Holiday planning

Safe travels: Your guide to being a savvy traveller in 2024

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

23 February 2024 | Updated 23 February 20246 min read

A view of the wing of a plane flying over a tropical destination

Following the disruption of the pandemic and a year of airport delays, natural disasters and baggage loss drama, going on holiday has come with its fair share of difficulties recently.

From travel planning essentials to advice on how to be street-smart while away, here’s our top tips on how to be a safe and savvy traveller this year.

Get the right travel insurance

Buying the right travel insurance is one of the most important parts of your holiday planning.

Start by choosing the policy type that best suits your travel plans. Single-trip cover is the most common for holidays, or consider an annual policy if you’re taking multiple trips in a 12-month period. Cruise and backpacker trips require their own type of travel insurance.

Think about the level of cover you need, too. The policies that will offer you the best protection will have extensive cancellation cover (including reasons related to COVID and if your trip is cut short due to unforeseen circumstances – check for exclusions on natural disasters and warfare), as well as medical, baggage and personal liability coverage. Consider cancellation cover that matches the cost of your holiday.

Before you buy, check if you need any add-on cover such as gadgets or adventure sports. These are often not included in standard policies so always check the fine print.

Top tip: Buy travel insurance at the time of booking your trip to get the most protection from your policy.

Stay informed with travel advisory alerts

Travel advisory alerts provide real-time notifications on a country’s latest travel advice, including safety warnings, disruption information and any changes to entry requirements.

These are particularly useful if you have a holiday booked to a destination that has recently changed its advice level or is anticipating a natural disaster such as the recent volcano eruptions in Iceland. They can help you to make informed decisions or adapt plans if necessary.

In the UK, you can sign up for email alerts from the FCDO. Or you can download apps such as Travel Smart for 24/7 government grade travel safety notifications.

Top tip: You will also find your destination’s emergency contact numbers on both FCDO and Travel Smart should you need help while abroad.

Be smart with health and safety

Before you book your holiday, always check government travel advice for your destination. The FCDO covers information on safety, security and health, including the standard of healthcare facilities in your destination and whether you should drink the tap water.

You should also check for any vaccination or malaria medication requirements before you travel – see the NHS website or Travel Health Pro for advice.

Travel insurance is an essential, and you should consider the cost of healthcare in your travel destination when purchasing. In the USA, for example, healthcare costs are notoriously expensive, so your policy health cover limit should reflect this.

For UK travellers heading to Europe, get a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This entitles you to reduced or free medical care in European Union countries. You can apply for a GHIC for free through the NHS.

Top tip: For personal safety, share the details of your travel plans with a family member or friend before departing.

Plan ahead with real-time weather apps

Keeping up to date with real-time weather forecasts is another way to plan your holiday like a pro – whether it’s checking the UK forecast to assess any impacts to your transport on your day of travel, your destination’s weather forecast so you can pack accordingly, or staying alert to any weather warnings while abroad.

The Met Office weather app is the go-to for accurate weather forecasts in the UK, while AccuWeather, Weather Underground and MyRadar are the best rated apps for worldwide weather forecasts, alerts, and personalised radar maps.

Top tip: AccuWeather also provides useful weather-related safety information such as air quality levels and windburn protection.

Be a street-wise solo traveller

Going on holiday by yourself can be one of the most rewarding ways to travel, but it can understandably feel daunting if it’s your first time.

First up, do your research and choose a destination with a good reputation for solo travel. The Netherlands, Croatia and East Coast Australia are popular choices. Similarly, choose accommodation well-rated for its location and reputation.

Alternatively, consider a group tour – they’re a fantastic way to meet fellow travellers and benefit from group safety in less solo-suited destinations.

When booking your travel, plan your trip to arrive at your destination during day time hours, especially if using public transport to get to your accommodation. If unavoidable, book a transfer in advance.

All travellers should be extra vigilant in areas known for pickpockets or street scams. On the ground, familiarise yourself with your surroundings and plan a rough route when exploring. Not only will this help you to feel more confident when out and about, but it's a good way to avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself as an unsure tourist.

Top tip: For open-ended travel plans, at least book accommodation for your first few nights in advance to allow yourself time to adjust to your destination on arrival.

Know your rights

If we’ve learnt anything from the airport strikes in 2023, it’s that it pays to know your rights when it comes to flight cancellations and delays.

If your flight has been cancelled and is UK or EU regulated, you’re entitled to a full refund or an alternative flight. For package holidays, your tour operator will assist you with rebooking, while DIY-trippers should deal directly with the airline. If you choose to be booked onto an alternative flight, you have the right to request the next available flight, even if it is with another airline.

You’re also entitled to assistance from your airline if you’re stuck at the airport or abroad due to your flight being cancelled. This can include the provision of food, drink and overnight accommodation until you’re able to fly to your destination.

For flight delays over two hours, you’re entitled to the same assistance from your airline. If your flight arrives at your destination more than three hours late and it is the airline’s fault, you may be able to claim compensation. The amount you are entitled to will depend on the length of both your flight and the delay. Delays caused by airport strikes and bad weather are classified as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ meaning you’re not eligible for compensation.

Top tip: You can find further advice on what to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled and your compensation rights on the CAA website.

Book early

According to the IATA, a predicted air travel boom will see 200 million more passengers travel in 2024 compared to in 2019. As a result, more flights are expected to be booked to full capacity, meaning a likely reduction in last-minute discounts and price drops.

Travellers are advised to book their flights and package holidays sooner rather than later in 2024 to ensure the best choice of dates and competitive prices. This is especially relevant for families restricted to travelling during the school holidays.

Top tip: If you can be flexible with your flights, midweek dates often offer the cheapest deals, as do early and late departure times.

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