The Clever Travel Companion Updates

How safe are hostels? April 15 2018, 0 Comments



How safe are hostels really? I'm sure you'll have that one friend who travelled to every country you've ever heard of and more who will swear by the safety and comfort of hostels, but really, how safe are they? 

This is a pretty popular question even among the most seasoned of travelers and the truth is, hostel safety and comfort can differ quite dramatically from place to place or hostel to hostel. For example, some of the Clever Travel Companion team members offered up their experiences and found that whilst in the deepest rural Thailand they found a hostel on beach with a jacuzzi, rooftop bar and bedside lockers for the grand price of $14 per night, in the centre of Sydney they found themselves in a $500 per week, 18 bed dorm with a single power outlet. 

That said, safety and comfort tips will often run more or less the same. Here's some golden rules you should definitely live by if you're staying in Hostels.

1. Research a good one

Naturally the first thing you should do when considering a hostel is check out the place itself, select a good hostel with a reputation for safety and not the opposite. A really great resource for investigating whether a hostel is right for you is Hostelling International. Take a look on their site and you'll certainly rest easier. 

2. Use the lockers

Don't feel like a geek or a loser by using the provided lockers. They're there for a reason and if you lose your passport or cash by not using them, you'll feel like even more of a chump. Contact a hostel beforehand and ask about the lockers, do they provide them? Do they cost extra? How safe are they? Where are they located in relation to your bed? 

3. Use the lockers, but don't put all your trust in them 

Ever heard the saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket"? It applies here. If people are up to no good, if the lockers aren't as secure as you'd hoped and just because its safer, keep your most valuable items on you at all times, even when sleeping. Clever Travel Companion clothing is designed precisely for this purpose, you can use the secret pockets to keep your cell phone, passport and cash on your person at all times and when showering or washing, a potential thief would never think to look in your t-shirt. The clothes are made from a soft yet durable cotton so sleeping in them is very comfortable and they'll last a long time. Think about it, sleeping with your passport in a secret pocket in a tank top under your pyjamas? I'd rather it be there than in a locker. 

4. Ask the staff for security advice

In most hostels the staff are also travelers but even if they're not, they're the guys who know what goes on in their place of work, they'll be the guys to speak to if you have any concerns or need advice on staying secure. 



5. Copy your passport and email it to you

Really you should do this before you leave the house on any trip, the second you leave your country it is vital that you have your passport at all times. If you lose it, the next best thing is a digital copy. In hostels however its probably a little more important you make sure you have a copy, with so many people coming and going through a single place, things are bound to go missing. With a digital copy you can show the staff and confirm with certainty its yours if they've found it. 

6. Drink responsibly

You probably don't need telling with regards to drinking, you know your limits. That said, it's easy to forget when traveling that the same rules do apply. You probably will not have been in a situation like a hostel before; drinking with new people in a new place where you'll all be spending the night. Some people in the hostel may not even be guests, they could be strangers so watch where your alcohol is coming from, if possible only ever get your drinks yourself and keep your limits at the forefront of your mind.  

7. If in doubt, travel in a group

You're certain to make friends whilst traveling or staying in a hostel, if any of your new found friends are heading in the same direction, don't be afraid to change your plans slightly so you can stick together. A solo traveler can make an easy target but a group is likely to be avoided by any potential criminals. 



25 Top Tips for Keeping Children (and other passengers) Happy Whilst Flying April 10 2018, 0 Comments

Summer is coming, and time for the big annual summer holiday! If you're flying with kids you might be worried about arriving in one piece. What if they act up, or spend the whole flight screaming? What if you land more frazzled than ready for fun? We could say "stuff 'em" and tell you not to worry about people who tut and sigh, but we know it's not that easy.

First of all, here's some hope that everything will be alright: consumer champion Sarah Willingham explains why she loves travelling with her kids and how she copes on flights



Next up, some top tips from Skyscanner staff and well-travelled mums who know a thing or two about flying with children ...

1. Understand the charges and regulations for each airline

If you've ever looked into flying with babies you'll know that there are so many variations in the charges and regulations involved with taking your baby on a flight. Different airlines have different rules. Some charge for one thing; while with another it's free. Check out the table below which explains all of the variations parents need to be aware of when flying with babies.

