Sound off and eat well
Noise-cancelling headphones are my most cherished luggage. On busy trains, planes and ferries they block out the thrum of engines, the cries of babies and the sounds leaking from other people’s headsets. They allow me to be entertained by music, podcasts or audiobooks when turbulence, bumpy tracks or heavy swell make reading impossible. Most importantly, they make food taste better! Taste is affected by hearing, and the background engine drone is one reason aeroplane food tastes so bland. I pop on my headphones and, if not haute cuisine, the food does develop taste.
Don’t rely on local internet
My top tip is to download an app like maps.me and the relevant map for the place you are visiting before you leave. Then when you arrive if you haven’t got internet, or are worried about how much connecting will cost, you still can find your way around – it will even locate you on the map.
Journey into the imagination
The journey from Hertfordshire to the Hebrides is long and arduous. The holiday, however, begins at Loch Lomond. From here, the spectacular scenery of every loch, glen and mountain peak has a different character. We make up stories imagining the brutal battles in the eerie mist at Glen Coe, the bombardments at Eilean Donan Castle during the Jacobite uprising, or the “little folk” who live among the cathedrals of conifers at Glen Garry. The wildlife changes every step of the way: curlews in the lowlands, eagles in the highlands … and is that an otter or just a rock or piece of seaweed?
Keep your boarding card handy
At the airport, your passport and boarding card always need to be handy, but it’s difficult to keep holding them. My husband simply wears his “airport shirt” with a suitably sized top pocket for these.
Seek out the best ice-cream beforehand
I always plan ahead, research the area and write a list of useful things in my travelling notepad such as directions, tips, places to see and do or the place to try wonderful ice-cream or cake. It stays in my handbag or backpack for when I need it and saves time and effort when I reach the destination. It also means I remember to try the best ice-cream in town! I don’t have to follow it, but it is there to ensure I see and do the most I can.
Think outfits not clothes
For me, my biggest tip is packing a coordinating wardrobe. Each item must be able to mix and match within my capsule wardrobe. I lay out all the clothes I think I want to take, trousers, skirts and dresses together, then see how many of the tops can be worn with multiple items. If they can’t make at least two outfits they are discarded. Add some scarves and jewellery to change the look, and neutral shoes that can go with everything.
Travel in easygoing style
Don’t fly. Enjoy a glass of prosecco on the sundeck while you set sail on a ferry. Indulge in good food followed by a boogie on the dancefloor, and let the gentle waves rock you to sleep. Alternatively take the train and let the changing landscape slide by your window: with only one change in Paris, you can arrive the next day in Venice, Barcelona or one of dozens of destinations. For a stress-free journey, buy an Interrail ticket and only pay extra for your seat reservation – you can plan your trip at Seat 61.
There’s no rush
Go slow and take it easy on holiday. A lifetime of this simple holiday philosophy has given me years of enjoyable trips alone and with friends and family. Wait until everyone has got off the train, coach or plane – don’t join in the stampede for the exit. Decades of strolling down the aisles (no one minds if you saunter through first class as if you own it at the end of a journey) has given me the chance to pick up discarded novels and magazines for holiday reading later. Wherever I am, I take the slower, regional trains: you see more, get local company and save money. Drive at slower speeds and stop frequently – enjoy the journey and the destination.
There is one simple way to make holidaying easier: travel alone! Price? Whatever you want to pay. Where? Anywhere you want to go. It is less stress not having to worry about other people. Children – send them off to summer camp or away with their school. Partner or friends – let them make their own way and meet them when you get there.
Play the game
Playing the number plate game is one way to relieve the tedium of long car journeys. The idea is to treat the three consecutive letters in UK number plates as three-letter abbreviations and make up what they could stand for. For example, BFC could be Big Friendly Car. Kudos for the creator of the most inventive or humorous suggestions. Registrations including ‘X’s and ‘V’s add an extra challenge – there seem to be a lot of those. Of course, types of answer vary depending on children’s (or adults’) ages. My children particularly enjoyed it when letters corresponded with siblings’ initials…