Money Mensch: Holiday protection - beyond sun cream

By Martin Lewis, July 24, 2014
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Don't jet off this summer without financial protection. While sun cream and beachwear may top the list, a little bit of planning can save serious cash and prevent problems while you are abroad.

European Health Insurance Cards

Check if yours is one of four million European Health Insurance Card cards expiring this year. The free EHIC gives you access to EU (plus a few other nations') hospitals or doctors. Even if you have travel insurance, get one if going to Europe and keep it on you. Children require their own. The card is free so beware of web scams. There are sites disguising themselves as the real thing and charge around £20 for bogus "fast track" applications. To apply, go to www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC.

Airport parking

Android app turns your phone into a sat-nav

Slash the cost of airport parking. Although public transport is often the cheapest travel option to airports, that is not always the case for families and groups. Don't leave booking until the last minute, or you will face higher charges. The quick and easy way is to check on comparison sites like HolidayExtras or Skyparksecure, or go via my www.mse.me/airportparking guide, which has discount codes for comparison sites.

Foreign cash

Don't buy holiday money at the airport. They know you're a captive customer and charge you far more. If you've left it too late, at least pre-order online for airport pick-up and you will get a better rate.Or use the www.travelmoneymax.com comparison tool which finds you the best rates.

The cheapest way to spend abroad is on a specialist credit card. With one of those you get perfect exchange rates.

Sat-navs, apps and accessories

The www.navmii.com free iPhone/Android app turns your phone into a sat-nav. You can download maps for about 50 countries - though do it before you travel so you aren't charged data roaming costs once there. I'm also a fan of the free WordLens apps where you can hold your phone over text and it auto-translates within the image - great for checking you're not being ripped off.

Don't wait until touch-down to turn off smartphone data roaming. Even if you don't use the web, apps can download data in the background, racking up bills of £100s, especially outside the EU. So turn off data roaming before you go (it's in "settings" on most phones) and only turn it on if you specifically need it. And if you want accessories like travel plug adapters and neck cushions, don't buy at the airport, where they cost a fortune.

Travel insurance

Sort travel insurance out now. A quarter of people travel overseas without insurance, taking a huge risk both to a wallet and health. Always book insurance as soon as you book the trip. Otherwise, if it's cancelled you won't be covered.

If your trip is your only holiday of the year, then the firms with reasonable cover levels vying to be cheapest are www.uk.protectyourbubble.com and www.holidaysafe.co.uk. Cover for a week in Europe (age under 45) can be as little as £6; rising to £54 for a fortnight in the US for a family (with no one aged over 55).

If you travel more often than that, go for an annual policy. These can be as little as £13 for a single traveller in Europe. For a full list of the top picks, check out the www.mse.me/travelinsurance guide.

Be warned that losing possessions or having an accident after a surfeit of alcohol - or sometimes even just being merry - could kibosh your cover.

Car hire

Book car hire as soon as possible and save £100s. If you've left it late, booking a couple of days in advance rather than doing it once there can still save cash. Here are three quick steps to follow:

1. Find cheapest via comparison sites. My top picks are www.kayak.co.uk, www.carrentals.co.uk and www.travelsupermarket.com.

2. Hire a vehicle for three or more days and some firms will make you pay for a full tank in any circumstance. That can work out up to £100 extra if you don't drive far. To avoid this, both www.auto-europe.co.uk and www.travelsupermarket.com allow you to filter by the fuel policy of the car rental firms.

3. When you pick up the car, the hire firm will try to sell you a further £20-a-day excess cover on top of the standard insurance. Instead, you can buy cheap excess insurance before you go for as little as a few pounds a day. Full best-buys at www.mse.me/carhire.

    Last updated: 2:00pm, July 24 2014