Check your travel agent is a reputable, established company
Always ask if the company belongs to a recognised body such as ABTA, which aims to maintain high standards of trading practice in the industry.
Check what you need to pay up front
Make sure you're clear what the price includes and what guarantees there are if something should go wrong with your holiday booking.
Shop around and compare prices
You can save money by booking early or at the last minute, depending on the type of holiday. It may be cheaper to book a package, or create your own holiday by booking flights, accommodation and excursions separately. Remember if you do book separately you might not be covered by ATOL. Being covered by ATOL means a company is legally bound to bring you home even if the airline you travelled with goes bust - but this is usually only for packages, not flights alone.
It's a good idea to use a credit card or a Visa Debit card to pay for your holiday. This usually means that you'll be covered if anything goes wrong with your booking, such as the airline or hotel going bust.
To be covered under the Visa Debit Chargeback scheme, you must notify your bank within 120 days of the purchase date or of the date the services were due.
Research your options before you go. You'll need cover for:
Everyone in the party according to their age and any health conditions
Any activities you're planning such as skiing or diving
Check cover for lost baggage or delays carefully as this can vary - the cheaper policies may not have enough cover if you're taking golf clubs, a video camera or a surfboard, for example.
Also, check what documents you need to take with you. In Cuba, for example, you need to show your travel insurance documents before you can enter the country.
Going on holiday in Europe? Make sure you've all got your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles you to free or reduced-cost medical treatment in all European Economic Area countries and Switzerland. You can apply for your EHIC card online or pick up a form at a Post Office branch.
To make sure you get the most out of your trip, it's a good idea to do some research before you go.
What to research:
Currency and the exchange rate - some resorts accept US Dollars and Pounds Sterling as well as the Euro or local currency.
What you should expect to pay for things like taxis, food and tours.
What you can do on holiday - activities, excursions.
Where you can eat, and where you can buy supplies if you're self-catering.
Car hire - should you book before you go?
Typical weather - so you know what to pack.
Sightseeing: if you're on a budget look for cheap days out or free visits to museums.
Electrical appliances: do you need an adaptor?
Local laws and customs: are there guidelines about appropriate clothing - covering your head, for instance?
There's a wide range of information sources about travel destinations, including the Trip Advisor website, and established travel guide series - available both online and in print - such as Time Out, Eyewitness Travel Guides, Michelin guides and Lonely Planet.
Shop around for your holiday money. Compare exchange rates, look for places that don't charge commission, and ask if you can change back any leftover money for free.
It's best to get your foreign currency before you go rather than leaving it until you get to the airport where you may pay higher commission fees or receive a less competitive exchange rate. Before using your credit or debit card to purchase Travel money check to see if you'll pay a fee and consider paying with cash if you do.
Credit and debit cards
Credit and debit cards are a convenient, safe way to pay for things while you're on holiday. Let your bank know in advance that you are going away and check that they have contact details for you. Ask your bank or card provider what charges there are for using your card in shops or for taking cash out abroad.
When you use your card to pay for something on holiday, you may be asked if you want to pay in Pounds Sterling instead of the local currency. Check the exchange rate as it might cost you more to pay in Pounds Sterling.
You can change travellers cheques for money in most hotels, banks and money exchanges - some shops and retailers accept travellers cheques as they are.
They're a safe way to carry money because if they're lost or stolen you can get them replaced. Make sure the currency you order your travellers cheques in is accepted in your destination country, and sign all your cheques and write down their serial numbers as soon as you receive them. Always keep your list in a separate place, away from your travellers cheques.
Check in plenty of time in case you need to get a new one - some countries require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport to travel.
If you need a new passport, you can make sure your application meets the Identity and Passport Service standards by using the Post Office Passport Check & Send service.
Do you need jabs?
Visit your GP or a travel health clinic to see if you need any vaccinations or medications for your holiday destination, such as malaria tablets.
If you take prescription or over-the-counter medication, make sure you have enough to last you while you're away.
Don't forget holiday essentials such as mosquito spray and tablets for an upset stomach.
Do you need a hire car?
You need a full licence to drive abroad - provisional licences are not valid anywhere other than the country they're issued in.
If you're driving your own car, check with your insurer that you're covered to drive abroad and find out who you should call if you break down or have an accident.
You might need an International Driving Permit to drive in the country you're going to. Check with the AA before you go.
If you're visiting a country outside of the EU, you may also need a Green Card - proof you have the minimum third party liability cover - to drive. If you do, most insurers can supply you with this or you can get it at the point of entry into a country.
Finally check the driving laws of your holiday destination, including what documents you need to have with you. These can vary from country to country.
Just before you go:
Photocopy your documents: copy your passport, driving licence, insurance policy and travellers cheques and leave a set with someone you trust. Keep your insurance policy and emergency number handy.
Make sure you can use your mobile phone abroad. Check the roaming charges for calls and texts, so you don't get any nasty surprises when you get home.
Tell your bank you're going away: that way the bank will know to expect foreign transaction on your account. Leave a mobile number too, so your bank can contact you if necessary.