Category : Travel Advice

How Airlines Can Improve Online Check-In

Friday, July 24th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Not so long ago you’d always have a proper ticket for a flight, officially printed on thick colourful card with dates and times, often with special security stuff like holograms and tear-off sections. An airline ticket was a thing of beauty, containing all manner of essential information.

airline ticket

Old Style Airline Ticket

Now you can do the whole thing online, quickly and easily, and it’s brilliant. But there are a few areas where the online flights thing falls down, as we discovered on a recent trip to Amsterdam. Here are some practical tips based on our experiences, plus appeals to airlines, ticket sellers and airports to do a better job.

Online flights – choosing who to buy tickets from

There are countless websites where you can buy flights online. It’s an excellent idea, so much better than it used to be, much faster and more convenient. And there are so many providers to choose from, my task began with a visit to the MoneySavingExpert website to see which online flights seller they recommended.

The interfaces used by online flights sites are clear anough, even if it’s your first time booking flights online. But the difference is in the after-sales emails they send. Sadly, the recommended ticket seller I used didn’t send the best autoresponder emails – in fact they were absolutely baffling.

Online flight autoresponder nightmares

Having made our bookings through our chosen online flights provider, I sat back and waited for an email confirming the details of both flights: out via BA and home via easyJet. And I received five emails, all of which looked exactly the same until I examined them closely in minute detail.

At that stage I expected a clear email – just the one – telling me that our flights had been booked safelty and our payment received. Plus information about where to go to check in online and print off our boarding passes. What I actually got was a series of emails full of sales stuff, where the information I needed was buried so deeply and obscurely that it was extremely challenging to find.

The emails drove me relentlessly towards phoning the online booking site’s call centre so they could handle the boarding pass side of things for me, for which they charged a ‘small’ fee. Which was ridiculous since it’s actually really easy and fast to do it yourself… or it would have been if they’d made the links to the airline websites obvious.

After half an hour fiddling about reading all five different emails I gave up in disgust and tried to phone the number the online booking people provided. It would only have cost a couple of quid to get them to do it all for me so I thought “why not”. But that opened up another can of worms…

Can of worms number 2 – Call centre fun… not!

For a start, the number they provided wouldn’t accept calls from mobiles so I had to use our landline, which is nowhere near my computer. The automated message I got when I called the number came with a very strong accent, so strong I found it hard to understand what ‘he’ was saying. So I gave up and went back to the emails.

I eventually found links to the airline sites, where I finally managed to check-in and get our boarding passes, more than an hour later. By that time I was already fed up with the whole thing. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, more pointlessly complicated than trouble-free.

Online check-in – Leave up-selling until later

Worse still, the five emails I was sent were full of offers for ‘additional’ services like hotel bookings (which I’d already done separately) and car hire. Why? At this stage the last thing I needed was to book extra services. All I wanted to do was check in online and get our boading passes sorted.

  • My first recommendation to online flights websites is this: it would be much better to send one simple email confirming the booking and including links to online check in and boarding passes for each flight, rather than five of them
  • My second recommendation is: Leave out the sales blurb. From a marketing perspective, up-selling should come later, once the basics have been sorted
  • My third recommendation is: don’t rip people off by trying to persuade them to contact your call centre, when checking in and getting a boarding pass online is easier than buying tickets in the first place
  • And fourth, get someone without a strong accent to create your automated voice message, so it’s easy to understand

Gatwick gets it right

Gatwick Signage

Gatwick Signage

On arrival at Gatwick, from where we flew, it was perfectly clear that because we’d already checked in online and printed off our own boarding passes for our British Airways flight, there was no need to check in at the airport. There was lots of lovely clear signage so all we did was follow the signs to the right gate and correct departure lounge, as smoothly as a smooth thing. Well done, Gatwick.

Schipol signage fail

At the other end, on the way home, Schipol proved a bit more of a challenge. There didn’t seem to be a separate route for easyJet passengers who had already checked in online, so we ended up milling around in confusion for quite a while, unable to figure out where to go and how to get there. As it turned out, we actually had to go through the check-in area to reach the H gate, then wait in the H departures area until the sub-gate, H1, was announced.

Schipol cheese

Schipol – Good for cheese

When you’re dragging heavy baggage around it’s the last thing you need. If you’re an inexperienced traveller, things can potentially get very confusing indeed. All it takes is a few simple signs to make everything perfectly clear: Checked in online? Go this way.

Why not include practical details on the boarding pass?

Our boarding passes represented a wasted opportunity for the airlines themselves. We printed them off at home, which was really convenient, but like the emails I got they also included adverts, which seems inappropriate at this stage when leaving aderts out would leave room for the information we actually need.

Ideally the boarding pass document should provide answers to all the questions you might need to ask, including instructions about where to go when you’ve done your check-in online. It would make much more sense to put it all in one place, in writing, telling people clearly that they don’t need to go to the check in desk, and where they should go instead.

It should also clearly indicate the gate that you need to head for, if there’s any potential for confusion. And,  importantly, it could also include information about where to go in the airport if you need help: the airline desk or whatever.

A map of the airport layout would be brilliant. Both Gatwick airport and Schipol are absolutely huge, and putting a basic map on the boarding pass would be really helpful. As it is, the advert (in Dutch) for car hire, at the foot of our easyJet boarding passes, wasn’t any use to us at all.

One more thing. If you want people to print off their own boarding pass, don’t include full-colour adverts. It just uses up expensive colour print cardridges, which is a pain.

Advice about how online check in works

What about your online flight bookings experiences?

We’d love to know about your experiences booking flights online. How would you change the system? If you have any horror stories, leave a comment.

Staying Safe in the Sun – Latest Sun Protection Advice

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Getting the sun on your skin is wholly bad, right? Apparently not. After many years of being told that the sun’s rays are dreadfully dangerous, to be avoided at all costs, scientists are changing their minds. It appears we all need sunshine, and smothering yourself from head to toe in sun screen isn’t, after all, the brilliant idea it was cracked up to be.


Sunburn – Too Much Sun?

Until recently the official stance was to cover your skin from head to toe with special, tightly woven sun protective clothing and stay indoors out of the sun’s reach between 11am and 3pm. In extreme scenarios schools got involved too, demanding that parents cover their kids in powerful sunscreen and make them wear hats. But now the old-style official advice is changing. It looks like reasonable amounts of sunshine are actually essential for good health.

We thought it’d be useful to give our readers, the travelling public, the low down on the latest research into sunshine and how it affects our bodies.

Sun protection – The dangers of sunburn

Before we go any further, it’s important to point out some things about sun protection advice haven’t changed. Skin cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers and letting your skin burn or blister is still a very bad idea. On the other hand…

The risk of rickets

Childhood Vitamin D deficiency is on the increase as today’s children spend less and less time playing outdoors. In severe cases it can lead to rickets which is, according to the NHS:

“A condition that affects bone development in children. It causes the bones to become soft and weak, which can lead to bone deformities. Rickets in adults is known as osteomalacia or soft bones. The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium.”

Revolutionary stuff – NICE’s new attitude to sunshine

We get our vitamin D from the sun’s rays and experts now say we actually need to be exposed to it. Take Britain’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, AKA NICE, which says it’s time to change our harsh attitude to sunshine.

Our skin can’t make vitamin D without it, and the agency’s latest draft guidelines on sun exposure tell a very different story from the tale we’ve been told so far. Having weighed all the evidence, NICE reveals that as long as you don’t get sunburned, you should be making an active effort to soak up those lovely rays. Most of us instinctively enjoy the feeling of the sun on our skin, and it’s nice to know our instincts are sound.

sun protection

Extreme Sun Protection

What about vitamin D supplements?

Supplements are all very well, but many experts believe there’s no need to go the artificial route when the sun is up there in the heavens, freely available to everyone on the planet. There are also questions being asked about the value of dietary substitues in general, as opposed to simply living a healthy, balanced lifestyle with plenty of outdoor fun and exercise.

Where did Britain’s long-held sun phobia come from?

How come Brits became so scared of the sun all of a sudden? Many believe it’s down to the fast-increasing levels of skin cancer seen in Australia. But they get so much more UV exposure over there than we do, and the resurgence of rickets over here, especially in kids with darker skin, gives lie to the original advice. But there’s more. Chronic sun deprivation can result in much more than rickets.

Immune system issues caused by a lack of sunshine

Get too paranoid about sunshine and you could end up with a compromised immune system. Some scientists are convinced that it eventually leads to auto-immune nasties like multiple sclerosis in later life. The word on the scientific street also hints a lack of sunshine can even make us more susceptible to cancers like colon, breast and prostate cancer. By the same token, exposure to reasonable amounts of sunshine lowers your risk of getting these awful diseases.

Doctors getting on board

Back in 2010 a bunch of respected doctors’ groups spoke out in protest against over-zealous sun protection. While they still recommended we limit our daily exposure to a few minutes, you can extend this with the common sense use of suncreams.

Sunburn is still a massive no-no, of course, but as it turns out, so is preventing your child from getting any rays on their skin at all. As a result parents are starting to chill out and let their kids go out in the sun without first covering them from head to foot with clothes and suncreams. It looks like the tide is turning and before long Britain will once more have a sensible attitude to exposure.

The latest NICE guidelines on sun safety for kids and adults?

