It was recently brought to my attention that a member of our family had made a costly error when booking a family holiday. Today I want to share my hints and tips about how to avoid holiday booking errors; putting in the work at the outset will minimise any potential disappointments.
The internet is a great point of reference so that so that you can look at reviews and independent information/travel sites – These are sites I recommend that you check when making your holiday booking:
- The Destination – Investigate the political climate; you do not want to travel to a destination that is on the brink of civil unrest and potential uprising. See what advice the government has to offer about travelling to that region by checking – Foreign Office Travel Advice (in the UK) this website will also let you know about local laws and customs; visa entry requirements; details about natural disasters; money/currency advice along with details about recommended vaccinations and/or other preventative health measures.
- The Weather – Check historic weather information; if you are seeking sunshine you might want to avoid visiting a destination in the rainy or typhoon season. Checking weather information will give you an indication of when it is the best time to travel. I like to use the Holiday Weather website and you can always visit the Tourist Information Board / Embassy website for the country of your choice.
- The Resort – You want to make sure that you choose a location that is going to suit your needs, check: hotel transfer times from the airport, hotel facilities (adult only, family friendly, free WiFi, room safe etc), proximity to the local town, shops, local transportation links along with the distance / travel time to tourist actions. You might find a great hotel deal but if it is situated in a remote location with limited or costly transport links your bargain booking could end up being costly and inconvenient. I like to use websites like Trip Advisor and Holiday Extra but there are others you can also use.
- Passport – Before you move to the booking phase I would highly recommend that you check the validity of your passport. Your passport needs to be valid for the whole duration of your trip but some countries also want the passport to be valid for a number of months beyond your trip. If your passport is going to expire you should have it renewed prior to booking. You will need valid passport information to confirm flights and some hotel bookings so you do not want to overlook this step.
Research is key to successful planning and as I proceed with a booking I will recheck some of the above information to make sure that I have the most up to date available to me at the point of booking; I want to make a well-informed decision.
So you have conducted the destination, location and hotel research and you are now ready to make your holiday booking. Here are a few key things to consider depending on whether you are booking a package deal or planning on booking the individual elements as an independent traveller. Things I think you should consider:
- Package Holidays – There are a variety of tour operators and travel agents that you can choose from that offer a degree of convenience but you may pay a little extra for the one stop solution. If you are booking a package holiday you want to ensure that you are using a reputable company. Again research is key – look at independent customers reviews, search the internet and social media sites to see if others have complained about the company. I recommend that you only use a company that is a member of ABTA – is the UK’s largest travel association, representing travel agents and tour operators – they offer support, protection, expertise and assurances that your trip should be as advertised. I would also suggest that you check to ensure that the chosen company holds a Air Travel Organiser’s Licence – ATOL – companies with a licence will protect your trip, and money if you get stranded abroad or if the company closes down.
- Independent Traveller Holidays – There are lots of websites that can be used to book your accommodation and flights – again conduct your research but my favourites are: Trip Advisor; Expedia and Skyscanner. It is also advisable to check flight costs directly with the various airline websites – shopping around will allow you to secure a good deal.
As an independent traveller I would recommend that you produce a holiday booking spreadsheet outlining each day of your trip. Having this sort of tracker will ensure that you book a hotel for each night of your trip and you can add details about hotel transfers and any internal flights etc. (The truth be told this could have been my downfall if Fizzstah had not checked my booking spreadsheet when we were travelling to Thailand and Malaysia in 2014. I had omitted a day and a night’s hotel accommodation. If the error had not been picked up we would have been stranded without a hotel for a night – so pull the information together and then check it twice!)
- Airport Transportation – Think about how you are going to get to your departing airport . Once at your destination how are you going to reach the overseas hotel. You might need book taxis or airport parking.
- Payment – In order to offer you the best possible protection I would recommend that you always make payment using a credit card even if this means you incur a booking fee. Your credit card provider will be jointly responsible for any booking or holiday issues if something goes wrong. So long as you have paid more than £100 and less than £30,000 for the holiday (hopefully this will cover the cost of your holiday…)
- Holiday Insurance – I recommend that you put this in place as soon as you have paid the deposit for your holiday. That way the policy is in place to protect you should any of plans have to change. Make sure you purchase adequate insurance, lots of travellers have found that were underinsured in terms of medical costs or high-value electronic items. I would use an insurance comparison site like Compare The Market to receive quotes and then you can choose the appropriate cover to suit your personal needs.
- Check Your Email Spam Settings – You want to make sure that you receive all of your holiday documentation and do not miss and travel agent, airline or hotel communication. I have known of cases where email reminders are sent to customers which have gone unnoticed and therefore not actioned because the email was in the spam folder. This has resulted in them missing out on their holiday and they have lost their deposit. You do not want to miss any important emails.
- Vaccinations – If you are travelling to a destination that requires you to have vaccinations I would at this point recommend that your contact your GP / nurse to make an appointment and find out if you have to pay for vaccinations. (I had to wait four months to see my nurse for a set of vaccinations and one of them need to be ordered from the pharmacist. I then had to make another appointment with the nurse to ensure that I received the vaccination at least six weeks prior to my date of travel.)
Do your research so that you do not get caught out! If you do have any other tips please share them below!