10 Tips for travelling with peace of mind
The ultimate guide for travellers. Plan the perfect holiday and have a great time.
For many of us, going on holiday is the most anticipated time of the year. It’s one of the few occasions we can create our own bubble away from everyday life. To mix elements of all the things we like to do most in a brand location or somewhere we’ve grown to love.
Travel is so rewarding and can be even more so as a mature traveller. You will probably have more time and money to dedicate to a trip away, no young children or school holidays to consider and a stronger sense of the type of holiday you desire.
According to members of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), “mature holidaymakers are travelling further and are seeking more active or adventurous holidays. ABTA research shows that in 2015, six percent of over 55s took a sporting holiday,” (abta.com).
With such a huge array of travel styles and holiday types available these days (including city breaks; sun/beach holidays; cruise; escorted tours; caravan & camping; coach trips; adventure/activity i.e. cycling; walking; skiing), we’re spoiled for choice. You may also have the added advantage of knowing exactly what kind of holiday experience you want, as well as how you want to book and plan it.
1. Take time to plan the perfect trip
Many of us spend hours poring over travel brochures and reviewing websites to find the perfect location, accommodation and activities to do while away; while others prefer to improvise once they arrive.
Whatever your preference, there are certain elements of your trip you really need to organise and/or be sure of in advance – even more so if you have an existing medical condition. From booking through recognised travel companies to pre-arranging overseas mobile call plans and taking out travel insurance, these tips can help your next holiday be the smoothest yet.
To make sure your holiday or time away is all you want it to be, follow our guide to travelling with peace of mind as a mature traveller.
2. Ensure your holiday is ATOL protected
If you are intending to travel overseas by air, make sure you book with a travel company that’s protected by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL), the official scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In the UK, every company that sells air holidays must, by law, hold a valid ATOL certificate.
The certification means that if the travel company were to fold or go under before you’re due to travel, any money that you’ve spent on your trip will be protected. If you are abroad when the company collapses, it will ensure that you’ll get on a flight home.
Not all holidays sold are ATOL protected
Although they should be, not all air holidays sold in the UK are ATOL protected. Ones that aren’t may be cheaper but any saving simply is not worth it when you consider the possible outcome if something were to happen to the travel company.
All companies that hold a valid ATOL certificate will carry the official ATOL logo on their website, brochure and any other marketing material. You can also check to see if a company is part of the ATOL protection scheme using the ATOL holder search on the CAA website.
There’s also more information on ATOL holiday protection here.
3. Book with an ABTA member
We’ve already mentioned the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), but they do more than just carry out research on the travel industry. As the UK’s largest travel association, ABTA’s main purpose is to provide advice and guidance to travellers and holidaymakers, and act as a regulatory body for the UK industry, giving reliable travel agents and tour operators an official seal of approval.
The ABTA Code of Conduct is a set of standards that all ABTA members must adhere to, and relates to areas including accurate marketing, fair trading terms, booking alterations and managing customer complaints. ABTA will look into any violation of the code by one of their members, and will seek to resolve any problems swiftly and fairly.
Like the ATOL certification, booking with an ABTA member will ensure that you don’t lose out financially if anything happens to the travel company. Check the ABTA website to find a member or check to see if your travel company has membership.
4. Take out specialist travel insurance that covers your health condition
Travel insurance is something everyone who spends anytime abroad should have, but it’s even more vital for anyone who has a pre-existing medical condition. ABTA reports that, “Every year members of the public travel uninsured, fall ill and end up presented with substantial medical costs, sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Apart from hospital costs, an air ambulance flight home can cost as much as £30,000 depending on the length of the flight,” (bestofhealth.co.uk).
If you have an existing health condition, you may have found it difficult, or even impossible, to find travel insurance that will cover you which is where providers of specialist travel insurance come in.
Existing health condition insurance
Free Spirit is one such provider of medical travel insurance. As the first scheme specifically created to cater to people with medical conditions who want to travel, they pride themselves on offering travel insurance to people who have health conditions or disabilities of any age.
With travel insurance cover in place that suits your exact needs and requirements, you can enjoy your trip away safe in the knowledge that should you fall ill or need emergency medical assistance, there will be specialist help just a call away. Free Spirit can provide a wide range of cover for medical conditions that cover everything from hospitalisation costs and aftercare to the loss of medical aids and medication. The range of health conditions we offer cover for includes all types of cancer, mental health conditions and heart conditions, as well as disabilities.
5. Travel documents
5.1 Make sure you have more than enough time on your passport
Most countries require a minimum period of six months remaining on your passport beyond the dates of your travel. If you have less than six months on your passport, or only one or two blank pages left, we strongly recommend you apply for and receive a new one before you travel.
The passport renewal process can take varying lengths of time depending on when you apply, but it’s best to give your new passport at least three weeks to reach you.
You can check the amount of time you need to have left on your passport for specific countries online. Simply enter the country from which you hold a passport, the country you wish to visit and the purpose of your trip.
5.2 Do you need a visa?
If you want to travel outside of Europe, or for an extended period of time, you may well need a visa to enter your chosen country. For example, at the time of writing this guide, British citizens travelling to Australia for a holiday must hold a tourist visa and cannot stay longer than three months.
You can check to see if you need a travel visa for your trip on the VisaCentral website, and apply for one online or by phone. VisaCentral offers specialist help with visa applications on 0844 381 4798.
