As you frantically try to finish off work, put the dog into kennels, fling swimsuits, flip-flops and an array of sun lotions into suitcases while juggling overexcited, tired children, try to spare a few minutes for these essential holiday money-saving, stress-relieving tips before you go!
Tip 1: Currency
Exchange rates have changed a lot in the last few years. Back in July 2015, £1 bought you 1.435 Euros¹. Today, you are likely to only get in the region of 1.121 Euros¹ for your £1.
I say in the ‘region of’ because rates still vary wildly and the high street and airport bureaus don’t always offer the best deals. Use www.travelmoneymaxim.co.uk to find the best online rate. Many offer free delivery on orders over £500, or you can collect your money at your chosen airport.
Tip 2: European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
An EHIC card could save you a fortune if you fall ill or get injured while on holiday in Europe. The wallet-sized card entitles you to free or discounted medical treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs in any European Union country (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland). Whilst it doesn’t replace the need for travel insurance, it’s extremely useful in emergencies.
The card is free and takes minutes to apply for at www.ehic.org.uk It’s valid for up to 5 years and all UK residents can get one (residents of the Channel Islands and Isle of Man aren’t eligible).
No-one knows yet if the EHIC will be culled in the Brexit fallout. Until it is and/or we leave the European Economic Area, an EHIC card should be a vital part of your travel pack.
Tip 3: Mobile phones
Since the summer of 2017 roaming charges within the European Union were officially abolished. It means that you can now use your mobile phone to make calls, send text messages, and use data in other EU countries without incurring additional charges.
However, be careful…you could still be hit by a large, unexpected bill when you get home.
Check which countries are included in the roaming charge ban
Mobile operators differ on which European countries are included in the ban. Some even include non-EU countries so it’s best to check with your provider before you travel.
Cross-border texts and calls also still carry costs. If you call the EU from the UK, you are likely to incur extra charges. Similarly, you could unknowingly pick up a signal from another country if you are holidaying near a border.
Check your data allowance is the same.
In theory, it should be. In practice, the mobile operators differ in their ‘fair use’ policies which means that you may not have the same monthly data allowance abroad as you do at home. Again, it’s best to check with your provider before you travel.
If you think you’ll go over your monthly data allowance while you’re away, you are better off buying an additional roaming travel bundle before you leave so that any charges are kept to a minimum.
Tip 4: Hiring a car
Imagine the scene. Having left home at some godforsaken hour in the morning, you have finally landed! The children are hot and tired. You all just want to get to the hotel or villa and jump in the pool but, when you try and pick up your hire car, they refuse to let you have it! Nightmare!!
The paper counterpart of our driving licences is no longer valid. In fact, the DVLA has advised us to tear it up if we have one. The problem is, many hire car companies abroad need this paper section to see if we have any driving offences and/or points. So what do you do?
There is a workaround but it’s not the easiest! Before you leave the UK, you need to go to www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence and enter your driving licence number and National Insurance number. A personal code is generated that’s valid for 21 days from the date it was created.
By giving this code to your hire car company on arrival, they can check your points and driving record in the UK. This satisfies their insurance needs and the car will be yours.
Tip 5: Car rental insurance
Another joy of hiring a car abroad is the astronomical insurance excess. It can be as much as £500 in some cases. Just a tiny dent or scratch can be the cause of a sickeningly expensive end to your relaxing holiday.
Every hire company offers insurances to cover this but, at typically £20 a day, this is an expensive option. Instead, cap your costs at the outset by taking out a cheap excess insurance policy before you go. You can compare policies and costs at www.moneymaxim.co.uk; some are for less than £2 a day.
Tip 6: Using SatNavs
So you have your hire car…brilliant! The family are jumping in and you’re on your way. Hang on a minute, how do you get to where you want to go when the map the hire company gave you has about as much useful detail on it as you’d expect if your 5-year-old had drawn it?
Few of us remember to order local road maps before leaving the UK, and European SatNav apps or devices can be upwards of £60…they’re often not that reliable either.
An easy and cheap solution is at your fingertips! As long as you have a smartphone with GPS, it can be converted into an international satnav with one of the free apps now available.
My personal favourite is Navmii. It has clear maps, spot on route planning, voice prompts and real-time traffic alerts. Plus, it doesn’t need WiFi as it’s stored offline on your phone. All this for the princely sum of £0!
To make the children chuckle, you could push the boat out and spend a couple of pounds on the optional extra of some funny voices to guide you on your journey. Homer Simpson makes my two daughters howl and makes the drive from the airport to the villa much more bearable!
Tip 7: Card transactions
You’ve arrived at last! One last tip before you completely relax. If, whenever you hand over your debit or credit card, you’re asked “Will you be paying in pounds or euros?”, always say euros. Retailers and restaurants often use poor conversion rates. If you say pounds, you could well be increasing the amount that lovely long lazy lunch just cost you, especially now!
After checking off all the above, you REALLY will deserve that first gin and tonic. With the money you’ve saved, you could even splurge and have it at the airport…as long as the children sit still long enough and they don’t persuade you that a McDonald’s happy meal is the only way to kick their holiday off!
Have a great time!
Do you have any money saving ideas to share? Let us know by adding a comment below.