Beat The Travel Agent

Beat The Travel Agent

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Planning your next adventure?

It can be difficult to know where to begin when planning your dream trip. What’s the first step? The second? The third? Travelling can seem like an overwhelming topic with so much information available and the longer you travel It seems the more you have to think about. I want to try and make planning your couple getaway/family trip/solo travel/gap year/abroad festival simple and stress-free.
So to get you started and to get that perfect trip booked I will use a simple step by step guide on how to make travelling that little bit less overwhelming.

Step 1 – Plan the length of your trip
This may seem like a simple step but knowing the length of your travel is key in understanding what is available for your choice of holiday. As it would be difficult and time-consuming if you were to travel to say Asia from the UK for a three-day trip as you would spend most of your trip travelling and it just wouldn't be very cost-effective. A quick breakdown would be;
1- 4 days – same country/ city break/ short getaway.
5-12 days – beach holiday/ long getaway/multi-city travel/ festival.
12+ - Interrailing/ whole country/ across America/ Southeast Asia/ gap year/ backpacking.
This obviously isn’t gospel, but a rough guide to understanding what is both cost effective and possible with the time available.
start-here_length_trip_beatthetravelagent

Step 2- Decide where to go
Deciding where to go is half the battle and should be researched to know what your goals are and how you can work towards the perfect trip. It’s a lot easier to then plan when you know ‘I am going to new york’ rather than I want to go to America. This will give you drive and will be overall easier to figure out how much you need and what you need to make this dream become reality.
Get some inspiration
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Step 3 –Research costs
Once you have your location and you know how long you are travelling the next step is to work out how much you need and figure this out with the style of travelling you want. Is it going to be a hostel trip or a luxury hotel you need to budget for and how much will it cost for food/drink, attractions and transportation.

Step 4 – Save
Once you have a rough guide of what you need for your travel the next step is saving for that goal. Whether it be cutting back on the Starbucks or just putting money away each month this can be very easily achieved once you budget prior to your trip.
saving_pig_beatthetravelagent

Step 5 – Get your passport and book those flights.
Make sure you obviously have a valid passport and put this into the equation of how long this will take as during busy periods passports could take up to 2 months. Or if travelling further afield make sure your passport will be valid for more than 6 months of your trip as countries like America and Asia can be strict with close expiring passports.
Check the passport guidelines
Once your passport is ready its time to book your flights. When getting cheap flights I advise the perfect time to book is 6-8 weeks before you go as this is when airlines normally lower fares based on demand. Although if travelling at peak time I would advice 3 months in advance.
When you know when you want to travel you should use flight comparison sites to have a look at the price on the dates you are going and pick the location based on the flight prices. The three major costs involved in a holiday are flights, accommodation and spending money and the only one then that is slightly hard to self-adjust is flight prices, so I advise if you are trying to get away for cheap, you need to be flexible with both your dates and location.
Favourite sites for finding cheap fares:
-Skyscanner
-Google flights
-Momondo
-Vayama
- Check the flight companies direct
Remember you can always use reward miles to fly for less, read this blog post.
plane_cheap_beatthetravelagent

Step 6 – Book your Accommodation
Once you have a set schedule and you know how long you holiday is going to be the next step is to book your accommodation. Here you have many options whether you want an apartment, hotel, private room, hostel or a couch.
If you are looking at hotels I would advise to first type in your location into Tripadvisor.com narrow the search to your price and look at reviews and work out what the best option for your budget. Once you have a couple of options of hotels, then narrow down by price and location of where you will be travelling from there
Sites I use to book and compare.
-Booking (great for being able to book now pay later so you could book a backup hotel then look for another at a different stage and not pay any fees and cancel)
-Agoda  (great for south-east Asia)
-hostelworld (amazing for hostels and cheap accommodation)
-Hotels.com
 -Remember to check the hotel directly to see on their site if the price is cheaper.
-Airbnb.com – for apartments either a private room or entire apartment and is a great way to save money.  
Alternatively contact people on hospitality websites like Couchsurfing or be welcome and ask if they would be willing to host you.

