What I learnt on holiday

17 March 2014

I recently enjoyed a week’s holiday in Tenerife with some friends and was able to flex my personal finance skills – twice.

While our week away turned out to be a surprisingly sun-soaked affair, it didn’t all go smoothly. I got sick. Nothing too terrible but I needed to visit a doctor. My husband Googled English-speaking doctors in the area – using the villa’s WiFi instead of using eye-wateringly expensive data roaming on his phone, of course – and soon enough I had an appointment.

On arriving at the surgery, I was quickly reminded that, unlike in the UK, where we have free access to healthcare, things were not so in Spain. I was asked for my passport and whether I had travel insurance. I’ve never been so happy to have taken out cover.

The receptionist told me my insurance would entitle me to a reduced rate to see the doctor and because she recognised my specific policy, she’d be able to offer me a further discount. So instead of paying €120 for an emergency appointment, I only had to pay €45. My travel insurance covers both me and my husband for a year and cost £30 – so it’s already paid for itself.

The second time my personal finance training came in handy was when a few unwelcome locals turned up. We were staying in a villa in the hills overlooking Costa Adeje. The location gave us a great view of the coastline but unfortunately it was accompanied by a far less appealing scene – a building site!

A new house was going up in the plot right next to our villa. It was so close that the builders unloading their materials from their crane would call out ‘Ola’ to us from over the wall when we were sunbathing in the garden.

We later discovered the work had been going on for months, but the owner hadn’t mentioned it when we were booking. The sole purpose of our holiday may have been to sunbathe but we weren’t going to take this lying down. As a financial journalist, I’m all too aware that holidaymakers who experience problems but only report them when they get home often fail to get any compensation.

So we took photos and videos and emailed them straight to the company we had booked the villa through. At first we were reluctantly offered a crate of lager or case of wine by way of an apology. But that wasn’t good enough, we wanted some money back. In the end, £300 was returned to us.

So my trip reinforced two golden rules of personal finance. Never travel without insurance and if you have a problem with your holiday, don’t wait until you get home to sort it out.