How can young drivers reduce the costs of car insurance?

Date Created: 20 February 2019

Driving is notoriously expensive for young people in the UK, but that doesn’t mean costs need to spiral out of control.

A major contributor to the cost of driving is car insurance – it already costs an average of £1,300 to insure a vehicle for a person under the age of 23 and this figure is rising with each passing year.

There are numerous reasons why younger drivers are expected to pay more for insurance and ultimately, it comes down to the risk factors involved.  However, there are a few tricks that can help you to save money, a handful of which are detailed below.

Consider setting your excess higher

If you need to claim, you’ll need to pay part of the costs yourself, known as an excess fee. It’s common to set the excess low, but by setting it higher you could reduce the overall cost of your premium.

You could also set the excess higher and then protect yourself using private motor excess insurance, which covers the excess you would need to pay.

Remember that you’d still need to pay the excess in the event of a claim though, so don’t set it so high that you wouldn’t be able to cover the costs.

Do your maths to ensure that the cost of the extra cover remains less than what you would have paid had you not reset your excess in the first place.

Before you purchase any insurance option, make sure you’ve compared the quotes you get with other options on the market. This way, you’ll be able to find the right cover for you, but bear in mind that comparison sites may not include all available options.

Think about how insurers view you

Even if you’re a young driver looking for insurance, you can still make yourself more attractive to insure by taking certain steps.

The type of car you purchase in the beginning, its engine size and value will all influence the cost of insurance, as do modifications and where you park it.

For instance, securing a vehicle in a garage rather than parking it on the road will likely see your premium decrease as the likelihood of potential theft and accidental damage decreases too.

Opting for a vehicle in a lower insurance group will also help you save, as does reducing the number of miles you drive annually – if you are on the road less, your risk level is reduced.

For further details on the benefits of protecting your excess, visit our private motor excess insurance for young drivers page. You can also obtain a quick quote online. 

Understanding ETIAS and what it means for European travel

Date Created: 14 February 2019

EU proposals for visa-free travel for Britons undertaking short trips to Europe in the wake of Brexit are a positive step, but what other costs will be associated with travelling after 29 March 2019?

One requirement that has already been confirmed by the European Commission is the need for UK travellers to the EU to be part of the European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme (ETIAS).

Although not yet launched, ETIAS is expected to come into force from 2021. It will be similar to the ESTA scheme that is in operation for individuals travelling to the USA with the documentation designed to ensure a smooth entry into a destination country.

The application can be completed online, costs in the region of €7 (c. £6.10 - £6.20) and covers travel around the EU for a three year period.

Understanding ETIAS

The ETIAS is a move from the EU to increase security by introducing more controls over visitors from a defined list of countries that do not need a visa to visit.

Tourists from these countries, including Australia, the USA and Japan – and soon the UK too – can travel within the Schengen zone for up to 90 days before a visa is required.

The ETIAS will be a travel requirement for all of these individuals, regardless of whether they are visiting for business, tourism, medical or other transit-related reasons.

What it means for UK travellers

As part of the Brexit deal, both UK citizens and EU nationals will be able to continue travelling across Europe through the transition period using a valid passport.

The ETIAS will also need to be completed if an individual is aged between 18 and 70, with questions focusing on passport information, alongside background checks into criminal records and medical conditions.

It is believed that the majority of applications will be quick and successful, although the process may be delayed or rejected in certain instances.

Further travel news and Brexit updates can be found via our social hub

The best short-haul destinations for February half-term

Date Created: 25 January 2019

With Christmas and New Year celebrations now a distant memory, the thoughts of many will turn to potential holiday destinations for the year ahead.

The February half-term presents the first opportunity for many families to escape to sunnier climes and even in February, there are a fair share of short-haul destinations that can deliver just that.

With plenty of sandy beaches, family attractions and other places of interest to explore, these locations can provide just what you need for your first holiday of 2019.

Tenerife

The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife delivers plenty of sunshine and fun for all the family in February.

Given its location off the west coast of Africa, Tenerife enjoys warm weather all year round and while February is one of the wettest months of the year, holidaymakers can still expect seven hours of sunshine a day and temperatures of up to 20°C.