Step 7- Plan Activities
Draft up the major activities and attractions you want to enjoy and how much this will cost and add this to your budget. Figure out if you need to make reservations for your chosen activities In advance of your trip.

travel_card_beatthetravelagentStep 8- Get cash/card
When travelling you have many options for getting the best rate. If you don’t consider your options and go and get currency over the counter it could be costing you up to £100. For example, if we were to spend 1000 euro.
Speciality credit card repaid in Full- £781
Cash, via UK Cheapest exchange- 798
Cash from the post office – 802
Using a debit card with fees (Halifax) - 829
Change at airport (Heathrow not pre-ordered)- £864
The best option normally is a non-sterling transaction fee credit or debit card meaning that you don’t get charged to use your card abroad for card payment and in some cases ATM’s (see our section on fee-free cards). With these cards, you get to look into the best rates at the time of purchase, which is normally better than the exchange rate at a bureau change.
The next option you have is a prepaid travel card or ordering currency to be delivered online, which can work out cheaper than getting physical currency at the airport or from a high street bank. But be careful to follow our steps here.


suitcase_beatthetravelagentStep 9- Pack & Print
Before getting ready to pack work out what you are eligible to bring on the plane considering both weight and baggage if it is hand luggage or checked. Then from there consider how you are going to distribute it into your suitcases or bags. Then make a list trying to be as minimalist as possible. Have a look at our ideal planning lists. Once you have all your items ready its time to pack. I would advise to put all your stuff out on your bed or floor and narrow down are you actually going to use this item, if the reason follows with I might, or what if… it more than likely isn’t a necessity and doesn’t need to waste weight and space. I Would also advise unless you are backpacking or have a lot of free space to not bring toiletries as 90% of the stuff you bring with you could be bought where ever you are going. Especially when only bringing hand luggage toiletries and liquids alike can not only take up a lot of room but can cause a lot of issues when going through security.
Once you backed its ready to print all your necessary documents, I would recommend having a copy of your travel insurance, a copy of your flight tickets, hotel accommodation, any tours booked, a small A4 map if needed and a sheet with contact numbers.

Step 10 – Have fun
Once you’ve done all that all there is now to do is to get on that plane and go have fun and make sure to take lots of pictures.
have_fun_beatthetravelagent.com

 

 

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Essential Travel Tips

Published in Essentials

Essential tips to ensure you arrive at your destination fresh and ready

Feel comfortable by wearing loose clothing such as sweats or gym bottoms and take a jumper with you to keep out the cold.

If possible book your flights so your flight time coincides with your body clock.

Avoid alcohol, which has a stimulating effect, try Chamomile tea and water instead.

Eastbound journeys produce the worst type of jet lag because you lose time across zones so be aware when booking a trip.

Light exposure regulates your body clock so try wearing sunglasses during and after your flight until you are ready to face the light.

Unwind with listening to music or watch film to help you drop off.

Keep tiredness at bay by having a strategic 45-minute nap at the time you would normally be asleep at home.

Change your watch or phone to local time at your destination as soon as you board your flight to keep your mind on track.

If possible gradually adjust your sleep times towards those at your destination a few days ahead of long haul travel.

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Reward Credit Cards

Published in Travel Tips & Tricks

Reward credit cards

There is nothing more promising than free travel and many large banks and credit card companies know this and maximise this opportunity for new customers in the promise air mile incentives and hotel Program points both in spending and in opening new accounts with them. The main sectors we see this is in travel credit cards. These cards that I will explain in more detail offer joining bonuses in air miles, which could jet you off to New York or Dubai for free or upgrade your flight for free is used correctly.
The type of card you can get differ from location of where you are based as the currency of the card plays a large part in if you eligible i.e someone in the UK would find it hard to apply for a reward travel card in the US and vice versa. But we will discuss the options available below;

Top charge card
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card

This card unlike the others is a charge card and not a credit card, so you have to pay your balance off in full at the end of each month but there is no spending limits or interest charges. It also comes with a very hefty 20,000 bonus Reward points when you spend 2,000 in your first three months, which could take you too many locations on them miles alone. But it again does have a annual fee of £140 but is £0 in the first year.
Need to knows

  • Transfer your points to 15 major frequent flyer and hotel programmes.
  • Two complimentary Lounge visits per year to use at over 350 airport lounges globally.
  • 10% off Hertz base car rental rates, plus a one car class upgrade and additional driver fee waived (Upgrades are subject to availability)
  • $75 USD hotel credit and room upgrade where available at over 350 hotels globally including Hilton, InterContinental and Sofitel.
  • Earn one Membership Rewards Point for virtually every £1 spent on your Card and two additional points for virtually every £1 spent with American Express Travel.

