Picking a destination
Buy travel guides or borrow from your local library.
Some travel agents are willing to help you plan a holiday, though it’s good to have some idea of where you’d like to go beforehand.
Tourist board offices of countries are there to provide you with all the information you need, so check out whether there’s one on the country you’re planning to travel to.
Travel shows can be a great place to get information on countries, airlines, guidebook publishers, activity holiday companies and tour operators.
Online research can get you immediate results and it’s especially useful to read traveller’s blogs, which often tell you more than glossy brochures. Also great for watching traveller’s video clips and photos.
Research your choice
Look up the place on the map and find out what is the capital city and its immediate neighbouring countries.
What are the main seasons of the country and the average temperatures for each.
It’s useful to brush up on some background history and its current political situation.
Look out for important events happening around the time of travel. Major sporting events, festivals or national holidays may have some additional impact on your holiday.
Find out any cultural or legal taboos such as wearing camouflage trousers in Bermuda (an arrestable offence) or short skirts in Islamic countries.
Some of the most common phrases for greeting, buying and ordering food.
Planning your honeymoon well in advance will usually mean lower fares.
Check the rates for several dates on either side of your intended ones as it may reduce the cost of the ticket. Travelling on or close to a weekend usually comes at a premium.
Check for alternative airports close to your destination, it might work out cheaper for the air ticket, while not making much difference to the local travel.
For online bookings, make sure that your name is entered in exactly the same format as it is on the passport. Read the small print about cancellation and change of booking charges. Double check what extras, such as tax, surcharges and travel insurance have been added on to the final price.
Using e-tickets is a good alternative to paper ones since you can print off another copy if you happen to lose it.
Taking travel insurance is advisable, but do check the small print to see exactly what’s covered and what’s not.
Consider travelling somewhere closer to home.
Choose direct flights rather than those that touch down en route.
Pick an airline that uses newer, more efficient planes.
Use trains instead of flights and hire bikes instead of a car.
Eat local dishes instead of imported food that has flown half way across the world.
Switch off air conditioning and lights when you’re not in your hotel room.
Choose the option of not having your hotel towels washed every day.
Find out whether your visit will disturb the natural habitat of animals – some tour operators ensure that visitors are kept at a reasonable distance.
Do not leave litter near animals or feed them.
Try to ensure that as far as possible the money from your visit goes to the local community, rather than just the hotel or tour operator.
If you want the money to go to the maid who cleans your room, leave it under the pillow.
Vaccinations may be essential if you’re thinking of travelling to exotic destinations. Find out whether the country has had any epidemic in recent times and whether you can get vaccinated against it.
Prevention is always better than cure and it’s best to follow sensible advice on eating raw foods and drinking water (as the saying goes, ‘wash it, peel it, boil it or forget it’).
No matter how careful you are, stomach upsets can be an inevitable downside of travelling. Most cases of diarrhoea will resolve itself in 48 hours. Remember to take in plenty of fluids and then gradually introduce bland (boiled) meals and dry biscuits.
Sunburn can seriously spoil a good holiday and here too, prevention is best. Use good quality sunscreen, limit your daily sun exposure time and cover your head with a hat.
Colds are possible to catch even in warm countries as there may be sudden changes of temperature as you nip in and out of air conditioned rooms and the fact that you are exposed to more people. Build up your resistance before travelling with plenty of exercise and a nutritious diet.
Protection against insect bites is advisable, as many diseases are carried in this way. Mosquitoes are most active from dusk until dawn, so you should wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers during these times especially. Use an insect repellent for the exposed skin areas.
Security and safety
Money belt should be made out of cotton, as it will be worn next to the skin and cotton fibres will allow your skin to breathe.
Don’t stop and consult maps in public, instead try to walk purposefully. It’s best to walk into an establishment or a shop and ask them rather than looking like an obvious tourist.
Be wary of carrying and using cameras, mobile phones or ipods in public places. Carry these items discreetly in plain carrier bags.
When travelling on foot, wear shoes that you can run in.
Learn some useful phrases for emergencies.
Plan your journey so that you arrive at an unfamiliar town during daylight hours.
Leave any flashy jewellery at home and the extra cash in the hotel safe.
If you are mugged, hand over your wallet rather than putting up a fight. You could consider carrying a ‘dummy wallet’ with just a few notes and loose change for this eventuality. The chances are that the mugger will run away on getting the wallet.
Railway stations and bus stations are especially vulnerable for attacks by thieves or pickpockets.
Know where your bag is at all times and get into the habit of zipping up and placing the strap around your ankle when eating at a restaurant.
Ask the locals at your hotel about any scams going around at the moment.