Travel tips: Six ways to avoid holiday money traps
Look before you leap!
From booking blunders to roaming bills, holidays can cost the earth if you're not careful. Aideen Sheehan helps you avoid the pitfalls
1. Book flights carefully
It's very easy when booking flights online to make a mistake and wind up entering the wrong date, wrong airport, or even the wrong name.
If you make a mistake you better hope you notice it quickly - Ryanair allows for free changes within 24 hours of making a booking, but after that, it's costly.
You will pay between €30 and €90 per person per one-way trip to change a flight - depending on when your flight is - and you'll also pay the difference if the new flights is more expensive.
For name changes after 24 hours, the charge is €110 to €160.
Aer Lingus charges €40 per person per sector for itinerary changes, or €100 on transatlantic flights, as well as the difference if the new flight is more expensive.
For name changes, it charges €100.
2. Think ahead on car hire
Car hire: holiday tips
Nearly every aspect of holiday car rental is fraught with money traps that can land you with hefty bills, taking the gloss off an otherwise dream holiday.
When you rent a car, the standard insurance included normally features a hefty excess - the amount you pay yourself before the insurance starts to cover it - and this can be as much as €2,000.
And with rental firms notorious for imposing massive charges for the most minor scratches or dents, it makes sense to insure yourself against this risk.
The problem is most holidaymakers don't think about this in advance, and end up accepting the car hire company's offer of excess insurance at the desk when they're picking up the car - sometimes for around €20 per day or close to €300 for a two-week holiday.
To slash this cost, it's much better to buy a separate car hire excess insurance policy before you travel - this costs as little as €2.99 a day with carhireexcess.ie or from €3.60 a day with Axa - so it'll work out around €42 for a fortnight holiday and give you peace of mind while you travel.
When picking up your car, it's always vital to check very carefully for pre-existing scratches and dents, and take pictures with your phone as proof. When dropping off the car, try to get a rental firm employee to sign off on its condition, or at least take more pictures yourself.
Always check if the policy is to return the fuel tank full or empty - as either way, if you don't meet the requirement, you can lose out financially.
3. Shop around for holiday insurance
Look before you leap with travel insurance...
With any travel insurance policy, it's vital to read the small print to make sure you're covered adequately - and always disclose any pre-existing medical conditions as you don't want to risk making your whole policy void by omitting something.
Experts generally recommend you need at least €2.4m worth of medical cover in place, and when it comes to theft, make sure the conditions can be complied with, as if they can avoid a payout they will.
Avoid taking an insurance policy from the holiday company you're booking with - you'll usually get a better deal if you shop around online.
If you have health insurance at home, you'll often get a better deal on travel insurance from the same company, and annual policies are usually better value IF you'll be making more than one trip a year.
If you don't get travel insurance, at least get the European Health Insurance Card - it's free from the HSE, with details on hse.ie, and will cover you for hospital treatment abroad, though not for an air ambulance home.
4. Know your rights with your flights
Cancelled and delayed flights cause immense stress, but consumers in Europe have some of the best protection in the world thanks to EU 261 which puts the onus on airline to look after customers affected by delays for any reasons.
These will usually involve getting you on another flight, giving a refund or paying for hotel costs, meals and some telephone calls while you wait, and you may also be entitled to financial compensation for lengthy delays.
You should seek redress from the airline in the first place, and if this doesn't work, from the Commission for Aviation Regulation, See aviationreg.ie.
5. Keep an eye on your mobile phone use
Selfies... but at what cost?
It's harder than it used to be to ring up a massive phone bill thanks to EU measures to curb roaming charges and cut the excessive rates mobile companies used to levy for using it overseas.
However, a consumer-friendly plan to scrap the hated charges altogether this year has been shelved thanks to opposition from the mobile industry, so it's still vital to keep an eye on phone use, particularly if you're handing the phone or tablet over to the kids to keep them amused.
Roaming charges are now capped at 20c per MB of data for surfing the net - with a warning and an automatic cut-off if your bill exceeds €50. For making calls, the maximum roaming charge is 19c - it's 5c to receive calls and 6c to send a text. All prices are before VAT, which adds another 23pc.
To avoid being hit with unwanted bills, try to limit your surfing to Wi-Fi - there's a number of apps such as Free Wi-Fi Finder that can help you locate these - download a list in advance, so you can keep the details offline. And if you go outside the EU, be extra-careful as there are no restrictions on roaming charges.
To avoid unwary Internet use, turn off data roaming and cellular data in your phone settings - or even better turn the phone off altogether for a real holiday.
6. Guard against theft
Take precautions against pickpockets
Theft is still one of the most common ways of taking a financial hit while on holiday.
We're out of our routine, often carrying more cash than usual, and hopefully, feeling pretty chilled out.
Airports are the first place to take extra care - particularly at stressful security clearance areas where some holidaymakers have even fallen victim to thieves ripping stuff off from the conveyor belt while they go through. Avoid leaving valuables in open view in a rental car, and if your hotel or apartment complex has a safe use it.
If you are the victim of theft make sure to report it to police - this is usually a condition of making an insurance claim.