50 tips to transform your travels, from when’s best to book to how to get a room upgrade

To help your holidays go smoothly, we consulted experts — from top hoteliers, cabin crew and cruise directors to specialist tour operators and industry insiders — to compile this list of unmissable advice for all travellers.

There’s tips on how to avoid airport hell, luggage advice and help on choosing the right destination for you.

Plus, there’s recommendations for those travelling on long train and road journeys, as well as on the high seas…

Avoiding airport hell

Have a happy holiday: Put ‘fragile’ stickers on your checked bag. That should help it get to the carousel quicker

Have a happy holiday: Put ‘fragile’ stickers on your checked bag. That should help it get to the carousel quicker

Have a happy holiday: Put ‘fragile’ stickers on your checked bag. That should help it get to the carousel quicker

1. Put ‘fragile’ stickers on your checked bag. That should help it get to the carousel quicker.

2. At security, carry a clear, zip-lock bag in your hand luggage filled with what you would normally have in your pockets. And never wear boots.

3. Go to the left-hand queue at security; most people head right, as they are biased toward their dominant hand.

4. Take an empty water bottle through security to fill at the airside water fountain — then you can avoid silly airport prices.

5. If you have a long wait, pay to get into an airport lounge — it costs about £30 and you get free wi-fi, peace and quiet and, often, unlimited food and drink.

6. For airport parking, use price comparison websites such as holidayextras.co.uk, moneysavingexpert.com or travelsupermarket.com. Meet and greet parking can also be good value.

7. Take extra items into the cabin in an airport shopping bag. Staff will think it contains things you bought after clearing security.

8. Wait to check in and take a bump to a later flight, if you’re offered one, as you could get delay compensation.

9. Never get currency at the airport; rates are normally terrible.

Come fly with us

Prices can rise every time you check flights online. To beat the algorithms, clear the cookies on your device

Prices can rise every time you check flights online. To beat the algorithms, clear the cookies on your device

Prices can rise every time you check flights online. To beat the algorithms, clear the cookies on your device 

10. Prices can rise every time you check flights online. To beat the algorithms, clear the cookies on your device.

11. Opt for a stopover to save cash. For example, flying direct to Perth in Western Australia may cost £1,050, but it would be £400 less with a two-hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

12. Check skyscanner.net for the cheapest flights — it’s invaluable for showing lots of different options.

13. Search ‘flights’ on Google, then click on ‘price graph’ to see fares for coming months.

14. The ‘sweet spot’ for air fares is usually six to 12 weeks before departure.

15. Never assume that a package break is cheaper than DIY.

16. When boarding requires a shuttle bus transfer to the aircraft, board last. You’ll avoid spending 20 minutes or so on an often cold bus and will be one of the first to board the plane.

17. Don’t bother with ‘priority boarding’ on budget airlines, as you could find yourself kettled into a holding pen to wait for everyone else.

18. Avoid ‘flightmares’ by checking out Which? magazine’s online lists of most delayed routes and airlines.

19. When booking economy seats, use seatguru.com to see the best and worst for each airline.

20. Offerings in ‘premium economy’ differ significantly, so check an airline’s website before booking. BA’s World Traveller Plus seats are only an inch wider than standard.

21. On landing, don’t rush out of the plane, as it’s often a bother to others. But do walk quickly to passport control to save some time.

So where should I go?

Swap overpriced summer holidays for a sunny October half-term break. Much of Greece is still basking in mid-20c temperatures then

Swap overpriced summer holidays for a sunny October half-term break. Much of Greece is still basking in mid-20c temperatures then

Swap overpriced summer holidays for a sunny October half-term break. Much of Greece is still basking in mid-20c temperatures then

22. Swap overpriced summer holidays for a sunny October half-term break. Much of Greece is still basking in mid-20c temperatures then.

23. Be Perverse: in summer, head for the mountains instead of the beach. The air is blissful and there are no crowds of tourists.

24. Prices can more than double in February half-term, so forget sun-chasing and skiing. Instead, head for a city: the Scandinavian capitals, Paris and Rome can be cheap.

25. Flights to Turin or Milan are good value all year round — and close to the French Alps, the Italian lakes, Switzerland and Genoa.

