What is winterisation?

Date Created: 10 December 2018

If you’re intending to hire a car in the winter months, it’s highly likely that you’ll hear the term ‘winterisation’ mentioned.

This is the common term for ensuring that a vehicle is adequately prepared for winter weather conditions such as snow and ice and is designed to keep the occupants of a hire car as safe as possible.

It commonly involves the addition of winter tyres and snow chains to a vehicle and is compulsory in certain locations, while being optional in others.

What you need to pay for winterisation will vary from country to country and by the rental firm, with the hire company deciding if such action is necessary.

In regions where winterisation is compulsory, you can expect the cost to be included in the price you are quoted for the rental.

Alternatively, if winterisation is optional, you may be given the choice to request it if counter staff have determined that local conditions do not require it.

Compulsory winterisation

Compulsory winterisation occurs in countries where severe weather is normal in the winter months, such as near ski resorts or in mountainous regions.

Winterisation is often a legal requirement in these areas, which means your hire vehicle will have all of the necessary equipment fitted or on board.

While the fee in this instance is typically included in the quoted rental price, be aware that some online bookings may require you to pay the winterisation fee at the hire desk.

If the hire firm has decided that winterisation is necessary too, you will need to pay the relevant fees before renting the vehicle.

You may also find that winterisation takes place if severe weather is forecast, and again this will need to be paid at the rental desk as the cost would not have been factored into the original price.

Requesting winterisation

If you’re travelling to somewhere from a location where winter equipment is not needed to somewhere where it is, you’ll have to ask for winterisation.

This could be the case if you’re driving from an airport to a ski resort for example, but note that equipment in this instance is simply requested, and is therefore subject to availability.

Again, this would need to be paid for at the hire desk when you collect the vehicle.

If you have concerns that your hire vehicle could get damaged during your trip, remember to cover yourself against all eventualities by purchasing car hire excess insurance.  This additional extra covers the excess fee you would need to pay in the event of a claim, although you do need to pay the excess before then claiming it back.

 

Rental cars equipped for winter

Date Created: 10 December 2018

If you’re off to cold climates this winter and intend to hire a vehicle, you’ll likely want to know what is best suited for your needs.

Snowy and icy conditions can make for hazardous driving, although a host of helpful features can mean some vehicles are better equipped than others.

Here we’ve assessed the key features that you should look out for, as having them can make for a more comfortable, safer and easier driving experience.

The features to look for

It’s important to remember that rental companies will split their vehicles into classes/categories based on their features – so what you request with a rental company may not be the exact vehicle that you receive.

The best rental vehicles have several key features in common, including that they rank highly for reliability, handle well in snow or icy conditions and have scored highly in safety tests.

Comfort features, as well as good heating systems, all-weather or larger tyres, and traction control also enhance winter driving. Opting for a vehicle with an anti-lock braking system will help to prevent the vehicle from sliding.

Four-wheel drives

However, wheel function is by far the most important aspect of car hire in winter, as any car needs to handle well in the conditions it will face.

Hiring a four-wheel drive (or 4x4) vehicle should be the preferred option when driving in heavy snow or muddy conditions and provides the greatest traction and control.

SUVs and larger vehicles often have four-wheel drive, although the feature is increasingly common on some smaller vehicles too.

The downside, and there is one, is that 4x4 vehicles tend to use more fuel, therefore increasing the cost of the hire.

Front-wheel drives

A front-wheel drive is the second-best option for driving in poor road conditions because the engine only powers the front wheels of the vehicle.  In this instance, the weight of the engine is over the wheels thus providing more traction on snow and ice than a rear-wheel drive.

If you are unsure if the vehicle class you are considering is a 4x4 or front-wheel drive, research the makes of car available and seek clarity from the hire company.

Size and baggage space

Winter clothing and ski equipment can require a considerable amount of storage space in a vehicle, especially if a roof rack or box option is not available.

It’s also worth remembering that the smallest vehicle in one specified class might have less space than a vehicle in the class below.

Winter road safety

No matter what rental car you pick, there is no replacement for snow chains, thick winter tyres and careful driving when the roads are covered in ice and snow.

Remember that stopping speeds will increase, that slipping and sliding is more likely and that you should leave a bigger gap between you and the vehicle in front.

Note down any existing marks or scratches and check the tyre treads in all wheels, including the spare if there is one. Also ensure any legal requirements – such as snow chains or other emergency equipment – are in the vehicle.

Insurance cover

You may also want to consider car hire excess insurance to cover the excess you would need to pay should the vehicle become damaged.

Driving in icy or snowy conditions makes the chance of a bump or scratch on your rental vehicle much higher, but you can still protect yourself from an excess fee with the right cover.

Policies are available to cover a range of time frames and can provide added peace of mind for your trip, enabling you to fully enjoy your trip.

Discovering the best Christmas markets in France

Date Created: 27 November 2018

Christ market giftsFestive markets are now a popular feature across Europe in the run-up to Christmas and France is no different.  Across the country are an abundance of traditional markets, offering everything from food and drink to wonderful local crafts and decorations. 

Below we’ve showcased a handful of France’s exquisite festive markets, revealing the yuletide treats and attractions that make them so popular.

Christmas Markets in Paris

The Christmas Village at La Defense is one of several Christmas markets in Paris, alongside others at Notre Dame and Champs de Mars to name but a few.

With cosy wooden chalets selling arts and crafts, alongside delicious food and plenty of mulled wine, you can easily forget that you’re in the heart of the city.

Montbeluard –  Eastern France

The illuminated streets of Montbeluard, in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region, around 8 miles from the Swiss border, are another must-see. The market itself features 160 stalls, packed full of unique local craft products.

Strasbourg – Northeastern France

A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the 300 stalls that make up France’s oldest Christmas market in Strasbourg.

Set in front of the city’s spectacular gothic cathedral, the market has been a regular occurrence in the city dating back more than 400 years.

Combining ski and Christmas Markets

For something a little different, discover the dry ski slope and festive market in Reims, another set in the shadow of a magnificent cathedral.

