Travel planning needn’t be stressful. The earlier you start planning, the easier it’ll be to relax during your time away. Here’s a list of 30 stress-free travel tips to assist with organising bookings, packing mindfully, travelling safe and maximising every moment of your holiday.
Planning the trip
1. Plan for fun. Make sure you are well researched for your holiday and schedule activities to do as a family before you leave. There is nothing more stressful than planning on the go. Also, involve your children – give each one a choice of one activity. Not only will it stop you from doing all the decision making but it will also make them feel involved and gives them ‘their activity’ to look forward to.
2. Book direct with hotels. This way, you can confirm the cancellation policy to avoid the stress of dealing with third parties if your plans change.
3. Going overseas? Buy travel insurance early. If there’s a natural disaster like a volcano eruption, you’ll be covered if your insurance was purchased before it all happened. Comprehensive travel insurance policies will also usually provide better cover than the insurance that car rental agents will try to upsell as well.
4. Driving? Book your car in for its six-month check. There’s nothing worse than setting off on a roadtrip to find your tyres are worn, your gearbox is wearing and your spare tyre has gone flat. Get your car checked prior to your trip so you know everything is safe and ready to go.
5. Scan your passport and travel documents. Make copies of everything. Keep these filed in your Hotmail/Gmail/Cloud (one you can access anywhere), in case you lose them or they’re stolen.
6. Ask for a price-match. If you’re travelling to a volatile location or taking a longer trip, contact a travel agent to price-match any online fare for flights tickets. Plus, if you experience any issues before you leave or along the way, they will take care of it all for you (rebooking cancellations, etc).
7. Check with your bank that your EFTPOS card will allow for international withdrawals. Spending money is easy with the deadly mix of food temptations, taxis, incredible shopping and a lot of time. Avoid disappointment, make sure that you can access extra cash on the go if you need it.
8. Confirm everything by email a few days before you arrive. Mixing up dates is easy to do when you’ve booked back-to-back tours and hotels. Speaking of hotels…
9. Check you have the correct check in dates. Booking your hotel through an online reservation system is simple. So is selecting the wrong dates. Always triple check all the information is correct before confirming. If you make a mistake and have booked direct, you can call or email the hotel to change it.
10. Leave emergency phone numbers with a friend or family. If something changes, this minimises stress if babysitters or schools need to contact you. This is also the same if something happens back at home.
11. Check for free wi-fi. Regardless of who’s travelling where, wi-fi is a must. Make sure your hotel offers free in-room wi-fi to save on roaming charges.
12. Check for any travel discounts. For example, many can be offered for 2 people travelling together instead of 1 (especially for countries with rail passes where there are discounts for 2+ pax travelling together). Hotels and resorts also have friends and family packages and will usually give you a discount if you’re staying for 3 or more nights. Here’s 7 handy ways to find hotel deals.
13. Get a travel gift card that works with your plans. An accommodation gift card that never expires, like the Best Western Travel Card, can be used like cash in any hotel, apartment or resort worldwide. It’s flexible with last minute travel plans and makes a great Christmas stocking filler. You can order one here.
14. Don’t fall for tourist scams. Check wikitravel for common tourist scams in high-density tourist areas (Rome, Paris, Siem Reap, etc.). Small retail outlets can charge high prices for something you’ll find much cheaper in another town or shopping centre. Learning which countries you can haggle in is also helpful.
15. Pack smart. Separate your clothes into categories and pack in clear, ziplock bags. This is a great tip when travelling overseas and speeds up the random bag search process. Plus, you can find things easily and suck the air out of bags to neatly fit everything in your suitcase. Kmart sells good storage bags.
16. Take chargers with you. We recommend you take an extension lead and power board for device recharging (fixes problem of inadequate hotel power points). If you forget, hotels usually keep a box of chargers on hand.
17. Pack your old driving licence. This is a handy tip; some theme parks and tours require you to leave your ID with them when you hire earphone guides.
18. BYO food and drink. Where possible, take your own drinks and snacks to avoid excess minibar costs.
19. Travel light. Pack lightweight metal clothes hangers so you do not have to fight with hotel theft-proof ones. Pack less, not more.
20. Carry your prescription. If you have special medication, carry the prescription with you in your hand luggage as some destinations have strict regulations on certain medications.
21. Women, take wipes. Always have make-up remover wipes… they are so handy for everything and they’re lighter than carrying liquid.
22. Kids love packing. Give one small job to each child. For example, Child 1 needs to make sure the cricket set is packed. Child 2 is in charge of bringing the board games. Each one will want to take their favourite backpack to store your iPad or their favourite things from home.
23. Make roadtrips fun. Driving for hours on end be very stressful with a car of restless kids in the back. De-stress the situation by printing or drawing a journey map. Kids can make a point on the map for each time they ask you, ‘Are we there yet?’. Take tablet devices with movies, snacks and plenty of water. Here’s 10 more tips for family holidays.
24. Check for free parking. If you’re planning a roadtrip, check your hotel has parking onsite and and pre-booking is not required. Many hotels offer free parking and options for motorcycles too.
25. Listen for road closures. Special events – such as an Ironman or charity run – can mean main roads are closed and off limits. Listen to the local radio station to make sure you won’t have any unnecessary delays on your journey.
26. Hiring a car? Make sure there’s room. Your hire car needs to have enough space for your luggage – a 4 pax small car will probably not hold luggage for 4 pax on a long holiday. Go a step up and consider a comfortable sedan or mini van.
27. Leave early. Always leave early to contend with traffic. The same goes for planes and trains – don’t cut it fine or you’ll be stressed and running late.
28. Get a good seat on the plane. Flying with any child under 5 can be tricky. Some of the larger Airbus aircraft have a pull-down pen on the exit rows to place newborns and toddlers inside. For any other plane, try to select a seat close to the toilets up the back of the plane. (Preferably an aisle seat so you have easy access to the change table.) Here’s 20 more tips for flying with kids.
29. Travel with noise cancelling headphones. This is most handy for planes and sleeping in hotels without noise-cancelling windows and doors. You can avoid hearing babies crying on planes and 3am revellers coming up the hotel hallway.
30. Label your luggage. Write a contact number at least on all your bags. If something gets lost, the quicker the airport staff can retrieve your details and contact you, the sooner you’ll be reunited with your belongings!
We’d love to hear your travel tips. What are the most useful things to remember or do before going on holidays? Tell us in the comments.