Overview- this card is one of the best on the market for avios points or to be exchanged for the many hotel programs such as Club Carlson, Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest. This card has the most generous point scheme and with no fee in Year one you could use it then cancel before the renewal date. Also with AMEX policy you could open both the BA Amex and the Gold card to receive the Maximum air miles.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 5/5
Apply online

Top credit cards for UK residence
Airline cards (Avios and Virgin Flying Club)

British Airways American express premium plus card

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a jet setter then the BA Premium PlusAmex* card can reward you with free flights. Plus, if you're accepted you can get 18,000 bonus Avios points. But you need to be quite flexible with your dates as seats can be limited. You can also get a 'free' companion ticket if you spend £10,000/yr on the card.
Need to knows
•    18,000 bonus Avios welcome offer
•    This card does have an annual fee of £150 (but if accepted you can keep for 3 months and downgrade to the standard BA Amex credit card – see bellow. )
•    Companion Voucher each year when you spend £10,000
•    Automatic enrolment to the British Airways Executive Club.
•    Travel and shopping protection – this card gives you Travel Inconvenience insurance covering flight cancellations, delays and delayed baggage when flights are purchased on your Card. This is very convenient if you travel frequently.
•    This card also gives you 1.5 Avios points per pound spend and 3 avios points spend with British Airways which can certainly build up.

Overview – this card is very good for air miles and to put into perspective 15,000 airmiles could get you from London to Rome or many other great locations in Europe return. Or you could upgrade a flight from economy to business for 12,000 miles. I recently used this offer to travel from London to LA return on Air miles alone. The great feature of this card also is the travel inconvenience insurance whereby if your flight is delayed you're entitled to compensation through AMEX themselves but it does come at a cost of the annual fee.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 4/5
Apply online

British airways American Express credit card

Like the British Airways express premium plus card credit card this card offers a joining bonus of 3,000 points when you spend £500 within the first 3 months but doesn't have a joining fee so holding this card is completely free. Although you will only earn 1 Avios point per £1 spent on this card it is a great card to start saving if your not expecting to travel for a while and are going to use this card for your day to day spend.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 Avios point per £1 spent on the card.
•    Spend £500 within the first three months and you'll get the bonus 3,000 Avios points.
•    Spend £20,000/year, and you get one free 'companion ticket' when booking a flight. The free ticket can be used to get the same ticket type as the cardholder (if you go first class, so do they), though only on BA. But you'll still need to pay taxes and charges on top.

Overview – This card defiantly is good but we would advise to join the Platinum card first for the joining miles then downgrade to this card once you have received your joining fee and pay the annual fee of the Platinum card pro rata (i.e only the months you used it)
Beatthetravelagent review score of 3/5
Apply online

Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

This Credit Card comes with both an Amex card and a MasterCard offering 1.25 Avios per £1 on the Amex and 0.25 Avios points per £1 on the Mastercard. This card does not have any sign-up bonus but does offer 5,500 Avios if you are referred before the 31st March- email – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.25 Avios point per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.25 Avios points per £1 on the MasterCard.
•    Double miles on the Amex card for the first Six months and no foreign Transaction fees on using the card abroad.
•    Voucher to upgrade a reward flight by one class when you spend £7000 in the first year.
•    0% on balance transfers for 30 months and purchases for 12 months
•    £24 annual fee

Overview – This card is very good for the non-sterling transaction fees and is defiantly an all-rounder with both the Avios points and interest fee spending but does not offer the high joining miles we see with other cards, Although is defiantly a good card when using abroad.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 3/5
Apply online

Lloyds Premier Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

Like the Lloyds Avios rewards card the Premier Avios reward card offers air miles per spend but at a higher rate at 1.5 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.3 miles per £1 on the MasterCard. This card also does not offer a sign-up bonus but unlike the Lloyds Avios reward card there is no referral bonus. This card does also have 0% fees on using the card abroad but does come with a hefty fee of £140 annually. But does offer the upgrade of a flight by one class when you spend £5,000 in a year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.5 Avios point per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.3 Avios points per £1 on the MasterCard.
•    Double miles on the Amex card for the first Six months and no foreign Transaction fees on using the card abroad.
•    Voucher to upgrade a reward flight by one class when you spend £5000 in the first year.
•    Worldwide Companion Ticket with annual spends of £12,000 on BA and Eurostar.
•    0% on balance transfers for 30 months and purchases for 12 months
•    £140 annual fee

