THE SANTA CLAUSES
Get the sleigh ready, it’s time to read the rule book on Christmas holiday travel
Sound the horns and release the reindeer. The holidays will be here in the twinkle of a Christmas tree light. Take the stress out of your travels if you’re going overseas this summer – and throughout 2019 – with these handy tips that will smooth the way from before you leave home until you’re at your destination.
1 Here’s GIVE AN ANTI-JET LAG GIFT
a present worth opening before you go. Prince Harry wore the anti-jet lag Oura ring (ouraring.com), from $500, on his recent visit to Australia. The hi-tech ring tracks sleep rhythms and sets goals for daily activities in order to get the perfect night’s rest. The Time-shifter app also regulates sleep, coffee intake and other health issues before, during and after a long trip. Anthony Goldman of Goldman Travel swears by it. “It is used by elite athletes, astronauts and CEOs,” he says.
2 If SEND PRESENTS AHEAD
you like the notion of whizzing through the airport with carry-on bags only, or you need a way to take extra luggage (or Christmas gifts) without paying exorbitant fees, bag-delivery services such as Sendmybag.com will door-to-door deliver your luggage all over the world.
“They come to your house and pick up the luggage and drop it off to the airport, allowing you to collect it when you arrive at your destination,” travel blogger Gareth O’Sullivan says.
Another good option is Stasher.com, which has storage facilities in cities the world over, leaving you free to travel unimpeded.
Heathrow Airport (heathrow.com) also has a bag delivery service which will send or collect luggage to and from the airport, so you can travel through London suitcase-free – handy if you’re taking the London Underground.
3 ADAPT YOURSELF
Instead of forgetting your travel adaptor and buying another plug at the airport, which is then destined to reside happily in a drawer with 14 others, invest in a universal adaptor with USB ports, such as the Tessan Universal Travel Adaptor, from $27.99, at amazon.com.au. Keep it in your suitcase so it comes with you, whether you remember or not.
4 TALK TURKEY
Gone are the days of frantically flicking through a Collins phrasebook trying to order a turkey and cranberry baguette, thanks to translation apps. The biggest one is Google Translate, a free app that can translate from text, voice and character recognition, where you hover your camera over a menu, for example. TripLingo also offers translating and receipt storage, useful for business travellers.
And if visiting China, Japan or Korea, Waygo is by far the best at translating characters just by holding your phone over signs or menus.
5 BUY A FIRST-CLASS PASS THROUGH SECURITY One of the most dispiriting sights on arrival at an airport is the queue snaking slowly through security. But while it used to be only first-class and airline staff who got to wheel bags through the fast lane with glee, now anyone can.
Fast Track passes are available at many UK airports, including Heathrow, for $22 a person.
For an even more personal service, Blacklane Pass (pass.blacklane.com), in 500 airports around the world, will get you a concierge who meets you at the gate, fast-tracks you through security and helps with your bags, for $US100 ($139) a person. Go on, treat yourself. it’s Christmas.
6 It SAVE CASH ON CREDIT CARD
is convenient to pay with a credit card when overseas, but make sure you’re not funding your bank’s Christmas party every time you do. Most cards sneak in foreign transaction fees, about 3 per cent of buys. Look for a credit card with no international fees – such as Coles Rewards Mastercard or ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures credit card.
Some debit cards also offer no international transaction fees, including HSBC Everyday Global Account and NAB Classic Banking with Platinum Visa debit card. This is also useful to know for online shopping, where you can still get stung even if you haven’t got on a plane. Visit moneysmart.gov.au.
7 USE A DUMMY WALLET TO FOIL PICKPOCKETS Everyone knows not to walk around with their wallet in their back pocket – except actually, it’s not a bad idea. Many seasoned travellers, including Chris Wain of Africa Travel, advise taking an empty dummy wallet as a decoy, particularly if travelling to areas where pickpocketing is known.
CREDIT CARDS ARE CONVENIENT, BUT MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT FUNDING YOUR BANK’S CHRISTMAS PARTY
“Conceal your real wallet somewhere nobody can get hold of it without you noticing,” he says. It can also be used to show you have no cash if hassled by hawkers.
8 PAY LESS BY NOT PAYING IN AUSSIE DOLLARS
When withdrawing money from an ATM or shopping overseas, it initially seems sensible to accept the increasingly offered option of paying for the item in Aussie dollars. But experts reveal you are actually being hit with a higher exchange rate at the point of purchase, so it’s better to pay in the local currency.
“You’re essentially asking a foreign ATM provider to make up an exchange rate for you,” says Anhar Khanbhai from TransferWise.
9 “If COVER YOURSELF
you can’t afford to buy travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” smartraveller.gov.au advises. Put another way – two nights in hospital in Thailand could cost you the same as your week’s holiday – and if you need to get medevaced out, it could take your life savings.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, hospital costs in Southeast Asia exceed $800 a day and medical evacuations have cost more than $60,000 – up to $300,000 from the US.
