In all the excitement of going on holiday you might forget your toothbrush or a change of underwear, but before you’ve even packed ensure you do these five things:
Get your foreign currency before you leave, not at the airport.
This may be obvious to some, but if people were not buying foreign currency at the last minute there would not be any Bureaux de Change at the airport! With either high commission rates or poor exchange rates, there is certainly no deal to be had on the way to the gate. You are much better off shopping around online or checking out currency exchange on the high street.
Alternatively, I use a Cash Passport card when I visit certain countries. It is essentially a preloaded credit card that you can store many different currencies on at once. So, when I pop over to France for the weekend, rather than taking a load of notes with me I can take my Cash Passport card. I do not get charged for any transactions with the card, including cash machine withdrawals. How very useful.
Remember what security class as a liquid.
If you are going away for a long weekend chances are you are travelling light which means hand luggage only and honestly; check in baggage is for amateurs. Unfortunately though, the drawbacks are complying to some rather annoying rules. Any liquids taken on board the plane must be 100ml or under, in a sealed (not knotted or tied) 20cm by 20cm clear plastic bag/container and you must take it out of your bag at security. Liquids include (not an exhaustive list):
Liquid cosmetics like mascara and lip gloss
Moisturisers/hand creams and
Contact lens solution.
However, things like face wipes and baby wipes can go into your bag without having to be taken out at security, giving you more room to cram in all your other cosmetics. Interestingly enough, we have also found that daily contact lenses themselves can be carried in your hand luggage without being in the plastic bag.
Like most things there are exceptions to the rules. Liquid medicines and inhalers are exempt from the 100ml rule but you will need a copy of your prescription when you travel.
Plan your itinerary.
Arguably the most important thing to do. Since you are only going away for a short period of time you need to make the most of it. So, when possible, take the time beforehand to look up what there is to do in your chosen destination. There is no need to rigidly stick to the itinerary else it can take the spontaneity and fun out of a weekend break. Simply write a couple of things down for the days you are away to avoid missing out on something brilliant. The last thing you want to do is get back from your holiday and realise that you missed the biggest attraction.
Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Similar in nature to “planning your itinerary”, booking certain events in advance is really important to do. When we went to Iceland, one of the top things on our list was to visit Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon is very popular and can get extremely busy. I booked tickets four months in advance so we were guaranteed a whole day of relaxing (turned out to be perfect). Unfortunately, friends of ours left booking Blue Lagoon until a week before they flew and missed out because it was fully booked.
Consider booking things like guided tours in advance so that you are guaranteed a place on the tour and that it will go ahead. Waiting until that day can leave you disappointed as some tours book up fast. Other tours can rely on people booking in advance so they have an idea of numbers so may not let you join if you turn up on the day.
It is worth noting that visits to political buildings such as the Reichstag in Berlin and the Hungarian Parliament for example are necessary to book in advance. These places have to vet you beforehand and they only let in small groups at a time. This means booking in advance is essential. Your really popular attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye sell out fast, you simply cannot rock up on the day and expect to enjoy them.
Check the weather.
Packing light means getting the weather right. There is no point turning up to Portugal with a raincoat; or is it? Well turns out we got soaked in Portugal and we were not prepared for it. British people are obsessed with the weather and for good reason, in our country it changes so often that you must be prepared. So, a couple of days before you head off on your adventure, check the weather reports and pack appropriately. I thought I was prepared for the harsh cold of February in Kraków, but I had nowhere near enough layers. Luckily I learnt from this experience for a November trip to Iceland and wore a shed load of clothes!