Make sure you don’t get burned by a financial mishap this summer, says Vicky Shaw.

The summer’s nearly here and many of us are looking forward to a well-earned getaway in the coming months.

In order to make the most of your break, it’s worth packing a few essentials into your holiday planning now, to make sure you can kick back and fully relax when the time comes.

Last year, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), which resolves disputes between consumers and financial firms, received more than 2,000 complaints from people who’d been burned by a mishap while on holiday.

Chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman says: “If you’re gearing up for your next holiday, don’t let an unexpected event spoil your time away from home. Each year, the ombudsman helps people who’ve been caught out by a holiday mishap – from travel insurance troubles to cancelled cards and credit. By taking some simple steps before you travel – and knowing your rights – you can save yourself a great deal of stress.”

A recent report from Abta also found that one in five (20%) of us are planning to spend more on our holidays in 2015 – so something going wrong could be a disaster for our finances, as well as our holiday memories.

To make sure you’re not left getting hot under the collar by a mishap this summer vacation, the ombudsman service suggests the following tips:

1. Don’t leave your travel insurance until the last minute.
Make sure you have a good policy in place in case something goes wrong. It’s bad enough being injured on holiday, but you don’t also want to come home to a huge medical bill.
Policies vary considerably and the cheapest one will not necessarily be the best, particularly if you have specific medical needs or you’re going away for a long time. If you arrange your insurance early enough, it could also protect you if you need to cancel your trip.

2. Avoid a hangover.
Many policies will not cover accidents caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Some insurers will refuse to pay a claim after only one or two drinks.
In one case seen by the ombudsman, a man who’d been drinking was hit by a car while crossing the road. The insurer declined his claim, as the policy he had taken out did not cover accidents that were attributed to the influence of alcohol.
While this consumer’s claim was turned down, there are some situations where the ombudsman service can tell an insurer to pay the claim. This could happen if the terms defining alcohol consumption are not set out clearly enough in the policy or if the ombudsman finds the insurer has applied the terms unfairly.
The ombudsman service also sometimes sees situations where insurers “jump to conclusions” based on the person’s age or the resort they stayed in.

3. Take care who you tell about your trip.
Social media may be an increasing part of daily life, but letting everyone know how excited you are about going on holiday for a fortnight – and leaving your home empty and potentially vulnerable – may not be a great idea, particularly if it’s obvious where you live.
Check your security settings regularly to see exactly who can read your posts.
Meanwhile, remember to tell your bank if you’re jetting off somewhere so that it knows it’s you using your card overseas and not someone trying to commit a fraud on your account. This could help to avoid any embarrassing moments with your card being blocked while you’re away.

4. Finally, be prepared.
If your dream trip involves bungee jumping and rock climbing, make sure your insurance policy covers this before you set off.
In another case seen by the ombudsman which was turned down, two people were injured during a quad bike accident while abroad, but the insurance underwriter said their policy did not cover anyone riding a quad bike. The insurer rejected their complaint about the sale of the policy as the sales adviser had asked the customers if they planned to take part in any activities and told them that some activities were excluded from the policy.
If you’re a bit of a daredevil, an all-round extreme sports policy might be the way to go.

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