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Holiday price hikes, car insurance and inheritance tax

The pound has been in the doldrums this week, and is trading near a one-month low today. Traders are betting on further monetary easing from the Bank of England. According to The Guardian, sterling has fallen nearly 3 per cent since the Bank unveiled a bigger-than-expected stimulus package last week and dropped to $1.2952 this morning, after hitting a one-month low of $1.2936 yesterday.

Discount Holidays © Holiday costs

Holidaymakers have been warned that the cost of their summer breaks will rise next year because of the recent fall in the pound, the Daily Mail reports. Travel giant Tui, which owns Thomson and First Choice, warned British holidaymakers that because a number of its reservations are made a year in advance and paid for in euros by the operator, this would have an impact on this year.

While the tour operator said 60 per cent of the holidays it sells in the UK are packages paid for in pounds, it secures its hotels and airlines with euros and since the referendum the value of sterling against the euro has fallen 9 per cent.

Motor insurance

New research from the Co-op Insurance has found that 6.8 million drivers wouldn t buy car insurance if it wasn t a legal requirement. One in five of drivers are unsure if they would buy car insurance, with just three fifths saying they would definitely buy it, even if they weren t legally obliged to do so. This may not be a surprise as the research has also revealed that motor insurance is a grudge purchase for over two fifths of UK drivers.

This despite the fact that one in eight drivers claim on their motor insurance every year, according to Co-op claims data, with the average claim costing around 3,000.

Mortgages

The number of mortgages in arrears continued to fall in the second quarter of this year, and is now at its lowest level since records began more than 20 years ago. Data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show that at the end of June there were 92,500 mortgages in arrears of at least 2.5 per cent of the balance (0.84 per cent of the total), down from 95,900 at the end of March. The number of mortgages in arrears was 13.4 per cent lower than a year ago, when the total stood at 106,800, and is now at its lowest level since the run of figures began in 1994.

Inheritance tax

The Duke of Westminster s death has led to calls from tax campaigners to reform the system of trusts which has allowed Britain s wealthiest families to preserve fortunes through generations by avoiding death duties, according to The Guardian. The 7th Duke of Westminster, 25-year-old Hugh Grosvenor, is now the heir to a legacy worth more than 9 billion. Thanks to a series of trusts, which are thought to date to the death of the 2nd Duke in 1953, Hugh and his three sisters will avoid having to pay the 40 per cent levy ordinary families are faced with when parents die.

For people who are really wealthy, inheritance tax has become an optional choice, said John Christensen, director of the Tax Justice Network. If you are lucky to be born into a very wealthy family you will be untaxed.

For most normal people this is extraordinary and unacceptable.

Repossessions

Nearly 23,000 private renting households in England have been evicted by bailiffs in the last twelve months. This is equivalent to 56,480 people and is 88 per cent higher than the number five years ago. The loss of a private tenancy remains the single biggest cause of homelessness in the country These figures have been released just days after Shelter revealed that one in three working families wouldn t be able to afford their home for more than a month if they lost their job. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: These figures demonstrate the terrible impact of crippling welfare cuts and a chronic lack of affordable homes on thousands of renters across England.

Renting privately is increasingly the only option available for many families, but high rents, a lack of stability and a wave of welfare cuts mean that every day at Shelter we hear from families desperately struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads.

Finally

UK users of the hugely popular Pok monGo have already purchased an average of 40 worth of credit in attempts to enhance their levels on the game. And more than half of participants admitted they would spend up to 150 on rare Pok mon like Mewtwo, Dragonite and Moltres if given the chance.

Lottoland.co.uk polled a total of 2,049 UK adults aged 18 and over during the study, all of whom admitted to researchers that they were users of Pok monGo.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication.

Get more Spectator for less just 12 for 12 issues1.

References

  1. ^ just 12 for 12 issues (spectator.co.uk)

Worrying trends revealed in travel health insurance survey

More than one in 5 (22%) UK holidaymakers have needed to seek medical treatment whilst abroad, new research from Gocompare.com travel insurance has found. However, a worryingly similar number (23%) don t always make sure they have travel insurance for their holiday. In the study of more than 1400 UK adults, less than half (49%) of those who needed treatment agreed that they received good quality care and 14% said they couldn t get any treatment until they could prove they had travel insurance with medical cover.

7% of respondents said that they received an unexpectedly high medical bill following their treatment. Nearly a quarter (23%) of the holidaymakers who needed treatment in Europe said that they didn t have to pay anything for their medical care as it was covered by their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC); 70% believe the EHIC entitles them to free emergency medical care anywhere in Europe. In fact the benefits provided by the EHIC vary from country to country across Europe.

