20 tips for a carefree summer holiday

It will be less than two months before schools break up and the summer holidays begin. Time to start thinking ahead. Being prepared will save you time, money and stress. Here’s our checklist to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.


This is the first thing you should check, especially if you are traveling to the EU this summer. Since the withdrawal agreement, some travelers have been startled by new rules. These stem from the confusion surrounding the expiry date of British passports, some of which have been extended to last a few months longer than the usual ten years.

However, countries in the Schengen area impose a strict ten-year limit on all passports. They use the date on which the passport was first issued as a starting point and also require that the passport is valid for at least three months after you plan to leave the area. Basically, to be on the safe side, you should ignore the expiry date and check that your passport was issued less than nine years and nine months before you plan to return to Britain. Other countries, such as Egypt and Thailand, require that the passport be valid for at least six months before departure. You can view the individual countries on the government website. The Passport Office says it ‘usually’ takes three weeks to issue a new passport, but it would be wise to wait longer.


If you travel long distances, chances are you will need vaccinations. The NHS recommends consulting your GP or a private travel clinic at least six to eight weeks before you travel, as some take time to become fully effective. It has a useful reference site here.

House and pet sitter

Those who prefer to have someone present in the home while they are away – perhaps because there is a pet to care for – should be sure to book a house sitter well in advance. Agencies that offer these services include Homesitters and Universal Aunts.

Travel insurance

If you don’t have holiday cover yet, apply for it now. Travel insurance is normally valid from the moment you purchase it, so if something goes wrong with your plans, you are already covered. Our guide to finding the right policy is here.

Holiday protection

If you have booked a package holiday that falls under the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) rules, your money is protected if the operator or airline goes bankrupt. If you’re traveling independently, it’s worth investing in travel insurance that offers extra financial protection (see our guide above).

Car rental

During the summer period, the earlier you book your rental car, the cheaper it will probably be. If you haven’t arranged yours yet, you certainly won’t want to leave it for long. Real estate agents, who negotiate with local and international suppliers, are usually the best places to start when comparing prices. Zest and Auto Europe are two of the best. But always make sure you compare one against the other and have factored in all the extras, especially the deductible waiver costs (see below). Our full guide is here.

Car rental insurance

Standard insurance sold with cars does not cover the deductibles charged on claims, which are often set at £1,000 or more. To avoid this risk, take out additional coverage before picking up the car. Most rental companies will try to sell you a policy that will refund or reduce your deductible to zero. But independent insurers are usually cheaper. Which? recommends Chew and ReduceMyExcess.

Your own car

If you are driving to a foreign destination, check that your normal car insurance policy covers you abroad and print a copy of the certificate in case you are stopped. You will also need the new UK sticker (instead of the old GB sticker) and you may want to take out additional breakdown insurance (for example AA). The RAC has a handy checklist for what to take with you.

If you are driving to a foreign destination, make sure your car insurance covers you abroad

If you’re driving to a foreign destination, make sure your car insurance covers abroad – Getty

Parking at the airport

It is always much cheaper to book in advance than to show up at the last minute. At some airports, such as Manchester, this is the only option in most official car parks (the only parking available here for guests who turn up is the short stay, which costs £464 for eight days, compared to £92 in advance) . At peak times, the further in advance you book, the better.

Airport hotels

If you have a flight that requires check-in before 8am, you may be looking for an airport hotel. For the options, look at brokers such as Vakantie Extras and Park BCP. If you also need a parking space, it is worth looking for offers that combine the two.


The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaces the old EHIC schemes and gives British citizens access to free or low-cost medical treatment in EU countries. It is not a substitute for full travel insurance, which generally also covers the possible costs of private medical treatment, emergency repatriation, canceling your holiday, public liability, lost luggage and so on, but it is a hugely reassuring fallback in the event of an emergency. It can also save you money if you need to file a medical claim. The card can be ordered for free. Please take into account a delivery time of at least 15 days.

Spend money

In most destinations, the cheapest way to get cash is to use an ATM on arrival – as long as you have a debit or credit card that offers a good deal. Using that card to pay for things directly will normally also be the most efficient way to pay for things. However, make sure you understand the terms and conditions offered by your card issuer well before you travel so that you can switch cards if necessary. I use a Monzo card), but our detailed guide is here.

Roaming rates

Be careful. The automatic ban on roaming charges for using our UK phones in the EU has ended. So you may now be charged for the data you use and the calls you make, although some contracts and providers still offer free roaming. Check the details of your destination well before departure and make sure your children are informed. Depending on your circumstances, it may be worth investing in an e-SIM.

Restaurants, events and babysitters

You are traveling during the busiest time of the year. If you want to try a special restaurant, get tickets to a show or visit a popular exhibition, plan and book well in advance – just like if you want to arrange a babysitter for the kids.

Airport trains

It is often cheaper to reserve this in advance. Stansted Express singles cost from £9.90 between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport, compared to the normal price of £23. You can book up to six months in advance.

It is generally cheaper to book airport trains in advanceIt is generally cheaper to book airport trains in advance

It is generally cheaper to book airport trains in advance – Alamy

Fast security

At peak times – say early morning on a Saturday in summer – the security checkpoint lines can be depressingly long. If you’re willing to pay to skip them, most airports now offer a fast track pass (usually around £7 per person), which you need to book in advance via the airport site.

Check in

Some airlines allow you to check in weeks in advance, others only 24 hours in advance. Anyway, don’t leave it too late. It’s better to act when you still have time, rather than when you’re in a hurry to leave.

Luggage restrictions

Most of us are aware of the high fees charged if your luggage exceeds the maximum size or weight specified by the airline. For example, Ryanair charges £24-£60 if your hand luggage exceeds these limits and needs to be checked into the hold at the last minute. It’s almost always cheaper to add extra baggage/weight before you check in, so check the rules for your flight (these vary widely) and if you think you’re close to the limit it might be worth getting a ​​A trial package can be done per week or two in advance.

House security

If you don’t want to hire a house sitter, there are other safety measures you can take if you leave a house empty. Asking a neighbor or friend to keep an eye on things is your best bet. It is also wise to leave a car in the driveway and use preset timers for the lights and radio. Some people even hide the address on their luggage tags at the airport, in case potential burglars hang around scanning addresses, while others avoid taking a taxi to the airport from their home address.

Copy documents

Making paper copies of all your documents will save you a huge amount of time if they get lost or something goes wrong. I also have a photo of all the cards in my wallet on my phone. If it gets lost or stolen, it’s a handy reminder of what you need to cancel and renew.

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