Much of the wet weather is found in the higher parts of the island around Mount Teide and on the north coast, with the southern part of the island often sheltered from the worst of the weather.

Alongside its golden sandy beaches, Costa Adeje is home to the renowned Siam Park waterpark which is regularly listed as being among the world’s best by TripAdvisor. Or if holidaying near the capital of the island, you may prefer to visit Parque Marítimo César Manrique, with beautiful natural saltwater pools, this water park is a firm favourite for family fun and relaxation.

Parque Maritimo Cesar Manrique Tenerife

Parque Marítimo César Manrique

Lanzarote

With a glorious six hours of sunshine a day and temperatures reaching 20C in January, it’s no great mystery as to why this Spanish island is a haven for sun seekers. 

Lanzarote is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, providing ample opportunity to catch a glimpse of spectacular plants and wildlife.

Although the island is renowned for its black beaches, due to its volcanic nature, the island is also home to pristine white beaches including Playa Blanca, Papagayo and Caleton Blanco.

While the island is notably drier than Tenerife in February – even as the wettest month, only around 20mm of rainfall occurs across three days.

Temperatures do fall in the evenings, so make sure you pack accordingly. But importantly, don’t forget your beachwear!

Cape Verde

With temperatures averaging 25°C in February, seven hours of sunshine a day and with as little as 6mm of rainfall, Cape Verde offers an idyllic sunshine getaway.

The two most popular islands, Sal and Boa Vista, are among the driest and even in the evenings, temperatures average around 18°C.

The volcanic archipelago has an array of hiking and outdoor opportunities, including quad biking and an abundance of exciting watersports – both wind and kitesurfing are incredibly popular during February.

Boa Vista Cape Verde

Boa Vista, Cape Verde

The Algarve

High temperatures in the Algarve can approach 18°C in February, while rainfall only usually occurs on five days of the month.

The hillier regions in the north tend to be cooler, but the Algarve remains a hotbed for golf, stunning scenery, golden sandy beaches and great surf.

There’s plenty to keep the kids entertained too, including the mammoth paintballing arena known as Parque Aventura, alongside numerous adventure parks and zoos.

Malta

Given its central Mediterranean location, February brings spring-like temperatures to Malta of around 16°C. But be warned, as temperatures can dip dramatically in the evenings.

However, the island’s stunning scenery and beautiful beaches are perfect for relaxing, while if you want to try something a little different, you can explore the many caves and shipwrecks by scuba diving just off the coast.

Valetta, the island’s capital, experiences the warmest winter weather of any European capital and you can expect an average of six hours of sunshine a day.

Malta Harbour

Sunset at Malta Harbour

Morocco

From the coastal resort of Agadir that is packed full of watersports, to the trekking opportunities across the Atlas Mountains, Morocco has something to suit all tastes.

The expanses of desert can be explored via camel or quad bike, while the souks of Marrakesh are home to an array of cultural delights and delicious cuisine.

With temperatures reaching 21°C and eight hours of daily sunshine, Morocco is a firm favourite for a half-term getaway.

Egypt

With warm weather coming from the Sahara Desert, Egypt has its fair share of sunshine in February and there is extremely low rainfall.

Sharm El Sheikh has average high temperatures of 23°C – more than adequate for a day at the beach or by the pool, but still cooler than at the height of summer. This climate makes exploring the nation’s many attractions a much more comfortable experience. Amongst these attractions includes the pyramids of Giza, Abu Simbel, the Valley of the Kings and the capital Cairo.

 Pyramids in Egypt

Egyptian Pyramids

If you do decide to plan a short-haul holiday during the February half-term, be sure to update your travel insurance before you jet off and pay special attention if you wish to partake in any extreme sports or activities, as they are often not included in standard policies.

 

The Top 10 Holiday Destinations for 2019

Date Created: 16 January 2019

Deciding where to visit in the coming year can be a tough decision to make, especially when there are so many wonderful destinations around the world to choose from.

Do you stay on British shores and discover the best of what Britain has to offer? Or do you venture further afield in search of sun, snow or adventure?

Fortunately, the experts at National Geographic Traveller can be trusted to source out the must-visit destinations for the year ahead, as revealed in their Best Trips of 2019 list.