In research carried out before the EU referendum, 23% of UK holidaymakers felt worried that a Brexit would mean they would lose valuable medical protection provided by EHIC. The EHIC is an initiative of the European Economic Area (EEA) rather than the European Union (EU) so whether or not UK citizens will keep this reciprocal benefit depends on how deep the Brexit goes. Regardless, nothing will change until the Article 50 negotiations to separate the UK from the EU are concluded, which could be two years or more. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the EEA but not the EU and all three accept the EHIC so the UK could possibly take this approach. Switzerland is neither a member of the EU or the EEA but still accepts the EHIC as part of the single market. Also, the UK already has reciprocal deals with a number of countries1, including Australia, Israel and Russia, under which visitors can receive free urgent treatment. So even if it was no longer part of the EHIC initiative, it might agree similar deals with EU countries. Alex Edwards, travel insurance2 spokesperson at Gocompare.com, commented: One of the main reasons why holidaymakers arrange travel insurance is for the medical expenses cover. Having an accident or falling seriously ill abroad can quickly lead to a substantial medical bill if you don t have insurance, especially in developed countries where medical costs can be extremely high.

Those people who think It ll never happen to me may be surprised to learn that more than 1 in 5 UK holidaymakers have needed to get medical treatment abroad so really it can happen to anyone. It s one thing to receive a big bill after your treatment, but what s more frightening is the prospect of having emergency treatment delayed or refused until you, or your family, can prove how it s going to be paid for, something 14% of our survey respondents experienced. We re very accustomed in the UK to receiving our emergency medical care whenever we need it and without question. But in some places, if you can t prove you have the means to cover the bill, you may not receive the care you need or your treatment may be delayed. It s great to see that many savvy Brits have used their EHIC to get emergency free medical treatment in Europe. However, there s still considerable confusion about the benefit it actually provides and a now a question mark over its future following Brexit. Holidaymakers should view it as complementing the medical cover provided by a decent travel insurance policy rather than as an alternative to it.

References

  1. ^ reciprocal deals with a number of countries (www.legislation.gov.uk)
  2. ^ travel insurance (gocompare.com)

Holiday Inn Rosslyn: Family-Friendly Hotel Near Washington, DC

<b><i>Discount Holidays ©</i></b> Holiday Inn Rosslyn: Family-Friendly Hotel Near Washington, DCOur full coverage of Washington, D.C. will be coming in a few months (although you can read a lot of our opinions in the Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C.1). In the meantime, I thought I should answer one of the common questions about D.C.: are there any reasonably-priced hotels that won t require inoculations?

As you ve probably guessed by the existence of this post, the answer is yes. I have stayed at the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge (full name) twice in the past few months, and have come away with quite a few thoughts. One of which is that this would be a great choice for families, but only if you get it at the right price.

Location

The location of this hotel is definitely a strength. Yes, it is not technically in Washington, nor is it technically in the same state as Washington. It is, however, as close as you can get to the tourist areas of D.C. without being in them and paying the high cost of hotels in those areas. Briefly, the major tourist areas of Washington, D.C.

are clustered around the 2 miles or so directly east of the Potomac River where the National Mall is. One of the Metro (subway)2 lines that runs through this section and the one that is the most convenient is the Orange, Blue, Silver line, which are all the same line in this section. As the Orange, Blue, Silver trains leave D.C. their first stop is the Rosslyn station, which is a mere 2 blocks from the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn. This is a long-winded way of saying that you can be in the heart of the city with a mere 5 minute walk and 10 minute subway ride.

That s not bad for interstate travel.

The neighborhood is also pretty good and very safe. Directly around the hotel is mostly offices, meaning it can be a little busy during work hours and very quiet on weekends. There aren t any fantastic dining options, but a few blocks away is a cluster of restaurants, a Safeway grocery store, and a Target. During workdays there is a line up of food trucks near the subway station.

Rooms

This one has to come with a caveat because neither time did I stay in a regular room. Both trips one by choice, one by upgrade I was in a 2-room suite which consisted of 1 bedroom, a living room, and 1 bathroom (with a second sink outside the door). The size of these particular rooms was a huge plus, especially when I was there with my family. If you are looking at a regular room, however, the size of the suite is not important to you. The suite also has two balconies compared to one for a regular room.