NICE go a bit further than the doctor’s groups who made their opinions so clear five years ago. Their guidance is as follows:

  • For adults, the most important thing is to simply avoid getting burnt
  • For children NICE says it’s best to stay in the shade when UV levels are high, but it’s important to explain the benefits of the sun’s rays as well as its risks. They also feel it’s vital to talk to kids about skin types, just basic stuff like the fact that pale or freckly skin puts you at more risk of burning than a darker complexion

Interestingly, the NICE guidelines make the point that cancer scaremongering is a bad thing. In their words, “A skin cancer prevention campaign should also mention the risk of underexposure”. The University of Oxford’s Vitamin D expert, Julia Pakpoor, says the new guidelines are “a step in the right direction”.

A bit about SPF – Sun protection factor

So there’s no need to throw your sun cream out. But at the same time there’s a clear need to exercise common sense rather than assume any and all exposure to the sun’s rays is a killer. What does SPF involve? If you’re confused about SPF, here’s what Wikipedia says:

“The SPF rating is a measure of the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin. For example, SPF 15 means that 1/15th of the burning radiation will reach the skin, assuming sunscreen is applied evenly at a thick dosage of 2 milligrams per square centimeter (mg/cm2). A user can determine the effectiveness of a sunscreen “by multiplying the SPF factor by the length of time it takes for him or her to suffer a burn without sunscreen.” Thus, if a person develops a sunburn in 10 minutes when not wearing a sunscreen, the same person in the same intensity of sunlight will avoid sunburn for 150 minutes if wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 15. It is important to note that sunscreens with higher SPF do not last or remain effective on the skin any longer than lower SPF and must be continually reapplied as directed, usually every two hours.”

It’s a wrinkle thing…

Of course sun exposure advice isn’t just for kids. It’s for adults too. And there’s still no doubt that over-exposure brings on the wrinkles. If you’re someone who worries about looking older, it’s a compromise between delaying the skin ageing process and giving your body what it needs to stay healthy. As Wikipedia says:

“A 2013 study concluded that the diligent, everyday application of sunscreen can slow or temporarily prevent the development of wrinkles and sagging skin. The study involved 900 white people in Australia and required some of them to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day for four and a half years. It found that people who did so had noticeably more resilient and smoother skin than those assigned to continue their usual practices.”

wrinkly skin

Wrinkly Skin – Sun Damage?

Schools take a while to catch up

Apparently it’s taking a while for schools to catch up with ther latest discoveries. If your children’s school is still promoting the old, discredited story about steering clear of sunshine altogether, you might like to point them in the direction of this post, and to a pertinent article in New Scientist magazine from January 2015.

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The latest advice is… chill a little! Too much sun – like too much of most good things – isn’t wise, but just enough is perfect.

Where is it Safe to Drink Tap Water?

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Clean, fresh, safe tap water – something we take for granted in Britain – is a rare thing in the developing and third worlds, and sometimes surprisingly rare in the developed world. If you’ve ever been to the Canary Islands, for instance, you won’t have found the tap water very appetising… if you were crazy enough to try it.

drinking water

Drinking Water from the tap

Illnesses that can be transmitted through water include cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid and travellers’ diarrhoea, all of which can be extremely unpleasant. Just to make life even more confusing, a lot of the time tap water only causes problems abroad because travellers aren’t used to the local water and don’t have the right immunity, not because it’s particularly dirty or unsafe. So even if the tap water is drinkable, it still might be best to avoid it.

Staying safe and well around tap water abroad is about much more than safe tap water. What about everyday things like cleaning your teeth, swimming, eating salads and fruit, having a shower? As airport parking and airport lounge specialists, travel sits at the heart of our business. Which is why we thought it’d be interesting and useful to take a look at where it is safe to drink tap water, and provide a few handy tips about minimising your exposure to horrid diseases, illnesses and parasite infestations.

Which countries guarantee safe tap water?

Aside from the UK, where our water is drinkable straight from the tap and world-famously clean, do any other nations guarantee it’s safe to drink their tap water?

Here’s a continent-by-continent guide created in the USA, based on research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, courtesy of an excellent infographic on the lifehacker website.

  • Africa – No countries offer safe drinking water
  • Asia – you’ll find safe tap water in Brunel, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel, Singapore and South Korea
  • Europe – Safe tap water is available in most of western Europe, absent in most of Eastern Europe including popular beach holiday destinations Turkey and Cyprus
  • North America – Greenland, Canada and the USA provide drinkable tap water but south America doesn’t
  • Oceania – New Zealand and Australia offer safe tap water but the rest of the region doesn’t

Some feel this is a conservative guide, and it’s safer to drink water in some countries than the CDC believes. Others feel the information is misleading, since the safety of the USA’s own tap water is under debate.

How do you tell if tap water is safe to drink?

Looking at tap water isn’t enough. Just because it’s clear and looks clean, without visible creatures swimming around in it, it doesn’t mean there are no nasties lurking in there. Many pathogens are, after all, microscopic.

tap water parasites

Tap water parasites

Is it safe to drink tap water in the USA? Not always…

Despite what the CDC says, a recent study reveals how pollution, out of date water treatment protocols, ageing water pipes and old infrastructure have put the tap water in at least 19 US cities at risk. As the NRDC says:

“NRDC’s What’s on Tap?, a carefully researched, documented and peer-reviewed study of the drinking water systems of 19 U.S. cities, found that pollution and deteriorating, out-of-date plumbing are sometimes delivering drinking water that might pose health risks to some residents.

Many cities around the country rely on pre-World War I-era water delivery systems and treatment technology. Ageing pipes can break, leach contaminants into the water they carry and breed bacteria — all potential prescriptions for illness. And old-fashioned water treatment — built to filter out particles in the water and kill some parasites and bacteria — generally fails to remove 21st-century contaminants like pesticides, industrial chemicals and arsenic.”

Atlanta, for example, is failing to maintain its water distribution system properly. Both Albuquerque and San Francisco have poor water treatment systems and Fresno doesn’t protect the sources of its tap water effectively. As a result all three cities can only offer ‘fair to substandard’ drinking water.

The study revealed a variety of nasties in US city tap water, a few of which showed up time and time again, namely:

  • Lead, from old corroded pipes and plumbing – lead causes brain damage, particularly in infants and children, and some experts believe lead in drinking water played a key role in the end of the Roman Empire, with much of the population hopelessly poisoned through lead piping
  • Germs – AKA pathogens – which affect people with compromised or undeveloped immune systems: the elderly, babies and young children
  • Trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, both bi-products of chlorine treatment and tipped to cause cancer and reproductive problems
  • Arsenic, a powerful cancer-causing poison also responsible for severer skin conditions, reproductive issues and birth defects
  • Radon – an inert gas that poses no danger until it decays into lead and radioactive polonium
  • Perchlorate – in other words, rocket fuel – which some experts feel is relatively harmless and others say is harmful to the thyroid in particular, human health in general

Apparently 22 million American citizens are exposed to arsenic in drinking water at levels the US Environment Protection Agency believe are ‘safe’. On the other hand, scientists now know there’s no such thing as a safe level of the chemical in drinking water.

It looks like your best bet in the USA is to steer clear of tap water, despite the CDC’s claims the nation as a whole provides tap water that’s safe to drink. It makes sense to be careful. If you’re travelling to the USA you can read more about this fascinating and disturbing subject here on the NRDC website.

If you’re not 100% sure it’s OK, can you make tap water safe to drink?

Yes, and if you’re in any doubt it’s worth taking extra precautions rather than ruin your trip.

  • Use water purification tablets
  • Boil water thoroughly for at least a minute, 3 minutes of you’re at high altitude (2000m or more)
  • Add 8 drops of household bleach per US gallon of water (around 3.8 litres) and leave it to stand for 30 minutes before drinking it – not particularly nice but handy in an emergency when you badly need water
  • As long as the tap water isn’t cloudy, you can fill a clear bottle with it and stand it in bright sunlight for three hours. This will kill many germs and again it’s better than nothing if you’re desperate for a drink

How desperate do you need to be?

Thirst can kill, leaving you weak and unable to make sensible decisions because you’re more or less driven mad by it. How long can you last in an emergency without resorting to dramatic actions like bleaching or sunlight-cleaning tap water?

Bear Grylls’ Rule of 3 is a good place to start: you can last 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Ideally, you need to drink water every day – the longer you go without it, the greater the health and safety risks.

Everyday actions – How to stay safe from tap water-borne disease

Drinking water is one thing. But when you’re in the habit of using tap water for everyday stuff like brushing your teeth and rinsing fresh food you need to take conscious safety steps, remembering to treat tap water with caution in every situation:

  • Salad, fresh veg and fruit – have they been washed in unsafe tap water? If you’re not sure, eat cooked food and avoid ‘raw’ salads, veg and fruit
  • Brushing your teeth – Remember to brush your teeth and rinse your brush in bottled water, not tap water
  • Taking showers and baths – do your best not to swallow any water, and use soap every time
  • Soak your false teeth in bottled water
  • Avoid drinks made with ice
  • Avoid drinks typically diluted with water, like squash and cordial
  • Never order a whisky and water in places where the tap water isn’t wholly clean and safe, unless you can see the water they add is bottled
  • Be careful swimming in the pool – don’t swallow any of it
  • Wash your hands in bottled water – a pain, but worth it in risky areas

Bottled water is the obvious choice when you’re not 100% sure about the tap water at your destination. But how does so-called mineral water stack up compared to tap water?

Tap water versus bottled water

Are tap and bottled water that different?

In most developed countries both bottled and tap water are regulated to meet safety standards. Tap water standards tend to cover the processes that take place between leaving the treatment plant and reaching the consumer in the home. Bottled water is usually regulated to meet safety standards at the point where it’s bottled and sealed.

bottled water

Bottled water – the safe option?

