/ Travel & Leisure

How prepared are you for your summer holidays? 

summer holiday preparation

Despite appearances, summer is here. For millions of Brits, this means enjoying some sun, sand and sightseeing overseas. But if you’re travelling abroad over the next couple of months, have you prepared for every eventuality?

I love travelling abroad as much as anyone, but I don’t always bother to properly prepare for the trip.

Once the flights and accommodation are booked, I find that it’s easy to rush or completely skip the more monotonous preparations. After all, only the biggest pessimists foresee the possibility of something going wrong on holiday, right?

Yet, new statistics have revealed how often this actually happens. These were enough to convince me to take more time when choosing travel insurance and means of exchanging currency this year.

Holiday money

Rather than exchanging cash for foreign currency, many tourists use credit cards or debit cards for overseas spending. There are plenty available that don’t charge loading fees on foreign transactions.

Still, a recent uswitch.com poll suggests that one in four (26%) people have had their card blocked by a provider while they were abroad. That’s despite 61% of them informing their provider of their travels.

In situations like this, a credit card provider’s customer service team could make or break your holiday.

Our credit card satisfaction survey reveals the providers that are rated best for customer service, making it simple for you to choose a card from a reliable company. Our advice guide on finding the best credit card for overseas spending could come in handy, too.

Travel insurance nightmares

Separate research from the Association of British Travel Insurance (ABTA) suggests that one in four Brits head overseas without travel insurance.

That’s despite more than £1 million per day now being paid out to successful claimants.

Last year, the average cost of a medical claim was £1,300. Some claims topped £10,000. With many travel insurance policies costing less than two glasses of wine at the airport, going without simply isn’t worth the risk.

Don’t make the mistake of under-insuring yourself though. The cheapest available policy might not always cover everything you need or expect. Indeed, the latest industry figures suggest roughly one in seven claims are unsuccessful.

Our travel insurance guides will help you find the best policy for your needs.

Summer holiday preparation

Holidays are meant to be about relaxation – and you probably have enough forms and phone calls to deal with at work – but it can really pay to make a good decision when organising these aspects of your trip.

How well do you normally prepare for your summer holidays? Have you experienced a holiday disaster? How good was the customer service while you tried to fix it?


Since 1980, most of my holidays have been in the UK, often travelling with friends. The only problem I can remember was when I had to depart early because a family member was dangerously ill. I have never bothered with travel insurance in the UK and this is the only time it could have been useful.

When travelling abroad, I sometimes extended my stay, so that I payed for accommodation but the flights were already paid for. 🙂

Having had fun with me and my luggage taking separate flights and taking months to get compensation, I am now glad just to have the uncertainty of British weather.

Andrew Bryant says:
10 June 2017

I crashed a motorcycle in France. It became almost undriveable (later declared a write-off), and a shoulder injury made it very difficult for me to drive. Having been helped back upright by kind strangers, I got the bike and myself a few hundred yards to a hotel, where I checked in, then reported the accident to the brokers.

They put the full bike recovery into motion, but did less well for me. They didn’t seem to understand that I could not drive a hire car, and rather left me to find my own way a) to a hospital for a checkover, and b) home. Fortunately, some friends living reasonably locally were able to help me on my way home.

(At this point I must say that the service from the hospital A&E was brilliant. That they were in a Paris suburb, and fully staffed on a quiet Sunday morning obviously helped here.)

Once home, it looked like processing the bike was going smoothly, when the insurance company contacted me and said that I was in breach of the policy because I had not reported the accident to them, as it said in their documentation “which the brokers had forwarded” to me.

I protested that I had never received any documentation from the insurers, except the certificate and the schedule. Everything else I had received originated at the brokers, to whom I had reported the accident within about an hour..

Ultimately they paid up, making it sound like they were doing me a favour.

