Have you always wanted to Travel To Scotland? Don't know where to start or need some inspiration? This is part one of a three-part guide to help you plan your own trip or to just know what to expect if you are a first-time traveler.
- Choosing the right flight
- Finding a flight
- Luggage allowance
- Choosing where to sit
- Booking accommodation and what to look for
- Booking a tour (if you arent going solo)
- Luggage Choices and Tips
- Checked Luggage
- Luggage Tips
- What to Pack
- In your suitcase/checked luggage
- In your carryon bags
- Paperwork and Safety
- Travel Insurance
- Currency and Cards
- Staying in touch with Family
- What to wear on the flight
- A couple of days and the day prior to departure
1. CHOOSING THE RIGHT FLIGHT
- Shop around for the best deal but remember the cheapest is not always the best.
- Some flights look cheap but don’t have any extras added in like luggage, meals, etc and they end up being more expensive once you add everything on.
- Look at airline reviews and see which ones have issues constantly (usually the budget ones)
- Check the flight times. Sometimes there are long stopovers or several stopovers which can double the length of the flight and leave you either sitting in an airport for a long time or having to book overnight accommodation.
- See if meals and entertainment are included (it's a long flight)
- What are the cancellation fees and can you change your booking?
- What time does the flight leave and arrive?
- You need to allow for the extra time to be at the airport for check-in, usually, for international, it's 2 to 3 hours. Allow travel time to the airport. You don't want to choose an 8 am flight and then have to leave home at 5 am to be there 2 hours prior. (unless you are an early riser.
- Consider how you are getting to the airport and home again with your departure and arrival times.
- Do you need to book a car? I usually use Uber or the bus in Scotland.
- If you are flying domestic and then international with your flights make sure the luggage allowance is the same or you will get caught when your transfer. Also, allow for travel time between the domestic and international terminals.
- No departure cards are required for AU anymore
- You can book your complete flight in one go i.e. if you are traveling from Brisbane to Glasgow via Dubai and returning from Edinburgh you can choose a multi-city booking. This way your luggage allowance should be the same on all legs of the journey.
- Join the airline's points club you might as well get points if you are booking a flight. Once you have enough points you get free flights. I'm with Qantas and was able to upgrade to business class on one flight and have received free economy flights using my points
- Some of the booking sites are Google Flights, Momondo, Cheapoair, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, Priceline, Agoda, Booking.com, Hopper, Cheapflights or you can book directly with the airline.
- Check out the comparison sites and then check the airline website to see which is the best deal once everything is considered.
- Check there are no service fees charged by the comparison websites.
- If there are 2 of you traveling together choose the window and aisle seat, if no one takes the middle seat you will have more room, and if someone does come you can offer to sit together on whichever side suits and offer them either the window or aisle seat.
- If you are traveling a few times a year then Priority Pass is worth joining. It's $99 US but gives you access to a range of airport lounges and other benefits. Free food and drink, including alcohol, free wifi, retail and spa discounts, Digital airport maps
- Some Credit cards offer free airport lounge access but you have to weigh up the benefits over the yearly cost of the card and the interest rate if you arent going to pay off the balance each month.
- Look at the luggage allowance it varies with each airline. Usually, it's a minimum of 20kg up to 32kg for the economy for checked luggage and 7kg carry-on. Depends on the airline how strict they are. Again budget airlines are always strict. I’ve been 1 kg over and charged on a cheap airline and been 15 kg over and not changed on a more reputable airline.
- Check the allowances for taking fluids in your carry-on. Usually 100 mls but sometimes it's 50ml. Heathrow doesn't allow pastes or creams over the limit either. (They took my vegemite last time!)
- I always put liquids in a zip-lock plastic bag before I leave home but don't worry if you don't have one as most airports will provide them. If you are only allowed 1 carry-on bag, but you want to have a handbag as well, check it's not counted as a 2nd bag, if it is, places it inside your suitcase while going through security but be aware of the overall weight.
- Have everything ready to check. Usually, you have to remove any liquids, phones, laptops, etc. I have mine in the side pocket of my small suitcase on wheels or my backpack.
- I keep my passport, cards, flight details, insurance details, etc in a folder which is also located in the side pocket or in a sling bag over my shoulder.
- If an airline tries to make you pay for excess baggage i.e. you have a domestic leg on Jetstar and then an international leg with Qantas make sure you
- 1. confirm the luggage allowance is for both legs you can do this on an online chat and
- 2. Keep a printed copy of the online chat stating that. I have had Jetstar try to charge me twice for excess luggage and only that I had the print out I didn't have to pay. The larger airlines tend to be more lenient with excess baggage too.
CHOOSING WHERE TO SIT.
