Spring is finally here! The weather is warming up and with Easter around the corner, flowers are blossoming and flower festivals coming, up, it is the perfect time to plan your mini break in Europe ! Plan ahead with these practical travel tips! These tips can be applied for most short getaways this Spring!
- Book your trip at least 6 weeks in advance: The best time to plan a trip is at least 6 weeks in advance. Book your flights and accommodation in advance, to take advantage of airfare and accommodation specials, which are the first and most important things you should book when planning a holiday. Make sure that your passport is up to date and that you have the necessary travel documents,
- Consider your different travel options too: Many budget airlines such as Ryan Air fly out of Stansted Airport, however, depending on where you live, when you add on the costs of commuting there, this may result in it being more expensive than going to Heathrow or Gatwick. For me, being based in East London Stansted Airport is my best option. Research different options of getting to the airport too; most airports offer an express train service.
- Research the city and book a hotel in a convenient location: For example, if you are planning a short holiday in Barcelona, hotels around Placa de Catalunya or Las Ramblas such as the Vincci Gala Hotel in Ronta St Pere is ideally situated, just a 5 minute walk from Plaza de Catalunya and perhaps a 15 minute walk from Las Ramblas, with Urquinoa underground station a short walk away. This will free up your time and enable you to fit in more time for sightseeing,as well as enabling you to avoid spending unnecessarily on taxis. Take note of how far away the hotel is from the airport too. Most hotels have free wifi and make sure you choose one that does, as roaming charges are extortionate.
- Research the key attractions. If you are planning a mini break to Barcelona, what are the top five things you want to do there and do you need to book things like the Sagrada Familia or Monsterrat in advance to take advantage of early bird discounts or avoid the disappointment of tours filling up.
- Take out basic travel insurance to cover you and your family/fellow travelers for unfortunate events such as lost baggage, illness or injury.
- Allow yourself free time too. Personally, my trip to Barcelona was the perfect combination of organised tours and sightseeing, with free time to explore the city at a leisurely pace and absorb the atmosphere, culture and lifestyle, especially at places like La Boqueria Markets in Las Ramblas. So factor in a bit of free time for shopping and leisure in your trip. It is the best way to truly experience and absorb the culture. After all, holidays are supposed to be relaxing!
- Check the weather of the place you are going to. Most European cities tend to be slightly warmer than the UK, so you can finally replace your heavy winter coats, scarves and hats with lighter Spring gear! Since its not quite Summer yet, so you probably shouldn’t fill your suitcase entirely with bathing suits, singlet tops and flip flops-save these for your Summer holiday! Take note of dress codes too, especially for Cathedrals in Mediterranean countries, which require you to have your shoulders covered and do not permit you to wear flip flops. Be sure to take a half empty suitcase and leave plenty of room for shopping, as Barcelona in particular is an excellent city for shopping!
- Save time and check in online! Print your boarding pass, hotel and any other vouchers you may have. Having a print out of your hotel voucher really comes in handy when you get to the airport and are trying to ask for directions via public transport or get a taxi to your hotel. You can also save time at the airport by ensuring that all your liquids greater than 100ml are in your checked baggage and that any liquids that you are taking in your carry on are less than 100ml and all within a sealed plastic bag. Boots Pharmacy and supermarkets like Tescos have an excellent range of travel sized products such as shampoos and conditioner. If you did forget your toothbrush, do not despair! Most hotels provide these.
- Allow plenty of time to get to the airport and avoid driving if you can. Airports like Stansted Airport offer an airport express which departs from many of the big stations such as Kings Cross St Pancras and Liverpool Street. You will need to be at the airport at least an hour prior to departure, so ensure you allow plenty of time to get to the airport.
- Shop around for currency rates beforehand. Pack travel adapters. Another excellent idea is a portable battery for your smartphone, which will most likely have a big workout with all the photo taking. You can keep this in your handbag and avoid running out of battery at critical moments such at the top of the tower of the Sagrada Familia! You can buy these at stores like Dixon Carphone, Currys or at your mobile phone store.
- Pack any medication you might need, including prescription medication and travel sickness tablets. Take precautionary supplies of paracetemol, cold and flu tablets, antihistamine, antiseptic, bandages, hand sanitiser and travel sized packets of tissues. Tissues and hand sanitiser are handy for helping you avoid picking up germs in airports and aeroplanes and also when you are out and about. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold in Barcelona and Vienna and was glad I had cold and flu tablets on me so that I could start taking them, start feeling better faster and enjoy my holiday more! Also, whilst Spring means Europe is extra pretty, with all the flowers blossoming, however pollen levels tend to be higher which can trigger hayfever and/or allergies, so ensure you take your medication and/or antihistamine with you. Buy these at your local supermarket or chemist, rather than the airport, though, where they charge you a lot more and lack the range that you can get in the supermarket. You may not be able to find your preferred brand abroad, so best to take some with you.
And you’re all set! All that’s left to do now is book your Spring mini break!Then sit back, relax and enjoy the journey!
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