Our biggest dating tip
Hang on a moment. Before turning that overseas daydream into flight and hotel bookings, there’s one date you really must check. Dig out the passport and examine its expiry date. This might sound like a no-brainer but many a high-flying globetrotter has had holiday plans dashed because of insufficient passport validity. Many countries require visitors to carry a passport with at least six months’ validity beyond their planned stay. Remember, too, to double-check if a visa is required for the destination.
Cover your behind
Australians can forget that there are some countries (hello, United States of America) where medical bills can easily reach six figures. Don’t come home with your own sob story. Find the travel insurance policy that’s right for you and covers all planned activities (whether that’s skiing, surfing or riding a moped). Be honest, too, about pre-existing conditions. As boring as it might be to read the policy’s fine print, understanding what your insurer will and won’t cover will help stop a holiday turning into an expensive nightmare.
Ease up on the plans
Part of the joy of planning any holiday is picking out the right hotel, restaurants, sights and activities. But don’t plan absolutely everything. The best thing about travel is often those spontaneous moments – the things you couldn’t possibly know about before leaving home. So leave space in the schedule for something surprising to happen: follow a whim, a local’s tip, a road to somewhere or nowhere at all. It could turn out to be the highlight of your trip.
Forgot to pack your favourite shoes, sunglasses or swimmers? That’s easy to deal with (just buy a fabulous replacement at the other end). Things become more time-consuming, however, if you forget the phone’s charger or the camera’s battery. Don’t waste precious holiday time scouring stores for these harder-to-find items. Before heading out the door, do a last-minute check that all power cords, chargers, adaptors and batteries are safely tucked into your carry-on luggage.
Phoning it in
Unless you’re heading somewhere with no mobile phone reception (like Lord Howe Island), most of the time the phone comes on holiday too. But how do you keep those charges down? Investigate your provider’s roaming plans There are also traveller-specific SIM cards, such as TravelSIM, that can be bought before departure (great if you’re visiting multiple countries). Heading to just one destination? Buying a local SIM card upon arrival may be the best solution.
Don’t rely too much on receiving an airline amenity kit (they’re not what they used to be and, if it’s a daytime flight, there might not be one at all). For a long-haul flight, BYO comforts. Bring a padded or inflatable neck ring to help grab a bit of shut-eye, along with earplugs, an eyeshade and a set of super-comfortable clothes that double as pyjamas.
Let me entertain you
Are we there yet? If you’re taking a long flight with kids, bring along favourite toys, books and digital distractions. Organising a road trip? Bust out old-fashioned driving games such as I Spy or make up a new game. Grown-ups also need entertaining. Bring glossy magazines or a trashy airport novel, or download favourite shows to your device in case the in-flight entertainment falls into the seen-it-all-before category.
Take a digital detox
It’s tempting to share your holiday moments with the world when you’re somewhere new and fabulous. Before posting photos on Facebook, Instagram and other social-media platforms though, remember you’re also telling the wider world that you’re not home. Instead of making your house or apartment vulnerable to thieves, take a holiday from social media (post a few #latergrams once you’re back home).
No matter how much research you do before leaving home, there’s nothing like getting great tips from locals and wandering off the well-beaten tourist path. Strike up a conversation with those around you. Ask questions – and lots of them. The local sitting next to you on the plane might tell you about an incredible off-the-radar restaurant. Perhaps the taxi driver knows a great underground salsa club. The concierge can clue you in on how to gain VIP entry to that hot new bar.
Get with the times
There’s no easy cure for jetlag. If arriving at your destination early in the AM, it can take an enormous amount of willpower to stay awake until nightfall. If you do need a little shut-eye to get through the day, limit it to an hour (set an alarm or ask the hotel for a wake-up call). To stay awake, set out on a pleasurable mission. Head to an amazing place for lunch or the nearest beach (for a swim, not a nap) or try a spot of retail therapy.