Here we’ve explored a few of the best locations and why you may want to visit them in the coming 12 months.

For Foodies

Mexico City, Mexico

Home to a whopping 22 million people, it’s a good time to visit New Mexico if you love food, as food activism is sweeping across the city. The city’s street food is UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage listed, so be sure to check out the many stalls, vendors and small trucks that are dotted all over the place.

The cosmopolitan nature of Mexico City means you’ll find restaurants specialising in numerous different cuisines too, with notable eateries including Pujol, from famed chef Enrique Olvera, Eduardo Garcia’s Maximo Bistro and Elena Reygadas’ Italian outlet Rosetta. If you’d rather try out your own skills, Eat Mexico run an array of cooking classes where you can learn how to create a number of traditional food favourites.

Best time to visit: March to May for the best weather, before the rainy season gets underway.

 The Fine Arts Palace aka Palacio de Bellas Artes

The Fine Arts Palace aka Palacio de Bellas Artes

For the Adventurous

Fanjingshan

A newly designated UNESCO World Heritage site, Fanjingshan features several temple-topped mountain peaks – including the Red Clouds Golden Summit at 2,572 metres above sea level – but it is the views on the hike up that make all the effort worthwhile.

Part of the Wuling Mountain Range, formed during the Tertiary period anywhere between two million and 65 million years ago, the site is both a national nature reserve and a sacred Buddhist site. The clouds often blur the mountain tops creating numerous visual illusions, while the ten-metre high Mushroom Stone is illuminated at night to create a truly breathtaking spectacle.

Best time to visit: Visit Fanjing Mountain from April to October for the best weather and in the early morning for optimal photography opportunities.

Wuling Mountain

Wuling Mountain

Macedonia, Southeast Europe

The beautiful lakes and mountains of the landlocked nation are increasingly popular, while the opportunity to try out kayaking on the countries deepest lake or to paraglide from one of its many peaks is too good to turn down.

Tour Matka Canyon to the west of Skopje and discover the many caves that line its banks – this is best done from a Kayak or by hiking the mountainous terrain. Or take in the spectacular sights from a mountain bike of one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes, Lake Ohrid.  The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to an array of unique ecosystems and incredible wildlife, alongside stunning views and beautiful clear blue waters.

Best time to visit: The best weather is between June and September, although conditions from April to early November are more than adequate.

Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon

Peru, South America

The Amazon covers around half of Peru and tourism in the country is growing.  Discover a world of jungle, waterfalls, mountain peaks and an abundance of incredible wildlife. A popular sight is the Nazca Lines in the south of the country,  featuring a set of 300 figures, animal shapes and patterns, composed of thousands of lines.  Covering an incredible distance, they are best seen from the air or from the nearby hilltops. The spectacular nature of the Andes is also home to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, an abundance of hiking and mountaineering routes and the Sacred Valley, a lush green valet to the north of Cusco.

Best time to visit: May to September is the driest season, so while the weather is cooler it is more suited to hiking and trekking.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

For the Culture Seekers

Dordogne, France

In a region packed with culture and spectacular scenery, the Dordogne is home to no less than nine Michelin-starred restaurants and 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Take in the castles at Beynac and Castelnaud before retreating to one of many picturesque villages, classy restaurants and beautiful wineries.

Best time to visit: April to October brings good weather, with July and August are the warmest months, although evening storms can be a common occurrence.

The river Dordogne and Chateau de Castelnaid

The river Dordogne and Chateau de Castelnaid

Cairo, Egypt

The 5.2 million square foot Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open its doors in 2019 and will be the centre attraction for visitors – although the city and the Giza Plateau where the museum is located are home to plenty of other attractions too…

Best time to visit: March to April and October to November as the temperatures are manageable and crowds are usually smaller.

Al Rifa'i Mosque

Al Rifa'i Mosque

Galway, Ireland

In preparation for being European Capital of Culture in 2020, Ireland’s fourth biggest city is pulling out all the stops to promote art and culture, as well as food and drink. Exploring the cobbled streets is just the start and the opportunities on offer in Galway Bay are not to be missed. As well as top notch diving, kayaking and windsurfing, you can also take on the Derroura Mountain Bike Trail to the north west of the city, which features some 16km of incredible tracks and spectacular scenery.

