Monday, 14 October 2013

Warning - When is a package holiday not a package?

I have recently booked "holiday packages" using companies such as Low cost holidays and Travel Republic

In the opening pages of the websites you have an option to book a package of flight and hotel and later add in airport transfers, insurance car hire and more.

The company put the deal together for you, total it all up and you pay a single price to them.  Sounds like a package deal doesn't it?  Well that is where the similarity ends especially if you have any problems later on.

Here is an example of how we found out otherwise.

Within 2 weeks of departure we heard that the hotel had been overbooked and was no longer available.

The options offered were to change to another hotel or to cancel.

Alternative hotels offered were nowhere near as good as the one booked (mainly because prices had gone up a lot since the booking was made and the hotels being offered were price based.).

It turns out the cancellation and full refund offered is only for the hotel.  The budget flights, airport transfers and other extras each have their own cancellation charges which within 2 weeks of travel are often 100%.

So bearing in mind this leaves you losing out whichever way you decide to go are there any advantages of booking this kind of package?

Seems to me that you might as well either:-
Book all the components individually with whoever offers the cheapest price on each one
Or pay a premium price and book a complete package with a company such as Thomas Cook or Thomson


Saturday, 12 October 2013

If you only visit one stately home in England I suggest this one ...

We recently visited Chatsworth House near Chesterfield in Derbyshire.  As members of National Trust we thought we had seen some really good examples but this trumped the lot.

The building itself is magnificent from the outside but the interior just blows you away.  There are more rooms on show than in any other property and each one seems to have something that makes you go "wow".

Admission is quite steep at £16 per adult for house and garden but I still feel it is money well spent.



You walk around the house in your own time and within each room there are written guides (in many languages) and also someone who you can ask direct questions of.

In the chapel the Damien Hirst sculpture was a bit gruesome showing Saint Bartholomew skinning himself alive.

Many rooms have magnificent painted ceilings and the owners have added a sculpture room and modern art area.

After working your way through the house you end up in the gardens where there are a number of cafes.  We found the meal deal at £8 was enough for us to share.  A choice of sandwich, salad or freshly made pasty, any drink plus a slice of home baked cake.

You could spend a whole day in the gardens just wandering around.  There are many different sections designed at different stages and all around you keep coming across sculptures.  Luckily when we visited there were additional ones as an exhibition.

I won't spoil it by telling you too much but highly recommend a visit and maybe the following photos will inspire you.






















Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Special offers on great little breaks

It's nice to treat yourself once in a while especially if you can do so without breaking the bank.

Great Little Breaks website have fantastic deals often for 1 or 2 night breaks with loads of extras thrown in free.

I have just booked a 1 night stay in Liverpool in a 4 star Georgian Mansion for £79.  The accommodation is worth £85 then included is a champagne afternoon tea for 2, late checkout worth £30, full English breakfast for 2 (normally £14.95pp) and use of leisure facilities.  £100 worth of extras and yes the total cost for 2 is just £79.

You can select your break by deals, type of break (romantic, heritage etc), or location.

Needless to say I double dipped and found that Great Little Breaks were on Top Cash Back offering me a further 5.25% as cash back.

There's more - book 3 breaks with them and they will give you £30 off your next break.

Why not check this out and indulge yourself ?


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Getting the best deal at the cheaper "chain" restaurants in Britain

It seems that the "everyday" type of chain restaurants are booming in Britain and more and more are being opened.

If you are looking for a good deal on food then it is worth bringing up the websites and searching for a branch near where you want to eat. 

Wetherspoons is a good start with special deals on many days (they often including drinks).  We particularly like their curry nights.  Most of them are in beautifully renovated old buildings. At the moment you can fill in a pub survey after a meal and get a free coffee next visit.

Yates are very similar and if you sign up on line you often get vouchers.   

We recently ate at Brewers and before we visited checked out vouchers on line and found one to get up to 6 people a free ice cream sundae.  If you sign up to the Brewsters Fayre bonus club you also get points and money towards future meals.  A regular deal is 2 main meals for £10 and 2 desserts for £2

Probably a little more expensive Harvester are a similar style and if you do their pub survey you can get a free bottle of wine with your next regular priced evening meal.  Unlimited salad bar with any main meal. 

We particularly like the "Golden Years" menu's at Eating Inn .  A regular menu deal is 2 meals for £9.99 and on their website you can often find vouchers for free ice cream under the offers section. 

Toby Carvery (think they used to be Toby Grill) have made a bit of a comeback.  Sign up for a newsletter to get free ice creams.

Another chain that do carvery style as well as a regular menu is Crown Carveries with 15% discount voucher through the website. In the week the carvery can be priced as low as £3.99

The Great British Carvery is another good chain with Diamond Club membership discounts for the over 50's.

Finally Fayre Square have all sorts of offers, 2 meals for £10, Curry & Drink £5.99 and more.  Join their Email club for £5 discount voucher. 

