Seven most common mistakes made when booking holidays

how to avoid holiday booking pitfalls

Thousands of us are making simple mistakes when booking our holidays - and it's costing us a fortune, according to insurance experts.

Forgetting essential details such as travel insurance, visas and falling foul of online scams are all too common these days - despite the fact that it doesn't take much to protect ourselves, says Lauren Haas, a solicitor in the travel claims team at BL Claims Solicitors.

Lauren says: "The vast majority of holidaymakers experience no problems – but for the unlucky few, a dream holiday can turn into a nightmare, especially if you're not covered properly. It's far better to think ahead now and spend a bit of time on the tedious details than to rush through the booking process and regret it later."

Here's her quick holiday checklist.

1. Are you covered?
It may seem like obvious preparation for your trip, but does your insurance covers you for all the activities you want to get involved with while you're away? Some adventure sports and experiences like diving or quad-biking often require extra insurance. Also, don't forget that popular holiday destinations like Turkey and Egypt aren't in the EU, so if you're planning on sunning yourself on their beaches you'll need to get hold of extended cover.

2. Plan ahead
It's often easier to plan ahead and book your excursions with a UK tour operator before you jet off. If you book with a local company on arrival and pay them in cash, you may not be covered by the same protections as you would with a UK company.

3. Take your credit cards
If you're going to be spending over £100 on anything while you're away, you may be better off paying by credit card as it will offer extra protection and rights compared to a debit card or cash.

4. Is your passport valid?
It's another obvious question, but it could end up ruining your holiday. Not having the right documents could mean you are refused entry to the country. Visas are often needed to travel to countries outside of the EU, so make sure you've got everything you need before you leave. Don't rely on your tour operator for this because if you try and travel on out of date documents you will find it very difficult to claim any compensation.

5. Make copies of everything
While you are away make sure you have copies of all your documentation and keep them separate from the originals. If disaster strikes and you lose your passport it'll be much easier to resolve if you have a copy as proof.

6. Beware of scams
Booking holiday accommodation over the internet is really handy, but it can also be risky. Remember that some sites are just acting as agents for the owners and are not liable for anything that goes wrong. There have been horror stories where unfortunate holidaymakers have booked to stay in a holiday home that doesn't really exist. Keep an eye out for companies like Western Union, who are often used in scams. It could be well worth your time to take out insurance protecting yourself against fraud.

7. Cover yourself
If you are booking a package holiday then you are likely to be covered by extra regulations and protection if anything goes wrong. While booking your flights and hotel separately may be cheaper at the time it could end up costing you a lot in the long run if one of the companies goes out of business, in which case you are unlikely to be as well covered by your insurance.

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Seven most common mistakes made when booking holidays

Instead of playing it safe and going to a familiar chain restaurant, why not sample a few small, locally run establishments which use local produce, and where your money will directly benefit local people. Headphones off, smile and make eye contact and you could have some interesting conversations to boot...

Street markets can offer you an insight into the real heart and soul of a place.  However, it is important to exert caution and use some common sense when it comes to shopping at food markets. Stalls which are busy and popular with locals are unlikely to be serving inedible food, so pick a bustling spot and get stuck in. 

Stop “ticking off” travel to-dos, slow down and enjoy where you are. Spending more time getting under the skin of your destination will leave you feeling much more fulfilled, and much more relaxed.

Discovering and learning about a country, its landscape, people and culture never ends. There’s always more to explore and understand.

A hesitant “hello” or a faltering phrase or two. You may not be a confident linguist but making the effort to learn a few words of the local language opens doors and helps break down cultural barriers. With this in mind you might also want to avoid...

You wouldn’t expect to speak someone else’s language at home so don’t expect them to do the same. If you have a problem hindered by a language barrier just be patient and friendly. Most people will find a way to help you.

Take your headphones out, lie back, breathe in, and look, listen and smell your surroundings every so often – you never know you may find them more interesting than your book or beats.

Put the camera down once in a while and use your own eyes to take in that stunning sunset, breathtaking view or exciting event. Don't let your camera become a barrier between you and where you are.

Forsake the last-minute plastic fridge magnet and ‘Wish you were here’ t-shirt. Instead discover local artisans selling traditional crafts along the way.

Even in the most liberal of nations beachwear should stay on the beach, so cover up to stock up on an ice cream or more suncream. Be careful in more conservative countries; bikinis and shorts may be tolerated in tourist spots but in more local areas you will need to respect local dress codes.

Unless you are scaling Kilimanjaro, normal clothes appropriate to the temperature and culture of your destination will be fine. Not only will you not stand out like a tourist sore thumb, you also won’t be drowning your personality in a sea of khaki.

Seeing a town wake up and come to life is a great way to start the day. Watch fishermen land their catch and markets stall set-up, or grab some freshly baked breakfast. While other tourists wrestle each other for a sun lounger spot you’ll be banking some magical holiday memories.

It wouldn't be acceptable in the UK so why overseas? Read's guidelines on how to put child protection back at the heart of child-based volunteer projects. And if you are moved to help, instead search out local NGOs working to keep families together.

Take a step into the unknown and forgo spending all your time swimming, lounging and being entertained all within the confines of the resort. You’re in a new, exciting country, go out and explore it! 

Differences make the world an exciting place. Adopt the mindset of being a learner and guest and roll with it. After all, you’re on holiday!


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