Ten tips for taking off for an extended winter holiday.
Listen carefully. What do you hear? Is that the sound of sun seeking Brits – our very own sunbirds and swallows - stretching their wings before they head south for the winter?
Every year, as the bad weather approaches and the news gets gloomier, thousands of us gather at departure points around the country with our bags packed and ready. Cheap flights, out of season prices and the fact that for the time being you can get your winter fuel payments on the Costa del Sol – as well as the health benefits of dodging the dodgy weather - are all very good reasons to flee the British winter and park our beach towels somewhere nice for a few months.
But while it sounds lovely, migrating requires more effort than just cancelling the milk (although that helps). So, here are few tips to help you make the most of a long stay abroad. And it all begins with talking to the dairy…
1. GETTING READY: Don’t forget to cancel the milk
No one likes to come home to find that their front door has been broken down by the Police on the advice of worried neighbours. So for goodness’ sake, don’t forget to talk to the dairy – and your neighbours – and tell them you are skipping town. You might want to tell the newsagent and postman too. It can also save a lot of bother to get a freeze protection thermostat for your central heating. These will automatically turn on your heating if the temperature drops below a certain temperature and will stop the pipes from freezing. Don’t forget to make sure your bills will be paid when you are gone as well and think about having your lights on a timer to deter burglars.
2. STAYING IN TOUCH: Sort out your mobile call charges
The EU has agreed to ban all roaming charges on mobile phones by 2014 (for incoming calls) and 2016 (outgoing) but until then you’ll have to pay for using your mobile abroad at a higher rate than at home. Whilst roaming charges have been capped in the EU since July 2013 it will still pay to get in touch with your mobile provider to discuss how best to use your mobile abroad – if you intend to use it when you are away. Some networks charge as much as £8 per MB of data outside the EU. If we put that into context you could easily use that just by logging in to face book and looking at a few new pictures.
In some cases it may pay to get a new pay-as-you-go SIM card locally or buy a bundle to cover your roaming. Either way, you won’t land a hefty bill when you get home.
3. PEACE OF MIND: Get a good long stay travel insurance policy
While many of us like to escape the winter for the benefit of our health, being in a milder climate doesn’t mean that we won’t have health problems or suffer injuries along the way. So it’s all the more important to have good Longstay travel insurance from World First. If you need treatment for a medical condition or break a leg on the slopes and need an airlift, we’ll get you access to the best private health care and make sure you get home if something serious happens. And don’t forget that lots of the type of policies you get from your bank will only provide cover for limited periods.
4. HEALTH ISSUES: Declare all your medical conditions
When you take out any Longstay travel insurance policy, make sure you declare all your medical conditions. If you don’t your insurer is unlikely to cover you if anything happens as a result of that condition. So, even if it’s minor, make sure you tell it all. Don’t be afraid of the cost – as specialist insurers covering thousands of medical conditions we have seen it all and offer very competitive quotes for all kinds of conditions. In many cases we make travel possible for people living with medical conditions.
5. MEDICATION: Take your prescription with you
If you don’t pay for your prescriptions in the UK it doesn’t mean you automatically get them free abroad or can get them at all. Better to visit your GP before you leave and ask them for a repeat prescription to last you. However, the general rule is that GPs are only allowed to prescribe for up to 3 months ahead so you may have to improvise if you are going for longer. Also, don’t forget to take a copy of your prescription with you in case you get stopped at customs and have to explain yourself.
6. DESTINATIONS: Choose your destination carefully
It’s easy to fall in love with somewhere in the summer and vow to return to stay longer out of season then find that it’s not how you remembered it. Many places in southern Europe will be completely different in the winter. So think about what you need and what it’ll be like when you get there. Can you speak the language? Do you want to be near other expats? What will the weather be like (this will probably be the first thing you’ll check)? How much do you want it to be like home?
If you are looking for a home from home but without the awful weather, then places like Benidorm (despite the clichés) or the Algarve offer just about everything for the ex-pat: the weather is good, many people speak English, it’s part of Europe therefore you get lots of the same benefits as back home. And it’s relatively cheap!
7. RECEIVING VISITORS: Think of the family – and plan for it
Unless you are planning on disappearing for months on end, it might not be a bad idea to think about the friends and relatives when you are planning your escape. Despite the weather there are some fabulous things about the UK that you will miss when you are away. Christmas – and the fantastic opportunity to catch up with loved ones - is one of them. So think about it. You don’t have to schlep back to the UK to enjoy a traditional Christmas. If you plan to be near somewhere with low cost air links then you could invite them out to see you on your terms. And, if you play your cards right they might even bring you some of those UK essentials that you can’t get abroad - like Marmite or proper tea bags!!
8. EMERGENCIES: Get your EHIC – but don’t forget its limitations
Whilst your EHIC card will give you state provided healthcare or free or at a reduced cost, it won’t cover everything and isn’t a substitute for travel insurance. Not every country enjoys the free healthcare that we do in the UK, so if the locals pay for a visit to the doctor, so will you – even when you produce your EHIC card. For some treatment you may also have to pay up front. If you do, don’t forget your receipts and paperwork. You may be able to claim part of the costs back when you get home.
9. THE COST OF LIVING: Get your UK pension paid abroad….
You should be able to claim your UK state pension – as well as lots of other benefits - if you decide to abandon Britain for the winter – as long as you stay in the European Economic Area or go to a country that has a social security agreement with the UK. Each country is different and has different rules (even in the EEA) but your first port of call should always be the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK as they will be able to advise you.
The list is impressive enough. Who wouldn’t get on to google straight away after learning that their state pension could be paid to places like Bermuda, Barbados, Israel, Jamaica, New Zealand, Turkey or the USA?
10. …but don’t fall foul of the DWP.
If you are heading abroad for an extended period then there is a risk that, if you are in receipt of benefits and continue to claim without telling the DWP, you may be unwittingly committing benefit fraud. People on Pension Credit, for example, should inform their local benefits office if they go abroad for more than 13 weeks as it may affect their claim – not doing so could be seen as fraud.
For more information on our Long Stay travel insurance policies – including medical cover - get in touch with us on 0845 90 80 161 or go online.
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