Travel Q&A: The European Union

Question: “I live in America, and I’m going on holiday to Spain next summer. I’d also like to go to Italy, and I know I can drive there from Spain. My question is about my passport; will I need to show it when I cross the border from Spain to Italy and vice versa? I know they’re both in the European Union, so I’m not sure if normal border controls apply. If at all possible, I’d rather not carry my passport around with me.”

Answer:

While Spain and Italy are both in the European Union, you will still need your passport and the usual forms of ID – such as medical insurance documentation – to cross the border.

It’s an easy mistake to make. In the United Kingdom, for example, you do not need a passport to cross the border from England to Scotland or Wales to England – so there is a precedent for this thinking. However, the European Union is largely a political union – the countries within it remain separate, and regular border controls apply.

On another note, while it’s understandable that you don’t want to carry your passport with you, in some European countries you are required to do so by law. In Italy, for example, police have the right to stop and ask anyone, at any time, to produce documentation as to their identity. It is therefore worth investing in a money-belt or similar to keep your passport in, so if you do get stopped, you won’t have any problems.

Be Spontaneous With A Surprise Holiday

The concept of a ‘surprise’ holiday may be unpleasant to some; after all, isn’t half the fun of a vacation looking forward to going there? Maybe it is, but if you hanker for something a little spontaneous and fun, then a surprise holiday might just work for you.

The ‘surprise’ aspect of a surprise holiday does not come from a sudden decision to go on holiday, but rather where you go. You can still book the time off work, get a dog sitter in and get your documentation in order: just book a couple of weeks (or however long you have) off like you normally would, and then head to the airport on your first day off.

Here’s where the surprise element comes in; you go to the airport not knowing where you are going with a surprise holiday. Once you reach the airport, you ask at desks for ‘stand by’ seats and last minute deals. As airlines do not like to fly half-empty planes, they will often offer substantial discounts if you can fly that night on a flight that is not fully booked. It’s all about being cheeky and asking.

If all goes to plan, you will make a huge saving on the flight cost and will be presented with a destination. Once you arrive, it is up to you to find your hotel.

It’s a slightly crazy concept, but those who enjoy surprise holidaying swear that is the fun of it. Not knowing where you’re going, what you’re doing or even what type of clothes to pack makes the experience extremely exciting; so if you’ve got the courage, why not give a surprise holiday a go?

All You Need To Know About UK Travel

The United Kingdom – the union name for the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – is one of the most popular tourists destinations in the world, especially the capital of England, London and the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Traveling through the UK – as it is abbreviated to – is fairly simple given the size of the four countries. Three – England, Scotland and Wales – are connected by land. It is possible to travel from the Northernmost point of the UK – John O’Groats in Scotland – to the Southernmost point – Land’s End in England – in a day. Only Northern Ireland is not on the same island as the other three countries in the Union, but is reachable by a short ferry trip, most commonly from Scotland.

As the countries are small and interlinked, UK travel is a surprisingly easy aspect of a vacation there. It is possible to fly domestically, and rail and motorway networks serve the UK well. However, rail travel is very expensive, as was recently evidenced by the first issuing of a return rail ticket costing over £1,000 (around $1,400). There are discounts available, however, especially for foreign visitors on short-term stays.

Flying by air is much simpler, however, and usually cheaper, too. The UK has several major airports, both international and domestic, and flights between the countries are inexpensive and regular. You do not need to show a passport to travel across the country borders, though some form of ID is recommended for air travel.

What Is A Package Holiday?

It may seem like a strange question – “what is a package holiday?” – but it’s one that is searched for by search engine users with surprising regularity. The term ‘package holiday’ has become such common usage in modern society that few people ever explain what they mean when they use it, but for those who don’t know, here’s a quick guide.

The term ‘package holiday’ is used to describe the kind of holiday that takes care of everything itself. You book the entire holidays: flights (or whatever mode of transport you will be using to reach your destination) and hotel package holidays are the most common. These usually include transport to and from the airport; so essentially, it’s the simplest way to go on holiday, and is booked ‘all in one’ rather than paying for the flights, hotel and transfers separately.

