cartoon5We all look forward to our holidays abroad. But they can turn into holiday nightmares if there’s an emergency. If you get into a routine of being prepared and taking a few precautions you should be able to enjoy yourself and cope with any crisis.

1. Keep a permanent list in your suitcase of what to pack. It makes things so much easier. Of course, the clothes vary from hot countries to cold ones, but written down it saves a lot of time.

2. Have a spare pair of glasses & sunglasses, pens, paper, sellotape, a small pair of scissors, plug adaptors, a small sewing kit (available from most Pound Shops, markets, etc.) and a basic medical kit in your suitcase.

rucksack3. Have two lists of contacts in case you, or someone, needs to get in touch with them in an emergency, one in the hotel room and one to take out with you.

4. Keep your vaccinations up to date. And, silly as it seems, check the date in your passport. Is your Next of Kin at the same address?

5. Call the bank and tell them that you’re going abroad. Credit/debit cards won’t work in some countries for security reasons. I’ve been caught out several times. And queuing in some foreign banks can take a long time. They’re not all in a hurry like us!

6. I strongly recommend an annual Travel Insurance. Most banks now offer it as an additional service with your Current Account. A lot of people don’t realise that it covers them for trips away in the UK too.

7. Read up about the country that you’re going to. Respect their customs and their way of life. DO DO DO try and learn at least a few basic words of the language! Buy a dictionary. It makes such a difference to the way you’re treated – and often to the prices you pay as well!

8. Please don’t overindulge and dress/behave badly. It’s their country. You’re their guest. And there are always photos!

9. When you get to the hotel, take a couple of their business cards or compliment slips. Sellotape one to the back of your camera & mobile phone in case you lose them, and tuck them in your camera case, handbag, wallet, etc. If you lose anything, it can be returned to the hotel. I’ve heard many tales of people getting lost and unable to remember the name of the hotel they’re staying in!

10. Never tell anyone that you’re going on holiday. You don’t know who’s listening. Just inform a reliable neighbour or family member. Ask them to pop in when they have the time, to pick up the mail and to turn the lights on for a while. I know of two cases. When we were living in Spain, a lady came to visit her family. She told the taxi driver that she was looking forward to seeing them. When she got to the airport, she discovered that she’d left her passport on the kitchen table. She took another taxi back, and there was the first taxi driver carrying out her TV! My cousin  and her husband decided to take a last-minute holiday. They didn’t care where it was. She managed to book a good deal, leaving that night. And that night they were burgled. Guess who did it? The paperboy and his friend. He’d overheard her cancelling the papers!

11. Always pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, and spare underwear in your hand luggage. Baggage goes astray a lot more often than people realise! And delays/diversions happen too.

12. Nowadays a shoe horn in the hand-baggage is a good idea in case you have to take your shoes off at Security. It saves you having to hop around on one foot, trying to squeeze into your trainers.

13. Do try to limit what you pack for short breaks and take it on the plane with you as hand luggage. Apart from knowing that it’s safe, it saves you a lot of time waiting at carousels for your luggage to be unloaded from the plane. And some no-frills airlines charge extra now for any checked-in luggage. And of course, some luggage doesn’t turn up!

14. Check the baggage allowance and weigh your cases at home. Most airline check-ins WILL charge you for being overweight. I’ve seen some amazing packing. Ladies, you don’t need a hairdryer, straighteners, bags of makeup, cans and sprays, 10 pairs of shoes, etc. And you don’t need towels. Hotels with pools supply them. They’re cheap to buy too. Then give them away.

15. Carry some bubblewrap. Great for safely wrapping bottles of local wine, plus perfume, etc. in your case. Then wrap it in your clothes.

16. Print some name and address labels on the computer. They’re so useful to give to anyone that you want to keep in contact with, instead of scrabbling around for pens and bits of paper. They’re also useful when you’re trying to spell your name and address to the locals when filling in forms.

17. Take an empty plastic bottle in your hand baggage. You can fill it after you go through Departures instead of buying expensive water bottles. You can also pack a picnic. Greatly appreciated if the flight’s delayed!