Carollers keep the mood festive as you wander among nearly 150 wooden chalets selling everything from decorations to local delicacies.

Alternatively, the market in Lille features 100 or so stalls and a large Ferris wheel that provides unparalleled views across the city.

These are just a handful of the festive markets in France, and all have their own unique charm. If you do want to hire a car to explore the best of what France has to offer this winter, car hire excess insurance may help you to keep costs down. Get a quote today to find out how little the additional cover may cost. 

The Dangers of Skiing Off-Piste

Date Created: 27 November 2018

Dangers of skiing off-piste

For many experienced skiers, the thought of fresh untouched snow can be extremely tempting. But straying from designated slopes and routes can be extremely dangerous, and the number of off-piste accidents which require medical assistance is rising year-on-year.

It’s therefore essential to recognise the dangers of going off-piste and to question if that fresh run is really worth it.

Why off-piste skiing is dangerous

In European resorts, off-piste areas are considered to be those that are not within the piste markers – these areas are not patrolled or avalanche protected. In early 2018, the then French interior minister Gerard Collomb, warned those doing snow sports to “take the utmost caution” following a spate of fatalities where skiers and snowboarders went off-piste.

Steep slopes also carry a higher risk of avalanches, as do the windward sides of a hill where snow has been blown from one side of the mountain to the other. As it is not compact, this snow carries an increased avalanche risk.

  • Off-piste slopes are not maintained by snow ploughs, making visibility of rocks and cliff edges more difficult.
  • It is impossible to know if the snowpack is stable, meaning there is an increased risk of an avalanche off-piste – an estimated 75% of fatalities in the Alpine region occur off-piste.
  • There are more rocks and hidden dangers off-piste, which can increase injuries in the event of a fall.
  • Should an accident happen, it can be both dangerous and difficult for emergency medical teams to reach the individuals involved.

Many travel insurance companies do not cover off-piste skiing, making it very expensive for off-piste skiers in the event of an accident or emergency. In many instances, recovery of an accident can be billed at more than £538 an hour, excluding medical expenses and hospital stays.

Our top ski safety tips

In order to stay safe on the slopes, we recommend following a range of safety tips, as we’ve detailed below. It’s also important to remember that nature can be very unpredictable and you should always be on your guard when on the slopes.

  • Wear the correct clothing – don’t forget your helmet and goggles
  • Stay with a group of friends and consider everyone’s ski capabilities
  • Respect other skiers and do not put others in danger
  • Take a phone and store the numbers of local rescue and emergency services
  • New to skiing? Attend a ski school to learn the basics and start on beginner slopes
  • Ski with a guide or someone that knows the area well
  • Research the official and local avalanche forecasts – do not put yourself at risk!
  • Purchase comprehensive winter sports travel insurance

If you’re heading off to the mountains make sure your travel insurance covers you for winter sports activities and if you are tempted to venture off off-piste, ensure you’re adequately covered by your insurance provider.

12 of the best European Christmas markets to visit this winter

Date Created: 26 November 2018

Christmas market stall

Christmas is on the horizon and that means it’s time for the Christmas markets to return to some of Europe’s major towns and cities.

With beautifully decorated cabins selling an array of hand-crafted goods and tasty treats, as well as festive ales, some are simply too good to miss.

If you’re on the hunt for some last minute gift ideas, stocking fillers or decorations, these Christmas markets are among the best of what the UK and Europe has to offer.

Christmas Markets in the UK

London

As well as a Christmas market along London’s Southbank that’s packed full of festive pop-up stores selling artisan gifts, craft beers and street food, you’ll also find markets in the capital in Leicester Square and Greenwich.

But perhaps London’s biggest Christmas market is in Hyde Park, as part of Winter Wonderland. With crafts, bars and other attractions to go alongside its many fairground rides, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular choice.

Birmingham

The UK’s largest Christmas market – and indeed the biggest in Europe outside of Germany and Austria – is one you can’t afford to miss. With a new location in Birmingham Cathedral in 2018 and a floating market on the canal, there’s plenty of festive spirit to go round.

Manchester

Manchester’s award-winning set of Christmas markets provide a yuletide offering in every corner of the city. You’ll find 300 stalls selling international gifts and drinks, as well as a food offering that includes Spanish paella, traditional German bratwurst, Hungarian goulash and an old fashioned hog-roast.

Bath

With more than 180 chalets spread out around the city’s picturesque streets with local designers selling an array of personalised gifts and homeware, the Bath Christmas market is an idyllic spot for you to start your festive shopping. 

Edinburgh

Edinburgh comes alive with festive cheer from mid-November, with a traditional market that offers up its fair share of unique gifts and foodie surprises. There’s an abundance of rides too, including everything from a Christmas tree maze and a carousel to a huge ice skating rink.

Christmas market in Edinburgh

Christmas Markets in Germany

Munich

The main market on the Marienplatz is renowned among local residents and tourists for offering an array of festive gifts, mulled wine and other culinary delicacies. If that’s not enough, try your hand at ice skating in the shadow of some of the city’s spectacular gothic architecture.

Berlin

From late November, the smells of food and drink stalls entice people in from all over the city. Berlin hosts 9 Christmas markets, including ones at Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz. Winter World, located at the latter, is incredibly popular and sees the region transformed into a winter wonderland with stalls, rides and Europe’s largest toboggan run!

Cologne

Attracting millions of visitors from all over the world every year, you’ll find the larger markets in the downtown part of Cologne. But there’s plenty of smaller offerings around the city too, meaning the aroma of baked apples, mulled wine and cinnamon biscuits are never far away! The biggest of the markets can be found under the city’s magnificent cathedral, providing an idyllic backdrop for your Christmas shopping.

Christmas market in Germany

More European Christmas Markets

Innsbruck, Austria

Home to no less than 6 Christmas markets, more than 200 stalls and a whopping 14 metre tall Christmas tree decorated with hundreds of Swarovski crystals, Innsbruck knows how to do festive. Set against a spectacular mountain backdrop, you’ll find Alpine traditions in abundance, while the market at Hungerburg – situated 300 metres above the city – provides exceptional panoramic views.

