Car Insurance Renewal Myths Busted

I think we can all agree that there is nothing exciting or interesting about car insurance, right? Its a legal requirement, and considered by most to be a hassle or a chore, and what’s worse is that a number of people feel like they have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to it, which can really cause problems further down the line.

So while this might not be the most exciting topic to be blogging about, I thought I’d share some advice and information from my experience of working in the car insurance industry. I’m not sharing any industry secrets or naming/shaming any particular companies, I’m just hoping to clear up some of the myths or beliefs, and hopefully help a few people out! Here goes..

I’ve had another claim free year, why has my insurance gone up?

Its a common belief that every year you go without making a claim earns you a drop in your renewal price, and while this may often be the case, there are a number of factors that could mean you see an increase. This year especially, there have been a number of changes in industry factors that have been totally out of the companies control, namely the increase in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) and changes in legislation on personal injury compensation, both of which have hit car insurance hard.

On top of this, insurance rates are calculated based on a whole tonne of information and statistics, so while you might have another year of driving with no accidents, things like your car being another year older, or if there’s been an increase in the number of accidents or claims in your postal region, are all things that are factored in during the underwriting process.

What about my no claims discount?

No claims discount (NCD) can of course reduce the cost of your insurance substantially, and within your first few years of earning NCD, you should be seeing a general reduction in your insurance quotes, but the further up the years you get, the discount percentage increases by smaller increments, until you eventually hit your insurance companies maximum, which in most cases is 9+ years. At this point, while you may feel like your insurance should be dropping every year – which is may do! – you’re already benefiting from the highest discount you can get, so you may find a bit of a plateau.

My insurance company will give me a discount if I tell them I’m going to cancel

Sure, a lot of insurance companies will be able to offer you a discount if you express unhappiness at your renewal price, but I urge you to think about the amount of discount they give. If they can knock £100 off the price the moment you question the price, why is it they can do that without second thought? You may find you’re only offered £10-15 off, and while this may seem a little stingy, what it actually suggests is that you were sent out a pretty accurate price in the first place, rather than an over-inflated price designed to make you feel like a winner when they half the cost.

I shouldn’t have to shop around to get the best price

One of the biggest reasons that people see their insurance prices go up and up and up is because they allow their insurance company to renew the policy time and time again without comparing the market. Most insurance companies do have a preferred customer, be that based on age or any other factors, and while you may think that you’re being a lovely loyal customer staying year after year, it is possible that you can get a much better deal elsewhere. This has actually become such an epidemic that the insurance regulator has mandated that insurance companies must now put a statement on their renewal quotes encouraging their customers to shop around, so don’t be insulted if you notice this!

On the back of this, insurance companies can vary massively in how they assess your details, so one company can quote you £300 while another quotes you £600 for exactly the same cover!

Do I really need to review my insurance every year?

YES. I urge you to check through all of your documents every year, as well as being sure to update your insurance company to any changes throughout the year. Even small changes, such as a different job, becoming a homeowner, going from living at home to living with a partner or getting married; these are all factored into the calculation of your insurance premium, and its so easy to forget about informing your insurance of these changes, but they can make a difference!

What should I do if I’m uncertain about anything on my policy?

If you ever have any questions about your car insurance, the first thing you should do is speak to YOUR insurance company. While friends and family may be keen to give you advice, if they’re insured with a different company, there could be a big difference in what their insurance covers to what yours does, so bear this in mind when seeking a second opinion.

I’m sorry to bombard you with quite a lot of information, but I really hope that I’ve been able to help a few people out with this post! If you have found this helpful, please let me know as I’d love to know if you’d be interested in seeing more posts like this!

This post is primarily based on facts, but any of opinions stated in this post are my own personal views and do not reflect the views or opinions of any insurance companies.
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Things to Know Before Visiting China

If you’re planning a trip to China, here’s a pretty comprehensive guide of things you might want to know before you go!

The Great Wall of China

Visas

Like many countries, you need to obtain a visa before travelling to China. The process involves filling out a pretty detailed form and sending it off with your passport, or you can go direct to the Chinese Embassy in London. Once you’ve got your visa, you’ve got 90 days in which to enter the country, and the visa only covers you for 30 days once you’re there!

One thing you’ll need to have sorted before applying for your visa is accommodation for the entire duration of your trip; you have to have full details for your application, and if you don’t then you’ll get rejected!

Transportation

Most of the major cities within China – Beijing, Shanghai etc – have excellent subway systems, which cost pence compared to the London Underground. You can pay per journey by selecting your final destination, and your ticket covers any line changes you’ll need to make to get there, or you can top up a pass.

If you’re considering hiring a car for your trip, let me give you a piece of advice: DON’T. The roads are absolutely crazy, with every driver in it for themselves! Driving through red lights is totally normal, beeping is constant and lane markings are more like guidelines..

Compared to a lot of places, taxis in China are real cheap! While some cities require taxis to have a meter by law – guaranteeing fair charging – some places, like Beijing, don’t, and you’ll need to agree a price with your driver before travelling. DO NOT settle for the first price they give you, even if it does seem fairly reasonable – you can haggle prices right down!

Oh, and those 9 million bicycles in Beijing? Yeah most of them are motorised now, but that doesn’t stop them from riding up onto pavements or the wrong way down the street.

Toilets

Even in big tourist areas, most public toilets are not western; yes, you’ll need to squat over a hole in the ground. Some places may have one or two western cubicles, but often you won’t be provided with any toilet paper, so you’re best carrying plenty with you at all times just in case!

Social media and VPNs

Think you’ll be able to go without social media during your trip? Great, you won’t be able to get on it anyway! Chinese internet blocks pretty much all social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc – and anything Google based, to name a few things. You can get around this by pre-purchasing a VPN, which routes your signal through a different country, allowing these servers to work no problem, but actually going without for a little while is a nice break! Hong Kong, however, is totally fine!

Language

Do not expect everyone to speak English, or even always understand our letter symbols. Try and print out a few key phrases in proper Chinese characters, and any hotel addresses, as this will save you a lot of time and confusion!

General tourist stuff!

  • A lot of tourist attractions discounted entry for students, so if you have student ID then its worth asking!
  • Queuing is not done very well – there will be people pushing in!
  • Umbrellas are used to protect from sun as well as rain, so everyone carries them pretty much everywhere
  • Selfie sticks are also everywhere!
  • Some places, including some tube stations, require security bag checks on entry – not unlike going through airport security!
  • Tourists can be a novelty for some, so you might find you’re approached and asked for selfies and photos! Some people don’t even ask though, I had my picture taken slyly on trains and in the street..

China is such a fascinating place, would you ever visit?

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Top Tips for Great Character Interactions

The more trips I make to the parks, the more confident and excited I am to meet characters. I’ve also found that the more confident I am, the better my interactions are getting, and that’s really spurring me on to meet more!

Loads of people recently have been asking for tips on great character interactions, so I thought I’d do a little post to share some of mine!

Don’t be shy!

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You’ll have the most fun with characters when you get into it; if you just stand there awkwardly and don’t say much, the characters can’t open up and it can be pretty disheartening for them too! Characters can tell when you’re not into it.

Bring something to play with!

Disneyland Paris bunnies

On my last trip to Disneyland Paris, I decided to take a selection of tsum tsums with me to show to the characters, and not only was it fun, it also meant I got some adorable photos!

Have something to talk about

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Don’t be afraid to introduce a topic of conversation. You might want to ask Rapunzel how she looks after all her hair, or chat to Peter Pan about the Lost Boys, but it gives the characters an opportunity to really be themselves and you’ll love some of the responses you get.

Ask for what you want

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If you want to twirl with the princesses, ask them! Want to pose like a bunny with Peter Pan? I’ve done that too! They’re always so obliging!

Dress to impress

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If you’re going to meet your favourite character, why not wear a shirt with them on, or themed Mickey ears? It always brings the characters so much joy to see how much they mean to you, and it can be really special.

Show some love

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Get those hugs in! A hug from your favourite character is like no other hug, and I always come away smiling from ear to ear.

The truth of it is, as long as you have fun with it, then any interaction is going to be great!

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#YearOfFit – Meal Prep 101

Be honest with yourself now, how many times a week/month/year do you say or think the words ‘ok, I’ll start eating better again tomorrow!’? Mmhm.. We’ve all been there.

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In reality, the trick to successfully maintaining healthy eating is all in the preparation. Just taking a few hours out of your week to get yourself organised will save you so much time, stress and slip ups, and you’ll feel like a superhero for being so on top of things!

1. Sort yourself out with the right containers

The right container can be different for different people. My collection of lunchboxes is incredibly varied, but are generally all cute and quirky because that makes me excited to use them. For some people, having matching containers is more important. Design is really a preference thing, but what matters is that they do the job!

There are also a bunch of really nifty lunchbox hacks – for example, I use silicone cupcake cases to split up my lunch!

