If you’re soon to set off on your summer holiday, no doubt there are hundreds of things you need to get organised before you go.
But while you’re stressing about buying sun cream, finding the family’s passports and forcing your suitcases shut, don’t forget to make sure you avoid these seven holiday mistakes – or your dream getaway could turn into a financial nightmare.
1. Heading off without an EHIC
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced the old E111 form in 2005, and serves exactly the same purpose.
Carrying one guarantees you the same level of state-funded health care that a citizen of any European country you’re travelling in would be entitled to receive – so if you were in France or Spain and fell ill or were injured, you’d be treated in the same way as a native resident of either country.
It’s free and very easy to apply for an EHIC, and you can find out more about getting hold of one, and how they work, in our comprehensive European Health Insurance Card guide.
If you already have an EHIC, it’s also worth checking to ensure it is still valid. According to estimates, almost 15 million cards are expected to go out of date before the end of 2011.
2. Travelling without adequate insurance
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that an EHIC is no substitute for a travel insurance policy.
An EHIC won’t cover you for many of the problems travel insurance protects against – such as lost luggage, theft and cancellation or curtailment of your holiday for personal reasons such as bereavement.
Just as importantly, it’s vital to be aware that the EHIC will not cover you in destinations outside of Europe, such as the USA and the Far East – and this could lead to financial disaster in the event you become unwell. If you go without travel insurance and become seriously ill or get hurt while on holiday in America, for example, you might face medical bills running to tens of thousands of pounds.
Travel insurance will also cover repatriation to the UK, should you need to be brought home in a special air ambulance because of illness or injury – whereas if you only have an EHIC, you will be liable for the cost of this yourself.
The good news is that travel insurance is reasonably priced and easy to purchase. Read the Which? Travel insurance advice guide and Travel insurance review for help with finding the right policy for you.
3. Getting a bad deal on too much foreign currency
Buying your foreign currency from the wrong place could leave a big dent in your holiday budget. Our Travel money guide contains top tips for finding the best deals when exchanging cash, whether you intend to get your foreign currency online or on the high street.
While you’re planning your holiday spending, it’s worth thinking carefully about how much foreign cash you’ll need. Carrying too much around with you means you could risk losing your money for good if you’re the victim of theft (as travel insurers are likely to put an upper limit on what can be claimed). Meanwhile, if you have to change cash back into sterling once you get it home, the rates you’ll get are likely to leave you seriously out of pocket.
4. Using the wrong debit and credit cards abroad
Having said that, picking the wrong plastic for spending abroad could mean you’re hit with a host of extra fees and charges every time you make a transaction. Over the course of a two week break, these could really add up.
The Which? website contains extensive advice on the best credit cards to use abroad, as well as information on which debit cards can be used fee-free overseas.
5. Driving abroad without adequate insurance
If you’re going abroad and intend to drive your own car while you’re away, make sure you check that your car insurance policy will cover you.
Many won’t, and if you hit the road without making sure you have car cover in place you could end up in financial – not to mention legal – hot water should you have an accident.
Some policies will downgrade your cover from comprehensive to third party when you take your vehicle abroad, while it’s also possible you’ll be covered for a maximum of 30, 60 or 90 days’ driving overseas – so it really is crucial to check the small print of your policy to ensure you’re satisfied with the level of cover it provides.
In addition, make sure you fully acquaint yourself with the rules of the road if you’re planning to drive in a foreign country. Staying on the right side of the road is only the half of it: you may be required by law to have a warning triangle or high-visibility clothing in your vehicle at all times in some countries, so be sure to research the rules wherever you’re going.
6. Taking part in sports without insurance cover
If you or members of your family are planning to take part in sports such as skiing, snowboarding or jet skiing while on holiday, make sure your travel insurance policy includes cover for any injuries that might be sustained during these activities.
If you don’t and the worst happens, you might find yourself unable to make a claim.
7. Paying for everything with cash
Finally, think carefully before paying for certain things – particularly big purchases – with cash.
If you’re booking a trip such as a safari, or shelling out for a stay in a hotel, be sure to pay with a credit card so you’ll benefit from extra protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This applies when you pay for things costing between £100 and £30,000 with plastic, and means that if the company you’re dealing with goes bust or fails to deliver what you’ve paid for, you can claim your cash back through your credit card provider.
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