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Luxury Travel

Ask a Travel Agent

A new regular feature from Charitable Traveller Magazine, our team of experts answer your travel queries. In the hot seat this month is Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel

I’m totally confused about what is the latest situation regarding passport validity. I’m planning to go to Spain in August and my passport expires next year (March 2025) – will I be okay to travel? And does this vary from country to country? I’m also nervous about renewing my passport as it sounds like it can take a really long time – do you have any advice on how to make that process as quick as possible, please?

Frida Armstrong

Melissa: Since Brexit, UK passport holders are now considered ‘third-country nationals’ by EU and Schengen countries, so entry rules have become more stringent and there are two primary rules that have caught people about. Your passport must be issued less than 10 years before your arrival date (the day you land on holiday) and be valid for three months from the final day of your holiday. UK passports can have more than a 10-year validity if renewed before the last one expires, so be careful of this.

Renewing your passport using the ‘standard’ process for an adult regular-size passport, at the time of publication, should take three weeks and costs £88.50 applying online, £100 if applying on paper by post, and an additional £16 using the Check and Send process at a qualifying Post Office. The wait time varies and you should check online well in advance of your holiday at gov.uk. You can get a passport more quickly but with much higher costs (as much as £217.50) with ‘how to’ details available through the same Gov UK website.

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!

This is a feature from Issue 23 of Charitable Traveller.
Click to read more from this issue, or more from Ask the Expert

A new regular feature from Charitable Traveller Magazine, our team of experts answer your travel queries. In the hot seat this month is Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel

As temperatures continue to rise in the Med, where do you suggest for a summer beach holiday that will likely be cooler than southern Europe? And if I can travel there by train, then even better!

Miranda Newton

Melissa: For a summer beach holiday with cooler temperatures than southern Europe, consider exploring beach destinations in Finland, Estonia, and Germany – but leave your travels until after the first week of August to avoid the local family holiday times which can be busy. These regions offer beautiful coastal and lakeside areas with milder summer weather, making them perfect for a refreshing escape.
Rail travel to Finland and Estonia can take a while but make the journey part of the holiday and stop and stay en route in some great European cities. 

In Finland choose from a break by the sea or a lakeside beach. The Helsinki Archipelago has so many islands, offering tranquil beaches, scenic views, and outdoor activities such as kayaking, biking and hiking. The islands of Suomenlinna and Pihlajasaari are particularly popular for their natural beauty and beach areas. Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland offers beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a serene natural setting. The area is perfect for swimming, boating, and walking. You can travel by train from the UK to Helsinki, then take a train to the Lakeland region, specifically to towns like Savonlinna or Lappeenranta.
Across the Baltic try Estonia. Pärnu, known as Estonia’s summer capital boasts long sandy beaches, a charming old town, and a vibrant cultural scene. It’s an ideal destination for relaxing and exploring. You can reach Pärnu by taking a train from the UK via Berlin and Warsaw (two further great places to explore). Haapsalu is a small, picturesque town on Estonia’s west coast and offers beautiful beaches, a historic castle, and a peaceful atmosphere. Haapsalu is perfect for those looking for a quieter beach holiday.
For a shorter rail journey try Germany. Rügen is Germany’s largest island, known for its stunning chalk cliffs, sandy beaches, and charming seaside resorts like Binz and Sellin. The island’s cooler summer temperatures and serene atmosphere make it a great alternative to the Mediterranean.
You can travel by train from the UK to Hamburg and then take a regional train to Rügen. Another recommendation is Usedom. This island, shared by Germany and Poland, boasts long sandy beaches, elegant seaside resorts, and beautiful natural parks. The towns of Heringsdorf and Zinnowitz are particularly popular.

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!

This is a feature from Issue 23 of Charitable Traveller.
Click to read more from this issue, or more from Ask the Expert

A new regular feature from Charitable Traveller Magazine, our team of experts answer your travel queries. In the hot seat this month is Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel

I’m planning to take my family on holiday to southern Spain this summer during the school holidays, but we’d like to take the train from London over a couple of days and I’m confused about how best to book it. Because it’s the school holidays I’m keen to book as early as possible, but I understand some train tickets aren’t available until a couple of months out. I don’t want to miss out on accommodation by waiting until nearer the time we’re due to go, what can I do?

James Balding

Melissa: Train travel to Spain is a really great idea, in support of both reducing carbon emissions and taking a slower approach to travel with the joy that brings. Booking with Charitable Travel means we can offer options with tour operators who can confirm train tickets much further in advance than a customer booking rail-only direct with the train operators. You can plan knowing that your arrangements are firm for both rail and accommodation. 