Best time to visit: All through the year – temperatures never get too warm, although the surf is usually best in September and October.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

For the Sport Enthusiasts

Greenland, North America

Greenland is set to mark a decade of self-rule in 2019, but it’s the opportunity for adventure sports that stands out, including heli-skiing, dogsledding and sea kayaking. The majority of Greenland’s ski runs are low elevation or cross-country routes, including at Solbakken – Sisimiut where the season runs from January until early May. The mountains in the east of the country provide an abundance of unexplored terrain, featuring coastal mountains with slopes that run directly down into the fjords and alpine ranges atop the ice caps.

Best time to visit: The summer lasts from June to September, providing a unique opportunity to catch some midnight sun. February to April is the most popular period in the winter months, as there is a suitable amount of daylight.

Kulusuk Greenland

Kulusuk, Greenland

For the Wine Connoisseurs

Vevey, Switzerland

Held just five times every century, 2019 has a Fete des Vignerons to look forward to – a huge celebration of the wine growing culture of the Lavaux region and a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage event. A themed route known as the ‘wine road’ is well worth exploring, with a trail that meanders through the vineyards of the Lavaux between Lausanne and Montreux. Alternatively, climb aboard the Train des Vignes, the wine train, to discover the region in luxury.

Best time to visit: Mid-July to mid-August for the Fete des Vignerons, while the winter months offer an abundance of skiing opportunities.

Terraced vineyards Lavaux Switzerland

Terraced vineyards, Lavaux Switzerland

For the Ocean Lovers

Belize, Central America

It may be one of Central America’s smallest nations, but efforts to promote ocean protection has helped the recovery of one of the planet’s most remarkable barrier reefs. This, coupled with its exceptional sea life, makes it a must-visit in 2019. Snorkel with stingrays at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and gaze at numerous migrating birds in The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, an area of protected wetland recognised for its international importance. If you do visit Belize, explore the Maya archaeological site at Actun Tunichil Muknal, a cave near San Ignacio with remains of skeletons, ceramics and pottery.

Best time to visit: Mid-November to April (dry season). May to June is cheaper but the risk of rain increases.

 Coral Reef Belize

Coral Reef, Belize

If you do intend to travel in 2019, ensure you have adequate travel insurance in place before doing so, including any add-ons if you wish to take part in adventure sports or try out something out of the ordinary.

 

Tips for Driving in Hazardous Conditions this Winter

Date Created: 15 January 2019

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. 

Exploring Iceland by car

Date Created: 11 January 2019 by Questor Insurance

Iceland is a truly spectacular country, packed with beautiful natural scenery, stunning coastal settings and picturesque buildings.

It’s also a prime spot to spy aurora borealis – the Northern Lights – in their true glory and is definitely a country best explored by car.

However, the weather also has a part to play, as wintery conditions often continue through to April and visitors that hire cars will need to ensure they are prepared.

The capital Reykjavik is relatively easy to get around either by foot or by using public transport but venturing beyond it requires a vehicle.

Highway 1 is the ring road which circles the island. In the summer you could do the journey in just over a day, but it’s more fun to stop off and sightsee on the way.

Driving Tips & Considerations

Although it is well maintained, the road is still susceptible to sudden weather changes and heavy snowfall, which means drivers need to take care.

The good news is that you can hire manual and automatic cars that are set up for driving on the right-hand side of the road. However, ensure you check the exclusions on your car hire insurance policies, as many car hire and excess insurance providers will not cover for damage caused whilst on an adventure trail or non-public road.

You’ll need winter tyres by law in the winter and may need them in spring – most rental companies can supply the necessary equipment.

Any driver will also need to have their driving licence in their possession at all times when they are behind the wheel and you could be fined if you are stopped by the police and cannot produce it.

