10 things you should do right now to prepare for your next holiday
Most of the disruptions of the summer - strikes, passport delays - have been solved, so it's easier than ever to get away
1. Check your passport (and your kids' passports)
Especially if you're going away for the first time since 2019, check your passport hasn't expired right now.
Did you know kids' passports last five years not ten? That means if your family hasn't travelled since before the travel lockdowns of 2020, your child's passport has almost certainly expired – so check now if you're planning a trip this summer.
The panic over passport renewals is over for now and new or renewal passports being turned around in under a fortnight, so if you need to renew yours there should still be time before summer.
The passport rules for trips to Europe have also changed since Brexit, so you should make sure your passport doesn't need to be renewed. Since 1st January 2021, you must have at least six months* left on your passport to travel hassle-free to Europe.
Just like booking time off, if you leave renewing your passport until the week everyone heads to the beach, you might find there's a bit of a queue. So check now, and if your passport does need to be renewed you can beat the rush and do it while everything's quiet.
Check the UK government's passport website for details.*There's a slightly more complicated version too. If you renewed a UK passport with time still left on it, the UK passport office may have rolled that time over into your new passport – so if you had six months left on your passport when you renewed it, your new one would have had 10 years and six months. But the EU doesn't recognise those additional six months. So your passport must have six months left, not counting any additional months you rolled over last time you renewed.
2. Picking a destination – check what your pounds will buy you
The pound had a poor year in 2022, so in some destinations your holiday money might not stretch as far as it once did.
The pound is especially weak against the dollar, so trips to the USA might prove more expensive than you remember. We also had a fairly bad year against the Euro.
Happily, there are still plenty of great holiday destinations where your pound will go as far, if not further, than ever before. Our top pick is Türkiye, which was already inexpensive and where the currency performed worse than ours through 2022. But there are plenty of other places you can go and save money – see our guide below.
Where did everybody go?
Swap to a cheaper destination for 2023 – try Gambia, Egypt or Türkiye
3. If you're visiting Europe, check how you're affected by Brexit changes
Even after Brexit, most trips to Europe are still easy and hassle-free. Spain, Italy, Greece and all our other favourite summer holiday spots want tourists, so they're not going to put barriers up just for the fun of it.
That said, some things have changed since January 2021, so it's worth being aware of the main changes and checking whether you need to do anything differently this time.
- You can only stay in the Schengen Zone (that's most of Europe) for 90 days in any 180-day period.
- Croatia joined the Schengen Zone in January.
- If you normally take a pet with you, pet passports have changed and you should check out the details.
- If you drive to (or in) Europe, it's pretty much the same as before except you may need new paperwork in some of the Schengen countries that aren't in the EU.
- There are new rules on what you can take across the border (including some fairly strict rules on meat and dairy products that mean some people have even seen their cheese and ham sandwiches confiscated on arrival). It's worth checking what is and isn't allowed before you set off.
- Mobile roaming rules have changed, so you could be out of pocket if you use your phone in Europe like you used to. Check your provider's charges for where you're going and sort out a tailored plan or a local SIM ahead of time if they look costly.
- The new EES biometric security system has been delayed until at least the end of the year, so you'll go through security as normal.
- The new ETIAS visa-waiver scheme has also been kicked down the road until 2024 at the earliest.
Guides to every major holiday destination
We've visited all of the top holiday destinations, from Tenerife to Thailand. Check out our guides for everything you need to know to enjoy a hassle-free trip.
4. Know your rights if there are problems or cancellations
If something does go amiss, make sure you know your rights. Airlines (operating from the EU or UK) are obliged to compensate you for last-minute changes and cancellations. They're normally obliged to get you to your destination by any reasonable means – including on another airline at their, not your, expense. And if you're stuck overnight at the airport, they should put you up and feed you.
They may try to fob you off (or the staff on the ground genuinely won't know the law), so check your rights before you get there and if the worst happens you won't be so easy to push around.
5. Work out how you're getting to the airport
There's no point starting your holiday stuck in a three-mile tailback at 4am.
If you've got an early flight, have a look at hotels near the airport. You can drive up the night before when the roads are empty, then start your trip by waking up refreshed and enjoying a spot of breakfast next to the terminal.
If you're driving, it pays to book your airport parking in advance. Prices get higher as the date approaches, and the price you pay on the gate is often up to 70% more expensive than if you book in advance.
6. Check your EHIC or GHIC cards
Now that we've left the EU, the EHIC card has rolled over into the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card), a similar deal between the UK and the EU.
If your EHIC card is still in date, it'll still work in Europe. If it runs out, you can get the new GHIC – but like everything else, come holiday season everyone will do it at once and you'll have to queue. So check now, and if you need to renew your card do it in advance.
Check the UK government's GHIC page for details, and watch out for scam adverts – the GHIC doesn't cost a penny, so any website charging you for one shoud be avoided.
7. Sort out your travel insurance
EHIC or no EHIC, there's no substitute for a good travel insurance policy. As soon as you book a trip, we recommend getting your insurance sorted so you're covered in case you need to cancel. Whether you're white-water rafting or lazing on the beach, it's better to be safe than sorry.
If you haven't flown since 2019, your travel insurance has probably run out.
Also, most standard travel insurance policies aren't valid if you're flying against FCDO (UK government) advice, so even if you've got an annual policy you should check it covers you right now.
It's possible to get specialist travel insurance that covers trips even to countries where the FCDO advises against holidays.
8. Make a travel checklist
When it comes to preparing for a holiday, some things never change. You need to get your travel money, make sure you have the right adaptor, set an alarm, and ensure you've downloaded enough TV series to see you through any flight.
Luckily, we have a more detailed holiday checklist. If you like to keep it all in one place, we're happy to help.
9. Before you go... book your next trip
No one likes coming back from holiday, so before you go pick a place and time for your next one and it'll make the post-holiday blues a whole lot easier to handle.
And if you want to maximise your annual leave for the year, we've got a sneaky way of doing that too.
10. Tell your family and friends
It's no good getting your passport, euros, travel insurance and suitcase prepared three months in advance if you're going to get held up at customs by one grandkid who didn't get the memo about not bringing cheese and ham sandwiches.
So if you've found our guide useful, pass it on to everyone you're travelling with!