Being a savvy traveller is easier than you think, just remember to use some of my favourite travel hacks!
Research the weather
Before you book any holiday it is important to gauge what the weather will be like. In the age of constant climate change, the wunderground website is an excellent resource for checking historical weather. It will show you the temperature and rainfall for the same period you are looking to travel in, over the past number of years. No more guesses, these are real temperatures which should give you the best indication of what the weather will be like, at your chosen destination.
Check in online, prebook seats & meals.
Checking in online will not only save long airport queues but it may ensure you get the best seats available. For airlines like Ryanair, you HAVE to print your boarding passes beforehand, for most other airlines this isn’t necessary. Although I would recommend doing it anyway, to save time when you get to the airport.
Pre book seats where possible, www.seatguru.com is the ‘Tripadvisor’ for seats! Use this website to find out where the best seats are on an aircraft, read honest reviews from travellers who have flown on the same aircraft. If you normally pay for priority boarding with Ryanair, book an exit seat and they will give you priority boarding free! If travelling long haul, pre book specific meals so you will be served first, particularly if it’s a night flight and you want to sleep. I find the vegetarian options are usually the best!
Prebook attraction tickets.
Read travel blogs on the area you are going to, or use TripAdvisor to find out the top things to do in a particular destination. Check the local tourist boards for free activities and for discovery passes. Usually you will find a bulk attraction / city pass is cheaper than paying for each attraction separately. Websites such as Attraction Tickets Direct offer huge discounts for booking in advance and offer real tickets, so you can avoid queuing for tickets at your destination.
Take out car hire excess insurance
Car hire excess is a personal bug bear of mine. When you arrive at an airport, particularly with kids in tow, the car hire companies always insist you take their car hire excess policy, and they usually charge exorbitant rates. You can avoid paying these by taking out a car hire excess insurance policy before you travel. With prices from €2.99 per day instead of €15 per day (approx cost), this is a must have if you are hiring a car abroad. Visit carhireexcess.com for more details.
Travelling with kids
I have many travel tips for travelling with kids but one of my favourites is to invest in light weight hand luggage. Loose the trunkis as soon as your children are able to wheel heavier cases. Kids like wheeling their own cases anyway and if you invest in the best lightweight case available you can save a fortune on checked baggage charges. I tell my kids they can bring whatever fits in their case, this usually works out well when packing! Buy a portable luggage scales and bring it with you to avoid stress of thinking you may be over weight. You can buy them here for less than €10.
If travelling on a city break, choose an early flight home. Once you have checked out of the hotel, the kids will just want to go home and you will spend a fortune trying to amuse them on the last day. The €30 saving you thought you had by coming back on the later flight, believe me you will spend it twice over. For city breaks where there is a lot of walking involved, buy a €20 fold up scooter from Smyths and depending on your weight allowance, leave it behind you if necessary.
Avoid bringing the kitchen sink! Most hotels have baby equipment so you wont have to bring your own. These are not always advertised in brochures, incase 20 families ask for buggies, sterilisers or bottle warmers at the same time. Call or email the hotel before hand and ask them what equipment they have and pre-book if possible.
I wish my kids didn’t need electronic devices to on holidays, but they can be a Godsend! Invest in a Mediashare, it’s a small portable device that creates it’s own wifi network so kids can watch movies and listen to music on their tablets or phones anywhere, even on a plane. It is also really compact so much easier to carry than a portable DVD player and lots of DVDs.
Use travel apps
If travelling outside the Eurozone, know the exchange rates. This is a common mistake. You arrive tired and although you may have known the currency conversion before you left home, the likelihood is you have forgotten once you arrive. Don’t end up paying huge money for taxis or tipping hotel staff the wrong amount because you don’t know the proper exchange rate. Download the XE currency app – it also works offline (you dont need to be connected to wifi or use roaming).
Tripadvisor app is invaluable when checking restaurant or attraction reviews. It will also send you push notifications about highly rated restaurants or attractions close by. Many people don’t realise it but Google Maps can also be used offline. Download your route plans before you leave home and use them offline on holidays. Google translate is another excellent tool, you can use your phone’s camera to photograph menus, sign posts etc, and it will translate them to English for you.
Photocopy or scan important documents.
It is not something we like to think about but is it possible that you could be a victim of a crime on holidays, or simply loose your passport or other documents. Passport, insurance details, credit cards, flight tickets – all of which are much easier to replace if you have copies of the originals safely stored. Alternatively, store the scanned documents in the ‘Cloud’, using Google Drive (15GB of free space and part of your Gmail account), Dropbox which gives you 2GB of free storage space or an app like Evernote. These digital copies are stored safely online and available by logging into from any computer in the world.
Have you any favourite travel hacks? Comment below, I would love to hear them!