2. Know your portion sizes

The most common mistake people make with healthy eating is incorrect portion sizes. Yes, you can eat veggies until your heart’s content, but sometimes there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! You can find so many portion guides on the internet.

3. Work with variations

Sure, a lot of people see meal prep as making a big batch of one thing for several days worth of meals, but I guarantee it won’t take long before you get seriously bored of your regular chicken and rice dish. Instead of doing this, I generally make batches of meal components, eg grilling chicken pieces, and then I can mix up my meals by using different sauces, a different salad mix, making a wrap etc. This way you can look forward to your lunch everyday, rather than feeling a bit blah.

I do, however, have my favourite meals that I could eat all day every day, so I generally throw them in every now and then!

4. Think about reheating

The dangers of reheating certain food items are fairly well known, but be sure to look up anything you’re unsure about – rice is a surprise high risk item!

5. Freezers are your friend!

I don’t know why a lot of people are so anti-frozen food; its such a good way to preserve food without additives! Supermarkets offer so many frozen products that you can just microwave now, making them ideal meal-prep ingredients!

Are you a meal prep pro?

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Top Tips for Road Trips

When I was planning for my European road trip, I thought I’d check Google for top tips to see what handy advice the internet would give me, so I was massively disappointed when the top results were massively wishy-washy, so much so that I can’t even remember half of these ‘great’ tips. So having done it all for myself, today I’m sharing some advice that could help you, whether you’re travelling alone or with company.

1. Spring for public car parks

In some places, public car parks can be stupidly expensive, but depending on whereabouts you are, and if like I did you’re leaving valuables in your car while you’re off exploring, its definitely worth paying a little extra for the protection of a ‘proper’ car park, rather than a dodgy little side street.

2. Split your money up

Its a good idea to have your cash in a few different places; you never know if you might lose your bag, or worse.. I had the majority of my money in cash for my trip, and while I did also have a credit card, I didn’t like to use it! I actually kept my money split in pockets in my notebook, to keep my tight budget, and only put what was needed into my purse for each day. I also kept a separate little coin purse in my car to pay for parking and any tolls along the way.

3. Pack food and drink, and take advantage of ‘free’ meals

No road trip is complete without snacks, but if you’ve got some long drives ahead, its handy to keep a little more than the usual amount, especially to save the cost of pricey service station food! If you’re staying somewhere that offers included meals, like breakfast, be sure to take full advantage and load up!

4. Know and set petrol limits

If you don’t know already, find out how far your car goes on a tank of petrol. Ignore the supposed miles per gallon, because so many variables can affect that, go out and do a proper test. For example, I found out that one bar on my fuel gauge would last me around 50 miles, or an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how I was driving. Once you know that, set yourself a limit on when to refill. After one worrying night drive where I was running seriously low with no petrol stations nearby, I always filled up when I dropped to 1/4 of a tank to be safe!

5. Prepare for tolls, or plan around them

There are more toll stations than you might think out there, and they all add up! I was lucky enough that my road atlas had toll roads marked, and my satnav also knew where they were, so I could choose a route without them, but be warned, avoiding toll roads can make your journey a lot longer!

6. Get breakdown cover

Its pretty self-explanatory; you don’t want to be caught out at any time, let alone in a foreign place where you don’t speak the language. Lots of companies offer cover to suit the duration of your trip.

7. Know your own limits

Personally, I found driving long distances a lot easier than I thought I would, especially given a lack of experience, but I still had my limits. Try and avoid the mentality of ‘I’m sure I can drive through the night’ or ‘once I’m behind the wheel I’ll wake up a bit’, because the fact is you’re only human, and there’s nothing wrong with needing a break.

8. Embrace the unknown

Turning down a wrong street will not mean you’re going to disappear off the face of the earth. Getting lost is all part of the adventure, just stay calm, get your bearings, and have fun!

9. Know your speeds

Wherever you are, make sure you know the speed limits, and be wary of any speed cameras that might be hidden. Also double check whether limits are in mph or km/h, and be straight on the conversions!

10. Fully prep your car

Get it serviced, pack spare oil, bulbs, a petrol can etc, and be sure to check if there are any legal requirements where you’re going. For example, for most of Western Europe you have to be carrying a safety triangle, breathalysers, a high vis jacket, and headlamp deflectors for relevant cars. It also helps to have a torch, blanket and first aid kit!