Where to visit

Wherever you go in Iceland you’ll come face to face with some of the most incredible geological features in the world. These features make up the majority of things to see and do in Iceland, but they are well worth the effort.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Around 90 minutes from Reykjavik, the river Hvita has created the hugely impressive Gullfoss Waterfall, which features several high cascades of water that drop more than 30 metres in total. Torrents of water pass through the canyon at incredible speeds, but be careful if you visit, as there’s a lack of safety barriers.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall

Strokkur Geysir

Famed the world over, Strokkur Geysir fires geothermally-heated water roughly 30 metres into the air every few minutes and is the geyser after which all others are named. As well as boiling mud pits, you’ll find around 100 smaller geysers and a Geysir Centre featuring exhibits and presentations on the geography of the region.

Thingvellir

Once the home of the national parliament, Thingvellir is a site of historical, cultural and geological significance in Iceland. The national park is in a rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, creating the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The country’s largest natural lake, Thingvallavatn, can also be found to the south.

Tectonic plates

Thingvellir tectonic plates

Blue Lagoon

Perhaps Iceland’s most famous attraction, the iconic geothermal spas are around a 40 minute drive from Reykjavik. With the water reaching temperatures of anything between 37°C and 40°C, bathing is said to carry numerous health benefits, while there’s a host of spa treatments to enjoy too.

Heimaey

The volcanic island of Heimaey is transformed during the summer months as it plays host to one of the largest puffin colonies in the world. More Atlantic Puffins use the region as a nesting site than any other location on the planet, while there are ample opportunities to see whales and dolphins too.

Landmannalauger National Park

Landmannalauger National Park is home to the Hekla Volcano, spectacular lava fields and an array of other impressive geological features. The landscape is popular with horse riders and hikers, although access to the region is near impossible between October and May as the main road is closed.

Vatnajokull National Park

Also, in the south of Iceland is Vatnajokull National Park, where you’ll find an abundance of glaciers, ice caves and hiking routes. The Vatnajokull Glacier dominates the landscape, while the Skaftafell Ice Cave is impressive all year round.

Reykjavik Whale Watching

Reykjavik is packed full of restaurants, shops and bars, but it’s also a fantastic spot for whale watching when departing from the old harbour. Summer is a more popular time for spotting whales, although there are no guarantees that you will see some of the magnificent creatures.

Akureyri

Akureyri is known as Iceland’s second city and there’s plenty of spectacular scenery nearby, as the landscape is dominated by past volcanic activity. The region is home to some of the island’s best skiing and the Akureyri Museum, while temperatures in the summer months can reach 25°C.

Lake Myvatn

To the east of Akureyri is the spectacular Lake Myvatn. Surrounded by bubbling lava pits and clay pits, the region is home to an abundance of birds and other wildlife which makes it incredibly popular with spotters.

Lake Myvata

Lake Myvatn

If you intend to hire a car to travel to these must-see sights, you may wish to consider car hire excess insurance. This insurance will cover the excess you may be liable for in the event your hire car is stolen or damaged. 

 

2019 Orlando Florida Car Hire and Travel Guide

Date Created: 09 January 2019

There is no doubt, Florida is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.  Estimated to attract over 1.5 million UK tourists each year.  Situated amongst the southern states of the USA, Florida hosts a huge variety of tourist attractions. 

With more than a dozen theme parks, Orlando in central Florida has all you need to keep the whole family entertained and to enjoy quality time together.

From adrenaline-fuelled rollercoasters at Universal Studios Florida to film sets, aquariums and water parks, the ‘Sunshine State’ really does have something for everyone.

Walt Disney World monorail

Hiring a car in Orlando, Florida

Many find that the easiest and most flexible way to travel to Orlando’s must-see attractions is via a hired car.

You’ll find that Orlando’s car hire companies are grouped together on the ground floors of Terminal A and Terminal B at Orlando International Airport – Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, Firefly, Budget and Thrifty are among the car hire firms in residence.

You’ll also find car hire firms across Florida, and in Orlando itself, that can meet your needs.  Depending on what your Orlando hotel offers, you may need to pay for overnight parking for your hire car – check in advance to see whether this is the case.

Car Hire Considerations

Note that the main driver will need to be at least 25 years of age. A handful of Orlando car hire firms do rent to younger drivers, but such a hire will usually cost more.

