How to Beat Travel Chaos and Enjoy Your Summer Vacation

As we enter the final week before UK schools close for the summer, travel anxiety overshadows the holiday mood.

As millions prepare to fly out on what could be their first overseas trip in three years, ‘capacity shortage’ is causing chaotic scenes at UK airports – and sadly more disruption is coming. expected.

On top of that, there’s the worry of rising Covid cases. And even if you arrive at your destination successfully, the fall in the pound will make everything more expensive once you get there.

As always, my mantra is not to despair — be prepared! Here’s a financial travel checklist to make sure you’re protected.

Be prepared for disruptions

Airlines have already canceled tens of thousands of flights over the next few months as they grapple with overcapacity at airports. In theory, this gives passengers more time to rebook, but some still happen at the last minute.

If the cancellations are the fault of the airline, under European air passenger rights, he must rebook passengers on alternative flights – even if it is a competing airline – and reimburse the additional transport costs (limits apply). Depending on the length of the delay, airlines may also have to pay cash compensation, provide meal vouchers and hotel accommodation.

However, if cancellations are beyond the airline’s control, passengers are not entitled to the same compensation. This week’s unprecedented decision to limit passenger numbers at Heathrow is one example (acts of terrorism and erupting volcanoes are others).

While passengers are entitled to a refund, rebooking is a gray area. Airlines are working urgently to clarify the rules, but what is offered will depend on individual airlines and the agreements they have with other airports and other carriers.

Some may rebook you at no extra cost, but high capacity means there’s no guarantee it’ll be the same day, or even from the same airport – and restrictions are sure to drive up fares.

Make sure your airline has your contact details, especially if you’ve booked through third-party websites or tour operators, and download the airline’s app to be quickly notified of any issues (yet another area of ​​life where it’s better to be digital).

Double check your insurance coverage

“Spending 20 minutes of your life carefully reading your travel insurance policy” could be the best investment you will make this summer, says Malcolm Tarling of the Association of British Insurers.

Not all policies contain trip interruption coverage; even if yours does, be aware of the limits and the excess charged. A recent survey by Which? found that four out of 10 policies offered no protection against cancellations caused by a strike. Heathrow’s cap will undoubtedly test the limits of certain policies.

Travel insurers generally expect you to exhaust any available compensation from the airline before pursuing a claim for any other loss, such as accommodation or car rental. Keep receipts, screenshots and uploads of all webchats to help prove any future claims.

Get your insurance on time

The added costs of travel chaos might be the main concern this summer, but the main focus of travel insurance is medical coverage – a much more expensive risk.

“Ideally buy coverage when you book your vacation, because that’s when your sickness cancellation coverage kicks in,” says Tarling.

Covid coverage is another area where which? found huge disparities – not all policies have the ability to claim cancellation costs if you test positive before you travel.

Travel light

Given the problems with baggage handling systems at airports, travel journalist Simon Calder’s advice is to only carry hand luggage.

British Airways will allow passengers up to 46kg carry-on baggage, provided the size limits are respected. If you check in a bag, he says, “assume it’s the last you’ll see – it’ll probably be fine, but don’t pack anything irreplaceable”.

If your bag is lost the maximum compensation offered by the airlines is around £1000 and even then you will need to prove that you had items within this value. Travel insurers may not cover valuables or gadgets inside checked baggage.

For more peace of mind, photograph the contents of your suitcase before closing it; make sure you have a strong luggage tag and a large inside tag with your name and address on it and consider a electronic tracking tag.

Is your EHIC card still valid?

You can still use an existing European Health Insurance Card to access basic medical care in the EU free of charge until the day it expires. Although it’s not a substitute for travel insurance, it’s a handy thing to have.

Alternatively, apply for the free replacement Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) via the NHS website (avoid scam websites that charge). You will be emailed a reference number and the card should arrive within 10 days. If you take off before and need access to treatment, you can call NHS Overseas Healthcare Services to help.

Get a rental car waiver policy

Car rental companies are notorious for peddling extremely expensive insurance policies offering “extras” to cover the excess, or add-ons like tires or windshield coverage.

Consider taking out cheaper ‘waiver’ insurance from an independent insurer before you travel – we have an annual policy which costs less than £50. If an accident happens to you, you’ll have to cover the costs and claim them afterwards, but given the savings, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Check your plastic

We can’t do anything about the weakness of the pound, but we can reduce costs by avoiding foreign transaction fees on card purchases made abroad. Revolut and digital banks Starling, Monzo, Virgin and Chase all offer no-fee cards (and Metro is no-fee in the EU). Apply online now and you could receive a card within days. Most also offer free ATM withdrawals, up to a certain limit.

Often hotels and car rental companies insist on swiping a credit card – free options here include Halifax Clarity and Barclaycard Rewards.

Harry Kind, a who? travel expert, also reminds those who use a credit card to book flights, holidays (and indeed anything over £100) of the extra protections this gives consumers.

“If the travel provider cancels your trip or doesn’t deliver what was advertised, the rules in Section 75 mean you can ask your card provider to try and get that money back,” he says.

When passing a chip and pin machine abroad, always choose to pay in the local currency, never in pounds sterling. The fare displayed on the terminal is bound to be a scam – just think ‘pay in pounds, and you’ll be charged in pounds extra’.

Watch out for roaming charges

The joys of Brexit mean that roaming charges for data, calls and texts have risen dramatically, although precise costs vary wildly. Check your provider’s website before you travel to see if you could save money by buying passes or add-ons, or even set a data limit if you’re worried you (or your kids) might face a lot of trouble. huge bills.

The price comparison site has a “Roaming Red List” of the most expensive destinations, including Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, plus a guide to the best roaming deals.

Another good tip? Use your home Wi-Fi to download movies, playlists, and podcasts to your devices before we travel (well, we can all dream of being this organized).

If you’re still plagued by travel anxiety, Calder points out that the vast majority of air travelers to and from the UK this summer will complete their trips more or less as planned.

So take a breather and remember how lucky you are to be able to afford a vacation. Foreign travel is fast becoming a luxury that fewer people can afford – be sure to enjoy every minute of yours.

Claer Barrett is the FT’s consumer editor: [email protected]; Twitter @Claerb; instagram @Claerb

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