Madrid, Spain

The Spanish capital has numerous Christmas markets that help to turn the city into a festive paradise. You’ll find local gifts and other produce; plenty of gourmet treats as well as exceptional lights and displays.

Stockholm, Sweden

With a mix of traditional and contemporary gifts, alongside a host of delectable food, Sweden’s Christmas market offers a true taste of Scandinavia. Given its location in the centre of Stockholm, you can also combine a visit with tours around the famous Nobel Museum and some of the city’s best sights, including the Royal Palace, Stockholm Cathedral and its historic Old Town.

Lille, France

You will be hard pushed to find a more picturesque setting than Place Rhiour town square in the middle of the festive season. Featuring a giant Ferris wheel and hundreds of stalls, the Lille Christmas market is full of eye-catching features as well as fantastic local French cuisine.

Just an hour’s drive from Calais, or accessible via Eurostar, a visit to the market can easily be made into an exciting road trip with a few friends or loved ones. You could always hire a vehicle for the trip, although you may want to consider car hire excess insurance to protect the excess on your hire vehicle.

 

Top ski destinations for Christmas

Date Created: 25 November 2018

A skiing holiday over Christmas is one of the most magical times to hit the slopes, as it’s often teamed with ample snow and plenty of festivities. Resorts will be packed with festive cheer, Christmas trees will sparkle in the town squares and the prospects of a white Christmas increase dramatically!

Here we’ve picked out a handful of the top winter ski destinations for Christmas, providing an escape for families, couples and groups of friends.

For the traditional Christmas – Lapland, Finland

Lapland has everything to make a traditional Christmas magical, with visits to Santa, winter Safari sleigh rides, tobogganing, husky sledding and real reindeer! In Finland’s northernmost region bordering Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea, Lapland is also a fantastic spot for getting a glimpse of the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights, although seeing the phenomena is by no means guaranteed. Four main resorts have suitable slopes for all skiing and snowboarding levels too, as well as an abundance of off-piste opportunities.

Skiing for the whole family – Les Gets, France

Les Gets is the perfect location for the whole family, as the resort prides itself on being family friendly. With the chance to meet Santa and a children’s nursery, they’ll be plenty of opportunities to keep the kids entertained and plenty of chances to enjoy the slopes. You’ll find an authentic French atmosphere in the resort to accompany its array of chalets too, while if you drive or have a hire car, the Portes du Soleil circuit can be easily reached via the gondola at Ardent.

Christmas with friends – Whistler, Canada

Sometimes it can be hard to please everyone in a group, but Whistler Canada has a bit of everything to ensure it’s a holiday everyone can remember. With sleigh rides, a yearly fire and ice show, fantastic restaurants and great nightlife away from the slopes, Whistler has your evenings covered. During the day, the slopes are suitable for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, providing ample opportunity to test your skills.

Couples Christmas getaway – St Moritz, Switzerland

If you want to spend Christmas with your loved one, then a trip to the romantic skiing village of St Moritz is a must. Brimming with Swiss culture and tradition, the region has been popular with skiers for more than 150 years, making it Europe’s oldest winter holiday destination. The village is brimming with boutique shops, popular restaurants and stunning apartments and hotels while the picturesque Mountains and scenery can be enjoyed by skiers, boarders and hikers alike.

For the party goers – Ischgl, Austria

Ischgl is perfect for party goers and thrill seekers as you’ll find 235 beautifully maintained pistes to go with Austria’s longest black run, a thriving night scene and enough shops to find presents for all the family. New Year is a big hit in Ischgl too, as a spectacular acoustic firework display accompanies the celebrations at the turn of the year.

For more ski related advice and recommendations, take a look at our blog. Or, if you have already decided on your ski destination, you may be looking for winter sports insurance to ensure your trip is as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. 

Christmas Jumper Day Fundraising T&Cs

Date Created: 20 November 2018

  • Text TEAMQUESTOR to 70050 to donate £2 to Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day.
  • You’ll be billed £2 plus a standard rate text message.
  • Save The Children will receive 100% of your donation.
  • By texting TEAMQUESTOR you agree to calls from Save The Children about fundraising appeals, campaigns, events and other ways to support.
  • Include NO PHONE to opt out of calls.
  • For queries call 020 7012 6400.
  • Privacy Policy www.savethechildren.org.uk/privacy

NB. Text donations are managed by Save The Children and any associated questions should be directed via the above channels. 

The Black Friday travel deals you need to look out for

Date Created: 13 November 2018

Predicted Black Friday Travel Deals 2018

Black Friday, and the wealth of money-saving deals that accompany it is on the horizon – but what deals should you look out for?

We’ve looked back at some of the best deals from 2017, and taken a peek at some that could follow this year in an effort to help you find great deals.

On 23 November, and in the days and weeks around it, there’s a chance you might find some great travel offers, provided you know where to look.

Flight and Train Deals

In 2017, numerous airlines offered discounted seats, while many train services did the same – making getting around that slightly bit cheaper.

Ryanair for example, made hundreds of thousands of flights available at lower rates, while Virgin Trains halved costs on the East Coast route for travel in January and February.

They weren’t the only airline to promote great deals either, as you could get return flights from London to New Zealand for under £400 last year with Air New Zealand. But be warned – those deals sold out in minutes so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled this year.

It’s likely that British Airways, EasyJet, TUI and Thomas Cook will have some form of deals in place this year, although nothing is confirmed as yet.

Cheap Hotel Stays

Hotel chains also got in on the act in 2017, with Mercure and Ibis Hotels offering rooms at reduced rates for certain times of the year.

Expedia meanwhile, slashed rates on hotel rooms and packages by up to 70%, while a select few flight and hotel packages saw £550 chopped off the price.

While it’s unlikely you’ll find rooms for peak times included in the deals, you may find cheaper rates if you’re willing to travel at other times in the year – especially if you’re not trying to fit trips away around the school holidays.

