I don’t have a crystal ball. I have no idea how the current Brexit mess will work out. But we’re looking forward to a family trip to Venice, so need to make plans now despite not knowing what’s going to happen in future.
By sorting out any admin in advance, we can avoid any last minute hassle and expense. A romantic weekend in Paris is less romantic if you have to sell a kidney to renew your passport in a hurry and the price of euros suddenly shoots up.
Here are my top 8 tips to prepare for a post-Brexit holiday, if you’re heading for Europe over Easter, at half term or during the summer holidays.
1. Check your passports right now
Start by checking when passports expire, for all adults and any kids, in case you need to get them renewed.
If the UK crashes out without any deal, most European countries will want to see at least 6 months left on your passport after the date of your arrival.
However, 6 months may not be enough – in some cases you might need as much as 13 months. In the good old days, you could send off your passport to be renewed well before its expiry date, and the new passport would come back with the extra months added. So you could end up with a passport valid for not just 10 years, but up to 10 years and 9 months.
Turns out some countries may not count any extra months beyond the 10 years. So check the date of issue too, so you don’t get turned away because your passport has been issued for longer than 9 years and six months.
If this sounds as clear as mud, GOV.UK has a useful passport checker here.
So whether we crash out or get stuck in Brexit limbo, it’s worth renewing well in advance. Renewing a passport when you can wait several weeks is expensive enough, while renewing in a hurry costs even more. The cheapest option is renewing online, which costs £75.50, rather than £85 with a paper application form.
2. Apply for EHIC just in case
European Health Insurance Cards are free, and mean you’re entitled to the same free or discounted medical treatment as citizens in EU countries and a few others like Switzerland.
If we crash out on 12 April, an EHIC may be useless. But if we don’t, EHIC could come in handy, and some travel insurance policies will expect you to have one. I figured I’d renew ours before we go away in May, in case they remain valid. They should arrive within 7 days and be valid for 5 years.
Top tip: don’t get caught by scam sites that charge for EHIC. Applying via the official website here is entirely free.
3. Get travel insurance
Much as I like to cut costs, I always fork out for travel insurance before going abroad. I reckon it’s even more important post Brexit, with all the uncertainties about delays, cancellations and medical cover.
First, see if you’ve already got travel cover through work, or if you pay for a current account – no point paying twice!
Then check prices on comparison websites. Travel insurance for a family holiday in Europe, rather than say a ski-ing holiday in America, shouldn’t blow the budget. Remember if you travel abroad more than a couple of times a year, it could be worth paying for an annual multi trip policy, rather than taking out separate insurance policies each time you go away.
If you find a good quote, take a quick look at cashback sites like TopCashback and Quidco, to see if the company is listed. If so, you might be able to pocket a chunk of money towards your holiday by clicking through to buy from the cashback site, rather than buying via the comparison site.
4. Taking the car? Apply for a green card
If you’re planning to take your own car to Europe, it’s worth getting a green card in case we crash out with no deal. A green card is an international insurance certificate that proves your insurance policy provides minimum cover. Most insurers will bung you one for free, but allow a month for it to arrive.
You don’t need a green card if you’re hiring a car, rather than taking your own.
5. Driving in Europe? Get an IDP
However, whether you’re hiring a car or taking your own wheels, if we crash out with no deal you’ll need to take an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as your driving licence. More info on GOV.UK here.
You can apply for an IDP at Post Offices and they cost £5.50. You’ll need to take along:
- Your driving licence, whether a photo card or the old paper licence
- Passport sized photo
- Passport as proof of ID, if you’ve only got an old paper licence.
6. Buy some currency now, some later
Still no crystal ball, so still no clue whether the cost of buying currency will plunge or plummet in future. If the pound crashes, it could affect the cost of holidaying anywhere else in the world, not just Europe.
So if you’re worried about currency becoming way more expensive, considering buying some right now, and some later. It’s always worth travelling with a bit of cash even if you use cards for most payments.
The golden rule is not to leave buying currency to the last moment. Exchanging money at the airport is by far the most expensive way to do it, and using a cards in foreign cash machines can add hefty fees and credit card interest.
Even booking currency online, to collect at an airport kiosk, will be cheaper. Personally, I just potter down to our local Post Office, but if you’re exchanging larger sums, check out currency comparison sites to find the cheapest option delivered to your door.
7. Apply for a lower cost credit card
While planning ahead, think about whether you can save money abroad with a different credit card. Credit card companies have a nasty habit of loading on foreign transaction fees, commission charges, and dubious exchange rates if you flash the plastic overseas. Many debit cards also inflict foreign transaction fees and spending fees.
So check out credit cards that offer a better deal when used abroad, while you still have time to apply. (And as always with credit cards: aim to pay off your bill in full and on time every month!).
If you’re up for a new bank via an app, the Tandem credit card is fee-free on overseas spending, and also pays 0.5% cashback. Otherwise Halifax Clarity doesn’t slap fees on overseas spending either.
New banks Starling and Monzo also offer debit cards that are fee-free for spending anywhere in the world.
8. Consider all inclusive
Normally, I’m a big fan of self-catering holidays to help cut costs. But if the value of the pound collapses, then food, drink and eating out expenses could all spiral. So one savvy tip I spotted was to pay now for an all inclusive holiday, so you won’t be hit if prices abroad change in future.
Previous posts: What to pack to cut the cost of a self-catering holiday
Now – over to you. Are you planning a holiday abroad this year? Or sticking with a staycation? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!