Whichever chain you try it is always worth doing an online search for current voucher codes and discounts and also signing up for either their newsletter or joining their club.  

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Keeping track of things when someone has a long term medical condition.

Steve was taken ill in Spain in December 2011.  I quickly realised I needed to keep a record of his treatment etc to pass on to the Doctors when he was well enough to return and continue treatment in England.

I managed to come up with a system that seems to work rather well using an A5 spiral note book with 4 separate sections.

Inside the front cover I have written Steve's National Health and Hospital Numbers

In the section called TREATMENT I note the date of hospital / Doctors visits, the person we have seen and the treatment or advice given.  I also make a note of any future appointments given so I can transfer them to my phone and diary later.  Within this section I note the date and details of any side effects or other relevant things that happen between treatments.

The QUESTIONS section is pretty much self explanatory, whenever we come up with a question we  jot it down here and often write the answer there to refer back to.  At the back of this section I set up my own mini dictionary with the English/Spanish translations of medical phrases etc.

MEDICATION takes up a large section.  Each time the medication is changed I note it here.  If there is a lot of medication I use a whole page and start with the date at the top and then list it all by the times of day, type of medication and dosage due (I even do a total of how many tablets there should be each time).  When only a small amount of medication is needed I rule across a page and just date each section.

PHONE NUMBERS - At the front of this section I have all the phone contact numbers of family and friends that Steve may need whilst in hospital.  At the back there are all the hospital, clinic and Doctors numbers that we might need.  

Without a doubt this book has been an invaluable point of reference and I would highly recommend something like it to all patients at the onset of cancer or other long term illness.  

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Warning - the importance of declaring pre existing medical conditions when buying travel insurance.

Holiday insurance is an interesting subject and as we get older we find we worry more whereas we know many younger travellers who just wing it figuring the insurance companies always find ways not to pay anyway.  Just maybe they are right.

Talking to a Doctor recently he mentioned how companies are trying to wriggle out of making payments and this is the gist of the conversation.

Doctor arrived in work on Friday to find a letter from a travel insurance company wanting a full medical history on one of his patients who had been rushed to hospital abroad after a heart attack.

Although the Doctor was concerned for his patient it would be Monday before he had time to complete the large questionnaire so already his patient was going to be in hospital abroad for at least 3 nights over the weekend clocking up a bill.

The patient had never had any heart or heart related problems in his life but the insurers also  asked numerous questions about non related illnesses.  One question was about whether the patient had ever had an ear infection.  There is no connection between ear infections and heart attacks however the patient had not declared an ear infection on his pre existing medical conditions and of he had this would have meant a very tiny increase in premium.

Now this is exactly what the insurance company were hoping to find.  As the correct premium had not been paid the patient was under insured giving the company a valid reason for not paying out on the heart problem or at best only paying out a percentage of the bill.

Please read this as a warning so that you declare absolutely every little thing you can as a pre-existing condition.  In reality most don't affect the premium at all but could affect any payout whatever you were claiming for.

Guessing it will only be a matter of time before you loose your luggage and miss out on a payout because you live in an area at home where you were vulnerable to burglary or maybe you miss a flight but can't claim because the insurance company learn you once missed a bus as a child!   Take heed.  

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Even more ways to double dip for extra cash back

Using my favoured cash back operator Top Cash Back I was searching the travel tab and clicked on days out tickets.

There are many discount tickets on offer and travel deals but the thing that amazed me most was the offer of discount on websites that already discount tickets etc.

Amongst others , Mighty Deals Groupon and Wowcher are shown with an extra discount of up to 7.07% on top of their already fantastic deals.  KGB Deals offer 5.25% cash back.

The bar at the top of the Top Cash Back page is worth using in all sections as you will be amazed just how many companies offer extra discount.  I now make Top Cash Back one of my opening pages to remind me to check through there every time I buy or book something as I have been amazed by the companies offered on it.  

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Double dipping for extra discounts

I previously mentioned about booking things by using TOP CASH BACK to get money back.

Today I took this one step further when wanting to book a hotel in Scarborough for the weekend.  I first checked out the best price on the hotel and established an exterior double room with breakfast was £29.

Next I went onto Top Cash Back, keyed in hotels to the search and then listed them with the highest % discount first.

Expedia have a special deal on offering over 10% discount so I linked into their website and sure enough the hotel was on offer with the exact same room at £29.  A bonus is that they have free cancellation.  The cash back figure on this transaction amounted to £3.51 so that makes my room only £25.49 and that's the price for the 2 of us including breakfast and evening entertainment.

As if that wasn't enough there is an added bonus in that Expedia are linked in to my Nectar card which also qualifies me for 200 Nectar points.

You can also do yourself a favour by promoting Top Cash Back if you like it and if someone joins via your link you get £10 so please feel free to click on the links and do us both a favour!