- Check the seat you have been assigned. You can select your seat but sometimes it does cost you to do so. It's still worth the money. Your Options
- A window seat is good for being able to lean on the side but you have to disturb 2 other people to get out of your seat. Flights from AU are a minimum of 24 hours so it makes a difference. If I can book a seat with a disabled access seat in front of me I will too as there is more legroom Or book a front row or exit seat but they often cost more. Front row seats are usually left for parents with babies so they can use the bassinet which can be noisy.
- The Middle seat is the worst seat as you are stuck in between 2 other people.
- The Aisle seat -you are free to get up when you want, but get disturbed by people getting past you or walking up the Isle and you don't have the window to lean on. The Aisle is my preference unless I can get a window seat with no seat in front. Because I travel solo usually, being on the aisle means I can get up when I want to stretch, etc although you do tend to get bumped.
- Exit rows cost more but have more legroom and you can move in and out of your seat easily. You will be advised of what is required in the event of an accident
- Position in the plane- not too close to toilets as noisy and can be smelly and I avoid the front too as there are often bassinets with crying babies there. I love babies but not when crying all night.
- Seats over the wings are usually the most stable but there is no view when landing or taking off.
- Seats at the back of the plane are ok but usually near the toilets and/or galley so can be a busy spot with people up and down all the time.
- You are also last to be served your meal so often miss out on the most popular choice.
- I don't mind the seats at the back as there is often a spot to stand up if I need to. Most airlines provide a map of the plane you can view when choosing your seat.
2. BOOKING ACCOMMODATION -WHAT TO LOOK FOR
- Look at the overall rating and the reviews and not just the first couple. All reviews will include a couple of bad ones but as long as the majority are good it should be fine
- Is the location central, obviously the further out of the city the cheaper it is but you may end up paying more for transport than you saved on the price of the hotel?
- Check Air B&B and Bed and Breakfasts as well as hotels. There are some really great ones out there.
- Does your hotel or accommodation has early check-in or late checkout or book your arrival and departure times accordingly.
- What facilities does the hotel/accommodation have? A lot of places will have a hairdryer, iron, and ironing board, some have a self-serve laundry.
- Is there a place to leave your luggage if needed due to check-in and out times
- How noisy is the area your hotel is situated
- Are there places nearby to grab something to eat or drink
- Is breakfast included?
- Does the hotel have a bar or restaurant?
- Does your room include tea and coffee making facilities and a bar fridge
- Is it a private bathroom and toilet or shared
- Is there a lift if its more than one floor
- How close is public transport
- Is there parking if you are hiring a car
- Does the hotel have airport transfers and if so the cost
- Check on the bigger booking sites like www.booking.com and then check directly with the hotel etc, often it is cheaper to book direct.
- There are pros and cons with a booking site or direct bookings.
- With a booking site, you can often cancel with no fee up to 24 hours before and you don't need to pay until you arrive.
- Booking directly you usually pay upfront and there may be refund penalties but you are speaking directly with the business and there is no middle man being paid. Booking sites often take a large cut from the accommodation fee so for smaller private places this can be hard.
3. CHOOSING A TOUR - if you are not going it alone
- Check the itinerary and what is included.
- Don't book through 3rd party companies like Tourradar you end up paying them extra for their service which is basically just advertising the tour at a higher price.
- Check the cancellation policy of the company
- Are they a fully bonded company? This means that your money is held in trust and is much safer
- Check the tour size and style of accommodation and transport.
4. LUGGAGE CHOICES AND TIPS
- Choose a suitcase that is easy to manoeuvre and ideally has 4 wheels. Some airports are huge and it's a long way between terminals.
- There is the choice of hard shell or soft-sided suitcases, large backpacks or carry bags.
- I have both soft-sided and hard shell bags and prefer the hard shell as I think they are easier to manoeuvre and more compact.
- You definitely want something on 4 wheels that have 360 degrees of rotation.
- Look for lightweight and strong.
- If you are travelling more than once then quality is better than something cheap.
- A built-in lock is handy too.
- An extendable sturdy handle is also good.
See my Blog on Luggage Comparisons
- Put a unique coloured ribbon tied to your suitcase to quickly identify it when collecting your bags or a large sticker or suitcase cover as there are so many suitcases that look alike.
- Put a fragile tag on your suitcase, apparently, it's handled with more care but I can't confirm or deny if that works. I have tried it but didn't notice any difference.
- You can use cable ties to lock your suitcase or you can have your luggage wrapped at the airport, this helps with security and also protects your bags and I always do this is an option. Last time I flew anywhere I think it was $15 AU.
- Pack the heaviest items at the bottom of your bag.
- Put rolled up socks inside your shoes
- Find out what laundry options you have while you are travelling? Are you going to be able to wash clothes?