So, I have now made two resolutions:

1) to speak directly with the insurance company, regardless of any contact with the broker’s hotline
2) if I suffer any reduction in mobility from an accident, I’m going to sit tight, and let the system deal with removing me and whatever vehicle from the roadside.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

A number of the casualties in the Westminster Bridge and London Bridge terrorist outrages were foreign visitors to the UK. Their families and their embassies were full of praise for the speed, efficiency and quality of treatment they received from the NHS ambulance, paramedical and hospital services. It was universally considered to be top class. Indeed the NHS is so excellent that it is overwhelmed by demand for its services and the private hospital sector is currently having to advertise heavily in order to attract enough patients.

I have seen no evidence of any government plans to sell off the NHS, Duncan, so it would be helpful if you could provide a source for such a statement. As it happens, there is in existence an extremely up-to-date Conservative Party manifesto, and I won’t labour the point but it does promise retention of the NHS, investment in all necessary resources, and, fundamentally, protecting its three founding principles [including care to be free at the point of access]. In the aftermath of a bruising election I cannot see the current government proposing any detrimental changes.

Incidentally, in America, “downtown” refers to the city centre, not the suburbs or outskirts.

I believe that the NHS does very well in the circumstances but there are numerous problems. For example, dirty wards and toilets are fairly common and this has been blamed on outsourcing cleaning. Ignorant administrators have decided that nurses should launder their own uniforms, which could pose a health risk to themselves and their families. Consultants and other senior staff are working under continuous stress – certainly the ones I know. One of my parents was killed by a careless mistake that would not have happened if the registrar had checked the records.

I have no knowledge of how the quality of our NHS compares with other countries but when taking holidays in the UK, I don’t need to worry about communicating in a different language.

I agree about the shortcomings of the UK’s NHS. I can’t believe other countries don’t have similar problems. Unfortunately a lot of them come down to management inadequacies. I remain to be convinced that throwing a lot more money into the system would eliminate that. Luckily I have never needed treatment abroad so I cannot compare and I have never been hospitalised in the UK, but as a visitor I would say there is a scruffiness and casualness about our public hospitals that used not to exist. I always say you can tell an NHS institution by the number of notices plastered up all over the place, especially on the entrance doors.

As for communication in a different language, in the UK it’s the staff who often have the difficulty!

A very common management problem is leaving patients in wards under the care of a team of nurses without a single person being responsible for a single patient – even if a named nurse is given this role. In one case I expressed my concern to various nurses that a family member was not drinking adequately and was becoming dehydrated. I informed a GP friend to keep an eye on the situation because I had booked a holiday and had to abandon my holiday when the GP visited and found that the patient was so dehydrated that their kidneys may have been damaged.

On another occasion when the same relation was in hospital, I crossed out an inappropriate drug (after consultation with a GP) after two requests to pass on information to the relevant doctor had failed. I should have acted sooner because shortly after the medication was discontinued, relation suffered gastric bleeding.

I have seen numerous comments, including a few on Which? Conversation, that suggest that there are problems in other countries too, John. If I did require emergency treatment on holiday I would be happier to be in the UK. It’s easier for visitors too.

We use two hospitals regularly and we cannot fault their staff or cleanliness. The difference is that one operates an appointments system that is more convenient for the staff than patients. The other seems much more efficient in this respect, with staff that are always proactive and helpful. We cannot tar all public bodies with the same brush.

However, quite how a Convo on Summer Hols has transcended into a discussion of hospitals I’m not clear. This year we have a (very) short break in northern France to attend a family wedding. Just in process of organising the travel and Eurotunnel is quick and easy. If I hit any snags I’ll bore you with them.

Are you claiming that there are not major problems within NHS hospitals, Malcolm? I’m not referring to convenience and certainly not claiming that all NHS services are poor.

Meanwhile back on topic, when travelling to other countries I always took plenty of routine medication in case I had an asthma attack in a foreign country.

Please read my comment – it makes no such claim 🙂 . Just reports our experience.