It’s cold, so no wonder many of us turn our eyes to the thought of the heat and beach – making January and February the busiest holiday booking period of the year.
Yet with Brexit round the corner, if you’ve booked a trip to Europe, according to our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, there’s key things you need to sort now before 29 March, as if you don’t it could mean a possible disaster holiday. So he’s here with his key (Brexit) holiday booking tips…
1) Check your passport is valid – especially if you’re travelling to an EU country
Most UK passports are valid for ten years but some places require you to have at least six months left on yours – including the UAE and Russia, if not you can be refused entry. Currently you can travel to any EU country as long as you have a UK passport that is valid on the day you return.
Yet if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March, that's set to change. If you’re travelling to most EU countries including Germany, France and Spain and it has less than six months’ validity, or if it will be older than nine years and six months at the end of your trip – you may be refused entry. You can use the Government’s free Europe passport checker tool to see if it will need renewing or not.
It can take up to three weeks to renew your passport, so if you need to it's worth planning ahead. An online adult passport renewal costs £75.50, and you should only do it via the Gov.uk website – beware copycat websites which may try to charge you more.
2)Check your EHIC is in date – though it may not be valid after Brexit
If you're a UK resident, you're usually eligible for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to the same treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs that locals are entitled to, at the same cost, when travelling in the EU.
Yet around five million expire each year, and many are holstering out of date EHICs, so check point 9 on yours to see. To renew go to the EHIC website (don’t google it could be a site tricking you into paying a charge – if you have to pay you’re in the wrong place) or call 0300 330 1350.
Again though Brexit could change things. If we leave with a no deal, it looks like EHICs won’t be valid, they’ll have to be renegotiated. If we leave with a deal, then EHICs should still work until at least the end of the transitional period in December 2020.
3) Get your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you've Booked)
I can’t stress this enough. Far too often come the summer people say things to me like "Just found I've a breast lump and need treatment, my airline won't refund my ticket, no insurance, what can I do?" I always ask if they’ve got travel insurance, but the answer is often “I was going to get it before I go”.
Half the point of travel insurance is to protect you if something happens before and you can’t go on holiday. So as soon as you’ve booked your holiday, book your travel insurance too. If not, you won't be covered should anything happen beforehand, such as an illness or cancellation. Plus by doing it now, you could avoid potential rises in travel insurance costs post Brexit.
There are many cheap, decent value policies available online and via comparison sites from as little as £9 for a year’s European cover for an individual. If you go away two or more times a year, annual policies are usually cheaper.
As for Brexit, the main risk is if EHICs are no longer valid, then as that’s factored into insurers current pricing, it could see prices rise.
4)Check your insurance policy if you want to be covered for Brexit related disruption
It's impossible to say for sure whether there'll be disruption to flights after 29 March. The Government's official guidance says flights "should" continue as normal even if there's no deal, but airline trade body the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned some may be cancelled. If this happens you won’t be entitled to the EU compensation for flight delays as it’s unlikely to be the airlines fault – (though you’re still entitled to a full refund or an alternative flight).
Out of 16 insurers we checked only four (Admiral, Aviva, Direct Line, and Saga) said you would be covered, and even then they said you won't be covered if you take out a policy after post-Brexit delays become a "known event", and five (Axa, Coverwise, Halifax, LV and Nationwide) said you’ll only be covered with a ‘premium policy’.
So if you’re going to travel over that period, it may be worth upgrading your travel insurance to a premium policy (or getting a one-off policy) now which provides cover in any scenario. Look for something like a 'cancellation any cause' policy, meaning you'll be covered for anything which was unexpected at the time you purchased it.
It’s also worth noting if you booked a package holiday you may be covered by ATOL protection if a delay/cancellation means there’s a ‘significant delay’ to your holiday.
5) Book car hire as early as possible to slash the cost
Not a Brexit issue this, just a general one. Don’t leave it to the last minute. If you do you could pay massively over the odds – for example, walk in now, and if they’ve got spare cars, you could easily pay £40+/day. Yet book a few months beforehand and it can cost as little as £4/day for Tenerife and £9/day for Malaga.
To find your cheapest, use as many comparison sites as you’ve time for, including Kayak (good for options), Skyscannerand TravelSupermarket(both good for breadth) and Carrentals. Then once booked double check the details with the car firm.
I’ve heard huge successes of people getting great deals by booking in advance, like Dave, who emailed: "Booked four months ahead, got 10 days for £296 for a decent-sized car. Just before I went, checked and price had gone to £900."
Also don’t leave your car hire excess insurance until you go to pick it up. You’ll often be charged as much as €20 a day, so to avoid it get standalone cheap excess insurance before you go for as little as £2/day. Like Glyn who tweeted me “Thanks@MartinSLewis, I followed your guide & got a week's car hire excess insurance for £13. Rental company wanted £12 per day."
The MoneyMaxim comparison site can find you a cheap policy. Though be aware that if you do book this way, hire firms may still say “you still need to pay us”, and this is true. You’ll need to pay a deposit of €600 - €1,350 on a credit (not debit) card, from which they'll take the cost of any incidents. Yet you can then reclaim the cost on your standalone insurance policy.
6)You may also need a permit if driving in the EU
Currently, if you have a UK driving licence you can drive in the EU without any extra documents. If a deal with the EU is reached, we don't know what exactly will happen, but the Government has previously said it will try to negotiate an agreement with the EU to ensure UK licences continue to be valid in the EU after Brexit.
If there's a no deal Brexit, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP). Currently these cost £5.50, and you'll need to get one before you travel from the Post Office.