Package holidays, however, can mean more than just flights and hotels. They can also include sightseeing or theater trips in the overall price, usually at a discounted rate. Sometimes package holidays can include transport to and from the airport in your home country, so everything really is taken care of.

The beauty of package holidays is the simplicity of them. You simply choose your destination, and the travel agent – be it online or in store – will put together the rest for you. You don’t need to worry about getting to the hotel from a foreign airport, and everything is included in one lump-sum price for ease of budgeting. It’s no wonder, given the convenient one-stop-shop method of holidaying they offer, that package holidays are so popular.

The Ever-Increasing Popularity of Air Travel

Ever since the determinedly brave Wright Brothers made the first unassisted flight aboard their plane Kitty Hawk, man has been taking to the sky (and beyond) so as to explore the world. Air travel is fastly becoming the biggest of all the transportation industries, allowing people to shrink the world and go from one hemisphere to another in a matter of hours.

Air travel is one of the most convenient ways to move from place to place. First and foremost, there is the speed: most airplanes have a cruising speed of 500 miles per hour or more, so you’re going to reach your destination in the fastest time possible. And while flight phobias exist, there’s no doubt that for most travelers, being able to sit back and let the pilot do all the work while you sip from the drinks cart is one of the more enjoyable parts of air travel!

There is an oft-quoted statistic that flying by airplane is the safest way to travel – and for once, the statistics are right. Airplane crashes are rare, and despite perceptions, an air crash does not immediately mean total loss of life. In fact, you are more likely to survive an airplane crash than to perish, again according to statistics.

It’s rapidly becoming clear where air travel is so popular. It’s fast, it’s efficient and it’s surprisingly safe – as well as taking some of the strain out of traveling, as you relax in the cabin and watch the wall go by beneath.

The Downside of Travel Guides

It’s safe to say that the vast majority of us book a holiday to a place where we ‘like the sound of’. Destinations tend to be spread by word of mouth, when other people enjoy their vacation and tell their friends – or the entire internet. Yet oddly, when we’ve booked this people-recommended holiday, many of us then go and by a travel guide from a book retailer.

This might not seem that odd, but in reality it is. We take a tip given by a genuine, fellow traveler and then reduce it down to buying a travel guide. A guide which was probably written by a freelance writer who has never even set foot in the country they have visited. The small travel guides you can buy in shops and convenience stores provide little insight and no personal touch of what it is like to visit a place, and what you should do while you’re there. That means you may miss out, and not get the most out of your holiday.

The solution, thankfully, is simple. The genuine, person-to-person or on the grapevine advice is the thing to stick to: you want to know what people like yourself thought of the destination, and where they think you should visit. You don’t want some rehashed advertising literature that makes everything sound wonderful – and that’s mainly what travel guides are.

Thankfully, there are sites on the internet that will provide a genuine experience report and recommendation guide for fellow travelers Run a search engine query for your destination and browse through the pages, and some personal testimonials will inevitably come up. The personal touch is always preferable to some generic content, so give travel guides a miss and get your tips and advice from those who have actually been there and done it.

Online Travel Agents vs. High Street Travel Agents

Once upon a time, when people wanted to book a holiday they went to see the travel agent. Usually found on a high street with heavy pedestrian traffic, the travel agent was the start of vacation dreams for several decades – until a new, flashier kid arrived on the block.

With the advent of the internet age, life for travel agents and holidaymakers changed forever. Now, we can go online and find the best deals to suit us, all without paying a hefty arrangement fee to a travel agent. It’s simple, easy and can be done from the comfort of your living room – but the travel agents aren’t going out of business just yet… so what’s stopping everyone converting to internet holiday booking?

Clearly, the biggest difference between online travel agents and personal, high street conventional travel agents is the face-to-face factor. With a conventional travel agent, you can sit down and discuss your needs with an actual person, and you can get recommendations as you browse. The internet loses this personal sense a little, and may explain why some have yet to discover the joys of internet holidays.

