Independent travellers

Package holidays are a great way to take the hassle out of planning a trip. But if you prefer to travel under your own steam, then a self-organised trip is probably for you.

Whether you plan to book a flight and accommodation for a city break, take a family driving holiday across the USA or backpack across Asia, independent travel gives you the freedom to choose where you go, where you stay and what you do.

But with no travel agent or tour operator to make arrangements for you or to be on hand if things go wrong, it pays to be well organised.

Preparing for your trip

If you’re travelling abroad there are various things it’s always worth checking beforehand such as how safe the area is you are travelling to, if you need any special visas or vaccinations to enter the country, if there any health precautions you need to take and if there any local laws or customs you need to know about.

The best place to look for this advice is on the Foreign & Commonwealth website which provides foreign travel advice on more than 220 countries and territories around the world.

You can also see our 10 top tips on preparing for a trip for more on this.

Getting the right travel insurance is another essential. This should cover your belongings and any emergency medical expenses you might incur in the countries you plan to visit. Other things to consider are if you need a family policy, how long you need the cover for, if you plan to do any unusual or ‘dangerous’ activities and if you have any pre-existing medical conditions you need to tell your insurer about. You can find out more about buying the right travel insurance in our guide.

Accommodation

Where possible it’s a good idea to book accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment or finding yourself without a bed for the night! This is particularly the case if you are travelling to a remote area where accommodation may be limited.

If you’re self-catering or staying in a hotel there are various safety issues it’s good to be aware of particularly if you are travelling with other people. The most common holiday accidents tend to be around swimming pools, balconies and stairs.

If your accommodation is basic or in an area where health and safety is not a priority take particular care to check out any gas appliances as faulty equipment can give off carbon monoxide which can be lethal.

For more on safety in self-catering accommodation and hotel safety see our guides.

Staying healthy

Depending on where you’re travelling to it may be a good idea to take a first aid kit with you. This can be particularly handy if you are travelling with children, are in a country where you don’t speak the language or are visiting a remote area.

For a list of basic items you may want to take see our first aid kit guide.

If you are travelling anywhere hot it’s important to protect yourself from the sun and drink plenty of water. Cool, loose fitting clothing plus a hat, sunglasses and sun screen are all essentials. Our guide on sun safety provides handy hints on how to stay safe in the sun and dealing with sunburn.

Trying new foods is all part of the fun of travelling overseas. But if you’re visiting somewhere hot, eating new foods and perhaps drinking more alcohol or fizzy drinks than you’re used to, watch out for tummy upsets.

If you are visiting a country with poor sanitation or just like to be careful about what you’re eating and drinking, our food and water safety guide has some handy hints on foods to avoid and playing it safe with water.

It’s also a good idea, particularly if you are travelling to a remote spot, to find out who you would need to contact in the event of a medical emergency. The people where you are staying may be able to help you with this or you could find out how to contact the emergency services in advance.