Take the Car to the Continent

Got a few days off? Drive to Europe tomorrow

More than half of travellers decide what to do with their holiday at the last minute. And a recent AA/Populus survey of AA Members shows that 54 per cent of the more than 16,000 who responded say that the economic situation has led them to think twice about their holiday spending.*

In fact, a quarter (25 per cent) of those interviewed said that instead of taking a trip by air they plan to hop over the Channel with their car.

Driving in Europe can be a real pleasure especially when you get off the motorways. Country roads in France for example are quiet, well maintained and well signposted, with delightful towns and villages along the way to explore. But there are a few things to think about before you set off.

First of all, what about your car insurance? If your comprehensive car insurance policy is with the AA then you need not worry – just go, no need to tell us, you're still covered.** But not all insurers are the same.

Many well-known brands either don't offer comprehensive insurance when you are outside the UK or charge extra for it. A recent reader letter to a national newspaper complained that their household-name insurer wouldn't meet the total loss of their car during the devastating floods in the south of France earlier this year – but they hadn't checked to see whether they were covered. However, all insurers must provide the minimum legal requirement in EC countries, which is usually third party only. This is absolutely no good for damage to or loss of your car when it's no-one's fault – or your own fault.

It's important to sort out your travel insurance too. Even if you've left it to the last minute, you can arrange AA Travel Insurance by mobile phone while you're queuing for the ferry. The cover really is that instant, but you will get a discount if you do it online before you go.

AA Travel Insurance currently offers 'kids go free' with single trip policies.† This helps to keep the cost down at a time when many budgets are stretched. Good cover such as that from the AA really does give you peace of mind.

If the worst happens – to your belongings or to your health – AA Travel Insurance ensures you get the best medical advice and treatment, and if necessary brings you and your family home. It even incorporates financial failure cover in the event that the provider of any element of the holiday you booked individually (such as hotel company, ferry company, car hire company or airline) goes bust – you have that stop-gap if all else fails.

May be you should think about the health of your car as well. You might have had the car serviced just before you go and the chances are it will perform reliably. But what if it does break down?

AA European Breakdown Cover – which has a call centre in Lyons – will arrange to sort your car out in the event of a break down. But if they can't, a hire car or other arrangements will be put in place to ensure you're soon back on your way. You car will even be repatriated if necessary.

Now talking about saving money, here is a really brilliant way to manage your spending while in Europe – the new AA Euro Travel Currency Card.

The way it works is simple. Taking out the card costs only £9.95 but that's refunded as soon as you load up your first £100-worth of euros. After it's loaded the card is free to use for purchases, and there is no ATM fee on withdrawals of £50 or more, or the euro equivalent. You can check the remaining balance on your card at an ATM or by text message, and you can load the card by text message or online too – all free of charge (although the message is charged at your provider's standard rate).††

But best of all, just like the AA Credit Card, you earn points on your spending. And AA Members earn points at twice the rate of non-members. You get double points for motoring purchases including fuel – even fuel bought at supermarket filling stations. You can redeem your points for a whole range of goodies or for cash, or you can transfer your points later to your AA Credit Card balance.

So what are you waiting for?

* AA/Populus survey of 16,097 AA Members conducted on 16–21 June 2010.
** AA Car Insurance covers you for up to 90 days in most European countries.
† Children aged 0-17 are insured free of charge on single trip travel insurance policies bought online when travelling with an insured parent or guardian living at the same address.
†† You'll need to apply for your card at least 10 days before you travel, allowing enough time for you to receive, activate and load your card.