Tap water doesn’t contain BPA or other compounds used in plastics, whereas bottled water in plastic bottles often does. Tap water is cheaper, of course, and bottled water is extortionate by comparison. And tap water contains tooth-protecting fluoride while bottled waters don’t.

Then there’s the horrific environmental impact of plastic bottles, both in production and when they’re discarded. If you’ve seen Bear Grylls ‘The Island’ you’ll know plastic bottles are washed up on even the most remote island shores, a shameful consequence of our addiction to bottled drinks.

What about water filters?

Some people don’t like the taste of safe tap water because it’s sometimes slightly chemical-tasting. Unless that’s you, there’s no need for tap water filters in this country. Brita filters, for example, use carbon to absorb particles in the water and reduce levels of some metals as well as getting rid of the chlorine smell. Just take care to keep your filter really clean, since otherwise bacteria can grow on it. Water filters don’t get rid of minute germs, though, so they’re no substitute for bottled water abroad.

Safe tap water… but unsafe plumbing

The tap water might be perfectly safe to drink… but what about the plumbing in the building? Older buildings sometimes have lead pipes but running the tap for a minute can flush out the worst of the residue from lead solder. If you’re staying somewhere less than modern, even if the tap water is generally considered safe, it might be wise to avoid it inside the building. It depends how you feel about risk, whether you’re risk-aware or risk-averse: some of us take trisks, others don’t.

Do you have any tap water safety tips?

Being aware of the potential risks and taking sensible measures should protect you from diseases and illnesses present in tap water abroad. If you have any more tips or insights, we’d like to hear them – feel free to leave a comment.

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What You Need to Know about Ecotourism

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

As little as five years ago it was still the province of the eccentric few, something you only did if you were in the habit of wearing sandals with socks and boiling mung beans into mushy submission at mealtimes. Now ecotourism is hot property… and like the planet’s climate it’s getting hotter by the minute.

borneo jungle

Borneo Jungle

The rise and rise of sustainable tourism

What’s happening? It looks like eco-responsibility has finally gone mainstream. The USA has, at long last, decided it has a vital role to play in mitigating climate change and has committed to taking action. While they didn’t win any more seats in the recent election the Green Party is now a familiar face on the British political scene. The world is joining together to act before it’s too late, and eco tourism is growing up.

What does a dedicated eco traveler have at their disposal these days? There are more opportunities than ever to cut the ecological impact of travel and take holidays that minimise environmental damage. We thought it’d be interesting to take a look at green holidays, green airlines and sustainable travel.

About ecotourism

According to Wikipedia ecotourism is:

“Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism. Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Since the 1980s ecotourism has been considered a critical endeavor by environmentalists, so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention. Several university programs use this description as the working definition of ecotourism.”

It all sounds very positive, but there’s a down-side. Wikipedia explains again:

“Although ecotourism is intended for small groups, even a modest increase in population, however temporary, puts extra pressure on the local environment and necessitates the development of additional infrastructure and amenities. The construction of water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, and lodges come with the exploitation of non-renewable energy sources and the utilization of already limited local resources.[35] The conversion of natural land to such tourist infrastructure is implicated in deforestation and habitat deterioration of butterflies in Mexico and squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica. In other cases, the environment suffers because local communities are unable to meet the infrastructure demands of ecotourism. The lack of adequate sanitation facilities in many East African parks results in the disposal of campsite sewage in rivers, contaminating the wildlife, livestock, and people who draw drinking water from it.”

How green is your airline?

What you do when you get to your destination is one thing. But how you get there in the first place is another. The airline and aircraft tech industries have traditionally been slow on the eco-uptake, so how green is your airline?

How green is your airline

How green is your airline

It isn’t easy to find out which airlines are the greenest, despite the fact that aircraft are still one of the biggest CO2 emitters in the world’s transport sector. Thankfully most airlines are making positive inroads, doing their level best to cut emissions and offset the carbon dioxide they emit.

Green airlines – Virgin Atlantic are doing the decent thing

Virgin Atlantic has a high profile programme in place designed to help the company cut their environmental impact. They even have their own climate change manifesto, going into fine detail about how they plan to cut their carbon footprint and ensure ongoing sustainability. They call it a Gold Standard Scheme and it certainly looks that way.

Virgin is collaborating with the Switzerland-based charity MyClimate which, in turn, funds clean energy solutions with a focus on developing nations. The Gold Standard methodology Virgin uses has been endorsed by 47 NGOs including a host of environmental groups, and aims to help shift the developed and developing world away from fossil fuels to an economy based on renewable and sustainable energy.

But there’s more. Virgin has also independently verified the carbon footprint of every plane in its fleet and used the data to figure out how much CO2 is emitted per passenger. It turns out the figure depends on where you sit in the aircraft, which delivers a measure of control over how much carbon you’re responsible for as an individual.

The delightful Mr Branson has also handed over all the profits from his travel companies for the next decade to help fight global warming via a new company called Virgin Fuels, set to invest around £500 million in developing green energy sources.

Sustainable travel – British Airways goes greener

Like Virgin, British Airways is also greening up. Their website contains full details of a comprehensive policy designed to reduce their environmental impact by taking critical steps to tackle climate change, reduce noise, cut pollution and improve air quality.

BA is determined to stop adding waste to UK landfills, a move that’s set to improve their carbon efficiency by a quarter by 2025. They plan to cut average noise per flight by 15% this year and they’re also factoring in a dramatic 50% cut in net CO2 emissions by 2050.

Green holidays – easyJet has clear green goals

Cheap and cheerful easyJet also has clear environmental goals, dedicated to airline environmental efficiency in the air and on the ground. They’ve made room in their aircraft for extra passengers, which apparently means they use almost a third less fuel than rival airlines flying the same routes. And because they avoid big international hubs like Heathrow airport, faster turnarounds mean less runway taxiing, which in turn means lower fuel consumption.

That’s the top three. But take a look at more or less any airline website and you’ll see an environmental policy of one sort or another.

How do you know which airlines are greenest?

So we know most airlines are taking serious steps to minimise their contribution impact on climate change. While no airline can claim to be wholly green plenty are on the right track, owing to a powerful combination of public opinion, political pressure and financial imperatives. But how do you find out which airline is greenest before booking your next flight?

which airline

Which airline is the greenest?

Global Travel Market’s carbon friendly flight search tool is a nifty thing, worth a try.

What about green aircraft?

You can change the way you operate until you’re blue in the face, but almost every aeroplane more than a few years old is nowhere near as environmentally friendly as it could be. Introducing the sleek, beautiful and significantly greener Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The plane’s carbon-composite design makes it much lighter and more economical to fly, with a 20% reduction in fuel use and much better engine efficiency compared to similar machines. In fact it’s among the least polluting aircraft ever to enter commercial operation as well as being faster than its sister plane the 707.

As The Telegraph said in 2010, before the first Dreamliner took its inaugural commercial flight in Japan:

“To a certain extent, the Dreamliner is the aviation industry’s response to its portrayal by many green campaigners as one of the bad boys of the global warming story. It also represents a continuing trend towards lower carbon emissions. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), aircraft today are about 65 per cent more fuel-efficient than they were in 1970, while the clean technology of modern engines has almost eliminated emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.”

The International Ecotourism Society

Green holidays, green airlines, greener aircraft… it all adds up to a vibrant, fast-growing eco tourism scene, borne out by the recent ESTC15 conference held in Quito, Ecuador, a massive event bringing together the best sustainable travel ideas, developments, products, services and innovations.

With eco-friendly travel going mainstream, there are countless opportunities to have the time of your life somewhere amazing without wrecking the local ecology or filling the planet’s atmosphere with even more aircraft-generated CO2 on your way there. All it takes is a simple Google search and you’ll find a vast choice of green holiday options. It isn’t so much a destination thing – any and every destination can be as green or as un-green as you like. It depends how things are set up there.

Here’s some inspiration:

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Next week – How to make an ordinary holiday greener

Say you’re going on an ordinary, bog-standard package holiday. How can you minimise your CO2 emissions and cut your environmental impact from the moment you leave home to the second you get back? That’s what we’re looking at next week – come back to find out more.

Natural Disasters and Travel Plans – What You Should Know

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

In the past couple of weeks two natural disasters have rocked the world, the Chilean volcano and the Nepalese earthquake. The Tsunami in 2004 was a world-class natural tragedy whose repercussions are still being felt. So what about natural disasters and travel plans? And if you’re caught up in a natural disaster while you’re abroad, what can you do to help?

Volcano Eruption in Chile

Volcano Eruption in Chile – 2015

What do natural disasters mean for your travel plans?

If you’re planning to fly to a region or country that has suffered a natural disaster, what does it mean for your travel plans?

Your first step is an obvious one: does it still make sense to make the journey, full stop? Or will you just end up being a liability in an area where the local people are quite rightly too concerned with survival and rescue to think about your needs? If you’re likely to get in the way, stay away.

There’s no guarantee the infrastructure will still be there to support you anyway. The 2004 tsunami destroyed everything in its path, trashing tourist hot spots as well as homes, businesses, entire towns and cities.

Think about the risks inherent in a country before travelling there

Anyone travelling to an area prone to natural disasters should stay up to date with the news and government issued warnings. It’s just common sense.

