Before Trip Advisor going on holiday was a gamble and before the invention of the internet you were placing your trust entirely in the hands of travel agents. You would book a holiday based on a glossy brochure and the word of a person you have just met. When you arrive your hotel could be at the bottom of the runway or not even finished yet.
Thankfully that is no longer the case. I would thoroughly recommend before booking anything to check out your hotel on Trip Advisor. Apart from being able to get other peoples experiences of your destination, you can see travellers photos, which will show you what the hotel is really like rather than the glossy professional ones taken from only the best angles.
You can also get lost of useful information that is hard to find elsewhere such as hidden hotel costs, local attractions worth seeing as well as information on local restaurants and their cost.
One thing to note about reading public reviews is to not be immediately put off by the odd negative one, when the majority are positive. It is true that there are people in the world who will never be happy and take pride in being overly critical. I even saw one reviewer complaining that it was always the same people by the pool! Common sense should weed these out.
Not only can you use sites such as Trip Advisor to research your destination you can also get a birds eye view and sometimes even a virtual tour using Google Maps. This is very hand if you want to get an idea of where things are in relation to your hotel, is it far from the beach? close to local bars and shops? next to the airport? And although most far flung and more remote places will not have it but street view is great to get an idea of where your hotel is and check out what’s is on your door step.
Unless you are completely up to date with world news at all times you are not going to know where in the world it is safe to travel.
If you are going somewhere new that you are not familiar with check out the Foreign Office website for a list of no go areas and advice by country. The site is great for getting some local knowledge, standards and practices can differ wildly from country to country especially in terms of toilet arrangements! So it is also worth doing some local research first in case you are put off by that kind of thing.
Finally make sure you are not paying too much for your package, once you have an idea of where you want to go and stay it is worth shopping around for the best deals. If you are booking via a website then do a quick search for voucher codes, you may be able to save a bit of cash on a package that way. Also check if you can get cash back on your booking either via a website like Topcashback or by using a cash back credit card to pay for the package.
It is easy to overlook this if you are travelling outside of Europe but you should check well in advance if you need any.
The NHS website Fit for Travel is a good starting point. If you think you do need to get some vaccinations you should check with your GP prior to travelling. Leave enough time to ensure you can get an appointment and potentially recover from any side effects there may be.
If you can't get your GP to do this then you can use a private service but you will have to pay for the vaccinations.
The one thing you cannot control is the weather but it is still worth checking just before you go so you can be prepared. Check a few different weather services to get a better idea of what the weather will be like. On some websites like wunderground.com you can see the historical weather data, although this is not a sure indicator of what the weather will be like when you go, it will give you a rough idea. It is always good to look up some alternatives to the beach should the weather be less than perfect.
It might seem obvious but you may require a visa if you are travelling outside of Europe. This will also likely incur some cost and depending on the destination you may have to apply well in advance to ensure you have it ready for your trip.
English will likely be spoken at most tourist hot spots, but this does not mean you should be just another ignorant tourist. It is always nice to at least try and learn some basic phrases and words in the local language. It may be handy and you will probably get a better reception and service most places if you at least try instead of barking English at everyone. Links to apps etc?
This may or may not apply depending on how you booked your holiday but if you used a budget airline remember to print boarding passes for outgoing and returning flights.
API or Advanced Passenger Information: in an effort to improve security many countries now require airlines to provide passenger details before they travel. For more details check the DirectGov website
The requirements differ from country to country so you may or may not have to complete this, but your airline should tell you in your booking details if you do.
If it is required this usually needs to be completed 24 hours before you fly or you will not be allowed on the plane! So very important to determine if it is required and where to fill this in.
The EHIC card will only cover essential medical care and will not always cover the full cost. It also does not provide any additional insurance against damage or loss of personal belongings or money so you should ideally arrange insurance before you travel.
Before buying it is worth checking if you already have cover through your bank account. Some of the premium accounts that charge a monthly fee provide holiday insurance cover and in some cases for you and your partner.
If you do not already have cover shop around for good deals. Some tour operators will offer insurance with the package and it may be less hassle to do this.
It is also sometimes the case that you will not be allowed to fly if you do not have insurance. If you think you will be travelling more than once a year then it will definitely be worth while getting a year long policy use comparison websites to find the best cover.
Ensure you have received all tickets that are required. This will largely depend on how you booked your holiday but sometimes tickets will be posted out to you.
If you need to check-in on line then you will need to print your outgoing and returning boarding passes, it is often a good idea to print off two copies and keep them separate just in case. If you are responsible for printing your own boarding passes do you have a working printer with ink? Unfortunately something else to buy or find.