The other key advantage is that you have support on hand during your journey should a connection be missed by unplanned operational delays. With this help, you’ll never be alone in a rail station with no onward plans. I took a quick look with one of our favourite travel partners who offers an 11-night rail trip including seven nights in Estepona on the Costa del Sol with four nights in stops en route each way to break up the journey, travelling 18 August 2024, and the price for two rooms for two adults and two children under 12 comes in at around £1,479pp. Eleven nights flying came in just £300pp cheaper but created 83% more CO2 emissions and is way less fun!

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!
This is a feature from Issue 21 of Charitable Traveller.
Click to read more from this issue, or more from Ask the Expert

A new regular feature from Charitable Traveller Magazine, our team of experts answer your travel queries. In the hot seat this month is Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel

I've recently started volunteering in my local community, mostly with animals and wildlife. I'm really interested in working with exotic wildlife - do you know of anywhere I can do this on holiday? And would I need to have a work visa or specific qualifications to do so? I'm open to ideas, I'd just like to do some good on my next trip!

Verity Jones

Melissa:  For volunteering with exotic wildlife on your holiday, it’s essential to choose programmes that prioritise the welfare of animals and have a positive impact on conservation efforts. Charitable Travel has a clear policy on proper engagement with wildlife which means, among other points, no contact so please be mindful of that. Destinations such as Costa Rica, South Africa, India and Thailand offer opportunities to work nearby wildlife under carefully guided conditions. Requirements vary by programme; some may require specific skills, while others provide training on-site.

 A work visa might not be necessary for volunteer work, but this depends on the destination’s regulations.
Always check visa requirements and the credentials of the volunteering programme to ensure it aligns with ethical and sustainable practices. Charitable Travel has a range of volunteering opportunities for while you’re on holiday

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!
This is a feature from Issue 21 of Charitable Traveller.
Click to read more from this issue, or more from Ask the Expert

A new regular feature from Charitable Traveller Magazine, our team of experts answer your travel queries. In the hot seat this month is Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel

My parents are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary next year and I’d love to treat them to a long weekend away to celebrate. They love Italy, France, good food and interesting, family-run places to stay, and I’d like to go somewhere we can ideally reach by train. It’d need to be during the school holidays – not necessarily the summer – as also joining us would be my seven-year-old daughter and my sister’s five-year-old daughter. In total, we’d be six adults and two children. Our budget for the whole party is £4,000 for travel and accommodation. What do you suggest? 

Richard Miller,Suffolk

Melissa: Consider celebrating your parents’ anniversary in Provence, a picturesque region in south-eastern France. Here, you can explore historic towns like Avignon and Arles, indulge in Provençal cuisine, and enjoy family-friendly outdoor activities in the beautiful countryside. Accommodations in family-run guesthouses or countryside villas provide an authentic experience but equally charming hotels are an option.

Accessible by taking the Eurostar to Paris and then a high-speed TGV train to Avignon or Marseille, the journey could be broken with a stay in Paris too.
Alternatively, Tuscany, in Italy, would also be great. Explore cities like Florence, Siena, and Pisa, enjoy Italian cuisine, and visit local vineyards for wine tasting. Travel by train from the UK to Milan and then switch to regional trains taking you to various Tuscan cities. Family-run agriturismos or smaller friendly hotels in Tuscany offer charming and authentic stays. Train travel allows you to enjoy scenic views along the way, but Italy would most likely need an overnight en route to make the journey easier.

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!

This is a feature from Issue 19 of Charitable Traveller.
Click to read more from this issue, or more from Ask the Expert

Got a travel consumer query or need some help finding your next dream holiday? Send your questions to our resident travel expert, Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel and she’ll answer them here

 I was away on holiday in Peru when I was notified by the tour operator I was travelling with that they’d gone into administration, yet I still had various elements of my holiday to do, let alone get my return flight home. In this situation, what are my rights and what service should I expect to receive?

Alice Goodlife

Melissa:  That must have been very stressful. I hope you booked through a travel agent and tour operator because your rights and expected services depend on how you booked your holiday. For UK travellers with an ATOL- (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected package, the Civil Aviation Authority should ensure you can complete your holiday and arrange your return flight. This protection prevents you from being stranded or facing financial loss due to the operator’s insolvency.
Under EU Package Travel Regulations which remains adopted legislation in the UK), similar protections apply, mandating tour operators to have insolvency measures for refunds and repatriation. Check too if your travel insurance covers the operator’s financial failure, which might cover additional costs or offer refunds for services not provided.
If these protections don’t apply, contact your embassy or consulate for assistance, although they typically don’t cover travel costs. Should you need to self-arrange a return journey, paying by credit card offers
potential recourse under the Consumer Credit Act’s Section 75, which might cover the costs. In essence, your protection hinges on your holiday’s booking details and any travel insurance you hold, highlighting the
importance of understanding these aspects for such situations. Professional travel agents, like Charitable Travel, will support you navigate this situation.