The main concern, however, appears to be concerns about internet safety and passenger protection. Holidays are expensive – that’s a given – and many people just don’t feel comfortable tapping their credit card details in to a faceless computer.

If that’s why you’ve yet to book a holiday online, rest assured. Use the usual security checks before entering card details, such as a ‘https’ is the web server or a small padlock icon on the address bar – these usually mean a site is security protected, and you’re good to go.

Survive The Travel Agent Hard-Sell

Estate agents have a worldwide reputation for exaggerating the good points of something they are trying to sell and downplaying the bad – but they’re not alone. This ‘selective editing’ tactic is used by any professional company trying to sell something; the trick is to learn to see through their statements and find the truth.

When it comes to travel agents, it’s all the more difficult to trust them. For a start, unlike when you’re with a realtor, you aren’t there to view the hotel you will be staying at – so you have to rely totally on what the travel agent says and what the photographs of the hotel suggest. Therefore it’s all the easier to be lead down the garden path, and end up staying in a hotel that makes your entire holiday a misery.

The important thing when it comes to booking a holiday is to give yourself time. Do not be pressurized in to buying a holiday in your first visit to a travel agent; even if they are offer one-day-only exclusives. These deals rotate, so providing you give yourself enough time, there’s no need to snap one up there and then.

Always get the information from the travel agent then go and check the hotel out for yourself online. Look at sites such as TripAdvisor.com, where genuine consumers who have stayed at the hotel give their feedback. This gives a much more objective opinion of a potential destination than a travel agent – with one eye on their commission – ever could.

Effective Budget Holiday Planning

Saving money is always a bonus, especially if we’re trying to plan a holiday. If the purse strings are a little tight at present, here’s a few tips on how to get the best deal when it comes to planning a budget holiday:

– Book very early or very late.

Tickets for everything – from airplane seats to hotels – are at their most expensive two to three months before the date you want to stay. To maximize the chances of getting a bargain, look to book early – up to six months in advance wherever possible – or late. The later you leave booking, the higher the chances of prices being slashed to try and entice customers; this is especially true of airlines, who don’t want to fly airplanes half-full.

– Use whatever discount cards you may be applicable for.

Depending on the country you are visiting, you may be eligible for travel discount tickets such as a Young Person’s Discount or a Family Pass. Check with the relevant transport line or airline to see if there are any savings to be made.

– Don’t expect everything to be easy.

For complete luxury, everything provided and simple for you, you’re going to have to pay for it. Lowering your expectations will allow you to plan a budget holiday effectively. Consider flying to a different airport and using public transport to reach your hotel, or book lower star-graded accommodation.

– Be flexible.

The best way to ensure bargain prices is to be flexible with the dates, times and airports you can travel from. This may mean flying at 4am in the morning, but the savings will make up for the inconvenience.

Why Hostels Aren’t Just For Students and Backpackers

When going on vacation, the cost of accommodation while you are away is one of the biggest drains on your budget. It would seem that no matter where you go in the world, hotels are always expensive places to stay – leaving you less money for enjoying yourself and having fun. Yet most of us cling to the concept of hotels as clean, enjoyable places to stay – and book ourselves in despite the cost.

On the flip side, the word ‘hostel’ is one that triggers terrifying images – and not just because of the horror film of the same name. Hostels have become synonymous with student backpackers, and those unfamiliar with hostels will imagine dirty surroundings, 20 people packed in to a room and unsanitary facilities. Sure, hostels may be cheap, but they’re for the backpackers only – right?

Well, thinking that hostels will not provide the kind of accommodation you desire on holiday could actually cost you dear. While hostels are never going to be able to provide hotel standard accommodation, they’re not quite as bad as we’re lead to believe. For a start, hostels do offer joint sleeping accommodation in a room full of strangers – but most hostels also offer single and double rooms, often complete with en suite. These are usually up to 1 or 2 star hotel standard, only without the price tag.

If it’s cleanliness you’re worried about, fear not; hostels are governed and regulated by the same health and safety boards that control hotels. If cost is an issue when planning your holiday, it’s worth checking a hostel out – you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.