Simon Calder's holiday checklist: A&E for your summer break

Too busy to plan your holiday properly? Here is the information you need to try to rescue your trip, and restore your credibility.

Passport trauma

I'm off to France on Tuesday. I've just started packing, and noticed that my passport has expired.

Yikes. In normal times, you would be able to pay £ 129.50 (an extra £52) for the "Premium One-Day Service": book an interview at a Regional Passport Office with the Identity and Passport Service (0300 222 000, press 0 then 2). As long as your case is straightforward (as renewals usually are), you can collect the passport four hours later. But right now there are so many urgent cases that the waiting time for an appointment, even at a Regional Passport Office many miles from home, is five or six days.

In the past, some travellers to France using ferries or Eurotunnel shuttles from Folkestone have travelled on expired passports, relying on only superficial checks in France and explaining themselves to UK Border Agency staff on the way home. The Independent Traveller cannot condone such behaviour.

Everyone else: go and check now that your passport is where you think it is, and that it is valid.

Cash crisis

We're off to Italy tomorrow, and haven't got our foreign currency.

The worst policy is to change sterling into euros at a UK airport, ferry port or Channel Tunnel terminal. You're unlikely to get better than parity (ie £1 = €1). The best policy is to take sterling notes to a London bureau de change: I often use Thomas Exchange, though sometimes other specialists do better. But, failing that, go online to a company such as Travelex or ICE and buy at preferential rates using a debit card. Your bank may well take a 1.5 per cent slice, claiming it is a "cash advance", but you should still get around €1.10.

If your bank account is sufficiently healthy, you could also take your debit card and use it in an ATM – but be warned that you will be hammered for charges: when I mismanaged my finances in France earlier this month, and had to use an ATM, the rate was only €1.05.

You can also, of course, use plastic to pay for purchases when abroad. Unless you have one of the rare debit cards which apply no charges, you will face a "foreign exchange fee" of up to 3 per cent plus a transaction fee of around £1.25 – meaning a €40 lunch will cost you almost £40. (Credit cards avoid the flat fee.) Opt for "Dynamic Currency Conversion", where you pay in sterling at a set rate, and it will be even more expensive. Next time, plan ahead and consider taking a pre-paid card loaded with foreign currency.

Costa Carmaggedon

I haven't yet booked a hire car, and a colleague says that there's a shortage of rental vehicles that's pushed up prices. Is he right?

No, not this summer. In 2009, the credit crunch led to a big shortfall, which pushed up prices to three or more times the normal prices. There was also the odd squeeze last year. But when any travel enterprise is seen to be making excessive profits, rivals pile in with loads of capacity hoping to cash in – only to see prices fall. Checking Holiday Autos for prices for the first week in August: an Opel Corsa costs £135 at Alicante airport, which is less than £20 a day. Florida is equally cheap.

Case study

How do I avoid losing my luggage?

1. Don't check it in; BA and easyJet have very generous allowances.

2. If you must check it in, make sure your name and address is inside the case. Exterior tags could be torn off during baggage handling. Putting your details inside means the airline can trace you.

3. Tie a colourful scrap of material to the baggage to identify it as yours, and stop a fellow passenger inadvertently walking off with it.

Ryanair rules!

I'm flying Ryanair, "hand-luggage only". Do they really enforce the rules strictly?

Yes.

Your call

I'm off to Bali, where apparently my mobile phone may not work. What are my options?

Get a local SIM card, or take a laptop and a headset, then use Wi-Fi hotspots to hook up to Skype. Or, recall that we all somehow coped with travel before mobile phones, and happily leave it at home to enjoy the island in disconnected bliss.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager - Commercial Cable & Wire - UK

    £60,000 - £75,000: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the major Aer...

    ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain