Here are the main things to do before going on holiday in order to protect your money and your family when you’re away.
We live in uncertain times and tourists can be targets in the most unlikely of places, as we have seen in some sad situations recently.
This shouldn’t put you off going away of course, but there are some things you can do to make things easier and safer for yourself, your family and your money while you’re away. Here’s our checklist:
- Check with the Foreign Office before you go if you’re not sure
- Contact British embassies and consulates
- Get information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Get the best value travel insurance
- Manage your money and get luxury for less
- Travel light to save money and energy – it’s easy really
- Some final important information before you go
Going somewhere that might be a bit volatile? One of the first things to do before going on holiday is to check wth the Foreign Office first to see if they have any warnings about the area you’re visiting.
Generally, if they’re warning about a place then it’s probably risky for you to holiday there. Consider whether it’s worth it. If you’re on your own or with another adult then it could be just an adventure. But with the kids…? Maybe not.
Of course the British embassies and consulates around the world are there to help us if we need them, but according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), nearly one in five Brits think the local embassy would lend them money if they ran out of cash while abroad.
If you’re in this bracket, sorry but this really isn’t true! They’re useful but they’re not tour operators.
Just to clarify, here’s what the FCO say British embassies and consulates can and can’t do to help you.
- Issue replacement passports
- Provide information about transferring funds
- Provide appropriate help if you are a victim of crime, or are in hospital
- Provide details of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors etc
- Contact friends and family for you
- Make special arrangements in cases of terrorism, civil disturbances or natural disasters
- Pay any bills or give you money (in very exceptional circumstances they may lend you some money, from public funds, which you will have to pay back)
- Get you out of prison, or prevent the local authorities from deporting you after your prison sentence
- Help you enter a country, for example, if you do not have a visa or your passport is not valid
- Give you legal advice
- Make travel arrangements for you, find you work or accommodation
The MoneyMagpies have discovered loads of great resources on the FCO website we thought we’d let you know about so that you can make the most of them. This is a free resource and definitely one of the things to do before you go on holiday.
Updates by email
Now they have an email and SMS service that will send you country specific advice wherever you are going. Sign up here to get that.
Check out their ‘travel advice by country’ section to find out everything you need to know about your destination and if there are any specific precautions you should take. This section has advice on all kinds of things, from driving conditions to local customs and laws.
They also have a comprehenisve checklist so you can make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important. Have a look at it here.
Gap travel advice
Their website for Gap Year travellers has loads of dedicated advice and information for those about to embark on a gap year.
Of course, the best way to protect yourself from unexpected problems when you’re away is to get comprehensive travel insurance.
When you’re shopping around for the best deals, remember
- that cheapest is not necessarily best. You should always read the terms and conditions of your policy carefully to make sure it covers you properly and includes any specific activities you’re planning to do – like winter sports.
- You have to declare any pre-existing medical conditions when applying for your policy. If you don’t, you run the risk of invalidating your cover and the provider won’t pay out for any claims.
- Although holidays are a time to kick back and let your hair down, don’t forget that if you have an accident while drunk or on drugs, your insurance company will not pay out.
- Invariably you’ll find the best deals when buying your policy online. To compare providers and get the very best deal for you, have a look at GoCompare.com’s comparison service.
Checking out Endsleigh Insurance is also a good idea, as they have a great range of varied and reasonably priced insurance policies available.
Top Tip! And there’s good news for older holidaymakers: with more over 66s travelling abroad than ever before, you should be able to find a competitive price for your policy too. For more details on the best travel insurance for the over 65s, have a look here.
Protect your cards
Unsurprisingly, the majority of credit card fraud occurs abroad, so you’ll need to be extra careful if you decide to take your cards with you.
- If you do take a credit or debit card with you, make sure you store the card company’s ‘lost and stolen’ number in your phone, and make of note of it somewhere else too.
- You should also consider signing up to a card protection service. You pay a small fee – usually about £20 – and register the details of your cards and other important personal documents like your passport. That way, if anything does happen, you’ll just have to ring one number and they can do everything needed, like cancel the cards and order replacements. Find out more about how to protect your credit cards whilst abroad.
- Another thing to remember if you’re going to take your credit or debit card abroad is that most will charge you when you use them overseas. There are a few exceptions however, such as the Halifax card.