18. Check out the VIP Lounges in the airport. It often saves you money to use them! You can relax away from the crowds in comfortable seats, newspapers are provided, and food and drink is free, so it works out cheaper to have a nice cooked breakfast, orange juice, coffee, etc there than buying it all separately in the main airport. You can book online or call them before you arrive.

19. If you’re going on a budget holiday, remember that airports and airlines bump up the costs, to make a profit. As I’ve said, take your own bottle of water with you. But if you’re thirsty or you feel unwell, you ARE entitled to have a drink of water on the plane without paying for it.

20. Avoid going on holiday with friends unless you clearly lay down the rules. A holiday together has broken up many a good friendship. It’s best to go on your own and meet new friends. Been there, done that!

21. If you’re a frequent traveller, or a backpacker, or if you’re travelling to a ‘dodgy’ country, it’s a very good idea to have a spare passport in case your passport is stolen or lost. It’s perfectly legal. I needed to send my passport away for a visa to one country while I was flying off to somewhere else! You can leave it in the safe, or tuck it in the lining of your case. Call the Home Office on 0300 222 0000 between 9am & 5.30 for advice.

22. Sorry to upset any Reps’ commission, but don’t immediately book loads of trips as soon as you arrive. In one country, we walked out of the hotel and saved around £100 on hiring a car from a local firm next door. Unless the trips are a long distance away, or in a country where an escorted trip is a safer way to travel, just use local transport or hire a car for a few days. It’s much more fun too. You should be able to study any offered trips online and decide where you want to go before you get there.

23. The hotel safe is the obvious place to keep your valuables, but it’s not always the ‘safest’ place. Try to think outside the box. Tucked under the carpet or the mattress (after the bed’s been made), in with your dirty washing, in your shoes, or if you have a kitchen, right on top of the cupboards, in the soap powder, under the TV, etc. But don’t forget them when you leave!

24. If you’re staying in a villa or apartment, watch out for strange people hovering around outside soon after you arrive, or following the coach. Don’t go straight out. This is the time when the burglars strike. They’re often on scooters so they can escape quickly.

25. If you’re self-catering, pack a few basics like tea bags, some coffee wrapped in tinfoil, sugar, and a mixture of salt and pepper.

26. Hotels that have turned all-inclusive have damaged the local economies and bankrupted a lot of businesses. Don’t stay in the hotel all the time. Go out and explore. And use some of the local bars and restaurants at least once. You’ll find that they’ll be very grateful. And if you go there again, you’ll be given a friendly welcome.

27. Most hotels supply bottles of water. But do keep your bottle topped up in the fridge overnight and take it out with you every time you go out. Never, never leave it in your car. Warm water in plastic bottles can cause nasty stomach upsets!

28. Don’t assume that everyone is honest. Markets are great fun. But while you’re engrossed in your shopping, the pickpockets are at work. Don’t wear a backpack. Apart from hitting everyone every time you turn round, they’re easy to steal from. A bum bag is good, but I often carry my purse grasped in a plastic bag instead of in my handbag.

29. If you have to ask the price because it’s not marked, don’t believe the first price that they tell you. I don’t believe the second price either! Walk away.

30. Before you travel, check out the TV presenter Kate Humble’s website, or HASTE, Help African Schools to Educate. Or you can ask the Tourist Board what might be needed in their country. For instance, they’re not very poor in Cuba, but they lack material goods that we take for granted. I take soap, pens, books, dictionaries, CDs, sweets, paracetamol, and clothes that I leave there at the end of my holiday. One lad carried my suitcase up three flights of stairs in a Cuban hotel. I asked him if he’d like a tip or a CD. Ooh, a CD, he said. So Michael Jackson went to a good home! And a taxi driver was delighted with his ‘tip’ of an English/Spanish dictionary for his daughter. In Zambia, they have to pay for their education, even if the children are barefoot and the homes have no electricity. They want pens, pencils, notebooks, crayons, etc. There are animal charities in most countries that might need dog leads, medication or something similar. So do check if there is somewhere on the list near where you’re staying on holiday and email them to ask what they’d like you to bring.  You’ll probably discover things about the country that you’d never learn about in the holiday environment. And you might want to stay in contact with them after you return home!