You could also save £5 on the regular cost of a 16-25 UK railcard in the days surrounding Black Friday in 2017, making it cost even less to travel around by rail. Keep your eyes peeled in case there’s a similar offer this year.

Cruise Deals

Cruise companies also offered numerous deals last year, with Royal Caribbean giving customers 25% off if they booked on to their newest liner, the Symphony of the Seas, as well as credits to use when travelling.

Elsewhere, Norwegian offered a range of perks for customers booking ocean-view or balcony cabins and suites, including speciality dining, unlimited open bars and shore excursions.

Ski Discounts

With ski season just around the corner, Black Friday offered ample opportunity to take advantage of some stunning last minute offers in 2017.

If booking online, Crystal Ski Holidays cut £50 per person from selected Christmas, New Year, half-term and Easter getaways.

Meanwhile, Interactive Resorts slashed prices for a week stay at one of its chalets by more than £800 per person, although the available dates were limited.

Other money-saving deals from 2017 were available via Club Med and Ski Solutions, with both offering savings of up to £650 per person.

Car Hire

Car hire offers around Black Friday appear slightly harder to find, but that isn’t to say that you won’t find great options if you hunt around.

For example, Hertz offered up to 40% off prepaid rentals for several months after Black Friday 2017 while Thrifty cut its weekend rental prices by 25%.

Skyscanner has a page set up detailing the offers it has found for 2018, although the comparison tool notes that most car hire offers will be a part of ‘flash sales’ – meaning you’ll need to be quick as the offers won’t be around for long.

To get the latest updates on Questor Insurance’s offers, be sure to follow us on Twitter @QuestorIns.

 

How to protect your winter holiday

Date Created: 13 November 2018

If you’re preparing to jet off for a winter holiday in the coming months, you’ll probably want to plan ahead to protect yourself from the unexpected.

While many people were still reeling from the collapse of Monarch during the last winter season, 2018 has also not been kind to airlines.

Air Berlin, Primera Air and VLM have ceased trading, Cathay Pacific has reported record losses, Etihad has seen a period of turbulence and Malaysia Airlines has cut numerous global routes in a bid to reduce outlays. Meanwhile, Ryanair continues to be dogged by cancellations.

As a result, you may want to protect yourself against any issues that may get in the way of you going on your planned holiday.

Keep tabs on your flight

It’s very easy to forget about your flight until the last minute, and it can be incredibly easy to miss cancellation notifications.

This can leave you with a very small window to find a suitable solution should something go wrong, which drastically reduces your chance of finding an alternative.

Keep your eye on the apps for your chosen airline, as you should be able to track your flight and receive notifications of any issues.

Consider booking via a travel agent

Paying a little extra to use the services of a travel agent can help you to overcome some potential flight problems, as they’ll usually have access to a wider range of information than what you do.

As a result, they may be able to source alternative flights for you. Or, at the very least, they’ll be able to provide guidance on the options that you have available – something you will not have if you go direct and book everything yourself.

Purchase travel insurance in advance

Travel insurance is essential if you want to avoid any additional costs that come with a cancelled flight, especially if you selected a non-refundable seat.

The majority of airlines will offer a refund if a flight is cancelled, however very few will cover the cost of a hotel if you get stuck somewhere because of bad weather.

If you’re thinking of travelling overseas this winter, make sure you organise your travel insurance in advance to increase your cover for unknown circumstances.

Remember to read the terms and conditions too, as it’s important to know exactly what you are and are not covered for.

Driving home for Christmas

Date Created: 13 November 2018

Winter driving conditions can pose a challenge for even the most experienced of drivers, which is why it pays to know how to stay safe.

From checking your vehicle to having safety equipment, there are numerous ways that you can look after both you and your car this winter.

Regardless of whether you’re using your own vehicle or are renting one, we’ve detailed a list of essential winter driving tips, designed to make your time out on the road as hazard-free and as hassle-free as possible.

Plan ahead

Check weather forecasts and road conditions before setting off on your journey and question if you really need to travel if extreme weather warnings are in place, this is especially important for long trips.

Check your lights and fluids

Ensure that your headlights, sidelights and any other lighting are clean of any mud or ice and that they are in full working condition before starting your journey.

Also check your fluids, such as oil, anti-freeze and windscreen wash. In the case of the latter, ensure it is mixed at the right concentration, or it may freeze when you need to use it.

Ensure good visibility

Guarantee visibility is at its maximum by filling up your screen wash, by cleaning or de-icing windows and by making sure your window wipers are working.

Drive according to the conditions

In snow or icy conditions, as well as heavy rain, reduce your speed and avoid harsh braking, as this can lead to sliding and potentially losing control of your vehicle.

Be particularly careful on any inclines and constantly check your brakes. Avoid using cruise control when driving on any slippery surfaces.

Charge your mobile device

Should something go wrong, you’ll likely need your mobile phone to call for help. Ensure your device is fully charged prior to travelling.

Consider winter tyres

If you live in a highland area or one that is prone to snow, you may want to fit winter tyres and even snow chains to your vehicle.

Most rental vehicles are already fitted with such tyres, and in some countries, winter tyres are even a legal requirement.

Check that the tyres are inflated properly and ensure that they have enough tread depth to provide grip.

Don’t rush

Give yourself extra time when travelling to ensure you are never rushing anywhere. This frees up time should you need to de-ice your vehicle or make any checks before leaving.

Pack essential supplies

If you’re embarking on a long journey, ensure you have adequate food and water, as well as blankets, extra clothing and a first aid kit.

Other emergency equipment such as a hazard warning triangle, torches and de-icing equipment may be included as part of a rental, although you should check with the car hire firm.

Any items that are legally required in the country of hire should be included as standard.

Have emergency contacts

Know the emergency contact numbers for all of the essential services and know what to do if you become stranded or have an emergency.

Check your insurance cover

Ensure you have adequate insurance cover in place before setting off on your journey. You can cover your personal motor excess or hire car excess with a Questor Insurance reimbursement policy.

