Your guide to last-minute holiday preparations

Published by Rebecca Rutt on 28 July 2011.
Last updated on 29 July 2011

Suitcase bursting

Currency exchange

Never change your money at the airport: airport currency outlets add extra fees and offer poorer rates than elsewhere.

Don't be swayed by promises of commission-free exchange either, as the bureau de change will probably try to claw it back by offering poor exchange rates. Instead, place your currency order online beforehand.

Alternatively, one of the cheapest ways to pay for things abroad is with a prepaid card, such as FairFX or Caxton FX. It's similar to a debit card, but without the extra fees for spending on it or withdrawing money.

Airport parking

It's always cheaper to book your airport parking or hire car before you leave. Parking at the airport is expensive, so compare park-and-ride companies online before you go.

Remember that although it may be easier to pick up and drop off the hire car at the airport, the selection of cars could be limited, and it's often cheaper to travel to a city-centre location.

Medical card

The EHIC card replaced the E111 card in 2006. It entitles UK citizens to the same state-provided medical treatment as a local resident would receive in any European Union country.

But as it offers relatively low-level access to medical treatment, you shouldn't view it as a replacement for travel insurance. The card, which is free, lasts five years. You can get one within seven days by applying online ( or by phone (0845 606 2030).

Travel insurance

Make sure your travel insurance policy is suitable for the type of trip you're taking, and check the small print, as the cover can vary hugely.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at, recommends taking out medical cover of around £2 million. Always disclose any pre-existing medical conditions, and be aware of loopholes - for example, you won't be covered for a personal injury you incur when drunk.

Crucial paperwork

Make photocopies of your passport and other important travel and insurance documents. Keep these separately from the originals.

Let your bank know

Inform your bank you're going away to prevent your debit or credit card being blocked for security reasons. It's also wise to take an emergency card and some spare money, in case your card gets cancelled or lost.


It's now cheaper to make and receive mobile phone calls within the European Union, but the cap on roaming internet charges won't come into effect until July 2012. So what can you do in the meantime to cut your mobile phone bill while abroad?

1: Contact your network before you leave to check the costs of phone use abroad.

2: Switch off your voicemail and roaming options, such as email downloads or any smartphone apps, unless you really need them.

3: Buy international or local SIM cards to benefit from cheaper rates.

4: It's free to receive texts in the EU, so tell friends and family to contact you by text if they need to get in touch.


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