October is a popular month for British travellers to steal away to the Mediterranean for the last glimpses of sun, but impromptu getaways can be thwarted if travel documents aren’t already in line.
If you’re thinking about booking a last-minute October half-term getaway in the sun, the good news is that seven in 10 foreign holidays are cheaper this year compared to last, according to research which names Greece as the most affordable destination.
The study from M&S Bank, which looked at the price of holidays in 10 of the top family destinations at this time of year, found that the increased strength of the pound against the euro – up around 7.6% since last autumn – combined with relatively low inflation, meant that four of the five most affordable holiday destinations are in Europe.
Arguably, best value was the Greek island of Corfu where the total cost of a week’s stay, including flights, seven nights’ accommodation and dinner plus one activity, works out at £662 per adult – an average saving of £59 per person on last year. That, of course, may have something to do with Greece’s current woes.
Also less expensive than last year are the Alicante region of Spain at £687 per adult (down by £21 per person) and Faro in Portugal (£1,035. That’s £33 lower than in 2011).
But if you are thinking of booking a last-minute holiday, make sure you and your family have their documents in order.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
EHIC gives access to state-provided healthcare in EU countries. It is free but you have to keep it up to date. Some travel insurance policies will waive the excess for medical claims if you use the card.
The easiest way to renew, or apply for, a card – which is valid for up to five years – is at ehic.org.uk. Note that other unofficial websites may charge if you apply through them. Or call the automated application service on 0845 606 2030. You will need your NHS or national insurance number, surname, forenames and date of birth of all applicants.
The card can take up to 10 working days to arrive by post. If you have registered, but your card does not arrive in time to take with you and you do need emergency treatment, you can call the Overseas Healthcare Team from abroad on 0044 191 218 1999 and a provisional replacement certificate will be sent immediately.
But remember, the EHIC does not cover services that are not part of the state healthcare system, or the cost of being brought back to the UK in a medical emergency.
All is not lost if your passport needs renewing. While it normally takes a minimum of three weeks to renew by post, you can pay a premium to get a speedier service.
Your choice is between a “fast track” one-week service, which costs £103 for an adult and £87 for a child, and the one-day premium service at £128 for an adult and £106.50 for a child.
Both require you to make an appointment by calling the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) advice line on 0300 222 0000. Neither is available if you are applying for a first adult or child passport, or to replace one that is lost, stolen or damaged.
Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
If you are heading to the US on holiday, you will need time to apply and pay for travel authorisation before you go.
The US government’s Visa Waiver Program allows visitors from the UK and other participating countries to travel to the US for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa. But to do so, the VWP requires you to get travel authorisation first by filling out a form on the ESTA website. https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.
The fee for each new or renewed ESTA is $14 (£8.70), which you can pay online by credit or debit card. Your authorisation to travel is normally granted online within 72 hours and lasts for two years.
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