- Rolling clothes takes up less space, you can use travel bags if you like to keep things tidy. I use them for my underwear, socks and smaller items.
WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR SUITCASE/CHECKED LUGGAGE
- Layering is key with Scotland as you can get 4 seasons in a day
- The time of year is obviously a factor but even in summer it can get cold and in winter you can work up a sweat.
- Don’t back your large coat as it takes up room and you may need it on arrival. I attach it with a luggage strap to my carry on suitcase.
- Try to choose clothes that don't wrinkle so they always look nice even if you have been sitting on a bus or in a car all day.
- Wash and hand dry are good so you can wash them out at night and hang them to dry.
- I take a lightweight spray jacket and use it almost every day
- A raincoat or poncho and umbrella are a must.
- Scarves, a hat and gloves are a must
- I try to coordinate my wardrobe so things mix and match rather than individual outfits for each day.
- Comfortable shoes, I take one pair of hiking boots and one pair of good shoes for going out and I wear my slip-on walking shoes.
- I take a mini first aid kit containing a few bandaids, tape, pain medication and mini bottles of essential oil and I will be adding some spare disposable masks and sanitiser and a RAT test
- I do not recommend bringing a hairdryer, as most hotel rooms are already equipped with these but it will depend on your accommodation
YOUR CARRY ON
- I carry a backpack as my handbag and a small carry-on suitcase. If you want to take a handbag as well as a carry on suitcase and backpack, leave it out while your bag is weighed, add it to your carry on while you go through security and board the plane and then take it out once you are on board so you conform to the one bag rule. I do often have a small sling bag that slips into my backpack while going through security.
- You can take snacks on board, but most flights will provide food. You may have to dispose of any opened packets upon arrival- they are good if you have long stopovers and don't want to buy airport food.
- You can take a laptop or notebook and camera in your carry on the weight is not added to the 7kg (but check with your airline to be sure.) You will need to take them out going through security so if your carry-on has an outside zip/pocket it helps. I usually have my camera in my backpack. this may have changed since 2019, I will update this post after I travel this year.
- All liquids into zip lock bags. For carrying on they need to be under 100mls. Or a clear toiletry bag.
- If you wear glasses or contacts take spares
- Medications - scripts - check if they can be filled overseas, usually, they can’t. If you have a lot of medication it's good to have a letter from your Doctor listing your medication and that it has been prescribed for you.
- If your medication is liquid and over 100mls you will need your script and a letter from your Dr to go through security
- Portable travel scales are hand to check bag weights, especially for return flights after shopping. Don't pack it in your checked luggage though as they contain batteries.
- Carry a copy of your paperwork etc. in your luggage and one in your handbag and leave a copy with your family. I have mine in a travel wallet which keeps everything together.
- A travel pillow, earplugs, and eye mask are handy.
- Carry a face mask and sanitiser now too
- Some airlines provide a basic travel pack with mask, earplugs, blow-up cushion, sox, small toothbrush, and paste but it varies
- A power pack for your phone and/or computer is handy.
- Wipes and tissues
- Headphones - noise-cancelling if you can or at the least earplugs.
- A Book, or audible on your phone or a kindle as books can be bulky.
- Power converters/adaptors, chargers, and cords - can store in a glasses case or small cosmetics bag, pencil case or power cord organiser/ wallet.
- I put my backpack under my seat with everything I may need to access on the flight.
- Whatever you need to freshen up when you arrive is handy too as a 24-hour flight can take its toll.
- Remember you will need to lift up your carry-on bag to the overhead lockers and it has to be under 7kg including the weight of the bag.
PAPERWORK AND SAFETY
- Carry a copy of your flights, itinerary, passport, and insurance in your checked luggage and a copy in your handbag. Leave a copy with family back home. It's a lot easier to arrange replacement documents should you need help from your local embassy
- Travel agents of tours will want details as well
- Register your travel on Smart Traveler or similar in the country you reside in. It means the government can contact your family in the case of a disaster or emergency. In Australia, it's Smartraveller.gov
- In the States, it's the Us Travel Advisory.
- Check on the Travel advisory website for any travel issues.
- Add your travel agent as your Scotland contact if you are on a tour so they can be reached in an emergency as you may be traveling. Your guide and driver will be in contact with your agent
- PASSPORT EXPIRATION DATE -at least 6 months left before expiry from the end date of your trip or you may be refused entry
- Check the expiry date on your credit and debit cards and that they don't run out while you are away
- Keep Emergency Numbers in Your Phone - your contacts and local numbers and keep a note with your paperwork or I email them to myself.
- While it is not essential to have an international phone plan while you are traveling, a pay-as-you-go SIM card with a cheap unlocked phone can be very helpful.
