THE SANTA CLAUSES

Get the sleigh ready, it’s time to read the rule book on Christ­mas hol­i­day travel

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - COVER STORY - KERRY PAR­NELL

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.”

Visit in­sur­ance­coun­cil.com.au.

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.

BOU­TIQUE.HEATHROW.COM

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.

PIC­TURES: AAP, IS­TOCK, VISIT ROVANIEMI, ALAMY

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.

RUS­SIA

CANADA

FIN­LAND

PIC­TURE: ALAMY

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.

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