Travel View: Pack heavy. It's the key to a stress-free holiday
Kate Simon is the Travel Correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. She was Travel Editor of The Independent on Sunday from 2005 to 2011. Kate is also the co-founder of Little Black Book Creative (www.lbbcreative.co.uk), which offers editorial services, media relations consultancy and travel-writing training.
Sunday 07 August 2011
Hold the front page: women over-pack when going on holiday. The conclusion of a recent survey by Co-operative Insurance, which found that women pack double what they wear, will hardly be news to many. But I was surprised to read that, on average, women pack six – count 'em, six – bikinis for a fortnight's holiday.
I swapped packing light for taking half my wardrobe years ago. Who wants to spend their holiday down the local laundrette or stooped over the basin with the travel wash? I'm with those women who told the survey – almost a quarter of them – that "packing made them feel stressed".
I say just chuck in everything that looks vaguely appropriate. If you have to bring half of it home unworn, that's half the laundry done when you're back, too – what a bonus! But six bikinis? When did these women even have so much time to dedicate to shopping for swimwear? Behave.
You might have to adjust your holiday spends if you're driving to Europe this summer or intend to hire a car out there. According to a recent report from Post Office Travel Money, it will cost you 20 to 35 per cent more this year to fill up the tank abroad, thanks to the falling value of sterling.
Switzerland is among the most expensive places to buy petrol or diesel – the country hardly has a reputation for making your money go further, yet it was once the cheapest place to buy fuel. You'll do better money-wise in Luxembourg, where diesel costs £1.12 a litre and unleaded petrol £1.28. The rather more popular destination of Spain comes in second, with diesel at £1.21 and unleaded petrol £1.30.
You could, of course, take the train, an increasingly popular choice and not just for green-minded folk. From 2012, booking a ticket for a journey across Europe should start to become easier, thanks to a new regulation introduced by the European Commission this year aimed at standardising rail passenger data on fares and timetables.
The idea is to make it possible for different rail companies and ticket sellers to exchange vital reservation and ticketing information. Only a few main, international, direct cross-border routes currently offer this possibility, making journey planning an eye-crossing business.
EC vice-president Siim Kallas maintains that railway companies need to stop focusing on national markets and start looking at their international role. "If we are serious about getting people on to rail, and particularly about having rail compete with air travel over middle distances, then we need to offer rail passengers the seamless planning and ticketing offers that match the airlines," he said.
This brave new world of pan-European train travel will, inevitably, take a few years to roll out. But while booking a ticket might become easier, should more European economies go the way of Greece, which took a hefty axe to its railways as part of its cost-cutting measures, will the train services we're supposed to be looking forward to travelling on still exist?
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