Take Chile, an active earthquake zone with a recent increase in high magnitude quakes. The country’s active volcanoes can erupt at any time. Santiago saw a massive one in early 2010, causing widespread damage and generating several tsunamis.  The same volcano also erupted in 2008, triggering mass evacuations of the surrounding area, and the Llaima volcano recently flared up, too.

Natural disasters and travel plans

One thing that’s always a feature of natural disasters is chaos, since they tend to be unexpected and unpredictable events. Take Nepal, where hundreds of British tourists and nationals are still trapped. A report in the Daily Mail reveals the challenges people face.

Holiday companies are cancelling trips to Nepal for the foreseeable future, at least until May. Customers with existing bookings are being offered either a full refund or a trip somewhere else. The UK Foreign Office is focusing on ensuring the safety of British people in Nepal, and there’s a special helpline offering advice for anyone caught in the disaster.

There are warnings that there will always be a risk of earthquakes in Nepal because of its geology, sitting on top of two vast tectonic plates which constantly push against each other. And queues are building ever-faster as Tribhuvan International Airport fills up with tourists desperate to leave. It’s a situation most of us would prefer to avoid.

What about claiming on your travel insurance?

If you have to cancel a flight because there’s been a natural disaster, what about travel insurance? Can you claim? It depends on the terms and conditions. Having said that, most travel insurance policies cover much the same risks and many have much the same terms and conditions.

Travel insurance cover

Are you covered for natural disasters?

The first thing to check is whether your policy covers you for natural disasters, AKA natural catastrophes, full stop. Sometimes you need to actually buy special Natural Catastrophe Cover, which offers financial protection if you need to cancel your trip or are stranded.

The natural disasters insurers tend to cover include volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.

  • If your outbound flight is delayed, your airline might be able to offer an alternative flight or give you your money back
  • If you’re delayed more than 24 hours many policies let you claim a sum per person to compensate. Other policies let you claim for ‘reasonable’ extra expenses like accommodation and food
  • If your flight is cancelled, many travel insurers pay out a sum per person for alternative travel arrangements so you can still go on your trip, assuming your destination still exists
  • If your return journey is delayed by more than 24 hours and your airline can’t fly you back, most insurers pay for alternative travel arrangements
  • If you are due to travel soon but there’s been a natural disaster, you should be able to claim travel insurance compensation for the costs you’ve incurred
  • If you’re injured in a natural disaster your travel insurer will do everything they can to get you out and to a good hospital asap, something that would otherwise be completely unaffordable

What’s happening in Nepal?

Dozens of British families are still waiting for news about loved ones missing in Nepal. Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, said Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff were working hard to identify and help British nationals, dozens of whom are listed as missing. The number of people confirmed killed so far stands at more than 5000 but the final toll could hit ten thousand.

Rescue workers search for earthquake survivors in Kathmandu

Rescue workers search for earthquake survivors in Kathmandu

Our government has promised to provide continuing emergency assistance. There’s a team of British Gurkhas on Everest busy identifying and reporting British nationals as they head down the mountain and soldiers from the Gurkha training base in Nepal are also pitching in.

60 British government personnel including search-and-rescue teams and disaster experts were already in the country when the earthquake hit, and transport planes full of British army Gurkha engineers and equipment are on their way.

Natural disasters – What you can to do help

Several British doctors were climbing in the Himalayas when the recent Nepal earthquake struck. Unable to get home, they’re currently trekking to reach civilisation, at which point they’ll be using their medical expertise to pitch in and help local people.

When the tsunami hit in 2004 holidaymakers from all over the world helped locals in the aftermath. It’s human nature to want to help – so what can you do when stuck abroad after a natural disaster?

These days NGOs and charities often collaborate with local people. Locals know the territory and know the culture. If you’ve survived a natural disaster abroad, you might not be able to get home any time soon. Your best bet might be to hook up with the first charity workers you comer across and volunteer your services.

Provided you’re fit and uninjured you might be able to provide invaluable help by lending your mobile to the emergency services, removing rubble and freeing trapped people. It may involve dealing with dead bodies, something most westerners aren’t used to.

Building temporary shelter, rebuilding homes, preparing and distributing food are things most of us can do, even though we’re not aid experts.

Love Nepal – what can you do from home?

If you’re determined to help from home, perhaps because you’ve been to the area, loved it and feel you’d like to contribute, monetary donations are always appreciated. It’s sometimes the only way you can help, but there’s more.

  • Donate clothing, food, blankets, tents, tarpaulins to your nearest collection centre
  • Donate time to sort, pack and deliver donated goods
  • Raise funds yourself or with a group of like-minded friends and family
  • Kick off a fundraising drive at work
  • Bear in mind the need for money and other donations and funds is almost always ongoing, long after the news has died down.
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Donate to DEC

In this country the DEC, Disasters and Emergency Committee, co-ordinates charity and relief work in war-torn or disaster-stricken regions. They’re currently co-ordinating a huge appeal, so give what you can.

Do you have any experience trapped abroad by a natural disaster? How did you cope? We’d value your tips.

Tips for Travelling With Children

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Travelling with grown ups is a relatively simple affair, mostly a matter of getting yourselves to the right place at the right time. You’re perfectly capable of staying safe, not getting lost and entertaining yourself as much as you need to. Add kids to the equation and things suddenly get a lot more complicated. It’s an entirely different experience.

kids on holiday

Traveling with kids

Tips for travelling with kids – An overwhelming experience for toddlers

Here are some sensible tips for travel with children. Take these into account and you’re much more likely to hang onto your sanity. And it’ll help your young child enjoy this thrilling new experience to the full.

Top tips for perfect timing

Your first step? Get to the airport early. As an adult you can run for a flight, steam around the terminal at high speed and move super-fast whenever you need to. As a parent life is a lot slower, especially when they’re really little. You just can’t move as fast as when you’re on your own.

On the bright side, the extra time you spend chilling at the airport will give your child a chance to use up some energy between the journey to the airport and the flight itself, and most major hubs these days have an airport play area. Playing safely with other kids is an excellent pre-flight distraction for your child and helps tire them out!

child in cockpit

Child in the cockpit

Bear in mind strangers, crowds and loud unfamiliar noises can make toddlers feel totally overwhelmed. All that new, unfamiliar sensory stimulation can be a bit much for  little ones. The minute you and your tiny tots enter the terminal you’re almost immediately thrust into tantrum land. If your toddler is aged around three they may even be aware – on some level – that they’re going to fly in an aeroplane, which can result in even more tantrums because they’re scared.

The experts say it helps to introduce the idea early and create a relentlessly positive build up to the big day. Point out aircraft contrails and make a fuss about aircraft when they fly over your home. Buy your little one a toy plane to play with a few weeks beforehand.

If you can possible plan the timing of your flight so your child will be either asleep or napping at least part of the way, so much the better. And bring basic snacks to fill the gaps between mealtimes, especially if you’re crossing time zones.

Airport parking is a boon when you’re travelling with little kids. It means you can stash your car close to the terminal, enjoy a trouble-free, smooth, reliable journey to the concourse and your car will be waiting for you when you get back home, convenient and easy to access.

Happy toddlers = happy travellers!

Child psychologists recommend you take plenty of familiar toys with you to the airport but also buy something new and novel, since novelty goes a long way towards keeping a small child happy and distracted.

Aircraft toddler facilities

Aircraft toddler facilities

You – and everyone else on your flight – would prefer your offspring to sit reasonably still and stay reasonably quiet on the flight itself. If your child wants to run around the concourse and expend lots of energy before boarding the plane, that’s good news. Let them burn off as much as they can. If there are huge queues and there are two or more grown-ups in your group, your child can always run around supervised by one adult while the rest of your party hold your place in the queue.

Little kids get bored very easily and need a constant stream of entertainment to keep them calm and happy. You’re on a plane so they really can’t run around without driving everyone else nuts. So prepare yourself with books, gadgets and games. I SPY is an incredibly simple game but it’s endlessly absorbing for small people. Books are always brilliant, as is ad hoc storytelling. You could even make up a unique tale about the plane, the airport, the sky, the land below, your destination… and make your child the hero of the story.

What about pushchairs on planes?

Don’t check in your pushchair. Most airlines let you push it to the gate itself, then they’ll stash it for you and have it waiting when you disembark. It’s wise to label it with your name, address and mobile number just in case. Sometimes you can even bring a small pushchair on board, depending on how crowded the flight is.  And always check the airline’s baggage restrictions. Some international flights let you check in hand luggage for a baby over and above your personal allowance, others exclude baby stuff from adult baggage allowances.

push chair in plane overhead locker

Sensibly stowed push chair

Can you use electronic gadgets on board a plane?

While you have to turn off gadgets for take-off and landing, your child can play with their Gameboy or whatever on the flight, no problem. Some seats even come with an electrical socket but it’s probably best to fully charge all your gadgets before you leave home.

What if you’re staying at an airport hotel?

What if you’re staying in an airport hotel because your flight leaves very early in the morning? You can show your child photos of the hotel beforehand and make up stories about it together so it won’t freak them out too much. Explore the whole hotel experience with them, talking about the new people they might meet and how exciting, fun and grown up it’s going to be. If your airport hotel provides on-site airport parking, even better. The less time and hassle you spend getting from A to B, the better everyone concerned will enjoy the journey.

If you can possibly do so, travel off peak

Off peak travel means you’ll have a better choice of seats. If you’re lucky the plane will be less crowded in the first place. It also helps to steer clear of flights with long layovers or late-night connections. If you can actually pre-book or reserve seats in advance, do it.

What about baby car seats?

You can often fit a baby car seat into an aeroplane seat when it’s next to a window, but otherwise it can be tricky. If you can’t pre-book, turn up early so you stand a good chance of getting the seats you want.

Some airlines let you pre-board, going on board before the rush if you have small children with you. But it’s a mixed blessing. You might get family-friendly seats but it also means you might end ups spending an extra half an hour on the plane.  Depending on your child and the length of the journey, you might prefer to leave getting on the plane until the last minute.

Is it appropriate to medicate your child to a calm state?

Pets are usually tranquillised before travelling by plane. Some parents take an antihistamine syrup to give their child before the plane takes off. It makes them sleepy. But it’s never a good idea to drug your child when they’re in perfect health.

Ear infections can be very painful on a plane because of the dramatic changes in the air pressure. If your child has an ear infection or a cold, or has just recovered from a bad head cold, consult your doctor before planning a trip. If their ears hurt a drink usually does the trick, so have one handy just in case.

Flying dehydrates adults, and it’s potentially even more of an uncomfortable experience for children because they dehydrate faster. Make sure they get plenty of fluids.

Getting the sartorial bit right

Frequent fliers wear layers of clothes that are easy to take on and off. It’s good to do the same for your child so they don’t get cross and uncomfortable being either too hot or too cold, inside and outside the terminal, on the concourse and on the plane.

What about in-flight baby changing facilities?

With a bit of luck, if your plane is relatively modern, there will be clearly-marked baby changing facilities on board. But a lot of planes don’t, so check with a flight attendant where’s the best place for nappy changes.

Routine is a good general rule

It helps enormously when you keep your child’s routine as ordinary and everyday as possible, despite all the excitement. Let them sleep when it’s sleep time, play when it’s play time and eat when it’s meal time.

What’s your best tip for travelling with children?

If you’re a seasoned family traveller who’s fluent in travel for kids, we’d love to know your very best tips for travelling with kids.

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Last Minute Easter Breaks

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

There are two reliable ways to grab a brilliant holiday bargain. One is to book as far in advance as you can, the other is to leave it until the very last minute. With the Easter holidays almost upon us, what can you expect from last minute Easter breaks in 2015?

coloured easter eggs

Coloured Easter Eggs – yum!

We thought it’d be useful to take a look at what’s available for Easter 2015, how to get standby tickets and how your nearest regional airport might be your best holiday bargain bet. But first, to whet your appetite, here are a handful of inspirational examples of last minute deals for the Easter holidays.

Last minute Easter holidays – Cool getaways for less

Where to begin? OnTheBeach is a great place to start. They recommend a suite of really good hotels, picking out some of their favourites for special Easter treatment. It might only just be spring over here but farther south it’s heating up nicely, and you don’t need to travel far to find plenty of early season sunshine. Make Europe your destination this Easter and you’ll be sunning yourself in a matter of hours.

Take Tenerife, gorgeous all year round and a very popular Easter break destination with more or less guaranteed sunshine. You’ll discover an  altogether quieter, chilled atmosphere than in the heart of the holiday season, when it’s packed to the gills with teeming grockles. Or why not choose the beautiful Portuguese Algarve with its stunning coastline and marvellous climate? Even Spain, even closer to home, starts heating up at this time of year, with Easter breaks on the Costa Brava and Benidorm very popular choices. And it’s glorious in scenic Majorca at this time of year.

last minute holiday in tenerife

Last Minute Holiday – Tenerife

It’s also a good idea to explore site, highly experienced last minute specialists who have been dealing in cheap travel for years and years. They feature a huge collection of low cost Easter city breaks, luxury and long haul holidays, beach holidays and hotels, plus cool extras like spa packages, experiences, restaurants and theatres. Everything you could need to make Easter extra special.

How to get last minute holiday deals

You’ve decided to make your move and get away for the bank holiday. So how, exactly, do you track down the best last minute deals?

First, forget everything you used to know about finding last minute flights. Things have changed. There’s no point turning up at the airport looking hopeful. Most flights sell out from the start, leaving you with almost no chance of picking up a bargain unless you’ve missed your flight, have paid full price and want to fly earlier or have friends or family working at the airport. Other than that, forget it. You’re much better off finding last minute deals online.

last minute holiday miami

Last Minute Holiday – Miami

You could always apply to be an air courier, although it’s a bit late for this Easter. It used to be very popular, but very few airlines do it these days. While it often took a couple of weeks for a parcel to get through UK Customs in the olden days, pre-internet, now everything is a lot faster and air couriers are not in regular demand any more.

Whatever method you plan to use, it benefits you to keep your eyes peeled, simply because everyone else wanting cheap last minute flights and holidays will be doing exactly that. Pay attention, be vigilant and you’re more likely to snag the deal of the century from under less observant punters’ noses. One good way to stay on the ball is sign up for a load of airline email newsletters, which often announce spare seats on chartered flights at crazy low prices.

You can hone your search even more closely by focusing on the many websites which are actually designed for last minute travel. Take Holiday Pirates, perfect for comprehensive lists of last minute flights along with really good, detailed descriptions of every low cost holiday offer. You can also sign up to get ‘price alerts’, for example from Skyscanner. All you do is pick  the flight or flights you want and Skyscanner emails you every day with the latest price.

Social media also come in handy. Follow your favourite airlines on Twitter and Facebook to see seriously discounted flights first. And keep your eyes peeled for cancelled holidays, which are often re-marketed on social media at rock bottom prices.

Obviously flexibility helps. The more flexible you can be, the better chance of getting the best deal on the planet. Make a list of suitable destinations, airlines and airports and see what happens. Skyscanner comes in handy here, too, with the option to pick the ‘everywhere’ destination. Now that’s what we call random! Talk about having an adventure…

Lastly, bear in mind that flag carrying airlines like British Airways regularly provide cheap flights months in advance, with cheap international tickets on offer from five and a half months in advance. It’s no good for last minute deals, of course, but handy to know if you’re determined to go long haul for less money in the future. In this case, planning ahead is almost always your best bet.

What about standby and cheap flights from regional airports?

If you’re travelling last minute, the last thing you need is a long and boring journey to the airport. You want the whole process to be neat, fast and efficient, and as such a regional airport could be the answer to your dreams. They’re especially exciting if you want to fly internally, say from the chilly north east to relatively balmy Bournemouth for the Easter bank holiday.

BMI Regional, for example, offers low cost travel to and from a multitude of British and EU regional airports, avoiding the hassle, the crowds and the sheer, bewildering size of major hubs like Manchester and Gatwick. You can fly to Barcelona from Birmingham and Leeds airports courtesy of Monarch airlines. And there are more than 25 flights to Jersey from British regional airports. How to find out who flies where, from where? Check your closest regional airport’s airline and destination lists. Or give them a call.

Staying safe – Don’t forget ATOL

Cheap as chips is one thing. Safe is another. Whoever you book your cheap Easter break with check they’re licensed by ATOL, which stands for the Air Travel Organisers Licence. Provided by the British Civil Aviation Authority, it protects your rights, making sure you’re properly looked after if you’re stranded abroad. It also means you don’t lose out financially when an ATOL member goes broke – something that isn’t common but does happen every now and again.

Treat yourself while you wait – Enjoy a private airport lounge

When you’ve spent next to nothing on your cheap flights or discounted holiday, there might be some spare cash to play with. We recommend transforming a basic experience into something special by treating yourself to an airport lounge. Rather than milling around the concourse being driven nuts by the crowds, you can relax in a smart, cosy, well-equipped lounge with snacks, reading materials, free WiFi, drinks and all sorts of other goodies rolled into the price. If you fancy starting your cheap holiday in style, you can book an airport lounge through us.

What about your last minute travel tips?

If you have any hot tips for finding the best last minute deals, we’d love to share them with our readers. Feel free to comment.

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Travel Safety – Is Terrorism Affecting Your 2015 Vacation?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

Is the threat of terrorism making you feel a bit farty about going abroad? It’s fourteen years since 9/11 and the threat has never completely gone away. Now, with IS on the rampage, the risk feels like it’s on the increase. Is it safe to travel?

There has been a dramatic hike in ‘staycations’ in recent years, with increasing numbers of us taking our holidays at home in Britain instead of flying to far-flung hot destinations. It’s partly down to the biggest recession the planet has ever seen, but it’s also likely to be influenced by the understandable fear of some extremist nutter might blow your plane up.

Staycations in the UK

Staycations Increasingly Popular

Are you scared about terrorism abroad?

Whether we like it or not, are conscious of it or not, fear is influencing the tourism industry. Here’s some insight into what the powers that be are saying about terrorism and the advice they’re giving.

What are the American authorities saying about terrorism and travel safety?

The USA Department of State’s announcements are always a good way to gauge the western world’s emotional temperature, although they seem to make more of a meal of the risks than our government. Right now they’re busy updating their ‘Worldwide Caution’ advice about the continuing terrorist threat. According to them:

“Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.”

Why the change? On 22nd September 2014 the United States kicked off military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the terrorist organisation operating mainly in Syria and Iraq. In response  ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners, leading to an “increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.”

At the same time kidnappings and hostage taking is on the increase, especially for US citizens. ISIL, al Qa`ida and co. seem keen to finance their operations through ransom demands. The targets are usually westerners and the videos made of executions have horrified the world, the stuff nightmares are made of.

Terror targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, offices, buses and trains, airports, aircraft, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping centres and tourist destinations… in short anywhere westerners gather. No matter whether or not it’s a real threat to you personally, and no matter how unlikely the threat actually is, you can’t help thinking about it.

increased security concerns

Security Concerns Increased

Travel safety – What about travelling safely within Europe?