Driving in the snow

Snow can provide some of the toughest driving conditions and you should be especially careful when out on the roads. If you can, avoid travel in such conditions.  If you do need to make a journey, take the following into consideration:

  1. Keep your speed down as stopping distances can be ten times the regular distance when the roads are snowy and slippery.
  2. Leave a good distance between your vehicle and any in front of you too, just in case you do need to stop suddenly for any reason.
  3. Avoid travelling at the signposted speed limits, as they apply when road conditions are clear and are not suited to snow and ice.
  4. Look to accelerate slowly and do not brake too heavily, while you should avoid using too much power on hills as it will likely lead to wheel spin.
  5. Clear any snow and mud from the exhaust pipe prior to travelling too – this is essential as it prevents potentially fatal gases from being leaked inside the car.
  6. You should also look to prevent the build-up of snow on your vehicle by regularly brushing the windows, roof, wheel arches, bonnet, number plates and lights.
  7. While using the car heater is recommended to keep you warm while the vehicle is in motion, you should also ensure the car is well ventilated to avoid becoming drowsy on long journeys.
  8. Should your car get stuck in snow, avoid revving your engine as this will likely worsen the problem. Try to slowly rock your vehicle backwards and forward to free it or push it if possible.  If you cannot free your vehicle, stay with it and call the emergency services or breakdown services for assistance.

For more travel tips follow us on Twitter at @QuestorIns or take a lot at our blog section. 

A Guide to Hitting the Slopes for Beginners

Date Created: 12 November 2018

Ski tips for beginners

Skiing and snowboarding can be great fun, although it can quickly become dangerous without an understanding of the mountains, a couple of safety rules and some basic etiquette.

Whether you are skiing for the first time, are relatively new to the ski scene or consider yourself a seasoned veteran of the slopes, these simple tips should help you to feel more confident and well-prepared ahead of your trip.

Be prepared

Preparation really is crucial.  Before you leave, do some research on your chosen destination. Look for useful information such as the contact details for your accommodation and local emergency services, as well as the key paperwork relating to your travel insurance policy.

Get active early on

The more active you are before your holiday, the easier you should find it on the slopes. By toning the essential muscles that you’ll use for skiing or snowboarding, you should be able to make the most of your experience without becoming too worn out early on.

What to wear

When visiting the mountains it’s important to wear lots of layers to keep you well insulated and warm. When choosing clothing, make sure to look for items which will keep you warm and let your skin breathe, all while being waterproof. Take a look below at some examples of the items you may need to pack:

  • Base layer - such as thermal underwear
  • Mid layer - long sleeve top and leggings
  • Ski Jacket and trousers or salopettes (ski pants)
  • Warm socks
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Scarf
  • Helmet
  • Goggles/sunglasses

Equipment

Whether you choose to ski or snowboard, the equipment is very important. Winter sports equipment can often be expensive to buy, especially if you are not sure how often you will be going or if winter sports is even your thing.

The good thing is that you can hire equipment at your chosen destination, meaning you can try it out without feeling pressured to purchase. This also removes the need to travel to your destination with a bulky set of skis or a snowboard. When selecting hire equipment, ensure that they are the correct size for you and that they are well serviced with no visible damage.

It is important to take care and not rush when selecting a pair of ski boots, as you’ll be wearing them for the entirety of the trip. Whatever you do, don’t grab the first pair you find. Whether you choose to hire a pair of boots or purchase a pair, try on a few and see what feels comfortable.

Training

Don’t just jump in! Make sure you book some lessons with a professional instructor to teach you techniques and basic safety. If you are looking at skiing with some more experienced friends, consider arriving early so you can get a few lessons in before they arrive. Alternatively, take a day at the start of your trip to practice on the beginner slopes.

Travel Insurance

Our final tip for both skiing and snowboarding is to make sure you have travel insurance which covers the winter sports you plan to take part in. Not every travel insurance policy covers winter sports as standard, so it’s important to make sure you are covered in order to avoid any large expenses if you, unfortunately, need to make a claim.  

The top five post-Christmas ski resorts

Date Created: 12 November 2018

Christmas is often a period of over-indulgence, but some time away on the slopes in early January can provide a welcome fitness escape.

Not only is January usually a quieter time, especially in the Alps, but you can usually get slightly more holiday for your money.

With fewer skiers on the slopes and smaller queues for the ski lifts, the scene is set for a highly enjoyable experience.

So if you’re keen to take to the slopes and exercise in the New Year, where should you look to go? Here we’ve picked out five top destinations for a post-Christmas ski trip.

St Anton, Austria

St. Anton, in the Austrian Tirol, is one of the world’s best-known resorts. It is also one of the few skiing areas that can claim to be where it all began, as the Arlberg Technique of downhill skiing was developed in the region more than a century ago.

Pioneer and local boy Hannes Schneider took the technique on a world tour to Japan and the USA, spreading the sport of skiing around the planet, and the rest, as they say, is history. If you’re heading down the slopes this winter, the chances are you’ll be using a similar style!

St Anton Austria

Mürren, Switzerland

Hidden away in a remote corner of the Swiss Alps, the car-free village of Mürren can only be accessed by train and cable car. Despite only having 33 miles of slopes, there are a wealth of off-piste options to attract experienced skiers from around the world. Unlike other resorts though, Mürren remains largely undiscovered by those in the freeride scene.

Murren in Switzerland

Montgenèvre, France

Via Lattea, Montgenèvre on the French side of the Italian/ French ski area is perhaps the most humble. It's a little powder pocket, family-friendly and good for beginners and intermediates, with access to the Milky Way's 250 miles of tracks.

With alpine skiing, slaloming and snowboarding areas, visitors can also try their hand at snowmobiling if they want time away from the 50 miles of nearby green, blue, red and black runs. It’s safe to say Montgenèvre has something for everyone!

Snowmobile

Madonna di Capiglio, Italy

An expedition of British skiers first visited Madonna di Campiglio by sled back in 1910, yet the region’s beauty is still enjoyed to this day. Surrounded by the Adamello Brenta Nature Park, it’s an elegant ski resort whose natural position guarantees optimal ski conditions on the higher slopes.

