On the road…
Chances are you’ll be packing up the car and heading off on a lengthy trip at some point in the summer, whether it’s a day-trip to the seaside or a full-blown staycation.
Maybe you’ll venture across the Channel for the Euros, or just to head deep into France for your annual break.
Whatever the reason for the road trip, run through this checklist before you set off.
Tyres, fluids and lights
Spend a little quality time with your car and make sure you:
- have a decent amount of tread (at least 1.6mm by law) on your tyres. Slot a 20p into the tread channel – if the raised rim-edge of the coin is visible above the rubber, it’s time to invest in new tyres
- inflate your tyres properly before any long journey (you should check them every couple of weeks anyway)
- check that all your car’s lights are working
- top-up all your fluid reservoirs, including oil, brake fluid, coolant and windscreen wash.
Most garages will be happy to do a ‘summer service’, checking your air filters and engine fan as well as general roadworthiness.
This can save you a right headache if something goes wrong with your car as it means you won’t be stranded far from home. This short video explains the different types of breakdown cover.
Comparing a policy with us takes just minutes and it’s possible to get cover for less than £50 for the year. If you’re going across the Channel, make sure you have European cover
If you’re going on a long journey, stock up with drinking water and food – buying bottled drinks and sandwiches for family or friends at a motorway service station could easily leave you north of £20 poorer.
Heading to Europe?
Your current motor insurance policy will cover you for driving in the EU, but unless you tell your insurer you want an upgrade, it will most likely only provide the lowest level of cover – that’s third party.
This only covers you for the cost of damage to other people and their property, so you might want to speak to your insurer about extending your fully comp cover for Europe.
This will involve paying additional premium, but it’s well worth it for the extra protection and added peace of mind.
Road deaths are higher in France than the UK, and the law has responded with much stricter rules than we’re used to. For example, you must carry a breath test kit and warning triangle. Kevin has more in his exhaustive two-part guide to driving on the Continent.
France is in the midst of uncompromising industrial action, including blockades at oil refineries and distribution centres that have left many petrol stations completely dry, and others with lengthy queues.
Best to fill your tank before you leave the UK and keep a close eye on the fuel gauge.
Don’t be tempted to load your car with jerry-cans full of spare fuel – there are per-car limits on Eurotunnel (30 litres) and on cross-Channel ferries (usually 5 litres). And you’ll fall foul of French law if you have over 10 litres of spare fuel in your vehicle.
Always use a bona-fide jerry-can (look for ‘ADR approved’, or similar), and don’t put petrol in old milk containers or other unsuitable vessels.
One tactic might be to top up your tank at every opportunity when you’re driving through France, even if it’s still three-quarters full. And once you get to your destination, avoid fuel-burning day-trips until you’re confident there is a reliable local supply that’s going to get you home again.
In the home…
Getting out into the garden in the sun is lovely, but opening up your doors and windows to the sunshine also makes you a bit more of a target for opportunist thieves.
To add insult to injury, your home insurance most likely wouldn’t cover you if a burglar gained access through an already-open window or door and stole from you because you failed to take ‘reasonable care’ of your property.
It’s best to close and lock any doors and windows you can’t see directly from wherever you’re enjoying the sun.
If the warmer nights have you uncomfortable, open your windows to their secondary locking point which will still allow air in through a small gap. You could also consider investing in a good floor fan and making sure you’re on the cheapest electricity over on our energy channel.
Burglars know that more homes are empty in the summer as people go on holiday, so it’s important to think about security before you leave your house vacant.
It goes without saying that you should check that all of your home’s points of entry are locked, and that there’s nothing in your gardens that could be used to break in – tools, ladders or otherwise.
Timers on your lights can give the impression you’re still home, or you could offer your neighbours use of your drive if you’re taking your car away.
Get a friend or family to check in on the place if you’re going away for a week or more and ask them to pick up the post from the doormat or remove flyers and leaftlets from your letterbox – a dead giveaway that the house is empty.
Be social media savvy…
Don’t broadcast your absence by posting details of where and when you’re on holiday on social websites.
Either give yourself a break from messaging, or ramp up your security so casual surfers can’t see that you’re on a beach in Marbella.
If you’re going away and leaving older teenage children in the home, ask them not to have a party. They probably will anyway, so INSIST that they’d don’t inadvertently advertise the event to strangers via Snapchat or the like.
Every summer brings a crop of stories about parents who return home from holiday to find their property trashed and/or stolen by people who gatecrashed a party at their house.
You don’t want that – or the strife with trying to claim back the cost of the damage on your home insurance.
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