After weeks or months of building excitement, anticipation and frantically checking the weather forecast, you finally find yourself at the airport, on the verge of jetting away to your sun-drenched holiday paradise. You can practically taste the sangria as you join the queue at the check-in desk, all the while convincing yourself that you didn't forget something. You definitely locked the front door, right?
As much as it hurts to think about it, holidays abroad are made up of so many different factors that there's always a chance of something going wrong, often no matter how well you think you've prepared. Here's a selection of unwelcome travel surprises that - by comparison - could make your sunburn feel like a soothing massage...
This has the definition of 'falling at the first hurdle.' Sometimes, no matter how many times you weigh those cases to make sure you're within the limits, the airport scales seem to be that little bit more sensitive.
What doesn't help is the fact that different airlines impose different weight limits on hand and hold luggage. We're not even going to give you a 'typical' or 'most common' weight limit here, you really do need to check the website of your flight operator to be absolutely sure. Also, where some allow you to use a total of all your cases and divide this by travellers to reach an average, not all do. The trick is to never assume you know the weight limit and if you feel you may need more, consider purchasing a weight add-on when you book or amend your holiday.
Further to this, airlines may also impose restrictions on the dimensions of your cases. Even a stray handle or wheel can cause problems, and this is especially important when it comes to hand luggage. If you're buying new cases, check the dimensions in the store or on the website and compare those to the specifications from your airline. Otherwise, time to get the tape measure out!
There can't be many worse feelings at the check-in desk than the realisation that you've left the passports behind. From that point on it's a race against time as you frantically call your relative or neighbour that you left the spare key with in the hope that they're able to check your kitchen worktops or better yet, to take a day off work and speed up the motorway to hand-deliver them to you. Considering all that money spent, all the effort made and all the checks and double-checks, forgetting your passport must feel like a real punch in the gut.
But what happens if your passports go missing at the other end? The UK government suggests that in such cases, usually, you can apply for an emergency travel document that will get you home (via a maximum of five countries) for a fee. However, this can take a couple of days to produce and may involve a visit to the nearest UK embassy, so act fast if you find yourself in this predicament.
Some insurance policies come with the benefit of lost passport cover so depending on the terms of your policy, you may be able to get the cost of replacement reimbursed when you get home (but make sure you check for any excess). If you lose your passport on holiday, keep your insurance company informed of the situation and make sure you understand what is or isn't covered before you proceed, as they may require proof of purchase or for the incident to be reported within a certain timeframe.
"If you're buying new cases, check the dimensions in the store or on the website and compare those to the specifications from your airline."
"If you've missed your flight, sit down, take a breath, maybe have a cup of tea, then start looking for an alternative flight."
As for expired passports... Checking your passports before you book your holiday is absolutely essential. If nothing else, this means you can factor in the cost of getting a new one when budgeting for your trip. But we're all capable of making mistakes, like mis-reading the expiry date or getting confused with what year it is. Keep your passports in a safe place in the run-up to your break and after you've checked and confirmed they won't expire, ask someone else to check them too, just in case.
If you've seen Home Alone enough times, you'll know the McAllister family have a habit of sleeping-in on the day of travel. So, don't just set one alarm, set multiple alarms and leave them all around the room to be absolutely certain you'll be getting out of bed without hitting that snooze button.
On a more serious note, if you're unlucky enough to suffer from a medical condition relating to sleep, it's crucial that you declare this to your travel insurance provider and check that the cover extends to the day of outbound travel. If you miss the alarm due to your condition, there may be options available as long as your insurer is aware of it.
Whether or not you've slept in, don't forget to do a double head count of the kids when you set off, especially if you've got 8 or more kids travelling (just ask Kevin).
Yes, this actually happens.
Maybe this year, having flown for years from Manchester, you found a better deal flying from Glasgow and between booking and flying, convinced yourself your flight departed from the former. It's possible you're accustomed to departure from Gatwick but this time, unusually, you're going from London City airport. Whatever the scenario that led you to the wrong place, you'll get the same 'gut-punch' feeling, only this time with additional embarrassment.
But it's not the end of the world. Not even when the airport you're supposed to be at is a four hour drive away. If this does happen to you, try and think of it more as a 'missed flight.' What would you do in cases where you can't make the trip? Take a breath, have a sit down, maybe a cup of tea, then start looking for an alternative flight. If there's one going from the airport you've arrived at, good times! If not, booking on the next flight you can realistically make at your originally-booked airport is a possibility.
If you end up at the wrong airport and miss your flight due to incompetence of a taxi or airport transfer driver on the other hand, you should probably get their details as a priority and get in touch with your insurer to see what options might be available for redress.
If you use a reputable booking agent or airline, there's a chance they'll let you know any visa requirements at the point of booking. But sometimes this information can be missed, or missing, leading to trouble when it comes to your trip.
A visa is not a substitute for a passport, nor is a passport acceptable as a visa. It may come as a surprise that popular holiday destinations for UK travellers - a great example being Turkey - have visa requirements in place that must be adhered to, even for short family breaks.
If you weren't aware of this, some countries allow you to apply for your visa on arrival, which is risky for all kinds of reasons. Your best bet is to apply a few months in advance, in case you run into any problems.
