Thinking of staying away over Christmas? Make sure you read this…

Gone are the days when the idea of spending Christmas away from home was anathema. An AA study from last year showed that an enormous 14 million journeys of at least 20 miles were made on Friday 18th December 2015, as drivers head home, or away, for the festive period, and we can expect the same to happen this year.

There are many reasons why taking a few days away can make the holiday season even more magical. For starters, your celebrations could last longer if you go away, you’ll probably buy fewer gifts and no one feels the pressure of hosting. We’ve got your attention now, haven’t we?

But before you pack your bags, there are a few things you may need to consider. We’ve done some of the hard work for you, so you can book that festive holiday rental knowing that no bauble has been left unturned. Read on and let us take care of it for you…

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First things first: figure out who you’re inviting

This is potentially the most difficult decision when you’re planning your Christmas away (or at least the one littered with the most potential pitfalls). According to Graham Donoghue, CEO at Sykes Cottages, it’s the most important one you’ll make. "The first thing you need to think about is who you want to take with you and what implications this has," he tells comparethemarket.com “Do you need a ground-floor bedroom for elderly grandparents or a property with an enclosed garden for dogs? Another important consideration is the distance you’re all happy to travel. If you have guests travelling from elsewhere in the country, you’d need to find a happy medium.”

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Speaking of distance, figure out how you’re getting there…

This year might be trickier than usual: Network Rail has already indicated that 200 improvement projects are likely to disrupt travel plans for thousands of commuters over the festive period. It’s a good idea to check travel routes before you decide where you’re going. And if you avoid a train travel nightmare by planning ahead, you might also save some money.

“To make the biggest savings on Christmas train travel, the earlier you book, the better,” John Davies, Retail Director at Trainline, tells comparethemarket.com “Our data shows that savings can be made by booking in advance, is a no-brainer! For those looking to get beat the crowds, the 16th, 17th, 22nd and 23rd December are set to be the busiest days, so avoid travelling on these dates where possible or opt for off-peak trains.”

And you could stand to save even more money by splitting your journey – or buying different tickets for different stretches of your journey – according to figures from Raileasy's split ticketing solution, trainsplit.com. People booking trains over the Christmas period could stand to save a lot of money by splitting the journey.

But if you’re travelling with a car full of presents this year, be careful– they might not be covered by your insurance. “Christmas gifts could be covered up to the limit of the personal effects cover on your car insurance,” explains Daniel Bass, our head of Car Insurance. “This is often somewhere between £100 to £300. But be sure to check your T&Cs as not all insurance providers cover this.”

Duly noted.

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Then you’ll need some details about the house

It’s easy to get over-excited when you’re looking at properties, but it’s vital you consider the practicalities of where you’re staying. “Lots of people forget to check the size of the oven when they’re booking a Christmas rental, which could be disastrous especially if you’re planning a huge traditional roast lunch," explains Graham Donoghue. “Other things to check with the owners or letting agent include the distance to the shops, whether or not your pets are welcome, the size of the dining table, what cooking equipment they have and the size of the fridge. If you’ve got elderly relatives staying, is there easy access for them? Are the local shops open over Christmas for a last-minute sprout run? If any of these aren’t quite right, it could ruin your day.”

You’ll be surprised at what might be included…

“One of the joys of renting over Christmas is that a lot of our cottages come already decorated, meaning extra car space for all those pressies,” adds Graham. “Some may even throw in a Christmas pudding and a mince pie for good measure." Just be sure to check this one as you don’t want to be disappointed!

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But don’t forget about what’s going on back at home

“There are a few things to consider if you’re leaving your home unoccupied over winter,” Gemma Schwarz, our head of Home Insurance, explains. “Make sure you keep heating at a minimum to avoid burst pipes and bear in mind the increased risk of theft if your home looks empty.

What about deposits? Will I be delayed getting my money back because of the bank holidays over Christmas?

According to Saskia Welman of TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. “There’s no difference in terms of how you book or how your deposit is handled – but homes are in high demand for the Christmas period, so it’s good to get your favourite 

holiday home booked as soon as possible." Check with your holiday-rental company – it’s not a great time of the year to be stung financially.

And be careful with those presents!

“Be aware that gifts taken out of your home might not be covered by your insurance” explains Gemma Schwarz. “Your insurance may include personal possessions cover which is typically defined as items kept on your person but also your laptop and other electricals, should they be portable. Unfortunately, that £230 toy village would not be covered under the definition in the majority of cases! If an item is deemed high-risk, such as jewellery, and valued over a set amount – say, £1,000 – you would need to specify this individually on the policy and make sure it’s not just flagged as covered in your home but outside the home, too.’

So if you want some extra peace of mind this festive season, start by checking you’re getting the right cover at the right price from your insurance right here.

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