The Big Summer Getaway starts for most next week, though some schools have already finished. So if you’re planning to fly abroad, our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis is here with his last minute checklist to ensure you get more bucks for your bang.
1. Booked a hotel yourself, check to see if the price has dropped
If so, and you’ve free cancellation, cancel and rebook, like Alison who tweeted me “@martinslewis Saved £200 when price dropped 2 days pre-travel”.
Or if you booked via a big online travel broker like Expediaor Ebookers they have price promises to refund you the difference if the price of the hotel later drops, or you find it cheaper elsewhere.
2. Check your EHIC card is valid – 5.3mill expired last year
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you access to GPs or state hospitals in the EU at the same price as a local. Yet over 5 million are out-of-date and invalid so check the expiry date (point 9) on the bottom right of your card now.
If it's already expired, or is about to, renew it now by applying on the EHIC website, or by calling 0300 330 1350. DON’T pay for an EHIC – they’re free and any site charging you is a con – even if it’s promising a fast track. Generally, it'll take about seven to 10 days for it to come through – but it can be quicker. Kids must have their own cards.
3. You don’t need to show your boarding pass in airport shops – except at duty free
There’s NO legal or security requirement for you to show your boarding pass in any airport shop, with the exception of Duty Free (you must show it there whatever you’re buying).
They ask because if you are travelling outside of the European Union (your boarding pass proves this), the shop can reclaim the VAT paid.
Yet this VAT should really (in my view) be passed back to the customer. So I believe you should make a point and politely decline showing them your pass unless they do. Thankfully as this campaign has been running a couple of years, it’s already started to have an impact. For example, if you’re travelling outside the EU then WH Smiths and Boots do for individual items over £6 and £5.
4. If you want to take cash, don’t leave it until the airport
Never ever leave buying cash to the last minute, especially at the airport. They know you’re a captive customer and will bump up the price. If you’ve left it very late at least pre-order for airport pick up and you’ll get better rates. Better still use a travel money comparison site like Martin’s ‘TravelMoneyMax’ which will find you the best rates.
If you’ve longer to go then get yourself a top specialist overseas credit card or prepay card which gives you perfect rates in every country – we covered this a month ago – see top cards for going abroad.
5. Roam at no extra charge in Europe – trick to beat roaming charges outside too
Since June you’ve now been able to automatically use your UK data, calls (only EU to EU calls) and text allowance in 28 European countries (including France, Germany, Italy and Spain) as you would if you were in the UK – so if it’s included in your monthly contract it’ll be ‘free’, go over and it’ll cost what it does in the UK. Though do note if you have unlimited data or cheaper packages you may have to pay extra to use all your data allowance.
But if you’re travelling elsewhere, it can be horrendous, eg watch a half hour of TV via 4G in the USA and it’d cost you £1,200 on some networks (though you’d be cut off before then). Yet if you have an unlocked mobile, you can get a free PAYG Three Sim - it’s “Feel at Home” tariff lets you use your UK allowance for free in 60 countries including USA, Australia, Iceland and Singapore. So just buy a bundle for how much you’re going to use, and it’s much cheaper than paying roaming charges abroad, eg £20 will get you 300 minutes, 3,000 texts and 12GB of data.
6. Don’t buy food at the airport - have a 35,000ft picnic
Last week I mentioned how you can get free water at airports – just take an empty bottle through security and fill it up at a free water fountain which many airports have (not all though). Yet you can also take food across to the other side too – so pack a picnic, to avoid paying the sky high prices in airport shops and on planes. For example, just the £2 spend on a single airline muffin could often buy eight of them in a supermarket, making it nearly 90% cheaper to bring your own.
7. Always turn your sun cream bottles around
There’s no need to automatically buy new bottles of sun lotion - open bottles can still be effective for up to two years after opening. The number you should find on the back of the bottle is a Period After Opening (PAO) number, it'll normally look like a jar with an open lid and a number next to it (eg, 12 or 24) - that's the number of months after opening it during which it should be OK to use, so you needn’t buy more.