Is the relentless rubbish weather getting you down?

You’re not alone. In fact, almost everyone I speak to is planning on escaping the UK as soon as they can for a holiday abroad.

In the excitement of booking a trip away, it’s easy to forget that flying can be quite a stressful experience. My top holiday tip is to book a flight that takes off earlier in the day. You might have to get up earlier, but later flights will have been zig-zagging backwards and forwards all day and with each trip there’s a chance of delays – which will build up. Pretty much everyone I know who booked a flight recently that took off after 5pm arrived late, missing connections and public transport options.

I’ll be writing in more depth about the joys of flying and what to watch out for. But we also tend to forget about what lies in wait for us at the airport – and that can be an expensive error. Here’s my guide on what to watch out for, before you jet off on holiday.

Fake parking firms

Airport parking charges can be eye-wateringly expensive. So if you need to leave your car while you go on holiday, do some research before you book your flight. It might be cheaper to fly from an airport that’s further away if the charges are lower.

Using the big parking firms nearby isn’t going to save you a huge amount of money, sadly. But don’t be tempted to use the ‘meet and greet’ parking options without doing your research. Meet and greet is where you drop off and pick up your vehicle with a business that then stores it away from the airport at a more affordable price. There are some legitimate firms that offer this service, but there are many rogue operators.

In recent months, I’ve been hearing from many outraged travellers who have come back home to discover significant extra millage on the odometer, damage to vehicles and even items missing from the car too. Even if staff at the rogue firm aren’t going on a joyride with your car, you may find that it’s been parked in an unsafe or unsecure place while you’ve been away, which increases the risk of damage and theft – and may result in a rejected insurance claim too.

Kiss and wave costs

So you’ve made it to the airport. If a friend or family member is dropping you off, then be prepared… it’ll cost them.

What the French charmingly call ‘kiss and wave’ and we Brits rather more clunkily call ‘drop off and pick up’ has been monetised in recent years and those costs have been increasing. Two airports charge £7 for the fastest drop off option, with an average of around a fiver. I think this is pretty outrageous, but we’re stuck with these charges for now. Prepare in advance by checking out the list of costs on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website here.

Airports have become a little sensitive about this subject recently, so rather that raise prices this year, they seem to have increased the amount of cash they’ll charge you if you take longer to drop off or pick up than you’d anticipated. So be aware that delays can be costly.

At the airport

Some airports are already reporting record numbers of passengers so far this year – and we’ve not even hit peak season. So give yourself plenty of time to arrive, drop your bags and get through security. It’s going to be busy.

If you’ve got kids, take along plenty of things to keep them entertained. You might want to bring things like cheap colouring books and magazines that are disposable so you don’t get weighed down. Alternatively, why not download some apps or videos to keep them occupied. Keep that volume off though or I’ll personally have you arrested!

By far the most important thing to take to the airport is a phone or gadget charger. There are loads available online so buy a few, charge them fully and keep them in your bag. Last-minute announcements about your flight tend to arrive by email or through your app – and your tickets are likely to be on your phone too. So don’t get caught out by a flat battery. Most airports have charging stations these days but there may be a high demand for them.

Don’t forget to check with your airline about what batteries are allowed (the same goes for e-cigarettes). These may not be allowed in your hold luggage. There’s a list of things to check here.

Shops and restaurants

Once you are airside, you are a captive audience – and the airports and shops know it.

Some things are worth buying, like sun tan lotion, water and pre-packed sandwiches (the latter two will save you a fortune on the plane). I’ve also heard that a few airlines have occasionally had to drop the food and drink service due to staffing issues on board or at catering companies. Grab a pre-packed sandwich on the way to the gate.

Be sceptical when flitting through the duty-free shop. While you might get a cheaper bottle of holiday vodka, things like perfumes and aftershaves aren’t actually much cheaper that they are when you shop online. Do a bit of research on your favourite scents before you travel so you’re sure you’re getting a bargain.

Oh, and watch out for shop prices before you go through security too. I was charged over £20 recently for a packet of cigarettes, which serves me right for smoking, but is a reminder about how outrageous some newsagents can be when exploiting their airport concessions.

Currency

Never, ever buy or sell back currency at the airport. The rates are always consistently the worst and the charges can be whopping too.

Buying lots of currency isn’t such a big deal anymore as debit or credit card payments are widely accepted in most countries. When I’m working out my holiday budget, I divide my spending in to 20% on physical cash and put the rest on my cards.

If you’re relying on plastic, do your research beforehand. Some digital banks don’t charge commission or interest on payments made using their cards (high street banks do, generally) and you can get some credit cards that do the same and give you the best daily rates. I wrote about all the options available – and where to get the best rates – in my Mirror column here.

Delays and cancellations

Sometimes the weather scuppers your flight taking off, or air traffic controller strikes result in cancelations. Knowing your rights when your flight is delayed or cancelled isn’t going to change the immediate problem – but it can help to know what you’re entitled to, and how much compensation you might get. Here’s my full guide in the Mirror.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

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