In terms of Turkey, you can apply for an e-Visa in advance of your trip via the official Republic of Turkey e-Visa website for a fee of $20 (correct as of April 2019). You'll also need to make sure you have at least 6 months left on your passports, so your passport double-check may need to be a triple-check.
Now sometimes this can work in your favour in the form of a luxury suite upgrade, all-inclusive add-on or a move to the resort's much nicer sister hotel. But there's also a very god chance that the sister hotel is nothing like the one you booked, to the point where it completely ruins your holiday.
As an example, maybe you and your partner booked a relaxing couples' retreat in the sun at a hotel where the pool wouldn't be full of children, the restaurant is renowned for its fine dining experience and a massage awaits in a luxury spa. Your room is double booked, and there won't be another one available until next week! In contrast, the sister hotel you're subsequently moved to is a huge family complex with basic facilities, miles from the resort centre. A scathing review on TripAdvisor and letter of complaint are likely to follow.
But all is not necessarily lost. If you booked a package holiday with a UK tour operator, they're typically obliged to consider any claim where your holiday experience is far from what was advertised and booked. As long as you have allowed your hotel the opportunity to offer an equivalent accommodation and/or holiday experience, you're likely to be in a strong position.
However, if you have booked your hotel directly with a company not based in the UK, your claim may be more difficult to pursue. Just remember that the possibility of negative reviews or complaints can be enough to convince your hotel to keep you happy.
Furthermore, if you made your booking using a credit card, your card issuer may be jointly liable with the tour operator for breach of contract, strengthening your case.
But of course, with any luck, your hotel might just have one of those luxury suites spare.
Typically, your package holiday operator will sort out your transfers in the event that your flight is delayed, but what happens if you've booked private transfers? Missed transfers are probably more of a nightmare in terms of the potential taxi costs than anything else, but let's say your accommodation is a solid 2-hour drive away, the last thing you want is to fork out half of your spending money on a long taxi ride before you've even opened your apartment door.
If you are booking private transfers yourself, the first thing to remember is the time difference between home and your destination. This can be a costly error if you forget, as private transfer firms are unlikely to want to sit around for two hours and wait for you to land!
It's probably fairly safe to say that missing a transfer on your return journey would also be classed as a nightmare. If you struggled to get up in time to catch your outbound flight, you're every bit as likely to run into similar issues on the way back, especially if you went all-in on the all-inclusive on your last night and your flight is an early one. Coach drivers are often told to only wait for a short time (if at all) beyond the advertised pick-up from any given hotel, so get yourself down to the lobby and checked out early!
"Remember the time difference between home and your destination. Private transfer firms are unlikely to want to sit around for two hours and wait for you to land."
"If your bags truly are lost, your airline may offer compensation. But be prepared to offer some form of evidence regarding what was in your luggage."
Loss of luggage can happen any time during your journey, as you're effectively trusting the care of your belongings to a number of people along the way. Some airlines even offer a service nowadays that transfers your luggage straight from your front door or your accommodation to the airport, leaving them out of sight and out of mind, which in theory is wonderfully convenient.
But of course, with your bags travelling via so many conveyor belts, airport staff and transport vehicles, there's always a chance it'll end up on an airport concourse or worse, at a completely different destination. It's incredibly important that you report lost luggage with your travel operator before you consider leaving baggage claim, to ensure the airline has every opportunity to locate your luggage and accept responsibility.
Hopefully the airline will locate your belongings and reunite them with you either at your destination or back home after your trip. If your bags truly are lost, your airline may offer compensation. But be prepared to offer some form of evidence regarding what was in your luggage.
If you don't get anywhere with the airline, hopefully you've got a good enough travel insurance policy that covers your baggage. Most policies have baggage loss cover as standard, but this isn't guaranteed, and those that do have varying cover and excess levels. Some will also have tighter single item limits than others. One tip is to make sure expensive items such as smartphones, tablets, jewellery and cash are kept on your person or in your hand luggage, both to minimise risk of loss and to remove a potential roadblock when it comes to claim.
We've mentioned a few times already how travel insurance can be of use in a number of the scenarios above. One potential holiday nightmare we've yet to touch on is the potential for something to go wrong, to the point where you or someone in your party requires medical treatment. We're not just talking about a broken leg from a skiing incident; even something as minor as an ear infection from too much time in the pool could lead to your airline turning you away from your flight, massive bills from a private health facility and a ruined holiday.
The thing is, we don't know what could happen while we're away. It's perfectly normal to get excited about your holiday and anticipate the memories you will create, to the point where the potential mishaps are forgotten about. But with so many different variables, and so many opportunities for something to be anything other than perfect, travel insurance can provide you with the peace of mind you need to put all of that to the back of your thoughts, and really enjoy your time away.
We also don't know what could happen before we go away. Travel insurance can offer cancellation cover for the full amount of your holiday price, and yet Compare Cover data gathered from two years' worth of quotes suggests that UK holidaymakers leave it very late to get cover for their trip, sacrificing cancellation cover in the process. In fact, 60% of British travellers compare travel insurance quotes within a week of their trip and more alarmingly, 30% of travel insurance quotes are sought within 24 hours of flight.
There are things in life that we can't realistically control, try as we might, and the idea of travel insurance is to provide us with a wonderful backup plan in the event that our perfect trip away goes wrong.
Now, if only travel insurance could sort out our passport renewals...
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