It’s also vital you get the right cover. Be super-vigilant about any preexisting conditions and activities you want to be covered for. “Make sure you fully understand what the cover is for your condition and restrictions applied,” says nurse Joyce Kambo from TravelCard Real-Time Travel Insurance. “If you are unsure of something, contact your provider.”
10 CASH BYO CAR SEAT AND SAVE AND STRESS
When travelling with kids, as happens at this time of year, it’s tempting to leave the car seat at home and hire one, but the effort saved lugging it through airports is nullified by the hour lost trying to fit it to an unknown seat, often at a hefty cost.
A GREAT DEAL ... (BUT) THE FLIGHT WAS CANCELLED AND OUR BOOKING SITE HADN’T TOLD US
If you frequently visit the US or UK, for example, it can be worth buying a locally approved seat and keeping it for future trips.
You can use car seats on planes too – although check your model is approved with the airline.
11 TAKE A HAPPY SNAP OF YOUR LUGGAGE Sounds daft, but take a photo of your luggage before you leave, as if you do lose a suitcase it will make it easier for the airline to trace.
Another tip frequent travellers share is to request a fragile sticker for your bag, even if it isn’t, as they say they come into baggage reclaim first.
12 One CLICK, COLLECT SHOPPING
of the best parts of visiting London is the shopping. Now Heathrow has a Reserve and Collect service where you can order online from designer stores’ entire ranges duty-free and collect the items in the departures lounge. It includes brands such as Louis Vuitton, Jo Malone, Gucci and Prada. Once again, it’s Christmas.
13 The GO OLD-SCHOOL, USE MAPS
problem with relying on sat navs or your phone when overseas is the former will send you on a blind backstreet journey and the latter either won’t get a signal, or will cost you hundreds of dollars in charges just to locate the nearest Zara. Instead, download maps, print them out, or invest in an actual road map.
Photographer Oli Sansom recommends downloading Google Maps to use offline. Visit London has an array of free maps to download at visitlondon.com and Map of Paris offline app works without Wi-Fi.
14 RECONFIRM YOURSELF
Booking flights through thirdparty sites might get you a good deal, but not if you miss the plane because the time changed and nobody told you. Make sure you double-check flights on the airline’s own site.
“We got a great deal,” says food writer Frances Rivetti, “The only problem was when we got to the airport the flight had been cancelled and our booking site hadn’t told us.”
And while browsing for flights, put your search engine into incognito mode, or you might find the prices increase the more you refresh. Use private browsing and clear cookies.
15 KEEP A COPY OF YOUR PASSPORT Take a copy of your travel documents and passport and email it to yourself, leave a copy in a separate bag and bring two passport photos. If you do have to suffer the pain of losing your passport, you might as well make replacing it as simple as possible.
For emergency contacts visit smartraveller.gov.au.
16 Before SUSS OUT LOCAL SCAMS
you visit another country, it’s sensible to research local scams, advises Justine Yusi from Booking.com; as well as things like tour companies to avoid or how to get a reputable taxi from the airport.
If you do happen to get into real trouble, the international emergency number is 112.
17 APOCALYPSE SURVIVE THE KID Travelling with children demands similar planning for Armageddon, namely stockpiling enough food to survive for weeks and a kit bag to deal with every emergency.
Successful family flyers – yes, they do exist – advise you pack three meals in case of delays and more snacks than you can imagine. Take three changes of clothes per infant and one for yourself – expect them to be sick and poo at inopportune moments – and “don’t break out the device too early,” warned one mother. “Otherwise it’s game over.”
18 PRE-BOOK YOUR EXCURSIONS
If you are going on a cruise, lock in your excursions and special meals as soon as you book, advises senior vicepresident of Princess Cruises Asia Pacific, Stuart Allison. If you leave it until you board, you might miss out.
You can also try a cruise aggregator like CruiseBe.com which will download your ship’s schedule and plan itineraries for port visits.
19 SORT YOUR SIM
It’s nice to go roaming, but not if your data does too and you accidentally rack up a phone bill bigger than the cost of your holiday.
The first option is to buy a prepaid SIM before you leave from sites like gosim.com or travelsim.com which offer data packages for multiple countries. You could also get a local SIM on arrival in countries like the UK – where you can buy a pay-as-you-go phone for as little as $17. You can buy prepaid roaming packages from Telstra and Optus, or conversely you could remove your SIM and use your Wi-Fi instead, making calls via WhatsApp or FaceTime. WeChat is a good alternative if in China.
But be warned, if you do remove your SIM, don’t, whatever you do, forget where you put it.
Play your Christmas cards right and join people the world over celebrating the season, enjoying Santa dress-ups at the alpine ski resort of Verbier, Switzerland; shopping at a fair on Red Square, Moscow; taking a reindeer sleigh ride in Rovaniemi; or relishing exquisite street decorations in Old Quebec City.
Don’t carry your sackful of gifts after Christmas shopping in London – a Heathrow service lets you order online from stores’ duty-free and collect items in the departures lounge.