Overview – This card is very good for the non-sterling transaction fees and is defiantly an all rounder with both the avios points and interest fee spending but does not offer the high joining miles we see with other cards and does not offer the referral option. It also have quite a high annual fee and for this reason alone you may be better with the standard Lloyds avios rewards account if air miles is what you are after.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
Apply online

Lloyds Choice Rewards American Express & MasterCard

This card offers 1 mile per £1 for Amex and 0.2 miles per £1 on the MasterCard and has a low annual fee of £24 like the Lloyds Avios Rewards card but does offer the feature of a choice if you want your points for flights, shopping vouchers, cash back or travel.  So it has that little bit of extra flexibility on what you want to spend your earning points on.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 choice* point per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.2 choice points per £1 on the MasterCard.
•    Double miles on the Amex card for the first Six months
•    You also get 0.2 points per £1 balance transferring.
•    0% on balance transfers for 30 months and purchases for 12 months
•    £24 annual fee
Overview- This card is good if you aren’t sure how you want to spend your points and you can mix and match on travel and on shopping but does not offer the benefit of the 0% non sterling transaction fees.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
Apply online

Virgin Atlantic White American Express and Visa

This card offers 1 mile per £1 for Amex and 0.5 miles per £1 on the Visa and has no annual fee. It also offers a 3,000 virgin flying club miles (not to get mixed up with Avios miles) with your first purchase or 6,000 if you are referred by an existing card holder (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more info). It also offers double miles for spend with Virgin and an upgrade after spending £10,000 a year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 flying club mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.2 flying club mile per £1 on the Visa.
•    Double miles for spending on Virgin.
•    0% on balance transfers for 6 months
•    Companion voucher when you spend 15,000 in a year.
•    NO annual fee

Overview- This card is good if you plan on flying Virgin and they offer a wide range of flights worldwide and with no fee is superior to other cards but doesn’t offer no worldwide transaction fees. It also requires 35,000 miles to get an economy return trip from London to New York which will take a bit of time of spending.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
Apply online

Virgin Atlantic Black American Express and Visa

This card offers 2 mile per £1 for Amex and 1 miles per £1 on the Visa but has a £140 annual fee. It also offers a massive sign up bonus of 18,500 virgin flying club miles (not to get mixed up with Avios miles) with your first purchase or 21,500 if you are referred by an existing card holder (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more info). It also offers 4 miles per £1 for spend with Virgin and an upgrade after spending £5,000 a year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 2 flying club mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 1 flying club mile per £1 on the Visa.
•    Double miles for spending on Virgin.
•    0% on balance transfers for 6 months
•    Companion voucher when you spend £7,500 in a year.
•    £140 annual fee
•    Receive a premium upgrade when you spend £5000.

Overview- This card has one the highest joining incentives about and could almost get you a free trip just from opening the account, the down side is the annual fee and it can not be cancelled or downgraded pro-rata which has to be weighed up with the white card but overall a very good card with a lot of incentives if you feel you will be flying with virgin more than once. You also can exchange tesco clubcard points for virgin miles or exchange amex miles at a rate of 1:1 so the white card might be better for a first timer.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 4/5
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Other Airline cards (excluding Avios and Virgin Flying Club)
American Airlines AAdvantage American Express and Visa

American airlines AAdvasntage American express and visa account issued by MBNA has No annual fee and you earn 1.5 miles per £1 amex and 0.75 miles per £1 visa. With a sign- up bonus of 5,000 miles with the first purchase this could go towards a trip or upgrade on an American Airlines. They also offer 0% interest for 12 months on all American Airlines card purchases.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.5 miles per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.75 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with American Airlines
•    0% on transferring money from this card to your current account for 6 months.
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    NO  annual fee

Overview- The 5,000 joining miles is a start but isn’t no where near enough to get a flight and most of the flights with American airways are US or Asia based, but once in a while AA offer a joining bonus of 15,000 which just ended and I will post info once this happens. But overall this is an ok offer especially with no fee and interest free on bookings for 12 months but isn’t ideal for UK customers.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
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Emirates Skywards American Express and Visa