Use a prepaid card
However, there is an alternative to all this – use a prepaid credit card instead.
There are several prepaid cards out there specifically designed for foreign travel. You have to purchase the card (although you can get some for free) then you just choose which currency you want your card in (Euros, US Dollars or Sterling) and you can load it with as much as you want.
Remember that you can only spend the money that’s on the card – so once it’s gone, it’s gone. Our favourites are the FairFX MasterCard and the CaxtonFX MasterCard. To see a full list of the cards and find out more about them, click here.
Our top tip for getting your currency is to check out the best rates through a currency comparison service. There are various online such as Compareholidaymoney.com. if you order over £500-worth of cash most companies will courier it to your home for free. Or you might get one of the companies that have outlets at the airport so that you order it cheaply online but have the convenience of picking it up before you leave.
If you’re like me and take everything including the kitchen sink whenever you travel…just in case…take heart from TV presenter Penny Smith (GMTV) who only ever travels with carry-on luggage, even when skiing!
She says that the first rule is to realise that no one notices what you wear so you can wear the same things – maybe mix and matched as you go – for at least a week and often longer. It’s a good point. In fact, it’s worth trying it out at home for a week – just have three different outfits that you wear in the one week and see if anyone notices. I bet they don’t!
Lonely Planet has some good travelling light tips here.
Here are some other ways to travel light:
1. Don’t bring half your wardrobe. Apart from more extreme destinations, most places have public laundry facilities available.
2. Roll, don’t fold your garments. Rolling takes up far less space, and allows you to organise your bag more easily . This tip came from sailors who have very limited space for personal gear, so they know!
3. Push the limits of your carry-on. You can avoid checking luggage, even for some longer trips, just by having a carry-on that is the maximum size allowable. It can be a roll-on or a backpack, but you can exit airports much faster if you don’t have to wait for baggage claim. Plus, the airline can’t lose your bag!
4. Make a list of essential items. Look at weather forecasts and your agenda, then write down exactly what you think you’ll need. This will greatly aid you in not packing useless stuff that takes up room and weight.
5. Undergarments, towels, and t-shirts made from hi-tech synthetics. Socks, boxers, and t-shirts made from materials that wick away moisture and resist bacteria can often be worn multiple times before washing, even in hot climates. Also, they dry extremely fast when you wash them, making sure that you don’t have to pack a bag of wet clothes.
In most holiday destinations, there’s no reason to suspect you’re in any more danger than in the UK. Having said that, when you’re somewhere unfamiliar and are obviously not one of the locals, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- A document wallet is a really good idea if you’ll be staying in hostels or budget hotels that don’t have a safe. They fit comfortably and easily under your clothes, without being obvious. If you have to carry documents like your passport around with you, this is the best way to keep them safe
- Make sure you make copies of all your essential documentation, take some with you and leave some with friends or relatives at home. Just to be extra safe, it’s worth scanning the copies and emailing them to yourself. That way, you’ll always have access to them in an emergency.
If you’re travelling to an EU country, get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to take with you we haven’t left the EU yet so it’s still valid). This card replaces the old E111 form and will entitle you to state-provided health care should you need it.
Remember that this card is NOT a substitute for travel insurance, you must get that as well!
You should also check at least six weeks before you travel whether or not you’ll need any vaccinations or specific medical precautions for your destination.
Check the NHS page that tells you what vaccinations you need for which countries.
It’s always a good idea to take a first aid kit with you – Lifesystems has brilliant first aid kits for all kinds of trips, from family holidays to mountain trekking expeditions.
Check on the customs regulations for your destination and apply for the relevant visas if necessary. You should also ensure your passport is valid – for some countries it must be valid for six months after the date you travel.
The FCO’s ‘travel advice by country’ section has this information.
If you plan to drive when you’re abroad, make sure your driving licence is valid and find out about driving conditions in your destination. Again, you can use the FCO’s ‘travel advice by country’ section to find out this information.
You should also check with your insurance company to ensure you’re covered to drive overseas. Not all policies will cover you out of the UK but many will do it as an add-on if you ask.
For the best car insurance deals check out our comparison pages.
More country information
Get yourself a good guidebook to help you learn about the laws and customs of your destination. It’s always worth finding out as much about the country you are visiting before you get there, to ensure you respect local culture and traditions as much as possible.
Got more brilliant travelling tips? Share them with us in the comments below.