The Dolomites were recognised in the World Heritage List because of their exceptional beauty and unique landscape in 2010, as well as for their scientific importance from a geological and geomorphologic perspective. If you plan a visit, don’t forget your camera!

Madonna Di Campiglio in Italy

Jasna, Slovakia

With flights remaining cheap and a first class train ticket from Bratislava airport to this Slovakian resort a steal, Jasna is a great destination for those looking for a low-cost escape.

Jasna is the most well-known and developed resort in Slovakia and is renowned for the quality of slopes and services on offer. Set near to the city of Liptovsky Mikulas, the area provides services for both summer and winter adventures with stunning scenery to match.

Jasna Slovakia

Regardless of where you explore in January, make sure you’re protected with adequate travel insurance. Be especially careful to ensure that any extreme sports or activities are included too.

 

Ski Travel Essentials

Date Created: 01 November 2018

ski winter essentials

If you’re preparing for a ski holiday this winter, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve packed all the essentials.

Regardless of if you’re venturing to the Alps, Lapland or the Rockies, having the right clothing and equipment is imperative for an enjoyable trip.

Here, we’ve listed the ski travel essentials that you won’t want to forget…

1. Pack lots of layers to keep you warm.

2. Take several pairs of thermals to wear under your ski wear.

3. Remember a flask – you’ll be able to save money by stopping off for fewer hot chocolates!

4. Sun tan lotion – despite the typical freezing whether associated with a ski trip, it’s still possible to get sunburn as the sun reflects off the snow.

5. Lip balm – your lips can easily become chapped when exposed to sun, wind and cold air.

6. Travel adaptors – ensure you can power all the tech and other gadgets that you’ll need, from phones and tablets to hairdryers and straighteners.

7. Deep heat or similar – after a long day on the slopes, you may want to provide some respite for your aching muscles!

8. A small rucksack – big enough to carry your water, snacks and extra layers, but not so large that it’s difficult to carry.

9. Goggles – purchase these before travelling as you can avoid the inflated prices you’ll typically find at resort shops.

10. Waterproof jacket, salopettes and mittens – it’s worth checking for any holes in your outerwear, as you could end up being very cold otherwise!

Ski equipment is often available for hire in resorts and can be a viable alternative to taking your own skis, boots and poles.

Alternatively, make sure that you’ve checked your own equipment to ensure that it has not sustained any damage while in storage or transit.

If you’re struggling for space in your suitcase, or simply want to reduce the weight of your luggage, you may wish to wear items such as ski boots and jackets during the flight.

And lastly, don’t forget to ensure you have adequate winter travel insurance to cover all of the activities that you have planned. 

Why We Eat, Sleep, Ski, Repeat

Date Created: 17 October 2018

If you’ve never been skiing before, the thought of the cold weather, snow and ice can be off-putting, but there’s a mountain of fun to be had if you can overcome those fears!

Read on to discover why embracing the winter weather and booking a ski trip is something you should do at least once in your lifetime…

 

Skiing fun

2. There are many destinations to choose from

While you will need to pick from mountainous destinations that get regular and prolonged snowfall, you really do have an abundance of options!

No two slopes are ever the same, while you could even opt for a different resort in the same region if you want to mix things up a bit – the Alps, the USA and Canada are among the most popular, but you’ll find great slopes in locations such as Bulgaria, Norway, Finland and Slovenia too.

Courchevel Ski Resort France

3. It’s different

Skiing is an exhilarating experience in itself, but you can also try out other exciting snow sports such as snowboarding, sledging or tubing.

If you’re a beginner, even a trip on a ski lift is an experience too!

 Snowboarding

4. It’s a treat for the taste buds

Choosing catered accommodation provides plenty of opportunities to relax and socialise in the evening, as well as tucking into some delectable regional cuisine.

Of course, if you want something a little more flexible, going self-catered means you’ll be able to dine out at the restaurants in your resort while embracing the local people and culture. 

Outdoor dining

5. The surroundings are beautiful

By their very nature, ski resorts are set among some of the most beautiful scenic locations on earth – and you get to enjoy the views every single day as you whizz down the slopes.

Just, don’t forget your camera to grab some amazing snaps when you’re at the summit!

Scenic ski resort

6. Two words - Après Ski

If you’re not familiar with the term Après Ski, it means a time when you can take in plenty of local entertainment and bars following a day on the slopes.

It’s a perfect opportunity to meet new people, relax with your mates and take in your surroundings.

Apres Ski

7. Deals make it affordable

Ski breaks are increasingly affordable thanks to an array of deals and special offers. It’s always worth doing your research, as some resorts can cost significantly less than others.

 Skiing

 8. It’s more than just skiing

You don’t just have to go skiing on a ski holiday! If you find that the slopes aren’t for you, then why not relax in a spa, grab a few drinks, or indulge in a shopping spree?

Heading to the slopes this winter? Makes sure you’re covered with comprehensive winter sports travel insurance. For more information on winter sports insurance be sure to shop around for the best deal. 

Halloween 2018 - Spooky Destinations and Attractions

Date Created: 11 October 2018

Halloween is a great time to eat sweets and watch scary films, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to explore some haunted hotspots!  We have compiled a list of our favourite spooky locations and attractions for this time of year, take a read...if you dare!

Brick or Treat – LEGOLAND Windsor

Just in time for half-term, LEGOLAND Windsor hosts its spook-tacular Brick or Treat event. Explore the Brick or Treat trail and solve the mystery of the missing potion ingredients, take in ghostly live shows and ride the Spooky Hill Train down to the Enchanted Forest.

Build your own Lego pumpkin and still get to enjoy the abundance of other attractions that LEGOLAND has to offer – it’s Halloween fun that all the family can enjoy.

Pluckley Village

Located a small distance from Ashford, Pluckley is known as the most haunted village in Kent. The village is rumoured to be the residence of at least 12 ghosts, and in the run up to Halloween there are regular ghost hunts and tours, making it the perfect destination for a spooky weekend away.