Talking about the risk facing US travellers in Europe, the Department of State says this:

“Current information suggests that ISIL, al-Qa’ida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. and Western interests in Europe. Authorities believe the likelihood of a terror attack in Europe is increased as European members of ISIL return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat in Europe from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.  In the past several years, organized extremist attacks have been planned or carried out in various European countries. European governments have taken action to guard against terrorist attacks, and some have made official declarations regarding heightened threat conditions.”

What does the British government say about terrorism and travel?

The excellent Foreign Travel Advice provided by the British government is presented alphabetically on a country-by-country basis, making it easy to suss out the country-focused risks you’re likely to face. The information coves 225 nations and territories and you can submit a request for emailed updates, which means you always have the latest information to hand.

What effect does terrorism have on tourism?

While most experts agree terrorism does have a measurable effect on tourism, the jury is out as far as the actual impact is concerned. The George Bush suck website, for example, says this:

“Terrorism does affect tourism industry but it also affects those sectors of economy that are directly or indirectly related to the tourism industry. This effect can either be large or small depending on the dependency on the tourism industry.

However, developing countries that are largely dependent on tourism are affected more than countries which are not. The psychological impact of terrorism, however, is sufficient to disrupt tourism in most countries but the large countries are able to absorb the damage to the economy which too much ado. However, the smaller countries and developing countries who are completely dependent on tourism can reach the point of collapse because of the effect of terrorism to the tourism industry, as was evident after the 9/11 attacks.”

Kenya tourism affected by terrorism

Kenya Tourism Affected by Tourism

Worldwatch feedback about tourism and terror

What about the Worldwatch Institute, the Washington, DC-based environmental research organization? Back in 2001 they reported a dramatic post-9/11 drop in tourism right across the world, revealing how high profile terrorist incidents can have a long-lasting and dramatic impact on the planet’s economies. As they said:

“As fewer overseas travellers pack their bags this holiday season, millions of tourism industry workers worldwide are losing their jobs. Before September 11th, travel and tourism was the world’s largest industry, accounting for one in every 12 jobs. When the massive $3.6 trillion industry almost ground to a halt after the terrorist attacks, the ripple effects extended well beyond the United States, exposing the vulnerability of countries too dependent on international tourism.”

“The aftermath of September 11 has shown us how important travel and tourism are to the global economy, but also how over-dependence on tourism can devastate lives and derail economies. Now, more than ever, it is time to put issues of sustainability at the top of the global tourism agenda.”

According to them India and Nepal, both near troubled Afghanistan, experienced serious drops in tourist demand after 9/11. Club Méditerranée closed 15 Caribbean, Central American, Middle Eastern, European and Asian holiday villages. Costa Rica saw a crippling 30% reduction in bookings compared with the year before. And international tourism took a massive overall hit.

An ongoing threat to air travel safety

Since 9/11 the terror threat has never really gone away and we’ve become accustomed to the often-irritating and time consuming extra security measures at airports. The Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris plus a host more terrorist incidents across the world, including the cartoon-related Denmark shootings, are no doubt also having a corrosive effect on the way ordinary people feel about travelling.

The nastiest thing about faith-based terrorism is that it doesn’t have boundaries. It’s not about nation versus nation, it’s about cross-border ideaologies, which means an incident can happen more or less anywhere, affecting anyone the extremists take issue with. It could happen down your street or in mainland Europe. It’s just as likely to kick off close to home as it is in some exotic far-flung land.

What about the particular risks women face abroad?

Fear isn’t always about terrorism. Some extremists, as well as disapproving of western culture, also take exception to the way western women behave. Which means the mere fact of being female can land you in hot water. What does ‘safe travel’ mean if you’re female, what are the most dangerous holiday destinations for women right now? The Daily Mail has come up with a list of countries where western women are experiencing problems:

  • A sexual assault is reported every twenty minutes in India and recent sexual attacks have hit the international headlines
  • A recent YouGov survey revealed Bogota, Mexico City and Lima as the least safe cities for women
  • In Brazil there’s “widespread violence led by criminal gangs and abusive police.” Rape, gender-based violence and gunpoint robberies are an issue for tourists
  • The Thailand Domestic Violence Information Centre acknowledges violence against women is a growing problem, partly fuelled by the recreational drug Yah Bah and alcohol
  • Egypt used to be safe enough but the country has seen an unprecedented wave of sexual violence against women since the 2011 revolution
  • In Colombia, Human Rights Watch says, corrupt police have a very poor record of protecting women. Worse still, rapists are rarely prosecuted
  • South Africa – One of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the world, South Africa is also a hotbed of gunpoint robberies. At least 66,000 sexual offences were reported in 2012-2013
  • Morocco – Although the Foreign Office advises violent crime isn’t currently a big issue it’s common for females, particularly when travelling alone, to be harassed by men
  • Kenya – In 2010, a national survey revealed 32% of girls experienced pre-adulthood sexual violence. In 2014 there was a widely-reported sex attack on a young woman wearing a short skirt. It led to mass demonstrations by women determined to highlight the country’s widespread violence against women. Worse still, tourist kidnappings and sexual assaults are not unheard of

Vigilance and common sense

Whether or not you’ve decided to holiday abroad this summer, whether you’re male or female, it makes sense to remain vigilant and exercise common sense. Are you staycationing this year and if so, is it because you fear the terrorist threat? Are you merrily going away despite everything, sure the risk isn’t that serious? Whatever your feelings, we’d love to hear them – feel free to comment.

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IATA Airport Codes for UK Airports

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by Kate Goldstone

About UK IATA Airport Codes

If you’ve ever wondered what the three letter airport codes that appear on your pre-printed luggage labels  are all about, here’s a run-down about everything to do with IATA airport codes.

IATA  International Air Transport Association

IATA – International Air Transport Association

What are IATA airport codes and why do we need them?

IATA is the International Air Transport Association, the international airline industry’s trade association. The modern IATA is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association, founded in The Hague in 1919 when the world’s first international scheduled services were created. The modern iteration of the organisation was founded in Havana, Cuba, back in 1945, tasked with encouraging and facilitating inter-airline cooperation to benefit increasing numbers of air travel consumers.

In 1945 IATA already had 57 members from 31 nations, mostly across the EU and USA. Now it boasts more than 250 members from 118 countries, mainly major carriers who, in total, handle around 84% of the planet’s air traffic. The international scheduled air transport industry has also grown beyond all recognition since 1945. Now it’s at least 100 times bigger, partly thanks to IATA.

Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, IATA helps formulate air travel industry policy and standards. It also has offices in Geneva, Switzerland plus 60 or so others in 60 countries. It sees itself as a powerful force for ‘value creation and innovation’, helping maintain a safe, secure and profitable air transport industry which connects and enriches our world in a sustainable fashion.

The organisation represents, leads and serves the airline industry. It’s their job to improve public and commercial understanding of the sector, increasing awareness of the benefits of aviation in today’s  global economy. They stand firm on the sector’s behalf, challenging ‘unreasonable’ rules and charges, holding both governments and airline regulators to account and insisting on common sense regulation. And they’ve been doing it for almost 70 years.

In short IATA helps airlines do their job safely, securely, efficiently and economically under clearly defined rules, delivering professional support to every stakeholder via a huge range of services and products.

IATA Airports

IATA Airports

About IATA codes for airports

Today IATA codes are an integral element of the travel industry, essential for identifying airlines, their destinations and official traffic documents.

IATA publishes an updated list of airport codes twice a year in the IATA Airline Coding Directory. IATA codes are basically abbreviations made up of 3 letters, each identifying a specific airport. Also called the IATA location identifier, IATA station code or location identifier, they’re also displayed prominently on the luggage tags attached at the airport check-in desk, to help make sure your stuff arrives at the right destination.

But there’s more… it’s a travel thing. As well as codes to identify airports across the world, IATA also produces codes for railway stations agreed between the major airlines and big public transport companies like SNCF French Rail and Deutsche Bahn.

IATA history

Airport codes were first invented to help pilots identify specific airports. In the 1930s when aviation was in its infancy, a sport for the wealthy that ordinary people rarely if ever experienced, pilots in the United States used a 2 letter code provided by the US National Weather Service to identify cities. The original system soon became unworkable because not all towns and cities had an NWS code. So today’s 3 letter system was brought in, allowing an impressive total of 17,576 permutations.

IATA codes in use

IATA Codes in use

Interesting IATA airport code facts

  • Many airport codes are named after the first 3 letters of the city in which – or near which – the airport is located. SIN for Singapore, MEX for Mexico City and so on.
  • When this isn’t possible or it would create a duplicate code, they use a combination of the letters in the nearest city’s name, for example GDL for Guadalajara and HKG for Hong Kong.
  • Just to keep matters interesting, some US airports held onto their old NWS codes and simply added an X on the end, giving us codes like LAX for Los Angeles in California and PHX for Phoenix in Arizona.
  • Having said all that, some airport codes don’t fit any of these protocols. Some cross municipal and other kinds of boundaries, which results in mixed up codes like DFW for Dallas Fort Worth and LBA for Britain’s popular regional hub, Leeds Bradford airport.
  • What happens if two cities with the same name each have their own airport? Here’s an example. Take Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, coded SJC. It’s in San Jose, California, but the very similar Juan Santamaría International Airport, coded SJO, denotes San José in Costa Rica.
  • Some places, for instance Washington D.C, have more than one airport. Washington has three and they’ve all been given very different codes: IAD means Washington-Dulles airport. DCA denotes the Reagan National, AKA the District of Columbia Airport. And BWI is assigned to Baltimore Washington International airport.
  • Some airport codes are based on the airport’s original name, not the new one. Take Chicago O’Hare, coded ORD because it’s original name, during the 1950s, was Orchard Field airport.
  • A handful of airport codes are so well known they’re used instead of the airport’s full name. A good example is LAX, a name that’s much more popular than ‘Los Angeles Airport’.
  • Many airports in Canada put a Y in front of their airport codes although, confusingly, not every Y code is Canadian.
  • A lot of airports in New Zealand have codes including the letter Z, to differentiate them from other airports overseas with the same names. An example? There’s HLZ for Hamilton and WSZ for Westport.

