How to stay safe on holiday

Travel insurance is one of the few forms of cover you absolutely must have, says Ruth Jackson. But check policies carefully before signing up.


Not all travel insurers cover diving
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Travel insurance is one of the few forms of cover you absolutely must have, but check policies carefully before signing up.

When we travel abroad, most of us are relying on travel insurance that may not provide the cover we need. Around 80% of us don't read our travel insurance policies and make sure they provide adequate cover, according to a survey by MoneySupermarket. Two-thirds of the people surveyed said they would drink on holiday, for instance, yet only 54% realised that getting injured while drunk could jeopardise a claim.

"As a general rule of thumb, the cheaper your policy, the more open the clause around alcohol is to interpretation," says Anna Sant, travel insurance specialist at MoneySupermarket. "With cheaper policies, it's up to the individual to prove they weren't under the influence of alcohol when they got injured, which can prove almost impossible."

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That is one key reason why it's a mistake simply to choose the cheapest option when it comes to travel insurance. Make sure that you read through the level of cover being offered and consider carefully whether it is enough to meet your needs. Also, check that there aren't any clauses in the small print that could leave youhigh and dry if you did need to make a claim. For example, are activities such as snowboarding or diving covered?

Another thing many people fail to declare on their travel insurance is pre-existing conditions, which could invalidate the policy. "Many policies won't cover previously diagnosed illnesses, so if you want comprehensive cover you may need specialist cover designed for customers with pre-existing conditions," says The Daily Telegraph. "This needn't be expensive but it's important to shop around" to be sure you've found the best deal.

Regardless of how healthy you are, or how short your trip, it's vital that you always take out travel insurance, as the costs of medical treatment abroad can escalate fast.

The Daily Telegraph's Laura Miller tells the story of a couple whose baby arrived early while on a holiday in the UAE. They were stuck for 14 weeks as premature babies can't fly until they reach their due date. During that time they ran up a £121,000 bill for hotels, medical expenses and the flight home. Luckily, their £240 insurance policy meant they didn't have to pick up the bill.

The soaring cost of dying

The cost of dying is rising faster than inflation or wages. The average price of a standard funeral is now at a record high of £4,300, says Harry Brennan in The Sunday Telegraph. The funeral industry is "sustained by customers who did not understand what was legal or possible when it came to sorting out someone's final affairs", says Brennan."You do not need to hire a funeral director, you can carry out a funeral yourselfyou can also transport a body in any vehicle, as long as it is safe."

A direct cremation, where the body is collected and cremated in a simple casket immediately after death with no family or friends present, can cost just £1,300, reports Harvey Jones in the Daily Express. "Only 2% of people choose a direct cremation, but this is down to a lack of awareness," says Jones. The fact that David Bowie opted for a direct cremation is helping to spread the word.

Another option is to take out a funeral plan, where you plan and pay for your funeral at today's prices to avoid future price hikes. But choose a provider regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority and gauge exactly what the plan will pay for.

Pocket money the return of the cheque

The number of fines issued by private parking firms is expected to hit a record 6.5 million by April 2019 around 541,000 a month, says the RAC Foundation. There are also a growing number of complaints about private parking firms.

"Strict terms and conditions, hefty fines for minor infractions, such as placing pay-and-display tickets in the wrong place, and difficulties appealing against fines are just some of the issues that irritate drivers," says Kate Palmer in The Sunday Times. A bill is now making its way through parliament to introduce a code of practice for private car-park operators. MPs' proposals include making charges reasonable and clear, "as well as ending exorbitant fines and opaque appeals processes".

Travel firms are advertising flight prices that are "far below the true cost", says Sam Meadows in The Daily Telegraph. Mystery shopping has revealed that rail and plane ticket prices are as much as 500% more than the advertised price. EasyJet was found advertising flights from London to Majorca "from £39.99", but some flights actually cost as much as £250.

Trainline advertises tickets from Manchester to London for £23, but they can set you back by £120. Recently the Advertising Standards Authority banned a Eurostar advertisement for £29 tickets because it was misleading. Guidelines say advertisements "must reflect the reality of the offer" and quoted prices should be available to a "significant proportion" of customers.

Cheques could be "poised for a revival" as faster clearing times come in this autumn, reports The Sunday Times. At present it takes six working days to cash a cheque, and it takes at least two days for money to start earning interest. This is because cheques have to be posted to a central clearing centre to be processed.

"However, a new system means banks and building societies will stop passing around physical cheques and instead process images of them, so they will clear in a day. "All the big banks including Barclays, HSBC, Santander, Lloyds and RBS, plus Nationwide and Yorkshire building societies have signed up. The implementation deadline is 31 December.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.