Flying with a baby: airline fees and regulations

Airline Infant fare* Free hold luggage allowance for baby equipment** Cost of additional seat for infant*** Free priority boarding as standard
Ryanair

£20 one-way

1 stroller or pushchair + 1 car seat, booster seat or travel cot Children over 2 years of age must occupy their own seat Full adult fare Yes
British Airways % of adult fare 1 pushchair + 1 car seat + 1 x hold luggage (allowance included in adult weight allowance) Additional seats can only be booked for infants of 6-23 months

75% of adult fare

Yes
easyJet £22 one-way 2 of the following items: pushchair, baby buggy, travel cot, carrier, car seat, booster seat Children over 2 years of age must occupy their own seat

Full adult fare

Yes
Emirates 10% of adult fare 2 of the following items: 1 x pushchair and 1 x carrier/car seat plus 10kg of hold luggage Children over 2 years of age must occupy their own seat

75% of adult fare

Yes

2. Plan and plan some more

Blogger Vicki from online parenting magazine Honest Mum's top tip for flying with kids is be prepared-over-prepared. Vicki says: "you can never have too many wet wipes and snacks! Fill your bag with snacks, games, playing cards, a portable DVD player in case the aircraft doesn't have one and make sure you buy water once you're through check in. I always take extra clothes and medicine, you never know when your kids might get a temperature or feel unwell."

3. Write notes for fellow passengers

Worried the other passengers on your flight are going to hate you if your child screams all the way to Malaga? Or, even worse, enjoys a penchant for kicking the back of the seat in front. Why not follow the example of the parents who handed out bags of sweets to fellow passengers on their flight or pen them a message of apology in advance. It's not the gift that counts but the gesture alone will go a long way to easing a fellow travelers complaints and help them to understand that you are aware of their potential discomfort and not oblivious to your child being the cause. After all, not everyone can afford to do what the George and Amal Clooney did when flying with their twins - hand out Bose noise canceling head phones to each and every passenger in first class.


4. Wet wipes and Pull Ups

Cathy from mummytravels.com says: "pack some spare clothes for them and for you - even now my daughter is potty trained, I've kept some emergency pull-ups. And you can never have too many wet wipes! That way if there are delays or you're in a plane that's stuck on the runway for ages, you won't be panicking...or spending a whole flight smelling less than fresh after an accident or unexpected illness. You almost certainly won't need it but it makes me feel much more relaxed, and I think my daughter picks up on that too. That way flights are an exciting adventure, not a potential nightmare scenario."

5. Keep it simple

A game can keep kids occupied and make the journey fly by - but you don't want to be carrying lots of equipment to make it work. So keep it simple. Easy games like I-Spy are the best. Get ideas for more simple, cost-free, games you can play with the kids on your next journey.

6. Kit your kids out in Clever Travel Companion t-shirts

Traveling with kids means juggling EVERYTHING at once, the last thing you want to worry about is their carry on luggage as well as yours as well as their checked luggage as well as your own. Clever Travel Companion have some awesome kids t-shirts as part of their pickpocket proof range. They have a big zipper pocket in the front which you can load up with toys, a snack and even your contact details incase the worst happens. Loading that pocket up in advance is one weight lifted from a heavy list. 

7. Hold your baby up high

Ok, so this one won't work for everyone, but some parents have found that holding their baby above their head makes them stop crying. No scientific reason we can think of for this one working but hey, if it does the trick... Not one to do on takeoff though!

Holding a baby over your head can help calm him or her down

8. Pack each child a plane bag

Katie from mummydaddyandmemakesthree.co.uk says: "pack them a plane bag - We have three young children and my girls have amassed many flights between them at a young age. We always pack a plane bag for them, we don't let them see if before we get on the flight and in it are cheap pocket money toys to keep them entertained. Things you can buy in supermarkets and that only cost a couple of pounds each, like crayons, colouring books, little sets of Lego they can build and of course sweets in case all else fails! They love it and get excited to open them as soon as we are up in the air."

9. Check the flight price for your little one

Assume your baby is flying free under 2? Double check. Oksana found she was expected to pay far more than she had imagined on one recent flight: “you may be surprised that some airlines force you to pay up to 75% for a ticket without a seat. This happened with me and my one-and-a-half year old son. In this case you don't save money! Buy a normal ticket. At least you will get extra space - that is really valuable.”

10. Check in early

If you are flying with the family, or holidaying with your extended kin (sharing a villa with your sister and her five kids perhaps?) you’ll be struggling to all sit together if you leave it late to check in. So do this online as soon as check-in it opens. Unless you don’t want to sit anywhere near your sister’s five kids, that is.

Family in the airport with suitcases

11. Tell the police

Skyscanner PR Manager and mother-of-two Mary Porter has loads of tips on flying with toddlers. Our favourite is: “warn young children of the ‘Aeroplane Police’ who are looking out for badly behaved children. I am not suggesting you scare them out of their wits (and admittedly we never did explain what the Aeroplane Police actually do when they catch a naughty child). However, it proved hugely effective in stopping my toddler climbing over seats, playing with the fold down table, kicking the seat in front and all the other things that passengers around you really love.”