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!

This is a feature from Issue 20 of Charitable Traveller.
Click to read more from this issue, or more from Ask the Expert

Got a travel consumer query or need some help finding your next dream holiday? Send your questions to our resident travel expert, Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel and she’ll answer them here

I’d love to explore more of northern Europe this summer with my family as a change from heading to the Med – I was thinking we could get the Eurostar then pick up a hire car and head to perhaps the coast of Holland and Germany, but I don’t really know where to begin. What would you suggest? We’re a fairly active family with two young teens.

Mike O'Hagen

Melissa: Getting away on a northern European adventure is a great idea for your active family, not least because you can travel in a low-carbon way. Start with a Eurostar journey from London to Brussels before picking up a hire car to drive to The Netherlands coastline. Renting an EV car is a great option because charging stations are widespread and easy, but make sure you avoid one-way rental fees by building in time to get back to where you started.

Alternatively, you can travel by train and really relax. The coastal towns of Scheveningen (accessed via The Hague by train) and Noordwijk (via Leiden by train) are perfect for a few days of cycling and water sports suitable for your young teens. Next, head towards Germany’s North Sea coast, driving or by train to Hamburg, Germany and onwards from there. Spend several days exploring the Frisian Islands, an archipelago that runs along the coast of the Netherlands, Germany and into Denmark, including the picturesque Sylt, known for its sandy beaches and thatched houses. Here, you can indulge in hiking, beach activities and experiencing the unique island culture. They’re a little challenging to visit by public transport, but it’s possible by bus and ferry, from ports such as Norddeich or Dagebüll. Whether you drive or take the train finish your trip with a few days in Hamburg, a city teeming with maritime history and attractions. 

Let a travel agent help you with the planning, hotels, car rental and rail too because you’ll have the accountability and support that a travel professional can provide.

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!

This is a feature from Issue 20 of Charitable Traveller.
Click to read more from this issue, or more from Ask the Expert

A new regular feature from Charitable Traveller Magazine, our team of experts answer your travel queries. In the hot seat this month is Melissa Tilling, founder of Charitable Travel

On a recent European holiday, our return flight was cancelled while we were waiting to board the plane. At the time, the only guidance we were given by the airline ground staff was to go back through passport control, collect our bags and rebook our return flights on the airline’s app. We were left to find our own accommodation for the night and hope that the costs would be reimbursed.
Having rebooked seats on the next available flight, we then suffered the same fate and were left stranded in the airport at midnight for a second night in a row. We eventually flew home two and a half days after we’d originally planned, having paid through the nose for a flight with an alternative airline. We’ve always booked our travel independently as we tend to book with short notice and dislike the idea of traditional ‘package’ holidays, but this experience has made us think twice. How might our experience have been different if we’d booked with a travel agent and what would be the advantages of booking with a travel agent in future?

Clara Gillingham,Warwickshire

Melissa: In the unfortunate event of a flight cancellation, EU Regulation 261/2004 outlines your rights with the airline. You have three options to choose from: you may request a refund for your ticket, opt for a return flight to your original departure airport, or select a replacement flight to your final destination, provided the conditions match your initial booking.

If you book your arrangements through a travel agent and in turn through a tour operator we can support you, ensuring the airline honours their obligations. If your flight is cancelled at the last minute and you are stranded you’re entitled to complimentary drinks and meals, with the extent depending on the duration of the delay, free hotel accommodation for overnight delays, and transportation to and from the airport to your designated hotel.
It is true to say that the airline might not support you actually making these arrangements but your rights ensure you will be compensated so receipts and records are critical, and your travel agent and tour operator can support with these arrangements if you need that assistance. The idea of a ‘package holiday’ under that protected package does not mean the accommodation, travel and duration cannot be tailored to your needs, so forget the idea of a package meaning a fixed one week on a sun bed. Instead, regard ‘packages’ as entrusting your plans to a professional and then benefiting from the support of that professional when things go wrong, which they can even with the best planning in the world.

Speak to our travel experts today to plan your perfect holiday!

Remember – every time you book a break with Charitable Travel you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for free!

This is a feature from Issue 19 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.