Travel News

13 top tips from a travel editor

Be shameless, avoid all-inclusive and never take a river cruise.

Not all holidays are created equal. Since I started editing the travel pages on a national magazine, I’ve started to work out the ingredients for the perfect trip…and the elements to avoid (I’m looking at you, boat trips).
Here are my top tips for happy holidays.
1.Upgrades are increasingly unlikely (I was horrified to discover even honeymooners are generally immune) unless you sign up for frequent flyer miles. But then of course you’re limited to specific airlines and will probably end up paying more for flights… My policy? Suck it up in economy (eye mask; big glass of wine) and use your savings to get into an airport lounge beforehand for a relaxing pre-flight breakfast in peace and quiet. You can stock up on bottles of water, fruit, crisps, newspapers and other flight essentials for free too.
2.I always get ill after flying. It sucks. I’ve had chest infections, streaming colds and full-on flu in some of the world’s most beautiful places. I cannot recommend using an anti-bacterial wipe on your tray table strongly enough (especially if you follow Passenger Shaming – people are gross and terrible). I now take Vitamin D and Veganicity B12 in the fortnight before going and am liberal with the hand santizer – so far, so good.
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3.You know how real estate agency websites feature certain flats and houses that don’t include a photo of the front? It’s weird, right? Until you get there and realise that they are fronted by flaked paint, cracks or a dog-stained lawn. It’s the same with hotels – check the online gallery. No face-on pics, no stay.
4.I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to booking cheap and cheerful trips on deal websites, but there’s a lot to be said for loyalty to a particular hotel. Whether you’ve stayed there before or just love the look of it, it pays to sign up to hotel mailing lists for early bird offers or competitions (you can always set up an email account purely for these). A fact that many of us are becoming wise to according to new research from Barclays, who’ve found direct booking have doubled over the last decade.
5.You can’t go wrong with Mr and Mrs Smith hotels. No, I’m not on commission, but whenever I fork out for a night away they are consistently the site I go to for quality control. Plus, you get bonus freebies when you book through them.
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6.There’s nothing wrong with bending the truth a little. Not long until your anniversary/birthday/other significant date? Absolutely no harm in letting the receptionist know…I shamelessly milked my engagement for a good week of free prosecco.
7.All-inclusive is never worth it, IMO. Woman was not meant to live on buffet alone.
8.I’ve been lucky enough to stay in some really exclusive hotels…but I have a soft spot for Airbnb. We always rent a little apartment for our city breaks now, as it’s so much easier to relax. There’s no need to leave your room at a certain time for breakfast or cleaning, and there’s a proper sitting room to put your feet up in rather than lying on a double bed. Making the odd meal (I know you’re on holiday, but foreign supermarkets are part of the fun) will save a small fortune which can be better spent on cocktails. Plus, local knowledge from home-owners has led to some of our best nights out.
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9.For yet more local know-how, see if the country has Uber – you can get great tips from their drivers as well as saving on taxi fares – especially good if you only have a finite amount of cash.
10.If you’re lucky enough to be getting the Eurostar anywhere near the Disneyland Paris route, stump up for the upgrade. Honestly. After three hours of listening to overstimulated, sobbing children, you’ll understand why.
11.Never, ever take a river or sea cruise. It’s taken me so long to learn this. I have not enjoyed them in upwards of six cities, including Honolulu which is basically paradise. I always think it will be intimate and romantic. It’s always overcrowded, elderly and has crap food.
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12.Also falling firmly into the ‘not worth it’ category are brewery or distillery tours; any museums involving a 30-minute queue (we gave up on the Ann Frank museum and went to a houseboat museum instead – no regrets) and hotel entertainment.
13.Always worth it: tiki bars; anything involving puppetry; local bands (especially jazz); zoos; karaoke; old man pubs; botanical gardens; drinking at lunchtime; bakeries.