Halloween inspired coffee

Scarefest – Alton Towers

Enjoy all of your favourite rides in the dark as Alton Towers embraces Halloween.  Get lost in the scare mazes and discover frights and thrills at every turn – you’ll certainly need to keep your wits about you!

And perhaps the biggest question of all – are you prepared to hurtle towards a six story high Wicker Man effigy as it bursts into flames? If you love to be spooked, a visit to Alton Towers will keep you on your toes!

Fright Nights – Thorpe Park

The Blair Witch is back for 2018 and it promises to be more terrifying than ever before. Or…maybe you could dare to walk the Island’s deserted railroad in another live action scare maze, Platform 15? Maybe you would prefer to explore Saw Alive, another horror maze that’s had an evil makeover? For spooky antics, Thorpe Park more than has you covered. 

Edinburgh Castle

Scotland is famous for many spooky sightings and haunted hotspots, making it a holiday haven for those searching for the paranormal. And Edinburgh Castle is no different.

With some parts of the castle, including the dungeons, more than 900 years old, it will come as no surprise to hear that many visitors have reported seeing a ghost or two. Once you have finished visiting the castle why not head over to some of Scotland’s other paranormal locations such as Cruden Bay or Roslyn Chapel.

Edinburgh Castle

The London Dungeon

The London Dungeon experience and its mix of haunting tales and thrilling rides are scary at the best of times! But for Halloween, there’s even more to enjoy as part of Screamfest!

Get face to face with the capital’s most notorious characters, follow in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd and plummet on the free fall ride ‘Drop Dead’. But for a truly spine-tingling experience, do you dare to summon the spirits as you sit around the Ouija board?

Amsterdam

If you fancy travelling a little further afield, Amsterdam is home to a dedicated Halloween festival, and while this year’s event is certainly smaller than in the past, it promises to be just as scary. From themed costume parties to scary film showings, the Dutch capital can provide you with a Halloween experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Dam Square is famed as being a former public executions site, where thousands of suspected witches and heretics were burned during the Spanish Inquisition. So given the city’s bloody history that stretches back more than 800 years, you may also run into a few restless spirits along your way!

Heading off on a haunted holiday of your own? Don’t forget to Tweet us any spooky snaps to @QuestorIns

Stress free car rental

Date Created: 04 October 2018 by Questor Insurance

Stree free car rentalMore of us are opting for the freedom and flexibility that comes with car hire, but with so much to think about when renting a new set of wheels, how can you ensure the experience is stress-free?

Thankfully, we have five helpful tips to help ensure that your car hire journey is hassle-free.

1. Do your research

Don’t just look for the cheapest rental option, but focus on checking out the reviews left but other customers too.

These will tell you a great deal about what you can expect for a particular rental company when it comes to customer service, ease of rental and other important factors.

You should also check the terms and conditions of the rental too, as this way you can avoid being hit by mileage limits or other restrictions. If you’re unsure about anything at the rental desk, be sure to query it too.

2. Plan ahead and keep some time spare

If you’re given the option of choosing pick-up and drop-off times, make sure you leave yourself with some time for manoeuvre to cover the unexpected.

For instance, if you’re picking a car up from an airport rental desk, ensure you have enough time to clear passport control and to collect baggage from the point when your flight is due to land.

This can take several hours during the peak season at some airports, and a car hire company will rarely keep a vehicle aside for you if you are considerably late.

The same applies when returning the vehicle, as you may get hit with late fees if you get caught in traffic or miss the drop-off for any reason.

3. Think about any extras before you travel

If you want to add an additional driver or are under a certain age, you may have to pay additional fees on top of the rental quote you are given.

Be sure to have considered all of your options before you travel, as this will provide you with an idea of how much the whole rental process should cost.

Remember that add-ons such as sat-navs and car seats will cost more, so think about whether they are needed or if you can bring your own – most airlines will allow you to put a car seat in the hold of an aircraft for free for example.

4. Check the different car classifications prior to booking

While you can select a type of vehicle based on a wide set of rental criteria, you won’t always get the car you select.

Car hire is processed on an ‘or similar’ basis, so while you may have booked a BMW, a Mercedes could replace it.

Check out the various types of car that are available if you are unsure which is best for your needs.

5. Know your insurance

Insurance cover may be included with car hire but it often doesn’t cover everything. Car hire excess insurance can be purchased separately for example, and covers the excess you would need to pay should the car be damaged or stolen.

Depending on the vehicle, this could amount to hundreds or even thousands of pounds, so daily, weekly or even annual additional cover could be right for you. 

Understanding car hire cancellation

Date Created: 04 October 2018

Cancelling car hireShould you need to cancel a car rental for any reason, understanding all of the terms involved plays an essential role in ensuring you get as much of your money back as possible.

While most rental companies say they offer ‘free cancellation’, what is actually meant by this can vary wildly and you’ll quickly discover there are limits to what ‘free’ means.

In some instances, you may be able to get your money back, although other factors will also come into play, including:

  1. When you booked
  2. When you cancel
  3. Where you are hiring
  4. The rental company involved

It’s therefore vital that you check the terms and conditions when booking your car hire and to seek clarity if there is any point you are unsure of.

What ‘free cancellation’ actually means

Typically, ‘free cancellation’ may be offered in two ways – either meaning it must be cancelled in a fixed period after making the booking or that it can be cancelled up until a certain point prior to travel.

If you have to cancel within a set time, for instance, seven days, you could get your money back should you need to cancel within that time.

However, once that free-cancellation period is over, a cancellation fee will apply, meaning you will get a refund minus the money required to cover the fee.

The alternative is to have the option of cancelling up until a certain point before you collect the car – this could be 24 hours beforehand, 72 hours before etc. and this will vary by rental company.

Likewise, if you miss the deadline you’ll need to pay a fee which will be taken from the total you paid which is due to be refunded.

Avoiding cancellation fees

You may not need to worry about cancellation fees if you didn’t pay up-front. This applies in the USA and Canada for example when payment is often taken upon collection of the car, rather than when the booking is made.

You may also want to consider car hire excess insurance when booking, as this will cover against the excess you would need to pay should the hire vehicle be damaged or stolen.