5.3 Make copies of your travel documents
Even if you’re only going away for a week or two, it pays to make copies of your passport (the photo page) and travel itinerary, including any flight information, where you’ll be staying and contact numbers etc.
Keep one set for yourself in case these get lost, email scanned copies to yourself so you can always reprint them and give another set to a family member or close friend so that they know your plans in the event they need to contact you.
A good travel insurance policy should cover your passport and important travel documents against loss or theft, but if you need to claim for this, it’s a good idea to have your own immediate back-up copies to hand.
5.4 Do you need any vaccinations?
If you are going further afield on your travels, such as outside of Western Europe, North America or Australasia, you may need vaccinations before you can set off. The vaccinations you need will depend on where you’re going, and may even depend on where within that country you will be or what you plan to do whilst you are there. As an example, if you’re going to Thailand you may need to take malaria tablets, but only if you will be near the rural borders of the country, where it meets Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
Vaccinations vary in the length of time it takes them to become effective, and many vaccinations must be administered several weeks or even months before the trip. If you have an existing medical condition, we recommend an even earlier appointment to give yourself adequate time.
You can check the current vaccination and health advice for travellers going to specific countries on the Travel Health Pro website. If you need a vaccination, or if you want further advice, make an appointment to see your GP at least six to eight weeks before you are due to travel.
6. Think about arranging a mobile and data roaming plan
Using a mobile phone overseas can be incredibly expensive and with seemingly constant changes to the rules and charges applicable to different countries, it’s tricky to know just how much you may be liable to rack up.
Of course, you can always turn off data roaming on your mobile phone, and/or use free Wi-Fi wherever this is available. But as well as keeping in touch with friends and family back home, many of us rely on our mobile phones for local information and even directions when we’re away. If you think you’ll need to use your mobile phone in this way during your trip, it’s worth pre-arranging a mobile and data roaming plan in order to avoid a hefty bill once you return home.
If you will be travelling within the European Union, as things stand most data roaming charges have been banned for travellers from the UK, but once we leave the EU this may be subject to change. Further afield is where charges really ramp up, so consider contacting your mobile service provider to see what roaming plans they can offer.
Plan charges will vary depending on where you’re going and what network your mobile phone is with, but by setting up a temporary call and data allowance plan with your provider before you travel, it’s likely to be much less expensive than using your phone ad-hoc while you’re away.
7. Are you planning on driving abroad?
If so, make sure you are familiar with the driving laws in the country you will be visiting. Each country has different rules and regulations so be sure to take a look at this ahead of time. Also check if there is any particular documentation you will need.
If you’re thinking of hiring a car, it can also be much cheaper to pre-book one before you travel than to arrange a hire car once you arrive. Also, you may wish to consider taking out standalone car hire excess insurance which may work out a lot cheaper than arranging this at the car rental desk.
8. Get your packing right
Many of us may be guilty of packing too much for a holiday of only one or two weeks and as a mature traveller, the last thing you want is to have to carry a heavy case that could strain your back, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
The first thing you’ll need is strong and reliable luggage that’s easy to transport, manoeuvre and lift if need be. When thinking about your main bag or case, extending handles, wheels (four rather than two) and a distinctive colour can all make life much easier during your journey. If you will be taking a second bag for hand luggage, consider one that will stack securely on top of your main bag for convenient transportation.
When you come to pack for your trip, try to limit yourself to lighter items of clothing that are easy to layer. Even the warmest destinations can get cold at night, so make sure you have warmer clothing for the evenings. Rolling is much more efficient and space-saving method of packing than folding your clothes, but don’t be tempted to pack so much that you can’t move or lift your case!
If you will be flying, be sure to check any baggage weight limits your airline has in place to avoid extra charges at the airport. If you have a medical condition and will be packing medication to take away with you, split your supply between your main bag and your hand luggage (as long as your airline permits this), just in case you become separated from your main bag.
9. Take more than enough medication
On the subject of medication, if you need to take yours with you on your travels, we strongly recommend taking more medication than you will need for the period of time you’ll be away. You may not be able to get your particular medication in your destination if you need to, so consider asking your doctor for extra supplies.
9.1 Make your travel company aware of your medical condition
If you have an existing health condition, there may be treatment equipment e.g. oxygen, or medical aids e.g. walking frame, you will need to take away with you. If so, talk to your airline, accommodation or travel provider in plenty of time before your trip. Make sure they are aware of your needs and can accommodate you, and whatever you need while you are on holiday.
10. Think about investing in some clever travel gadgets
You may well want to feel that your holiday accommodation is as much a home away from home as possible, and if so, there may be a travel gadget that can help you achieve this.
For example, a portable humidifier can help to combat the very dry air conditioning of hotel rooms, which can be irritating for those with breathing and lung conditions. Specifically-designed travel humidifiers are small enough to be stowed easily in your luggage, and use tap water and a motorised top to make the air in a room more comfortable to breathe.
As we’ve already mentioned, many of us depend on our mobile phones while on holiday, for everything from finding your way around an unfamiliar city to taking photos. If this is you, consider investing in a portable charger to make sure your mobile phone doesn’t run out of battery while you’re out and about.
Finally, while they may not be a gadget, having at least two or three plug adaptors for the country you are visiting will help you charge and power your phone, camera and any other electrical equipment safely during your holiday. Visit the Electrical Safety First website to find out which plug adaptor you need for specific countries.
Wherever you decide to travel, we wish you a safe and enjoyable trip!