It’s cold. So no surprise January and February are the busiest beach-booking months of the year, as millions turn their attention to a lovely foreign holiday. With Brexit round the corner, if you’ve booked a trip to Europe, there’s some crucial checks you need to make.
1. Check your passport is valid
Currently you can travel to any EU country as long as you have a UK passport that is still valid on the day you return. Yet if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March, that is set to change.
Then most EU countries, including Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Germany, will require you to have at least six months left on your passport and you can’t have a passport older than nine years and six months.
If not you could be refused entry on arrival. You can use the government’s free EU Europe passport checker tool at www.passport.service.gov.uk/check-a-passport to see if yours will need renewing.
If we leave with a deal, then it is likely the current EU passport rules will remain at least until the end of 2020. Though it is worth noting, a number of countries outside the EU, including Dubai and Russia, already require at least six months on passports.
It can take up to three weeks to renew your passport, so plan ahead. An online adult passport renewal costs £75.50, and you should only do it via www.gov.uk – beware shyster websites that try and charge you more.
2. Is your EHIC valid?
The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) means when you go to the EU, you’re entitled to the same treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs that locals are. In other words if they pay you pay, if it’s free for them, it’s free for you.
Yet around five million expire annually and more people don’t check (it’s point nine on the card) so check yours if you’re planning to go away.
To renew go to www.ehic.org.uk or call 0300 330 1350. Again, don’t Google it – there are shyster sites trying to charge you.
As for Brexit, if we leave with a no-deal, it looks like EHICs will no longer be valid. 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)
Each summer, someone on social media contacts me with a distressing question 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 check if they’ve got travel insurance, but the fact they’re asking me usually means they hadn’t got round to it.
I can’t stress this enough. Half the point of travel insurance is to protect you if something happens beforehand, so you can’t go.
So as soon as you’ve booked your holiday, buy your travel insurance. If not, you won’t be covered should anything happen beforehand, such as an illness, family illness or cancellation. For help and options go to www.mse.me/insurance. Cover is available for as little as £10 a year.
Brexit may play a role here too. If EHICs are no longer valid, as that’s factored into insurer’s current prices, we could see costs rise.
4. Going away around Brexit time – will your insurance cover you for 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 airline’s fault (though you’re still entitled to a full refund or an alternative flight).
Out of 16 insurers my team checked, only four (Admiral, Aviva, Direct Line, and Saga) said you would be covered, but only if your policy is in place before any post-Brexit delays become a “known event”. Five others said you’d only be covered on Premium policies.
So if you are travelling over that period, speak to your insurer to check if you’d be covered, or if you can, upgrade to a ‘cancellation any cause’ policy.
5. Book car hire early
Nowt to do with Brexit, this one. Yet it still has a level of urgency. The closest to the time you need a hire car abroad, the costlier it gets. As Dave 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.”
While you get basic insurance with car hire, they’ll usually try and fear sell you into getting a policy to cover any ‘excess’ when you pick the car up. This is normally extortionate. Instead do this as a standalone policy like Glynn who tweeted me did: “Thanks @MartinSLewis, I followed your guide & got a week’s car hire excess insurance for £13. Rental company wanted £12 per day.” For full help on how to do that, and what to watch out for, see www.mse.me/carhire
6. You may 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 we get a deal, that’s likely to continue.
Yet 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.
Martin Lewis is the founder and chair of MoneySavingExpert.com. To join the 13 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip.