Your holiday planner to travel smart

A range of items for packing a holiday suitcase

Take the stress out of organising your trip away with this countdown holiday plan.

Three months before

1. Book travel insurance early

You’ll be covered for changes or cancellations. Save time and money by getting an annual policy if you’re going away again this year.

2. Shop around for cheap car hire

Try comparison sites Kayak and Travel Supermarket. And for better rates, get your excess waiver insurance on a daily policy with a UK insurance company.

3. Barter for pet sitting

Book trusted friends to look after your pet in exchange for your services. Or try Borrow My Doggy, which matches owners with local pet-sitters.

One month before

1. Get your cards in order

A pre-paid card loaded with spending money will keep you to your budget. Specialist overseas credit cards are free and give good exchange rates – the trick is to pay the bill in full after the holiday.

2. Sign up for email alerts

Bag discounts and vouchers from restaurants and attractions at your destination for a way to save money.

3. Checklist apps practically do the packing for you

Download our handy holiday checklist for free to ensure nothing gets left behind. And store your whole itinerary and booking confirmations on TripIt.

The week before

1. Save money on sat nav

The Navmii app loads local maps, route planning and voice prompts to your phone without using any data.

2. File details in a cloud service

Dropbox or Evernote gives you instant access to details of your passport, insurance and bank account from anywhere. Slip a printout in your hand luggage as back up.

3. Avoid hefty phone and internet charges

Buy a pre-paid local SIM card to cut the cost of calls while you’re away. Or find a Wi-Fi hotspot and you can call anyone who has a Skype or Whatsapp account for free.

The day before

1. Let your bank know you’re going away

This way they won’t block any ‘unexplained’ foreign transactions.

2. Weigh your suitcase before leaving home

No need for specialist scales: just weigh yourself on your bathroom set, then stand on it again carrying your suitcase. Subtract the first from the second.

Try this nifty space-saving bundle-wrapping trick to give you more space in your travel bag.

3. Empty your ‘travel drawer’

Stash passports, travel wallets, leftover currency, wash bags, batteries, foreign plug adapters and accessories in a special 'travel drawer' to speed up your hand luggage packing.

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