- Save the local emergency number on your phone, so that if you do need the police or an ambulance, you can call quickly for help. If not taking a phone have them written down
* You can save PDF copies of insurance, e-tickets, passports in iBooks. So you have a backup copy if bags go missing. In iBooks
* Another tip I use is to email myself a list of passwords and phone numbers etc in case I lose my phone.
- I book travel insurance as soon as I book a holiday/tour or flight. So if you don't have insurance look at getting it now. You only pay for the time you travel but if something happens in the meantime you are covered. I don't know a lot about insurance, especially now but I always check it covers my luggage, camera, laptop, etc for loss, theft, or damage and if I get sick or injured for medical treatment and transport home.
CURRENCY AND CARDS
- I always take about 100GPB with me that I pre-order at the money exchange and I have pounds loaded on my travel card. I also have a credit card that can be used overseas when on stopovers etc.
- Don't exchange currency at the airport as the rate isn't usually very good. Better to either use a travel card or check with your own bank as to the exchange rates and fees to withdraw at an atm once you arrive
STAYING IN TOUCH WITH FAMILY WHILE YOU ARE AWAY
- You can use roaming if your provider has it but it can be expensive if you use it a lot, check with your phone company, Vodaphone has a $5.00 per day cap, can still add up if a long trip though.
- Buy a local sim card once you are at your destination ( you can buy multi-country sims too if you are moving around. Make sure your phone is unlocked or I used to take a cheap travel phone that I kept just for that purpose, just to make and receive calls.
- You really have a think about it though, how much are you going to need to make calls? You can always contact an evening using the free wifi and do a video call to family
- These are a couple of sim providers Go-SIM and TravelSIM.
- Use free wifi to update Facebook, msg, or call. It's available in most hotels, hostels, cafes, etc
- Leave a copy of your itinerary with family so they know where you are if they need to contact you in an emergency
- Have a portable power pack and your power cord so you won't run out of charge
- Pack an adaptor and charger with multiple outlets or a power board so you can charge multiple appliances at once.
- I use a 4 plug multi-region one so its only 1 plug in the wall. Remember you may be sharing a room so there are 2 of you to charge your electronics and power points may be limited.
- BE SURE to check you have picked up your charger and adaptor before you leave your accommodation, they are really easy to leave behind.
- A lot of buses and trains have charging ports too so I always carry my cord and plug with me.
- Turn your phone off or switch to flight mode to save your battery especially if you are on roaming as it can drain your battery quickly.
WHAT TO WEAR ON THE FLIGHT.
- Choose your clothes bacon on comfort and destination. No good landing in Scotland in a singlet and shorts.
- Choose baggy, comfortable clothing that doesn't crush so you can relax and sleep on the flight.
- If you are coming from a hot climate to a colder climate you can always pack a change of clothes in your carry-on and change at the airport or on the plane before you exit.
- It can be a bit chilly on the plane so dress in loose layers and keep a jacket or sarong in your carry-on.
- If you ask the airline stewards will give you another blanket.
- I have slip-on walking shoes and socks. You will most likely have to remove your shoes going through security so slip-on shoes are easier.
- Wear socks to keep your feet warm when you are on a long flight and want to slip your shoes off
- Avoid wearing a belt, shoes, or clothes with metal buckles or buttons, etc, or anything that contains metal i.e. jewelry etch or you will need to take it off going through security
- If you wear a jacket you will have to remove it.
- Sometimes they will make you remove the extra layers you have on.
- Wear something comfortable as you will be sleeping in it on the plane and something that is crush or wrinkle proof so you don’t look a mess when you arrive.
Compression Socks - On a more serious note, you should always, always travel with compression socks. Long flights can wreak havoc on leg health. Travel-related deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition dubbed “economy-class syndrome” which causes blog clots following long-haul air travel in cramped conditions. Studies have concluded that airline passengers who wear compression stockings during flights of four hours or more can significantly reduce their risk of DVT as well as leg swelling. I know I should but I can't stand wearing them and they become painful. Probably because I have bigger legs.
A COUPLE OF DAYS & THE DAY PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
- Check flight times have not changed and double-check your dates, you can check on the airline website or just do a google search, just type your flight number (from your ticket) into the google search bar and it will tell you if it's on time or delayed.
- Check-in online as it makes it quicker when you get to the airport
- Double-check you have everything and pack your bags.
- If Covid testing is required go and get that done and obtain your negative status
- Write out a checklist with last minute things to pack like charges etc that you are using, its easy to forget them in the excitement of leaving
- If you have any artificial joints i.e. a hip or knee replacement get a letter from your Doctor stating so as you will set off the metal detectors.
- Confirm with your accommodation