I adore my holidays and it now looks like I might get away to France soon. What follows are some practical tips to ensure that you avoid grief and unnecessary expense, wherever you might be going. I implore you to take particular note of my first three suggestions:

1. Check all passports now! Some countries require that there be six months’ validity left beyond your return date. You can check the entry requirements of every country here. The Passport Office, unlike many a government department, is incredibly efficient and friendly. Please don’t forget to pack your passport! Check to see if visas are required. If so, when applying online ensure that you visit the official website. Commercial entities put on a massive mark-up.

2. Always, always pay for your trip by credit card. Should the supplier go bust or refuse a legitimate refund you will be able to invoke the wonder that is s 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. A reminder: the measure makes the card provider jointly and severally liable for breach of contract by the supplier. The service must cost more than £100 and no more than £30,000. Protection accrues if the value concerned exceeds £100 even though you put a lesser amount on the card as with charging a £50 deposit on a £500 break. Never forget the dire COVID tales when so many entities shamefully refused to reimburse travellers. Trailfinders is the one agency I recommend wholeheartedly because it puts payments into a secure account and pays out only when the trip has been taken. Simon Calder, travel guru, will tell you that the only time he has been able to collect a rental car without grief was when it was booked via Trailfinders.

3. Take out insurance as soon as you book. Many claims arise because someone cannot undertake the trip. Insurance costs the same whenever you buy it, so get it at once. Beware cheap cover. It is probably inexpensive because it provides little indemnity and may have huge excesses.

4. Consider flight and hotel packages rather than building the holiday yourself. British Airways can often produce a deal where the accommodation is little more than the flight alone! Furthermore, while you must pay for a flight at once, they will allow you much more time to pay if it is a package.

5. The same goes for Eurostar rail trips. On the official website look at the option ‘train and hotel’. I have found Paris trips including a night in a hotel for a few pounds more than the train fare. This comes into its own if you are booking close to a departure date for fares rise dramatically with an imminent journey.

6. If you are booking a hotel, look at the reviews on Tripadvisor. There will always be someone having a rant, but you can get a decent sense of where the hotel is and what guests make of it. Reviews are recent so you might discover that, for example, building works have recently started.

7. Consider booking direct rather than via the comparison websites. On an epic trip to Italy in 2019 I secured best value by contacting the hotel. Comparison websites charge the hotel commission of perhaps 20%, sometimes more. Hoteliers will always want to deal direct because they receive every penny that you pay. By all means scout prices and then write and ask them what is the best rate available. I have found myself upgraded with thanks on several occasions and been given a welcome glass of something serious.

8. The excellent, free Seat 61 website is bursting with practical information about rail travel worldwide. Train travel on mainland Europe is much cheaper than here and the difference between standard and first class fares is negligible. Next month I am travelling from Paris to Turin, a soothing five-hour journey seated in a leather armchair, for £38. Brussels to Berlin first class can be done for less than £100. Upstairs on the double decker Paris-Barcelona is exhilarating. I book using the Trainline app.

9. Never change money at a station or airport. Rates are dire. John Lewis is very competitive; the Post Office is not. Avoid big notes. They might be regarded as forgeries. I always ask for nothing bigger than €20 or $20.

10. Get yourself a free Monzo bank card. For purchases abroad, you get a brilliant exchange rate and they do not charge commission. Mainstream banks charge a fixed fee for every transaction – dire if you are buying a bus ticket or a drink. If using Uber, remember to make Monzo your payment card for the same reason.

11. Always pay for a card transaction as if you were a local. There is a widespread practice of shops asking if you would like to pay in sterling. I even experienced this at the most beautiful department store in Europe, Le Bon Marché in Paris. Do not fall for this. The vendor sets their own exchange rate which enables them to take more from you. Insist on paying in Euros and you will get the correct international exchange rate.

12. Label luggage but never put your home address on the tag. You are advertising that no one will be at home. Put inside your baggage a large sign with all of your contact details. If you think that silly, then let me tell you that around the world there are regular auctions of lost, unclaimed and sadly unidentified luggage.

13. Buy your essentials before you travel. In Italy, France and other countries pharmacies enjoy a monopoly of selling products which are cheaply and freely available over the counter here. A packet of ibuprofen in Venice costs £6.80 while from a supermarket here is as little as 35p. Suntan lotion is available in supermarkets abroad but much more expensive so buy here and take with you. Include Loperamide, just in case your tummy betrays you at 1am on a Sunday morning. As a generic, it is ridiculously cheap on Amazon, lots less than brands which are identical in content.

14. Have photos of your passport details and the front and reverse of your bank cards. If lost or stolen you will have all necessary information at your fingertips to contact issuers.

15. Put your shoe in the hotel safe was the exotic suggestion of a BA pilot who was checking in alongside me at the Milan Hilton. That way you will not depart leaving passport, phone or other valuables behind!