Brits are sometimes shocked to learn that when they arrive in their dream destination, they are not fully equipped to hire a vehicle without an International Driving Permit (IDP).  On 1st January 2013, new laws were ushered into place, stating that motorists with non-US licences were required to also carry an International Driving Permit.  Even though this law was revoked by the Governor of Florida in early April of the same year, rental and hire companies of the state may still require you to have in your possession both your home licence and an International Driving Permit. 

We at Questor Insurance recommend that although some rental companies do not require you to possess an International Driving Permit, it would be a good idea to apply for one – just as a precautionary measure. 

Applying for an IDP

As a UK citizen, you are not permitted to apply for an International Driving Permit until 3 months before your trip and you must be 18 years of age upon application.  At the Post Office, you will need to fill out a form in person.

Please ensure that:

  •         You have your valid UK driving licence at hand
  •         You pay the £5.50 application fee
  •         You bring along a passport sized photo of yourself that is signed on the back
  •         You bring along proof of identification (for example, a passport) 

If you do decide to hire a car during your travels, remember to also consider purchasing car hire excess insurance. You will often find that comprehensive excess cover is much cheaper to buy through Questor Insurance in comparison to an excess waiver offered by the car hire company. To find out more about car hire excess insurance and how this protects you against additional car hire charges, just click here.  

Other Modes of Transport

The SunRail commuter rail service runs from north to south in Orlando but does not stop near to any of the main theme parks. Amtrak serves Winter Park, Kissimmee and Winter Haven (the latter of which is home to Legoland) and provides an alternative route into Orlando if travelling from elsewhere within the United States.

The Lynx Bus also makes regular airport pick-ups and drop-offs, roughly every 30 minutes on weekdays and hourly at weekends – serving locations in downtown Orlando, Florida Mall, SeaWorld, and International Drive at a cost of $2 per passenger per ride. The bus network does not service Walt Disney World or Port Canaveral.

Orlando airport

Orlando is served by Orlando International Airport (MCO), acting as a gateway to millions of inbound tourists on an annual basis.

Situated around six miles to the south-east of Orlando, the airport is a short drive from Interstate 4.

An Orlando airport shuttle service operates to hotels close to the airport and to some that are further away. These services also offer a shuttle from the hotel to Orlando International Airport, but you will need to book at least 24 hours in advance to organise the transfer.

Weather in Orlando, Florida

If you’re planning a trip to the many theme parks or other attractions, it’s important to note what to expect from the weather.

Temperatures in Orlando peak in July and August, pushing 30°C, while January and December are the colder months, where temperatures average 15°C.

Extreme variations in humidity can mean Orlando’s weather is tough on holidaymakers, as high temperatures and thunderstorms are both common.

You can expect a minimum of 10 hours of sunshine between April and July, although rainfall peaks in July at 170mm when showers can be expected on two of every three days.

The best time to visit Florida is between September and November, as the weather in Orlando in September features notably lower humidity levels.

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World is the home to 4 unbelievable theme parks including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

Magic Kingdom

In Magic Kingdom, revisit the classic Disney films that we all know and love. With a range of water rides, roller coasters and off-the-scale castles, Magic Kingdom is the ideal place to celebrate Disney’s best known stories. 

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom provides the opportunity to explore the jungles across the world and (new to Disney World) you can explore the world of the incredible film ‘Avatar’!  With thrilling roller coasters and extraordinary animals, Animal Kingdom offers something for everyone.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is the best place for all the movie fanatics providing the opportunity to explore famous films throughout the eras from the early 20th Century through to the modern day. A must for any Star Wars fan! 

Epcot

Experience ‘the world’ at Epcot as well as outer space and under the sea!  With a variety of futuristic rides, Epcot is the perfect place to let your inner-explorer flourish.  

Water Parks & Aquatic Life

Florida is also home to a variety of water parks such as Sea World and Universal Studios’ Volcano Bay. Fancy swimming with a variety of marine wildlife, such as dolphins, manta rays and even sharks? Then a trip to Discovery Cove is a must. SeaWorld Orlando is also home to an abundance of sea life including whales and dolphins.