12. Pre-order your baby milk

Baby milk is something that always throws up questions. What can you take? Will you have to taste it at security? How much are you allowed and will it be enough? To avoid these questions did you know you could pre-order your milk from Boots and collect from a store in the airports departures? Find out here which airports are available. Alternatively check out Skyscanner's guide to hand luggage restrictions do you don't get caught out.

13. Be a slave to the (circadian) rhythm

If at all possible, choose flights at the ‘normal’ time your kids are meant to be falling asleep. If they're shattered and it's bedtime back home you might just find they'll drop off. However, this could backfire if they're so excited that they don’t want to sleep - tired and bratty is never a great start to a holiday.

14. Make regular toilet stops

“I don’t need to go” can quickly swing to the other end of the scale when it comes to childrens' bladders - even the older ones. So make sure they go to the toilet immediately before getting on the plane/boat/train. Don't give them too many fluids either or they'll be up and down to the toilet all the way to your destination - extremely annoying for the person in the aisle seat! This is sensible advice for adults too. Drinking five pints of lager before getting on the plane is dangerous, especially if you’re held up during taxiing!

15. Play pilots

Kids scared of flying? So were Oksana Ermolaeva's, a Skyscanner blogger for Russia who made the whole thing into a game. "I played role games with her", she says. "Let your child be a pilot or a flight attendant. Play everything that normally happens onboard. This really helps to avoid pre-flight and in-flight panic.”

16. Arm yourself with snacks

For the ones on solid, gown-up food, make sure you pack plenty of snacks. Like an irascible cat which hasn’t had its morning Whiskas, a hungry toddler will damn sure let you know if they're hungry. So, until the in-flight meal is served, fend them off with snacks. We won’t get into a debate here – obviously mainlining Haribo is not good for them, but unless they have a soft spot for grapes, it might be the only thing that works.

17. Never travel without an iPad or tablet

Travel blogger Monica from thetravelhack.com says: "most parents start off with good intentions when it comes to screen time for their little ones but you're definitely allowed to let your standards slip during a flight! Load your tablet with games, songs, TV shows and Disney films to keep them entertained for as long as possible. Even tiny babies can be distracted for 10 minutes by a cartoon with a catchy song and it can be just long enough to enjoy your in-flight meal or avoid a tantrum. Try The Furchester Hotel - it works like magic for my little guy! Also invest in some kiddie headphones so you don't annoy your fellow passengers with those catchy Disney songs." 

18. Keep them comfy

An impractically-dressed child is an unhappy child, so get them dressed up in soft, roomy layers that you can take on and off as the plane's air conditioning demands - pyjamas are probably your best option. It's worth taking a pillow too, so they can snuggle up in the window seat against the wall, drift off and dream of holidays.

19. Calpol can be your best friend

In the unfortunate event of your child being poorly when you fly, have handy an emergency stash (no more than 100ml obviously) of mother’s little helper, Calpol. Ear drops are also a winner for coping with altitude change.

Child being given Calpol

20. Be prepared for upset tummies

The worst fear you might have about travelling with the kids could well be what if they get sick? A bit of advance planning will make this something to shrug off rather than panic over. Sounding like he speaks from unfortunate experience, Mark Logan, Skyscanner COO says: “always pack more sick bags than you think you’ll need for the drive to the airport in the hire car. And don’t pack away all of their clothes - for the same reason. Also, ensure that you bring your medical cards if you're travelling within Europe. In my case, with three children, there’s a statistical likelihood that you’ll need it.”

21. Cuddly toys can make all the difference

Skyscanner Co-founder Bonamy Grimes has a clever solution for that desperate moment when nothing seems to make it all better: “stock up on toys, but make sure you hold back a favourite teddy that you bring out on the plane, and keep one in reserve for the way back.” There is always the risk of losing a cherished companion in transit, which is heart-breaking, so whenever you buy them a soft toy, buy two and if the worst happens, substitute New Peppa for Left-On-Plane Peppa.

22. Take a break

Initially this one may seem to add even more stress to your journey, but it does makes sense. Oksana says that for her kids, several transit flights work much better than one long haul. “Kids have time to move (run, jump) in airports, which they can’t onboard.” Probably best not use this tactic if they don’t like the take-offs and landings, or have a habit of getting lost in airports, though.

Kids in the airport

23. Use the time to get creative

No matter how much you love them, a bored child is a pain in the rear. Here are items for keeping the terrors from the perils of boredom:
  • Notebook and pens or pencils
  • Reading books or a Kindle
  • iPod/headphones: if music be the food of a happy child, play on!
24. Remember the wonder of flying

Flying is fun. In fact, flying is amazing. Remember that your little ones don't associate budget airlines with baggage restrictions and commuting for business - they’re probably quite excited about going up in the sky. So you should be too. “Don’t forget that flying was once wondrous. To them it still is, so point out the small houses, the clouds, the setting sun..." says long-suffering Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams. And if you’re desperate, get them to count how many passengers are on the flight. We kid you not, this has been known to work a treat!