For further travel advice, tips and tricks, visit our social hub or follow us on Twitter @QuestorIns

Your essential car hire checklist

Date Created: 04 October 2018 by Questor Insurance

Essential car hire checklistHiring a car provides freedom and flexibility to explore new destinations, but you need to be careful to ensure it doesn’t come at a cost.

By checking the vehicle and paperwork thoroughly, you can protect yourself from unscrupulous actions by car hire companies.

Our checklist includes the aspects you should look at when you first receive the keys, and you shouldn’t drive away until you are satisfied everything is in good working order.

1. Check the small print

Read the car hire contract thoroughly and question any part of it that you are unsure about. You should also note any extras that might be included.

The paperwork should also detail the rental company’s fuel policy – recognise what is expected of you and make plans accordingly to ensure the car will be returned in line with the agreement.

2. Take photographic evidence

Given that the vast majority of us own a smartphone, it’s easy to take plenty of photographs of all aspects of the car.

As well as looking for any dents and scratches, photographs can help should you be involved in a claim. Even if you think marks are relatively minor, it’s still important to write down any that already exist upon collection.

3. Check the unobvious

As well as looking for any dents and scratches, you should also check the windscreen, tyres and locks noting any anomalies on the paperwork provided.

The windscreen and windows should be checked for any chips, while the tread on the tyres should meet the legal depth.

Focus on the locks on the hire car to see if they are all in full working order too – this is especially true if the vehicle uses keyless technology. 

4. Take your time with any inspection forms

Inspections play an important part in any potential claim, and you need to ensure that all information is included on the forms.

The existing vehicle condition report may list some issues already, so be sure to check these and make the hire company aware of anything you would like added.

5. Check your insurance

Ensure that you have adequate insurance cover for your trip and keep in mind that what is included in the price of car hire may not be fully comprehensive.  For instance, car hire excess insurance can cover the excess payment that would be required should your hire car be damaged or stolen.

The additional cover provides peace of mind and costs less than you think. Get a quote today find out for yourself!

Know your travel insurance exemptions

Date Created: 03 October 2018

Are you covered?It’s easy to think that your travel insurance will cover all aspects of a holiday or trip away, but that is not always the case. While you may have a cancellation policy or are protected for everyday mishaps, it is unlikely you will be covered for riding a motorcycle or participating in extreme sports such as paragliding.

This isn’t to say that you can’t get cover for such events, you’ll just need to ensure you know exactly what is and isn’t included as part of your policy.

Risks of insufficient cover 

It’s worth remembering that it may cost thousands of pounds in medical bills and repatriation costs if you are injured overseas when lacking sufficient travel insurance cover. You’ll also be liable for any damaged equipment or the costs of cutting short your holiday.

Covers vary by insurer, and just because an activity is covered on one policy, it does not necessarily mean it is also included elsewhere.

Many policies will explicitly state the levels of cover, while some activities may be covered with caveats – such as needing to have suitable safety equipment.

Policy Checklist

It’s therefore vital that you check your policy documents carefully and check with your insurer if there is anything you need clarification on.

  1. Detailing any existing medical conditions when taking out a policy, will increase the likelihood that your policy will pay out in the unfortunate event you need to make a claim.
  2. For winter activities, you may need to pay extra, as you’ll likely need to purchase a winter sports premium, or similar.
  3. Of course, you won’t always know what activities you may want to partake in before you travel, which is why it can help to take your documents with you.  It may be possible to purchase additional cover when you’re away, although this would need to be done prior to commencing any activity.
  4. You should also remember to book your travel insurance in advance.  Not only does this allow adequate time for you to read all the small print to ensure you have the necessary cover for your trip, but it can cover you for possible cancellations as well.

For researching the best travel insurance cover and prices, try our online comparison tool to obtain quotes from our trusted providers. With many additional cover options such as winter sports and travel disruption, you are more likely to find a travel insurance policy that suits your needs. 

The benefits of booking travel insurance in advance

Date Created: 03 October 2018

Booking a holiday is really just the start of your journey, and while there is plenty to be excited about, you should also take steps to ensure that it isn’t ruined by unplanned events.

By purchasing travel insurance in advance, these pitfalls can often be avoided – but you’ll need to ensure that you don’t leave it until it’s too late.

As we detail here, a number of issues may occur between booking a holiday and jetting off, which is why it’s important to get covered early.  Booking in advance shouldn’t cost you more, so the sooner you buy travel insurance cover, the sooner you’ll be protected – meaning you could potentially save thousands of pounds should something go wrong.

Cancellation protection

Should you become ill, or suffer from a serious injury, you may have to cancel your holiday.  Provided that you’ve booked travel insurance in advance, you should be able to claim using your policy for cancellation cover.

Cover can protect against an unexpected illness for anyone listed in the travel documents up to the amount listed on your policy.

Note that you must have purchased cover prior to becoming ill or being injured in order to claim. 

Protection against unforeseen circumstances

Depending on what is included in your travel insurance policy, when purchased in advance, you could be covered for an array of unforeseen circumstances.  Such as an unexpected redundancy, from an airline going into liquidation, or if a natural disaster disrupts your plans.

However, if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had advised against travelling to your holiday destination at the time of booking, it’s unlikely travel insurance will provide sufficient cover.

Find the cover that is right for you 

You should compare travel insurance policies to ensure that any options are adequate for your needs – it’s worth remembering that the cheapest option may not provide the ideal cover for you.

Don’t automatically think that you should purchase cover from a travel company either, as you may be able to find a better level of cover or a more cost-effective option elsewhere.

By checking whether cancellation cover is included within the price you pay you will know whether you’re covered from the moment of purchase. Just double-check the small print to understand what eventualities you are or are not covered for.

Optional extras

You may also want to give consideration to other extras, as cover for extreme sports, cruises or certain tours may not be included as standard.

Be upfront about any pre-existing medical conditions too, as a failure to declare something may invalidate your cover should you need to claim.

If you would like to compare quotes from some of our own trusted insurance providers, just click here