I hope these few nuggets of wisdom can help a few of you have an equally amazing road trip as the one I had, and if you haven’t read all about my trip, check it out here!

xo

Booking Sites and Me

You’ve all seen the adverts; the web is now saturated with sites offering you the best of the best deals when booking hotels, from fancy to bargain basement!

When I started planning my Europe trip, one in particular stood out for me, and that was Booking.com. The ad shows people becoming more and more awesome having booked their hotels through the site. Booking.com? Booking.YEAh! Well I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

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Because my trip was going to be super flexible, I started by only booking my first night in France. I entered where I was going, and let the site take me from there; it ranked the search options by popularity, made suggestions on nearby places that might be cheaper, and had detailed information on each hotel from parking to check out times. I was genuinely amazed with how easy it was, and best for me was that I was getting great prices. There are daily deals, no booking fees, and with most places, you don’t pay a penny until you check in! Cancellation fees vary, but its normally free to cancel your reservation, so long as you do it in a timely manner.

I booked the majority of my hotels through Booking.com, but because its such a popular site, some places book up really quick, and where I was booking mainly last minute, in one or two places there was nowhere in my price range, so I had to look elsewhere.

Booking.com made my travels really straight-foward, and the app was just as easy as doing it online!

When I did have to look elsewhere, I turned to hotelscombined.co.uk. This site compares all the travel comparison sites, including Booking.com, Trivago, Lastminute.com etc, as well as hotel groups like Best Western and Marriott. Once you put in your travel details, it not only brings up all the available hotels, but also all the prices from all the sites, highlighting the best deal. Once you’ve chosen the deal, it directs you to the site offering the deal, and you book through them. In a few cases, it told me Booking.com had the best deals, so I went back to them.

One thing I will say about Hotels Combined is that sometimes it took me to foreign booking sites, which were obviously in a different language, and I didn’t feel comfortable booking through them, so at times I decided to pay a little extra to book through a more familiar site.

So that’s how I booked all my hotels on my trip, and I must have done something right, because I didn’t pay more than €60 to stay anywhere! Sure, I did stay in some cheapy little places, but some places were really great value for money, and honestly, if there was a bed and a hot shower, I was pretty content!

Do you have any favourite booking sites?

Top Tokyo Disney Tips

Being in Tokyo Disneyland is a totally unique experience, and expecting a regular Disney park experience could leave you a little out of your comfort zone, so here are some of my top tips for doing Disney Tokyo-style!

Language and Culture

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– Do not expect English – I’m serious! While there may be the occasional announcement in English or clip of English singing, all of the shows, parades and attractions are in Japanese, and most of the cast members speak very limited English, if any, so be prepared to mime, signal and act out your conversations, and embrace it – everyone has a laugh over it! Also don’t stress over not knowing the language, all you really need is hello and thank you, and you’re pretty much set.

– Everyone is really friendly – cast members are literally everywhere, and their job is basically to wave and say hi. Smile and wave back, and you make their day!

– Generally, the Japanese are pretty small – if you’re short (like me!) its ideal, say goodbye to watching parades on tip-toes! If you’re fairly tall, however, you may be asked to move at times, purely to be considerate to other guests. Similarly, the seats on rides tend to be a little smaller than on their American counterparts.

– Personal space isn’t a big deal – you know when you’re waiting for a lift and its a little crowded so you decide to wait for the next one? Yeah that doesn’t happen so much in Japan, so be prepared to be a little out of your comfort zone if you like your space.

Park Life

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– Tokyo Disneyland utilises the classic Fastpass system – going to the machine, getting your pass, and only holding one at a time. Be sure to make good use of these, Fastpasses are taken pretty seriously and you get to skip a lot of the line, and it could save you some major waits.

– Characters randomly appear around the parks throughout the day, rather than at specific places and times, and they tend to have a slightly more eclectic range: The Rescuers, Wolfgang Puck, Jiminy Cricket etc, and you’ll be hard pushed to find a princess! They’re also not big on autographs, so although they’ll sign them, you won’t find anywhere to buy an autograph book.

– There’s no running, but expect a stampede – at park opening, cast members are everywhere to remind guests not to run, but that doesn’t stop it! Expect stampedes heading to the most popular rides: Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror etc

– Do not be afraid to dress up – people in Tokyo Disney go all out, from matching outfits to Disneybounds, and everyone has at least one thing Disney in their outfit

– Don’t expect wifi – unlike Disney World where you get free wifi everywhere, there’s no wifi connections available in the parks.