Remember the wonder of flying

25. Take care of yourself out there

While pouring all your efforts into project managing your offspring’s on board, in-transit behaviour, don't forget to look after your own wellbeing and comfort. Take care of yourself and the rest will take care of itself. If you are in good form, you’ll be far more able to cope with the inevitable tests thrown at you by your errant charges. So, pack your passport, give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and read this article on how to avoid those common mistakes that can ruin your holiday before you have even taken off.

This article originally appeared on Skyscanner's blog.


Top tips for traveling with pets March 16 2018, 0 Comments


The recent death of the puppyplaced by a flight attendant in the overhead binof a United Airlines plane conjures up distressing pictures and ideas of what it must be like for traveling pets or for the owners who need to entrust them to airline staff. Many people have been retelling their horror stories like the Forbes Author who remembered that years ago her crated poodle flew cargo from Miami to NYC. When she landed she was told by Delta that he wasn't on the plane. She argued vehemently, but distraught, went home without the pup. At 3 am she was called and told that he'd been flown back and forth to Hawaii before being found, in the corner of the plane's cargo area. Luckily he managed to survive.


Things happen. So here, to prevent any more sad outcomes, a few common sense tips regarding travel with pets to keep them safe and sound.


General Info


- According to a study by AAA and Best Western International, more than half of U.S. pet owners travel with their pets. Service animals are increasing these numbers even more. If you have a choice, decide carefully and objectively whether it's best to take your pet along when you travel. Consider your dog’s personality and the reason you want to bring him or her.


Cats are generally poor travelers. There are now cat backpacks and strollers, but placing them in new situations away from their territory often causes stress even if you stay with them.


- Familiarize yourself with current U.S. Travel Regulations or International Pet Travel restrictions before you go. List questions to ask your vet. Also check out websites such as DogVacay.


- Tag your pet’s collar with the address and phone number of where you’ll be staying. Also, check for vaccination requirements, and bring your pet’s medical records in case of emergency.


- Bring food, toys, a blanket or clothing that reminds your pet of home, and a collapsible water bowl. Short-nosed and excessively furry dogs may need a cooling vest in hot-weather spots; smaller dogs, who have a harder time regulating body temperature, may need a sweater.


Flying 


- Aside from service dogs, airlines allow a limited number of small dogs or cats in the aircraft cabin as part of carry-on luggage; others only allow pets in the cargo area. Fees vary, up to more than $500. As most airlines only allow one or two animals on each flight, buy your pet's ticket before buying yours. Check carefully with airline policy. PetPlan’s Pet Travel Guide  offers tips on pet-friendly airlines.


- Learn crate or carrier dimensions and include identifying information on both carrier and collar—including your home and destination addresses.


- Before the flight, walk Fido in an outdoor area or pet relief zone.  Don't rush, don’t overdo snacks before the flight - for you or your pet.


- Calming meds may seem kind, and are effective to induce sleep, but can interfere with a dog's ability to regulate body temps. Another option is a DAP collar that emits stress-zapping hormones. Check with your vet.


- Don't allow your pet to be taken anywhere else in the aircraft. Place them under your seat, and within your sight.


- Flying options include a charter airline specifically for dogs.


Driving


According to the AAA, about 30,000 accidents are caused annually by an unrestrained dog in the front seat. Restrain animal passengers: you can use special pet barriers, seat belts, car seats or travel crates.


- Help your dog get used to the car; try driving to a dog park for fun. Feed your pet a few hours before the drive, keep your car cool, and consider using a harness for safety. Your dog may enjoy sticking his head out the window, but it could cause ear damage or expose your pet to lung infections, according to the ASPCA.


- Stop every few hours for your pet's relief breaks and exercise. You can bring a portable litter box if you must bring a cat. The ASPCA recommends keeping a gallon of cold water on hand for hydration during the trip.


- On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes, which can be deadly. If you’ll be visiting where pets aren’t allowed, leave them at a pet-friendly hotel — or at home — not in the car alone - For more info, auto safety tips for pets.


On Arrival


- Many hotel chains now pamper pets. See Bringfido for pet-friendly hotels and ideas. Some tips: Leave the TV on for comforting background noise. Keep the “do not disturb” sign on the door. Request a room away from the elevator to minimize noisy foot traffic. Set up a “safe space” in the room, with blankets and a water bowl.


- Seek out restaurants with outdoor seating so Fido can come along.


- Be kind and gentle, aware and responsive to your pet while you're traveling. And if it doesn't work out, make plans for the best possible stay-at-home scenario next time.