It pays to know your rights before setting off on that dream vacation
Avoid holiday hell by being prepared for anything
Published 29/05/2014 | 02:30
Holiday season is looming but consumers preparing to depart on their longed-for break should ensure that they've done their homework to avoid common pitfalls.
Delays, accidents and unexpected charges can all put a dent in what should be the happiest time of the year, so Smart Consumer took a look at some ways of avoiding recurring problems.
Travel cancellation rights
Cancelled or delayed flights are one of the biggest dampeners to holiday spirits as anyone booked to travel with Aer Lingus tomorrow will know.
Passengers have strong rights thanks to EU's EC 261 regulations which guarantee that airlines have to find you another suitable flight or refund your money in the event of cancellation.
For long delays or abrupt cancellations, you're also entitled to proportionate care and assistance such as meals, refreshments, hotel accommodation, transport and phone calls.
For cancellations resulting in delays of more than a few hours, you may also be entitled to compensation payments – ranging from €250 per person for short-haul flights up to €600 for long-haul ones.
However, compensation also depends on how much notice the airline gave you so check flightrights.ie for details.
Crucially, compensation doesn't apply where the airline successfully claims "extraordinary circumstances" such as war, severe weather or industrial relations issues.
EU 261 rights do not cover losses for separate elements booked on an airline website such as hotel, car rental or airport parking – your rights here depend on the contractual small print.
Car rentals are a minefield with the European Consumer Centre reporting frequent complaints about supplementary charges.
For a week's hire, a child seat can cost up to €60 extra, an additional named driver up to €90, and sat nav up to €100.
Car-hire excess insurance is useful to cover the first portion of any damage – but it could add over €100 to your bill if you buy it from the carhire company, where it's sometimes called super damage collision waiver. However, you can save by buying a separate car hire excess policy from operators such as carhireexcess.com for as little as €2.99 a day.
Always check the rental car before taking it and get a rental company rep to sign off on it when dropping the vehicle off, or take pictures of its condition in order to avoid being hit with excessive charges for damage you may not have caused.
It is still not the first thing on many holidaymakers' shopping list despite the risks of something going wrong.
The EU's European health insurance EHIC card is very useful to provide free hospital care in other member states if you get ill. It's available free by applying online on hse.ie.
However, a travel-insurance policy will help with the costs of getting home if you're seriously incapacitated and need an air ambulance. Such a policy usually covers cancellation and also curtailment of a trip. But you must always disclose any preexisting condition to ensure you're covered if you do get ill.