, which also dictates how long you can stay).
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. For more, read our ESTA guide.
The most reliable way of checking entry requirements for your intended destination is to go to the foreign travel advice section of the Foreign Office's website, search for the country or territory you want to visit (225 are covered, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe), click through, then click on 'Entry requirements' to find out everything you need to know.
You'll be able to travel as normal to the EU until the end of 2020 - however, when the transition period ends, this will change. From early 2021, you'll need to buy a £6 visa-waiver for holidays. See our Brexit need-to-knows for more info.
Besides keeping yourself out of harm's way, it's also important to check if your destination is considered safe to ensure your holiday is covered. Many travel insurance providers will refuse to pay out for issues – including cancellations – at destinations that have been declared unsafe to visit.
To check entry requirements, destination safety and other information, refer to the Government's foreign travel advice.
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. Likewise, if your passport's worse for wear, some countries may refuse you entry. Check the Government's foreign travel advice before you go.
Renew your passport in plenty of time and it'll save the hassle and extra cash needed for an urgent trip to the passport office. A standard adult passport is £75.50 if you apply online and can take three weeks to get back. Yet leave this until the very last minute and you risk having to pay £177 for its one-day premium service.
To renew yours, go to Gov.uk. Don't just Google it – we've had reports of some being caught out by unofficial websites which charge extra, so always use the official Gov.uk link above to ensure you aren't caught out by a copycat site. See full help in Passport renewal tips.
At the moment, you can travel to EU countries on your passport right up to the point it expires. That will continue to be the case for this year at least, until the end of the transition period.
The Government had warned people they might need to renew their passports early if there was a no-deal Brexit, as in that case you would have needed six months left on your passport on the day you travel to visit many European countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and more. That's no longer something you need to worry about this year though.
From 2021, when visiting most EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, on the day you travel you’ll need your passport to both: have at least 6 months left and be less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left).
This means some will need to renew their passport earlier than normal. It's worth noting though that it won't apply when visiting every EU country (for example, you won't need to do it when going to Ireland).
If your flights or package hols cost over £100, pay by credit card to nab extra protection. This is because when the item's over £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means the card company's equally liable if owt goes wrong.
This means if the airline goes bust and you've booked directly with it, you can at least get your money back from the card company. Always pay your card off in full at the end of the month so you're not charged interest. See the full Section 75 Refunds guide.
Bizarrely, if you're booking flights, Section 75 only covers you if each individual ticket comes to over £100. So if a couple bought two flights at £75 each, even though the transaction would be over £100, they wouldn't be covered. Plus if you aren't the primary cardholder and book your flight on an additional card, you won't be covered.
Another exception's if you buy a flight via a travel agent. Even if over £100, Section 75 doesn't cover you here. Because you pay the travel agent, not the airline, the card company doesn't have a direct relationship with the supplier, so isn't considered liable.
If you're paying by debit card, there's also valuable hidden protection that means you may be able to get your money back if something goes wrong. It's called chargeback, and applies to most debit and charge cards, as well as Visa, Mastercard and Amex credit cards – though it isn't a legal requirement. See the Chargeback guide for info.
Sadly, budget airlines can charge up to an eye-watering £110 per person, per return, just to check in at the airport. So do this free online first. See the Beat Budget Airline Charges guide for more tricks to avoid check-in fees.
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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.
You can find full details of current deals and tips 'n' tricks in the Cheap Car Hire guide. Here are the key points:
It's important to note that if you are planning on booking a car, you'll need to get a code from the DVLA before you go, but bear in mind it expires after 21 days.
The secret hotel section at Lastminute.com* has bargains on four and five-star hotels worldwide (including London), because you only know the description and star rating before you pay. This can mean rock-bottom prices for classy establishments.
Yet often you can cut and paste key phrases into Google to discover which hotel it is. Once you know the hotel's identity, check reviews on TripAdvisor* and whether it's really a bargain compared to what you can get on the top comparison sites. See our Secret Hotels guide for how. Some inspiration from MoneySavers:
I booked the 5* Grange St. Paul's Hotel in London for £109 (rack rate £215). OH YEAH BABY.