The downside of the rooms is something that will carry over into the standard-sized rooms as well: wear and tear. The rooms were clean and the bedding was above-average in quality and well maintained, and those are the most important things to me. Everything else seemed to be substandard, though. To be specific, the carpet was worn and contained fraying seams and holes; the walls had occasional nicks and holes; the drawers were loaded with strange dust and barely opened; and the thermostat may have been invented by Albert Butz directly (the inventor of the electric thermostat according to the most minor of research). The bathroom was also pretty rough including a strange half-size frosted glass sliding door and, in one room, a sink with a small hole in it where something was clearly dropped on the porcelain. None of these things are what I would consider dealbreakers, but it doesn t make me exactly excited about staying again.

Another part of the room that I found to be a minor annoyance is the layout. The bedroom itself was small, but with the suite that wasn t a problem and, from what I saw, is not a problem in the standard rooms. The living room area, though, was strange. There was a small table positioned in front of the balcony doors, which had to be moved over to use the balcony. There was a desk right next to the bedroom door, which meant that the large desk chair blocked half of the door. I appreciated the abundance of seating (there was also a couch and a comfy chair), but it seemed too much for the layout. The coffee maker was also stashed under one of the sinks which is just a weird spot and it took me a full day to find it.

Amenities

Back to positivity! There were quite a few amenities, especially for a hotel in this price range (more on that below) and some that aren t even supplied in the most expensive places. Let s start with parking, which can add $60 or more per day to your stay depending on the hotel. Not here. The Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn in Rosslyn not only offers onsite, covered self parking, it is absolutely, 100% free.

Another thing that isn t always common in a D.C. hotel is a pool. When you do find one they tend to be outside great during the humid summer, less great in February. This hotel actually has an indoor pool, which is one of the things that makes this great for families. I don t know about you, but we always have to ask the kids what was your favorite thing today not counting the pool. Yes, the pool has approximately 400% of your daily recommended value of chlorine, but once your eyes stop burning you ll have a good time. Finally is dining.

I will admit that I never ate at the top-floor, glass-walled restaurant that surely has wonderful views across the river. I spoke to several people who ate the popular buffet breakfast there and the consensus seemed to be meh. To a person, they each said it was good, but nothing special. What I did use (just about every day) is the in-house coffee shop. This is a conference hotel, and on the conference level they have a nice little shop that sells some baked goods, limited breakfast sandwiches, drinks, and the bitter nectar of awareness: coffee. There is also a small fitness center if you are so inclined. I am usually not.

<b><i>Discount Holidays ©</i></b> Holiday Inn Rosslyn: Family-Friendly Hotel Near Washington, DC

View from the bedroom balcony

Crowds

Crowds are a strange topic to bring up when discussing hotels, but it seems relevant at this particular hotel. It is a business/convention hotel, which means that there are often a lot of people wearing nametags walking around. I didn t feel like they were intrusive in any way other than occasionally filling up an elevator. Who were much more intrusive were the many busloads of school groups. On my first stay at the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn in April, there were at least 6 large groups of high school and college age students and they were routinely in the lobby, the pool, and pretty much all over the place.

That is not to say that they were behaving badly, just that they were a constant and made for a much busier feeling hotel. On my second stay in June after school was out I saw exactly zero groups. Again, not necessarily a dealbreaker, but something to keep in mind.

<b><i>Discount Holidays ©</i></b> Holiday Inn Rosslyn: Family-Friendly Hotel Near Washington, DC

View from the living room balcony

Cost

Now we come to it, what is often the most important aspect. Again, this is a positive check for this Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn. I checked the rate for a Friday and Saturday night in August, specifically August 12-14, 2016. For a flexible, cancel-able rate you would pay $130.23 per night including tax and fees for a standard, 2 double bed room. If you are willing to pay in full in advance, you can get that rate down to $115.07.

To compare it to the rate for the suite I had to go further into the future to the weekend of January 27-29, 2017, where the rates are surprisingly higher (possibly owing to that indoor pool). For that weekend the flexible rate for a standard room is $169.86 and the advance purchase rate is $150.09. Compare that to a suite, where the flexible rate is $203.84 and the advance purchase rate is $180.10. For about 20% more you can get 100% more space. I would highly recommend that upgrade if you can manage it. In general, the rates at this hotel tend to be a little below average for Washington, D.C. hotels we ve looked at.

For that generally reasonable price, however, you get free parking and an indoor pool. It s a very good value. So, will I stay here again?

It depends: I didn t love it, but if I got the right price (probably $130 or under) I would book it, especially if I wanted a reasonably priced suite and an indoor pool.

References

  1. ^ Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. (www.amazon.com)
  2. ^ Metro (subway) (blog.touringplans.com)

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