The Emirates skywards American express and visa card is issued by MBNA have no annual fee and you earn 1 skyward mile per £1 Amex and 0.5 skyward miles per £1 on the Visa card. It comes with a decent 5,000 Emirates Skyward miles with your first purchase. It also comes with 0% interest on Emirates.com purchases for the first year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 skyward mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.5 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with Emirates.com
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    10% discount on Emirates Holidays
•    25% off purchases of Skywards miles.
•    NO  annual fee

Overview- The Emirates Skyward account does have no fee but 5,000 Emirate miles isn't an awful lot of miles on its own when compared with over cards and unless you where going to use this card for your spend on the Amex to earn miles it might not be too helpful but with no fee applying can't hurt to start you off and the 0% interest for 12 months on purchases with Emirates.com is a good way to book a flight 0% interest and gain points on that flight plus the welcome bonus and the spend.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 3/5
Apply online

Emirates Skywards Elite American Express and Visa

Like the Emirates Skywards American express and Visa card this card is issued by MBNA and earns skyward miles for every pound you spend at a rate of 2 miles per £1 Amex and 1 mile per £1 on the Visa. This card has an annual fee of £150 which is quite large but does come with a sign up bonus of 10,000 skyward miles.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 2 skyward miles per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 1 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with Emirates.com
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    10% discount on Emirates Holidays
•    25% off purchases of Skywards miles.
•    £150  annual fee
•    An Emirates Skywards Companion Reward Saver Business Class or Saver Economy Class ticket when you spend more than GBP 15,000 in a year
•    150 discount on an Emirates First Class or Business Class ticket
•    Emirates Business Class Check-in for Economy Class

Overview- The Emirates elite Skyward account does have a large £150 annual fee but you get this directly from a business or first class ticket, it also has quite a high rate of earning but 10,000 skyward miles isn’t an awful lot when you consider the annual fee so unless you are expecting to travel more than a one-off journey with Emirates I would compare this card with other offers about or wait until the rate changes, sometimes Emirates up the signup bonus to around 20,000-25,000 points. So keep an eye out and I will give any updates.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
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United Airlines MileagePlus American Express and Visa

The United airlines mileage plus American express and visa is issued by MBNA. You earn 1.25 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.625 miles per £1 on the Visa. It has no fee but does not have any sign- up bonus.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.25 mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.625 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with United
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    NO  annual fee

Overview- This card overall as a credit card is good but with no sign-up bonus and with quite a low earning rate you aren't going to get much benefit out of this card unless you already have some miles with United.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 1/5
Apply online

Beatthetravelagent is not a credit broker – although we are giving our personal advice on the credit cards above we are in no way taking any fee or service from the lenders. We also advice to make sure you are reasonable borrowing and understand the financial risks of borrowing. We advice to seek advice from the bank or building society if you have any questions about the cards and there rates.




 

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How Long Should My Passport Be Valid For?

Published in Travel Tips & Tricks

How long should my Passport be valid for?
There is nothing more stressful than booking a holiday then realising your passport is expiring soon and you can’t travel to the country you have booked. Or you have to wait for a replacement passport extremely close to your departure date, in today’s culture most countries outside of the EU require up to 6 months on your passport. Only the US, Canada, Australia and the UK will let you in with Passports valid for the duration of your stay. Here is a more in-depth list below;

Australia – valid for duration of stay
Belgium – 3 months
Canada – valid for duration of stay
Dubai – 6 months
Fiji – 6 months
France – 3 months
Germany –3 months
Greece –3 months
Hong Kong – 1 month
India – 6 months (actually they say 180 days) and two blank pages in your passport.
Indonesia – 6 months
Ireland- Valid for the duration of your stay
Italy –3 months
Japan – valid for duration of stay
Malaysia – 6 months
Mexico – 6 months is recommended, although you may be able to have shorter if you can prove your length of stay is over before your passport expires.
Netherlands –3 months
New Zealand – 3 months
Oman – 6 months
Philippines – 6 months
Rarotonga (Cook Islands) – 6 months
Singapore – 6 months
Samoa – 6 months
South Africa – 1 month
Spain3 months
Tahiti – 3 months
Thailand – 6 months
UK – valid for length of stay
USA – 6 months longer than your intended stay Unless your country of origin is exempt from this requirement.
Countries- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong (certificates of identity and passports), Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom. (See full list)
Vanuatu – 6 months
Vietnam – 6 months for visa exemption.

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