I booked the Hilton London Paddington for £69 for a double room. I had a look on the Hilton website and the equivalent cost would be £205 – bargain!
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.
It's in booklet format and there are two types, known as the 1926 and 1949 Conventions (they're the same price). Which you'll need depends on where you're off to. See the Is Your Driving Licence Valid? guide for full details.
Beware websites selling 'international driving licences' – these aren't legally recognised documents so don't get caught out.
At the moment, if you have a UK driving licence you can drive in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland without any extra documents. That will continue to remain the case this year. (And likewise, if you have an EU driving licence but live in the UK, you can continue to drive as normal.)
But next year, depending on the outcome of the UK's negotiations with the EU, there may be new requirements. See our Brexit need-to-knows for more info.
Scheduled flights to tourist places, such as Orlando and Sri Lanka, can be silly money, yet packages there can sometimes come in much cheaper.
If you only need the flight, check if there's a cheaper package holiday, then grab it but DON'T stay in the hotel.
Martin once helped a friend book a £300 Sri Lanka holiday for the flight when the cheapest scheduled deal was £1,000+. See the Cheap Package Holidays guide.
It's easy to search for flights from A to B but don't assume it's the cheapest way. It's commonly associated with trains (see our Cheap Train Tickets guide) but it can work with flights too, if you're willing to do the research.
Open-jaw tickets – for example (London Heathrow to Los Angeles and San Francisco to London Heathrow) may be cheaper than bog-standard returns. They can also eliminate the need for backtracking if you plan to visit more than one city. For more flight tricks, see the Cheap Flights guide.
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. We've found some great products for £1 each, when they usually retail at £6-£12. Plus, skin care experts say they check out on skin safety.
Try comparing the price of sun cream online on supermarket websites, plus Boots and Superdrug.
The British Skin Foundation told us: "When choosing a sunscreen, rather than price or retailer, the two most important factors to look out for are its SPF and UVA rating.
"Firstly SPF, or sun protection factor, is the level of protection sunscreen gives against UVB radiation, the type that causes sunburn. This is usually on the front of the product. We recommend choosing one at SPF 30 or higher.
"Secondly, check the UVA rating, which tends to be on the back. It may be a circle with UVA inside it, or star rating from zero to five. Ideally, aim for four or five stars."
It's worth noting, some sun creams can contain chemicals that hurt coral reefs and a few island countries ban them. So if you want to protect the environment and avoid them, watch out for ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. You can see the full list of 10 chemicals on the International Coral Reef Initiative's website.
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:
Check the 'excess' – the amount which you'll pay towards any claim. If it's high (£500ish), any scratches or minor damage will be expensive.
To get round this, hire firms try to flog costly excess insurance at pick-up. This is usually a costly extra at about £25 a day, especially with cheap hire companies, as often their profits come from the insurance.
Yet it's possible to grab cheap excess insurance for less than £2 a day via comparison site Money Maxim*. See full Cheapest Excess Insurance info.
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.
If you don't 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.
As a rule of thumb, the larger the group, the bigger the per-person saving, so they're great if there's a party of you going. When we checked, we found a three-bedroom villa in Malaga priced at £352 for a week's stay in mid-August, compared with a nearby hotel costing £1,420.
Direct booking sites let you quickly search for holiday rentals. Our top picks are HomeAway.co.uk* for global reach, Clickstay* for easy payments and TripAdvisor* for search. Be careful how you pay. You book directly with an owner, so there's less protection. Plus check it's not a fake villa – see Cheap Holiday Rentals for safety tips.
Alternatively, you can rent out whole villas or apartments or just a room in people's homes on Airbnb. The idea is hosts put you up in their spare room or rent out their whole home to earn cash on the side. You can stay everywhere from swanky LA lofts to houseboats in Paris, and it's a great way to meet locals.
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.
Too many plan a dream holiday, then only consider later how they'll actually pay for it. That's a sure-fire way to end up disappointed or broke.
Instead, ask "what can I afford to spend?" then work out how to have the best trip within that budget. A holiday lasts a week or so – don't ruin the rest of the year for it.
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).
Forget to do this and you risk shelling out on pricey last-minute trips, or ending up stranded at the hotel.
For ideas, TripAdvisor* has a handy 'things to do' section with reviews of holiday attractions, activities, nightlife and shopping. Travel guidebooks can also offer valuable local knowledge on the go. Instead of buying, try your local library.
Once you're back, there's a quick trick to grab massive savings on getting holiday snaps turned into glossy photos.
Many photo printing sites offer a set number of free prints to entice new customers. By playing the field, you can use different deals to get loads of holiday snaps printed free, though you'll need to pay delivery. Check out our Free Photo Print deals.
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.
Everyone going to the States by air or sea needs to fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) form.
Applications cost $14 each, yet beware Googling it. Do this and you may be directed to sites that pretend to be the official web page, and charge an additional fee to process your application. More details in Copycat Websites.
Always apply via the official ESTA web page. See the ESTA guide for full info, including renewal help and safety tips.
Giant US site Priceline* flogs posh hotel rooms at colossal discounts, and it's especially strong for US hotels.
On Martin's own US trip he got even better than 60% off. He got a nice hotel for 63% of the comparison sites' cheapest price, but even he was beaten by one MoneySaver who got the Times Square Sheraton for £55/night rather than the listed £200.
It's all about Priceline's "name your own price" function, where you pick a city area and star level, name your price and see if any hotels accept it. Of course the aim's to find the minimum acceptable price, so start low, then keep raising your bid till it's accepted – but you can ONLY bid once a day.
There are also techniques to get more bids per day, including bidding with a partner, or adding more areas of a city. See our Secret Hotels guide for full help.
Avios is the points scheme formed from Air Miles and BA Miles in 2011 – you can use it to grab flights, upgrades and more (you still need to pay taxes and charges).
Many mistake it for a frequent flyer scheme. It's actually a points scheme like Nectar and Clubcard, and there are loads of different ways to earn them – in Shell, Tesco and by spending on credit cards.
Unlike the old Air Miles system, Avios charges passengers taxes and fees on flights. But it has some benefits over its predecessor. Avios customers can book one-way and 'open-jaw' tickets – eg, London to Vegas, then LA to London – and can use points to upgrade cabin class.
We've a full list of tips in Ways to Boost and Max Avios.
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.
If you've a top overseas card, always opt for the local currency as your card does the exchange and it's unbeatable.
If you don't, it's touch and go, but it's still safer to go with euros, as the vendor can set its own rate if it wishes, which will usually be worse than the credit card rate. See Martin's blog: Using plastic overseas? Always pay in euros.
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If you're looking for a cheap weekend getaway, it's worth checking out Weekend.com (formerly Weekengo), a site which focuses on finding cheap breaks over... you guessed it, weekends.
There are tons of offers, but some of the decent deals we've spotted previously include two nights in Nice for £69 per person, two nights in New York for £374 per person and three nights in Stuttgart for £154 per person. They all included your flights and a three or four-star hotel.
Although Weekend.com says it updates prices several times a day, it's worth noting they can change quite quickly if the deals are snapped up. So you may occasionally find the price has risen when you click through.
Important. Weekend.com is fairly new and we don't have much feedback yet, so make sure you double-check all details and the terms and conditions if you do decide to book. If you've used it, let us know your experiences on the forum.
Weekend.com sells some package holidays itself, but also offers what it calls 'Click & Mix' hols where it matches flights and hotels (similar to other travel comparison sites), and directs you to airlines and booking sites to pay for each separately. It wouldn't tell us how many it searches, but it includes biggies such as Easyjet, Ryanair, Booking.com and Expedia.
When we looked at 20 deals, we found two were sold by Weekend.com. The rest were 'Click & Mix' deals.
Because the site's all about weekend breaks, your travel days need to include Saturday and Sunday. But you can extend your trip a few days either side (between Thu-Tue) if you want to take a long weekend.
You can select specific dates, but to find the very cheapest deals, choose 'next six months' or 'next six weeks' and sort the results by price.
You can also filter trips by flight times, so if you work a traditional 9 to 5 job, you could look for flights leaving on a Friday evening and returning on a Sunday.
Once you've selected a departure airport, the days you want to travel and how many are in your group (up to four travellers), you'll then be shown a selection of destinations and given more options to filter your results.
If you spot a deal you like, you can click 'view offers' and you'll be shown more details about the hotel and flights.
Of course, don't assume trips are cheapest on Weekend.com. Always do your own checks and use a comparison site to see if you can find it cheaper. See our Cheap Hotels and Cheap Flights guides for more tips.
Don't think hostels automatically mean dorm bunks. Many offer singles, twins and doubles, and they can offer massive savings over hotel prices.
While a few may be squalid, many are clean and friendly, even offering free internet access and breakfast. In the UK, Youth Hostel Association (YHA) and Hostelling Scotland properties include fabulous castles and mansions.
To check out prices and availability, use Hostelbookers.com* and Hostelworld*, both of which give hostels a percentage rating based on visitors' experiences. To read more reviews from past hostel guests and compare prices, try Hostelz.com.
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.
When we checked, a 75ml travel size Sanctuary body lotion was £2.50 in Boots (£3.33 per 100ml). Yet the full-size version worked out at £2.60 per 100ml, around 20% cheaper if you'd buy a full bottle anyway.
So instead of buying pricey travel size versions, grab some small clean empty bottles, and fill 'em up from your everyday toiletries (this is where complimentary mini-toiletry bottles from previous hotel stays come in handy).
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.
Here are our top tips:
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.
Many devices draw power when plugged in and not in use, so turn switches off at the wall if you can. It's also worth noting in winter you'll still need water to go through pipes at a minimal temperature, or you risk burst pipes. See the Energy Mythbusting guide for more tips.
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.
If you need to pay for travel meds, NHS prescription prices are fixed, but pharmacies can set their own for private prescriptions. These are given when you want a drug not covered by the NHS in your region, such as Malarone, which prevents malaria.
See our Medicine Savings guide for more ways to save.
Whether it's Disney, Universal Studios, a balloon trip or an aqua park, 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.
If you're planning a big trip, don't just let a mass of disorganised booking confirmation emails pile up.
Download the handy smartphone app TripIt – available free for iPhone and Android. Simply forward all your confirmation emails to it and it'll automatically sort them into a smart itinerary. You can also try Remember The Milk – free on iPhone, Android and Blackberry – which helps organise to-do lists.
An easy trick to keep on top of travel booking details is to set up a separate folder in your email inbox with a memorable title, eg, "Thailand 2021". Move booking confirmation emails in as soon as they arrive. Give it a quick check before you leave to make sure you've got all the key info.
Some bookings will need printouts on arrival, such as airport transfer vouchers. Forget these and you risk having to pay to use printing facilities at the airport, or face problems on arrival. So print them in good time and store them safely with your passport.
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 £5 in Tesco Clubcard vouchers for £15 in Eurotunnel* vouchers.
Before you book car hire for your hols, don't forget to consider the alternatives. Unnecessary car hire can be an expensive, unused hindrance.
Car swaps, public transport and even taking your own car may work out cheaper for some destinations. Go through this checklist first:
Holidaymakers rely on travel insurance for complete peace of mind but if you fail to comply with the T&Cs you could be in for a nasty shock. Did you know something as simple as having a few drinks or leaving your luggage in the hotel storage room could invalidate a claim? And there are plenty of other common holiday habits that could do the same.
See MSE Tony's blog: 8 things many of us do on holiday that could invalidate our insurance.
The 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 Travel Tips discussion.
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