Other Popular Attractions

It’s not just about Walt Disney World, read on to discover more about Orlando Florida and the many attractions and sights you may want to explore:

  • Among Orlando’s other popular attractions are LEGOLAND, Gatorland wildlife preserve and the Holy Land Experience, a Christian-based theme park.

 

  • Universal Orlando includes both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, with parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter found at each.

 

  • Numerous Orlando hotels serve the many theme parks too, with many including spas and restaurants, although it’s best to search around prior to booking to ensure you find the best value deals.Universal Studios

 

  • As with any major city, you’ll also find an abundance of shopping outlets and opportunities to buy the big brands from numerous Orlando premium shops.

 

  • The Orlando Science Center is located in the centre of the city and offers a hands-on experience, while the Orlando eye swing, known as the Starflyer, opened in 2018. Situated near to the Orlando Eye – a giant Ferris wheel – on International Drive, the swing stands at 450 feet tall and can reach speeds of 60mph.

 

  • Other popular excursions include boating tours through the swamplands, where you can see everything from bald eagles to alligators, as well as water sports and lake fishing.

 

  • Hot air ballooning, golf and snorkelling experiences are also increasingly popular and are a hit with young and old alike.

 

  • If you wish to explore beyond Orlando and its theme parks, travel 50 miles towards the Atlantic Coast to find the Kennedy Space Center, which houses numerous artefacts and memorabilia relating to rocket launches as well as an IMAX theatre.

Beaches

After an exhausting few days exploring the parks, you might just want to relax on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches.  In the south of the state, beaches in Miami and Clearwater are perfect for a bit of rest and relaxation.  With warm, turquoise waters and talcum powder-like sand, these beaches will have you feeling like you have landed in paradise. You’ll also find an array of beaches in Orlando that offer golden sands and a chance to top up your tan.

South Beach Florida

Food and Drink

Renowned as one of the USA’s major tourism regions, Orlando is packed with places to eat, drink and immerse yourself in culture. The best Orlando restaurants can be found in Downtown, where you can find award-winning eateries serving up everything from pizza and pasta to burgers, steak and sushi.

We hope you have found this travel guide useful. For more travel related advice, take a look at the blogs and news articles in our social hub.

Are you prepared for winter driving?

Date Created: 19 December 2018

According to a survey from the AA, nearly half of drivers have failed to carry out any maintenance or vehicle checks in preparation for any upcoming bad weather.  It could potentially mean that millions of drivers in the UK are at risk.  

Survey results

  • Of 2,000 motorists quizzed by the vehicle recovery firm, one in six said they had broken down or had issues with their vehicle before as a result of not preparing it for tricky road conditions.
  • The AA lists checking tyre tread and pressure, as well as battery life and oil condition as being an essential precursor to any winter driving. Just shy of three quarters of drivers said they did check their car battery prior to travel, yet a dead battery is the most common cause of breakdowns during the winter months.
  • Around 40% of drivers revealed they were unaware of how to change the height of their main headlight beams, while one in six said they could not work their high-beam headlights when sat behind the wheel.
  • Four in ten drivers told the survey they were unsure of how to top up their anti-freeze, while numerous motorists had concerns over using their fog lights properly.
  • Incredibly, one in ten drivers said they refrain from driving during the winter months, while unsurprisingly around 70% said conditions are tougher than in the summer.
  • Drivers in the survey did know the basics when it comes to de-icing a car though, as 80% know the best way to remove ice and 73% can top up windscreen washer fluid.
  • Perhaps of concern though, is that 10% of those quizzed did not know that using boiling water on a windscreen can have bad results.

Government figures suggest that up to 20% of the five million road traffic accidents that occur annually in the UK have weather as a major contributory factor, highlighting the importance of being weather ready when it comes to driving.

For further winter travel advice, we have a number of essential winter driving tips to help you on your way.

 

How to avoid ski holiday car rental extras

Date Created: 17 December 2018 by Questor Insurance

A winter ski holiday can be a costly experience at the best of times, but if you intend to hire a car on your travels, there are ways to keep the costs down.

There are numerous added extras that you should look to avoid, as a failure to plan in advance could see you hit by an avalanche of costs.  From insurance waivers to child car seats and fees for additional drivers, you’ll need to have your guard up to avoid paying more than you need to.