– There’s no Photopass option – with the exception of a few meet and greets, there are no dedicated photographers in the parks, and no Photopass option. You can buy your ride photos, or order prints from your character meets, but that’s pretty much it.

Shows and Parades

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– You can reserve your spot for a show or parade up to an hour before, and bringing a plastic mat to put down will save you burning on the hot concrete

– Some shows have priority seating – you can take part in a lottery to win these priority spots once per show each day, so be sure to pick up a show guide to find out where these lotteries are held

– Be prepared to be asked to remove hats and Mickey ears – if you’re standing to watch a parade or show, or even in attractions like Country Bear Jamboree and Philharmagic, you’ll be asked to remove any hats or ears so as not to block the view of those behind you.

– Take the ‘get wet’ signs seriously – if you’re in one of these zones, its not a maybe, its a promise. We watched crowds get seriously soaked in these areas!

Hotel, Tickets and Travel

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– If you’re staying in a Disneyland resort, you get access to the parks 15 minutes early – don’t turn your nose up, it can mean the difference between a 20 minute wait and a 90 minute wait!

– The easiest way to get to your hotel or the parks is by train – the Japanese train system is flawless, and the JR line has a train station at Ikspiari, from which its less than 5 minutes walk to the Disneyland or Tokyo Disneyland hotel, or you can transfer onto the monorail.

– Like in the parks, don’t expect wifi, but ask just in case – we asked about the wifi, and were told there wasn’t any, but they provided us a little router for our room

– Parkhopper tickets are only available to guests staying at Disneyland resorts – otherwise its one park per day

– The monorail isn’t complimentary – you’ll need to buy a pass!

– All of the partner hotels are right near a monorail stop, and there are also resort buses to take you to the parks

– The swimming pool at Tokyo Disneyland hotel is pretty small – don’t expect Floridian flamboyance!

– There’s a Bibbity-Bobbity Boutique in Tokyo Disneyland hotel for your little princesses

– Don’t forget your handstamp – if you’re leaving the park for a while, to parkhop or popping back to your hotel, don’t forget to get your hand stamped as you leave so you can get back in! Its a UV stamp, so don’t worry if you don’t see anything on your skin, and its pretty tough so washing hands/swimming won’t rub it off

Food and Drink

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– Don’t expect Western food everywhere – while there are some Western options, most of the food is very much oriental based, and the Western options are a little odd: pizza with seafood etc. Portion sizes are also smaller than in American parks, but still very filling!

– There’s no dining reservations, but there is priority seating – similar to Fastpass, head to the restaurant first thing, and you’ll be given a ticket with an allocated time to return

– There are water fountains everywhere, and its the norm for people to bring in their own bottles to fill up

– Beware of the coffee – I’m not a drinker, but my mum and sister both hated the Japanese coffee, apparently its crazy bitter. Also, some bottled drinks in the vending machines look like fruit teas, but are actually iced coffees.

– On the subject, you won’t find a lot of milk or milk-based products – around 90% of Asians are lactose intolerant, so milk for tea and coffee, ice-cream etc is fairly limited.

– Also beware of the popcorn – there are popcorn stands everywhere, but you’ll only find salted in a few locations. Flavours include honey, curry and soy sauce!

– People save tables, and its taken pretty seriously – if you see a bottle or a jumper left on a table, don’t move it and sit there. Everyone does it, and everyone respects it, so find somewhere else.

Shopping

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– The same merchandise is everywhere – don’t stress that you might have missed an opportunity to buy something, chances are it’ll be in the next shop you go into!

– There’s a Disney Store at Ikspiari, which is the shopping centre on the monorail loop – it has different products to what’s available in the parks

– There are biscuits everywhere – souvenir biscuits are a big deal in Japan. They come in millions of shapes, sizes, fancy tins etc, and there are entire shops dedicated to them, so don’t resist!

Weather

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– Be prepared for all conditions, and possibly all at the same time – it can be burning hot and bucketing down with rain and blowing a gale simultaneously!

– Because of how extreme the weather can be, shows and parades can be cancelled with little notice, or modified for the safety of the cast members and guests

– Carry an umbrella – not only will it keep you dry during those mega downpours, but it will also provide great sun protection, and don’t worry about looking silly, loads of people do it

– Don’t expect air-con – while most buildings are cooled during the summer months, its not always that instant super-cool feeling you might expect; more like a comfortable temperature once you’ve adapted to it

Tokyo Disney is a totally unique experience, and the most important piece of advice I can give is this:

Just do it. Go, experience it all for yourself, and you’ll have an incredible time, I promise!

°o°