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Prepare for take off

12 things you should do right now to prepare for your next holiday

Whether you're going away for half-term or already planning your 2023 trips, here's everything you need to get ready.

1. Check your passport

If you're going away for the first time since 2019, check your passport hasn't expired right now.

There are long delays renewing passports and many of them expired while travel was in lockdown over the last two years, so if you're going away check now.

The passport rules for trips to Europe have 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. Check the rules in your destination

You know where you're going on holiday by now (unless you're booking super-last-minute) so check the current rules and requirements for the country you're visiting.

Almost every major holiday destination is now open in a simple and straightforward way, but there's a handful of exceptions and things you should know. The main ones are:

  • USA and Canada are still closed to unvaccinated UK visitors.
  • Spain (including the Canaries and Balearic Islands) requires a Covid test for unvaccinated UK visitors up until November.
  • A handful of countries require a mask in some circumstances - for example Germany requires masks on public transport and the indoor spaces of boats, Cyprus requires masks in most public spaces and enforces the requirement with substantial fines

For more information check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's page for the country you are visiting.

Guides to every major holiday destination

We've visited all of the top holiday destinations, from Tenerife to Thailand. Watch our original video guides for everything you need to know to enjoy a hassle-free trip.

3. Beat the queues at the airport

Even with the press playing up stories of 'travel chaos', most flights out of the UK go without a hitch. At the height of the so-called travel chaos 94% of flights left UK airports as expected, compared to 97% in a normal month, and when we asked UK holidaymakers about their delays only 4% had missed a flight due to queues. So don't let worrying about hold-ups spoil your holiday! You'll almost certainly get away as planned.

Even so, it doesn't hurt to plan ahead and get through the airport without a hitch. So read our guide to beating the airport queues and make sure you have a hassle-free start to your holiday.

Beating the airport queues

Fly through the airport with our hassle-free guide.

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 cancellation, they're normally obliged to get you to your destination by any reasonable means possible (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. Make sure you've used your travel vouchers

When travel came to an unexpected halt in 2020, some people took vouchers for their cancelled trips. Before you head off, have a rummage through your emails from March and April 2020 and see if there's a voucher you can use. It feels like getting a free trip!

6. 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.

  • 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 just use your phone in Europe like you used to. Check your provider's charges where you're going and sort out a tailored plan or a local SIM ahead of time if the costs look prohibitive.

7. 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.

8. Check your EHIC or GHIC cards

Now that we've left the EU, the EHIC 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 anything, so any website charging you for one shoud be avoided).

9. 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.

Most standard travel insurance policies also 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.

10. Make a travel checklist

When it comes to preparing for a holiday, some things never change. You also 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.

11. 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 next year, we've got a sneaky way of doing that too.

12. 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!