26. Choose destinations with short airport transfers. Valencia (30 minutes) and Lake Como (40 minutes from Milan Malpensa) spring to mind.

Hit the road

27. Book direct to grab UK hotel deals, introduced recently to compete with book- ing websites.

28. Give those £10 bottles of beer in hotel minibars a wide berth. Buy your own drinks at the corner shop.

29. Ask for a discount if you’re booking accommodation on Airbnb; send direct messages to five property owners, politely requesting 25 per cent off. Someone will agree, usually.

30. Use car rental comparison sites — and always go for internationally recognised names such as Enterprise, Avis and Hertz. Don’t simply choose the cheapest, as counter queues could be awful (and cars, too).

Packing it all in . . .

Do not assume there is one hand luggage rule that applies for all airlines. Allowances vary considerably between carriers

Do not assume there is one hand luggage rule that applies for all airlines. Allowances vary considerably between carriers

Do not assume there is one hand luggage rule that applies for all airlines. Allowances vary considerably between carriers

31. Do not assume there is one hand luggage rule that applies for all airlines. Allowances vary considerably between carriers.

32. Wrap bottles and creams that could leak in plastic bags.

33. If you’re a compulsive shopper, pack an empty holdall to bring back all your goodies.

34. When packing a rucksack, rolling your clothes will take up far less space.

All aboard for a deal

35. Ignore the Gatwick Express, which costs £17.80 online for an anytime single from Victoria. The Southern service to Gatwick is from £12 off-peak and takes only five minutes longer.

36. On long train journeys, use a route map to check which side of the carriage has the more scenic views before buying tickets.

Be a canny traveller

Visit busy tourist sights, such as the Vatican, at lunchtime — it’s often the quietest time

Visit busy tourist sights, such as the Vatican, at lunchtime — it’s often the quietest time

Visit busy tourist sights, such as the Vatican, at lunchtime — it’s often the quietest time

37. In restaurants, couples are invariably stuck in a corner. Book for three people for a better table, and later apologise that your guest is unable to attend.

38. Take a photo of your passport details page on your mobile phone and email it to yourself — doing so can speed up receiving an emergency passport, should you lose your original.

39. Look after someone else’s pets while they’re away for a cheap holiday — see Trustedhousesitters.com. For house swaps, try Lovehomeswap.com or Homeexchange.com.

40. When checking into a hotel, ask for a room with a bath. You will almost certainly be given a better grade of room, or possibly even a suite.

41. When camping with the family, share a double airbed with your child rather than your partner. The extra room can make all the difference between a good and a terrible night’s sleep.

42. The most interesting meals are often sold by street vendors — and they are great value.

43. Turn off data-roaming on your mobile and use free wi-fi at Starbucks, McDonald’s, etc.

44. Learn a few words and phrases of the local language, which will be much appreciated.

45. Visit busy tourist sights, such as the Vatican, at lunchtime — it’s often the quietest time.

46. When in a mosquito zone, buy the local repellent, as it should be more effective than one bought at home.

47. Read a novel set in your destination for an added dimension — The Quiet American by Graham Greene in Vietnam, or The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway in Pamplona.

On the high seas

Many cruise ships have a laundry room with complimentary use of washer-dryers. Do your washing at the end of a cruise to take home clean clothes

Many cruise ships have a laundry room with complimentary use of washer-dryers. Do your washing at the end of a cruise to take home clean clothes

Many cruise ships have a laundry room with complimentary use of washer-dryers. Do your washing at the end of a cruise to take home clean clothes

48. Many cruise ships have a laundry room with complimentary use of washer-dryers. Do your washing at the end of a cruise to take home clean clothes.

49. Spas are quiet on port days, so look out for any deals going. Grab an early or late offer so you can still go ashore.

50. When travelling with children, book a cabin near the kids’ zone. When not, do the opposite.

  • Contributions: Harry Mount, Rob Crossan, Joanna Tweedy, Deirdre Fernand, Tamara Hinson, Martin Symington, Charlotte Metcalf, Mark Palmer, Harriet Sime, Hugo Brown, Thomas Hodgkinson, Mark Jones, Lesley Bellew, Nigel Tisdall, Tom Chesshyre, Sara Macefield and Kate Johnson.

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