If you’re not careful, these outlays can eat up a considerable portion of your holiday budget and may even double the total costs of your car hire.

Of course, if you know what to look out for and take the time to plan your trip in advance, many of these additional costs can be factored in or avoided altogether.

Common extras

It’s important to recognise what will be considered as extras, with ski racks and sat-navs the most common requirements for those going on ski holidays.

Fees for additional drivers also need to be given plenty of thought, especially if you plan to name someone under the age of 25 on the car hire plan as this can cause costs to double.  Some rental companies will also charge an additional fee dependant on the age of the hirer. Younger drivers (usually 21-25 years old) and older drivers (70-75 years old) can sometimes be charged more for the hire, so be sure to check this when comparing quotes.

Opting for additional insurance cover at the car rental desk will also increase the cost of car hire significantly and lower cost alternatives can be found online.

How to save on extras

Taking your own items can significantly bring costs down, so you may want to take things like car seats and sat-navs if you’re able to.

In the case of the latter, it can work out to be considerably cheaper if you download additional maps onto your own system, or you may wish to use a map application on your mobile phone.

Winter tyres and other essentials should be included by law in some countries, so it’s important to do your research.

Opting for a larger car without a roof rack may also work out being a cheaper alternative to a smaller car that includes a rack – consider your own needs very carefully before making a decision.

You may also wish to invest in a car hire excess insurance policy before you travel, as it can provide you with cover should you need to claim.

Note that while you would need to pay out initially in such instances, such cover provides peace of mind should a claim be necessary.

 

Where to holiday for warmth this Winter

Date Created: 17 December 2018

Escaping for a family holiday in the early part of the year has several advantages, especially as the main resorts tend to be quieter and cost less.

And there’s plenty of opportunities to enjoy some sun too, albeit not at the higher temperatures you may associate with the summer months.

If you’re on the lookout for some last-minute warmth to kick-start 2019, here are a handful of destinations that you might want to consider…

The Canary Islands

Even in the early part of the year, temperatures in the Canary Islands hover around the 20°C mark. Although some tourist attractions and hotels may be closed during the off-peak season, this quieter period is great for exploring the spectacular scenery and landscapes on offer.

Alternatively, put your feet up and relax on one of the many beautiful beaches – Tenerife and Gran Canaria still enjoy around six hours of sun a day in the early part of the year.

Sri Lanka

A country packed with opportunities and an abundance of sun in January, Sri Lanka can provide a relaxing beach getaway, an exciting safari experience or a mixture of both.

Having a hire car provides the flexibility to explore locations such as Galle Fort or Yala National Park, while the beaches and clear waters near Hikkaduwa are ideal for snorkelling and catching a glimpse of giant turtles.

Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka 

Dubai

Temperatures are low when compared to the highs seen in the summer months, but even in January, you can expect anything between 20°C and 30°C.

The beaches are the obvious draw, but Dubai is also renowned for its shopping and adventure experiences, with dune surfing and sandboarding incredibly popular options.

Phuket

Having entered into the dry season at the start of the year, Phuket virtually guarantees sunshine in January to accompany warm temperatures.

Karon and Patang are popular resorts and offer exceptional beaches, while sea activities including diving, snorkelling, kitesurfing and sea kayaking can both enthral and excite.

Phuket in Thailand

India

The Indian region of Kerala enjoys temperatures of around 28°C in January and with numerous beaches, it’s an ideal spot to relax.

Alternatively, explore Goa in the early part of 2019 and discover an array of historic sites and temples to go with the beaches, It might be the coldest month of the year, but temperatures are still around the 25°C mark.

Costa Rica

With its golden beaches and glorious sunshine, the Central American nation of Costa Rica has plenty to entice visitors.

The Pacific beaches will be incredibly warm but expect accommodation to be in demand.

Beach in Costa Rica

If you are planning a last minute escape in the early part of 2019, make sure you have adequate travel insurance before you go.  If you’re planning to be adventurous and to partake in extreme sports or other activities, you may also want to question if you need any additional cover. Our online travel insurance tool will allow you to compare quotes from our trusted providers. 

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. 

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.

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.