List of IATA airport codes for UK airports

The airport codes for Britain’s top 10 airports are:

  1. London Heathrow – LHR
  2. London Gatwick – LGW
  3.  Manchester – MAN
  4. Stansted – STN
  5. Birmingham International Airport – BHX
  6. Glasgow International – GLA
  7. Edinburgh – EDI
  8. London Luton – LTN
  9. Aldergrove International Airport, Belfast – BFS
  10. Bristol – BRS

There are 24 commercial international airports in Britain plus countless domestic and private airfields. Here’s a list of IATA airport codes for all of the UK’s airports.

City name IATA Airport Code Airport Name Country name Country Abbrev. World Area Code
Aberdeen ABZ Dyce United Kingdom GB 493
Abingdon ABB RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Alconbury AYH RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Alderney ACI The Blaye United Kingdom GB 493
Andover ADV Andover United Kingdom GB 493
Bally Kelly BOL Bally Kelly United Kingdom GB 493
Barra BRR North Bay United Kingdom GB 493
Barrow-In-Furness BWF Walney Island United Kingdom GB 493
Belfast BHD Belfast City Airport United Kingdom GB 493
Belfast BFS Belfast Aldergrove International United Kingdom GB 493
Bembridge BBP Bembridge United Kingdom GB 493
Benbecula BEB Benbecula United Kingdom GB 493
Benson BEX RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Birmingham ZBC Colmore Row Bus Stn United Kingdom GB 493
Birmingham BHX Birmingham International United Kingdom GB 493
Yateley BBS Blackbushe United Kingdom GB 493
Blackpool BLK Blackpool United Kingdom GB 493
Bournemouth BOH Bournemouth International United Kingdom GB 493
Bradford BRF Bradford United Kingdom GB 493
Bradford ZFC Bus Station United Kingdom GB 493
Braintree WXF Wether Fld RAF United Kingdom GB 493
Brandon LKZ Lakenheath RAF United Kingdom GB 493
Brighton BSH Brighton United Kingdom GB 493
Bristol BRS Bristol United Kingdom GB 493
Britrail Rail Zone S QQS London St. Pancras United Kingdom GB 493
Brize Norton BZZ Raf Station United Kingdom GB 493
Burtonwood BUT Burtonwood United Kingdom GB 493
Bury St Edmunds BEQ Honington United Kingdom GB 493
Cambridge CBG Cambridge United Kingdom GB 493
Campbeltown CAL Machrihanish United Kingdom GB 493
Cardiff CWL Cardiff-wales Arpt United Kingdom GB 493
Carlisle CAX Carlisle United Kingdom GB 493
Chester CEG Chester United Kingdom GB 493
Isle Of Coll COL Isle Of Coll United Kingdom GB 493
Isle Of Colonsay CSA Isle Of Colonsay United Kingdom GB 493
Coventry CVT Coventry – West Midlands International Airport United Kingdom GB 493
Cromarty CRN Cromarty United Kingdom GB 493
Dewsbury ZEQ Bus Station United Kingdom GB 493
Doncaster DSA Robin Hood International United Kingdom GB 493
Dornoch DOC Dornoch United Kingdom GB 493
Dundee DND Dundee United Kingdom GB 493
Dundee ZDU ScotRail United Kingdom GB 493
Durham Tees Valley MME Durham Tees Valley United Kingdom GB 493
Eday EOI Eday United Kingdom GB 493
Edinburgh EDI Turnhouse United Kingdom GB 493
Edinburgh ZXE ScotRail United Kingdom GB 493
Enniskillen ENK Enniskillen United Kingdom GB 493
Exeter EXT Exeter United Kingdom GB 493
Fair Isle FIE Fair Isle United Kingdom GB 493
Fairford FFD RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Fakenham FKH Sculthorp RAF United Kingdom GB 493
Farnborough FAB Farnborough United Kingdom GB 493
Fetlar FEA Fetlar United Kingdom GB 493
Filton FZO Filton United Kingdom GB 493
Flotta FLH Flotta United Kingdom GB 493
Forres FSS Kinloss United Kingdom GB 493
Fort William FWM Heliport United Kingdom GB 493
Foula FOA Foula United Kingdom GB 493
Glasgow GLA Glasgow International United Kingdom GB 493
Glasgow PIK Prestwick United Kingdom GB 493
Glasgow ZGG ScotRail United Kingdom GB 493
Gloucester GLO Gloucestershire United Kingdom GB 493
Grimsby GSY Binbrook United Kingdom GB 493
Guernsey GCI Guernsey United Kingdom GB 493
Hammersmith WUK Off Line Point United Kingdom GB 493
Harrogate HRT Linton-On-Ouse United Kingdom GB 493
Hatfield HTF Hatfield United Kingdom GB 493
Haverfordwest HAW Haverfordwest United Kingdom GB 493
Hendon HEN Hendon United Kingdom GB 493
High Wycombe HYC High Wycombe United Kingdom GB 493
Holyhead HLY Holyhead United Kingdom GB 493
Hoy Island HOY Hoy Island United Kingdom GB 493
Humberside HUY Humberside Arpt United Kingdom GB 493
Inverness INV Inverness United Kingdom GB 493
Inverness ZIV ScotRail United Kingdom GB 493
Ipswich IPW Ipswich (Closed) United Kingdom GB 493
Islay ILY Glenegedale United Kingdom GB 493
Isle Of Man IOM Ronaldsway United Kingdom GB 493
Isle Of Skye SKL Broadford United Kingdom GB 493
Isles Of Scilly ISC St Marys United Kingdom GB 493
Isles Of Scilly TSO Tresco United Kingdom GB 493
Jersey JER States United Kingdom GB 493
Kings Lynn KNF Marham RAF United Kingdom GB 493
Lands End LEQ Lands End United Kingdom GB 493
Leeds LBA Leeds/Bradford United Kingdom GB 493
Liverpool LPL Liverpool John Lennon (Speke) United Kingdom GB 493
Lochgilphead LPH Heliport United Kingdom GB 493
Biggin Hill BQH Biggin Hill United Kingdom GB 493
London ZLX British Rail Terminal United Kingdom GB 493
London LGW Gatwick United Kingdom GB 493
London LHR Heathrow United Kingdom GB 493
London LCY London City Airport United Kingdom GB 493
London QQW London-Waterloo United Kingdom GB 493
London LTN Luton Airport United Kingdom GB 493
London STN Stansted United Kingdom GB 493
London ZEP Victoria Railway Stn. United Kingdom GB 493
Londonderry LDY Eglinton (City Of Londonderry) United Kingdom GB 493
Lossiemouth LMO RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Lyneham LYE RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Machrihanish GQJ RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Manchester MAN Manchester United Kingdom GB 493
Manchester ZMP Manchester Bus Stn. United Kingdom GB 493
Manston MSE Kent International United Kingdom GB 493
Mildenhall MHZ Mildenhall Arpt United Kingdom GB 493
Mildenhall GXH NAF United Kingdom GB 493
Milton Keynes KYN Milton Keynes United Kingdom GB 493
Mull ULL Mull United Kingdom GB 493
Newbury EWY Greenham RAF United Kingdom GB 493
Newcastle NCL Newcastle Airport United Kingdom GB 493
Newquay NQY St Mawgan United Kingdom GB 493
North Ronaldsay NRL North Ronaldsay United Kingdom GB 493
Northampton ORM Northampton United Kingdom GB 493
Northolt NHT Northolt United Kingdom GB 493
Norwich NWI Norwich Arpt United Kingdom GB 493
Nottingham NQT Nottingham Airport United Kingdom GB 493
Nottingham EMA Nottingham E. Midlands United Kingdom GB 493
Nottingham XQI Railway Station United Kingdom GB 493
Nottingham XQH Railway Station United Kingdom GB 493
Oakham OKH Cottesmor RAF United Kingdom GB 493
Oban OBN Oban Airport United Kingdom GB 493
Oban OHP Heliport United Kingdom GB 493
Odiham ODH RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Orkney Island KOI Orkney Island United Kingdom GB 493
Outer Skerries OUK Outer Skerries United Kingdom GB 493
Oxford OXF Kidlington United Kingdom GB 493
Papa Stour PSV Papa Stour United Kingdom GB 493
Papa Westray PPW Papa Westray United Kingdom GB 493
Penzance PZE Penzance United Kingdom GB 493
Perth PSL Perth United Kingdom GB 493
Perth ZXP ScotRail United Kingdom GB 493
Plymouth PLH Plymouth United Kingdom GB 493
Portsmouth PME Portsmouth United Kingdom GB 493
Rochester RCS Rochester United Kingdom GB 493
Rothesay RAY Heliport United Kingdom GB 493
Sanday NDY Sanday United Kingdom GB 493
Scampton SQZ RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Sheffield SZD Sheffield City Airport United Kingdom GB 493
Shetland Islands LWK Lerwick/Tingwall United Kingdom GB 493
Shetland Islands SCS Scatsta United Kingdom GB 493
Shetland Islands LSI Sumburgh United Kingdom GB 493
Shoreham By Sea ESH Shoreham United Kingdom GB 493
Southampton SOU Eastleigh United Kingdom GB 493
Southend SEN London Southend United Kingdom GB 493
St Andrews ADX Leuchars United Kingdom GB 493
Stornoway SYY Stornoway United Kingdom GB 493
Stronsay SOY Stronsay United Kingdom GB 493
Suttonheath WOB Woodbridge RAF United Kingdom GB 493
Swansea SWS Fairwood Comm United Kingdom GB 493
Swindon SWI Swindon United Kingdom GB 493
Swindon XWS Railway Station United Kingdom GB 493
Tiree TRE Tiree United Kingdom GB 493
Unst Shetland Is UNT Baltasound United Kingdom GB 493
Upavon UPV Upavon United Kingdom GB 493
Upper Heyford UHF RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
Waddington WTN RAF Station United Kingdom GB 493
West Malling WEM West Malling United Kingdom GB 493
Westray WRY Westray United Kingdom GB 493
Whalsay WHS Whalsay United Kingdom GB 493
Wick WIC Wick United Kingdom GB 493
Woodbridge BWY Bentwaters St United Kingdom GB 493
Woodford WFD Woodford United Kingdom GB 493
Yeovilton YEO Yeovilton United Kingdom GB 493

For more information on IATA airport codes you should take a look at Wikipedia.

Funny IATA airport codes

The clever people at Skyscanner have worked their way through an impressive 10,000 international airport codes to find the silliest, rudest and funniest. Here’s a selection of our favourites. You can see the entire list of funny IATA airport codes here.

  • Turkey – Batman Airport – code BAL
  • Mongolia – Moron Airport – code MXV
  • Russia – Perm Airport – code PEE
  • USA – Eek Airport – code EEK
  • Australia – Wee Waa Airport – code WEW
  • Cook Islands – Puka Puka Airport – code PZK
  • Tanzania – Mafia Airport – code MFA
  • Canada – Deception Airport – code YGY
  • USA – Deadhorse Airport – code SCC
  • USA – Danger Bay Airport – code DGB
  • USA – Atlanta Beaver Ruin Airport – code JAO
  • Costa Rica – Nob Airport – code NOB
  • Brazil – Pocos De Caldos airport – code POO
  • Qatar – Doha Airport – code DOH

Any questions?

If you have any questions about airport codes, leave a comment and we’ll do our best to give you an answer.

How to Travel With Christmas Gifts

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 by Kate Goldstone

It’s that time of year again, when millions of us take to the roads, rails and skies laden with Christmas goodies and family gifts.

Whether you’re travelling internally within Britain or adventuring farther afield for the festive season, how do you handle air travel with Christmas gifts without causing mayhem and chaos, and without falling foul of airport security regulations?  Can you take Christmas crackers on board a plane? Are there any restrictions that apply specifically to seasonal travel?

Christmas Cracker

Christmas Cracker

Here’s some sensible advice about travelling from A to B at one of the busiest times of the year, especially when you’re carrying Christmas with you!

10 tips for faff-free festive air travel

One of the nicest things about travelling by air over Christmas is that everyone’s in such a great holiday mood, especially friendly and helpful. You want to keep it that way. Here’s how to get where you’re going safely, quickly and efficiently, even when you’re laden down with Christmas gifts.

Wrap it up… and wrap it good

There’s nothing worse than struggling around an airport concourse with gift wrapping flapping around you, falling off in colourful chunks, being torn to shreds. If you’re carrying gifts with you, wrap them as solidly, ruggedly and carefully as you can to avoid mishaps en route.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is brilliant stuff for transporting gifts safely and avoiding damage. Just wrap the gift in it first then add your wrapping paper on top. And cheap sellotape is often a really bad idea. It can peel off if it gets too hot, too cold or if there’s a sudden temperature change. Buy good quality wrapping materials and you’ll be more likely to arrive at your destination with your gifts in one piece.

Do you have to stash Christmas gifts in the aircraft’s hold?

No, they qualify as ordinary hand-luggage. But the same rules apply about weight. If you go over your allowance you’ll still have to pay extra. Every airline has their own restrictions, so check on their website and weigh your baggage carefully first.

What about electronic gifts?

Whether they’re gifts or your own possessions, it’s really important to make sure electronic items in your hand baggage are in unsealed packaging. They must also be fully operational, especially when you’re en route to the USA where they’re especially concerned about potential terrorist threats. If you’re buying gadgets as gifts, you’ll need to wrap them nicely at the other end.

Taking liquids on a plane

There are still restrictions in place about the amount of liquids you can take on board, and they apply to Christmas gifts as well as your own possessions. Just bear in mind that  some of the rules vary by country and airline. Check first before you travel, especially if you’ll be changing airlines during the journey.

What does ‘liquid’ mean in this context? It includes medicines, gels, creams, pastes and liquid foods like soup and jam. If you’ve hand-made some delicious preserves as gifts, or even packed jars of honey from your bees, you’ll need to take the rules into account.  As the British Airways website advises:

“Liquids must be in containers of no more than 100ml each and all liquids must be carried together in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag of up to 20cm x 20cm (8in x 8in) which holds no more than one litre total. Items must fit comfortably inside the bag, so the bag can be completely closed, and must fit in your hand baggage.”

Eu Hand Luggage Liquid Restrictions

Eu Liquid Restrictions

Can you take Christmas crackers on board a plane in the UK?

Yes, you can… although there are some restrictions. They can’t go in your hand luggage but have to be stashed in the hold. There’s a maximum allowance of two boxes of crackers per person. They must be bought crackers, not made by hand. They must be for personal use, and they must stay in the original packaging. Just remember you can’t carry any crackers on US airlines – if you’re travelling state-side, leave them at home.

What about party poppers?

The answer is no. They’re not allowed on any British plane, either in your luggage or hand luggage. The same goes for sparklers and other fireworks, whether designed for use indoors or outdoors, presumably because they’re far too much like an explosive for comfort.

Taking sports equipment gifts on board a flight

What about sports stuff, a popular gift? Most sports stuff goes in your hand luggage just fine, as long as it isn’t too big or heavy. But it’s vital to make sure it’s packed properly or the airline may refuse to take it. ‘Properly’ in this context means taking care so it won’t get damaged. Now and again sports equipment can be restricted for safety and security reasons. Again, check with your airline first so you know the score (pun intended!).

Can I take a musical instrument on a plane?

Musical instruments can be taken on board many airlines as part of your hand luggage, but it’s always best to check with your airline first. Obviously very large instruments will break the hand baggage maximum dimension rules and you’ll have to pay extra.

Traveling with Musical Instruments

Traveling with Musical Instruments

If you’re very lucky indeed, bearing in mind Xmas is a horribly busy time for airlines, you might be able to snag an extra seat for your trombone or whatever.  On the other hand most airlines won’t accept a double bass in the cabin under any circumstances, they’re simply too big!  In the unlikely event you’ll be travelling with a double bass, you’ll need to check it in, put it in the hold and hope for the best.

Taking a bicycle on an aircraft

Some airlines take non-motorised cycles as long as 75 inches, 190cm in new money. But you have to pack them in a special cycle bag, not just pack them up any old how or wrap them in gift wrap. You usually need to take the pedals off or make sure they’re facing inwards some other way. The handlebars need to go sideways to keep the package as slim and unobtrusive as possible. And you should always let the tyres down so they don’t get damaged.

Can ski-related gifts be taken into the cabin as hand luggage?

If you’re taking a bunch of ski-related gifts on a plane, the same kind of advice tends to apply: pack skis and snowboards in a proper bag made for the purpose. Pack ski poles with skis. And pack ski boots separately. You can usually take ski boots into the cabin as long as they don’t break the hand luggage size and weight restrictions.

The British Airways website includes plenty of really useful information about what you can carry with you and what the restrictions are. There’s also an excellent table of items, each with the relevant restrictions. And it’s an extensive list. If you’re planning to take any of these things aboard a plane, as a gift or for any other reason, it’s well worth checking:

  • Scissors
  • Knitting needles and crochet hooks
  • Umbrellas and walking sticks
  • Gas powered hair curlers and straighteners
  • Cigarette lighters, safety matches and e-cigarettes
  • Disposable razors and cartridge razors
  • Electric shavers
  • Batteries for devices like cameras, laptops and smartphones

Just scroll down this page to find the table.

And finally… what about Duty Free?

Once you’re through the security checks at the airport, you’re free to buy the stuff you couldn’t bring through security with you, for example bottles of water or wine bigger than 100ml. All you need is enough wriggle room in your hand luggage allowance.

Having said that, it’s important to remember the new EU regulations about the way duty free liquids, prescribed medicines and liquid baby foods are screened at security. Liquids bought at the airport can now be taken through UK security screening points as long as they’re packed in a tamper-proof evidence bag along with the receipt. On the other hand you might decide it really isn’t worth the hassle and it makes more sense to buy what you need at the other end instead!

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What’s your best tip for travelling by air with Xmas gifts?

We’d love to hear your ideas. Or perhaps you have a story to tell? If so, feel free to leave a comment.