Episode 8 Rip Off Britain


Episode 8

Julia Somerville, Gloria Hunniford and Angela Rippon hear about dramatic stories of how holidays were scuppered by unexpected disasters.


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Transcript


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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your

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holidays and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.

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This can't be happening.

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It's a nightmare. Wake me up from it, please.

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It was just a shambles.

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That's the best way to say it. It was just a shambles.

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So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake,

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or indeed a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you are out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Your stories, your money.

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This is Rip Off Britain.

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Hello and welcome to a wonderfully sunny series of Rip Off Britain,

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coming to you from the island of Tenerife where

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we've come to investigate

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some more of your problems with holidays and travel.

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And every one of those stories we're going to be looking at today

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has exactly the same thing in common.

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Their trips were totally derailed by

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dramatic events that they just had not seen coming.

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In fact, the word dramatic perhaps underplays it

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because it's no exaggeration to say that some of these cases

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really were a matter of life and death, with the people involved

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having to put their fate in somebody else's hands.

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And as if that wasn't bad enough, once the dust had settled,

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trying to get back some of the money for a holiday that was left

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in tatters has proved extremely difficult.

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Well, sometimes, it turns out there's very little you can do to

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protect yourself or your family against unexpected events,

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or to prevent nature taking its course.

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But we on Rip Off Britain firmly believe that forewarned is forearmed,

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so listen up for some tips on how, even if you can't prevent

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such disasters, you can minimise the fallout.

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Coming up, a chateau hit by lightning and a family

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running for their lives. But with more shocks to come,

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could you too face the same terrifying costs if

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catastrophe strikes your holiday?

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We were just completely shocked.

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It seemed ridiculous.

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Something that's completely out of our control.

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There's no way they can get us on this.

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And they can't be blamed for extreme weather,

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but do holiday companies always react in the best way

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when it does happen?

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I was worried for all of us.

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I didn't think any of us would get off that boat walking.

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Now, one of my absolute favourite holiday destinations is France.

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I just seem to love everything about it.

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I like the food, I like the people and of course the differences in

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culture, but one difference that

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I must admit I hadn't really stopped to

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think about is whether insurance will always work

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in the same way over there as it might in the UK.

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So, I was genuinely shocked to hear what the family in our next story went

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through on their most recent trip across the Channel.

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And I imagine that, as it did with me,

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their experience will have you double-checking the fine print of your own

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cover the next time you're getting ready to go away.

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It should have been the most perfect summer holiday.

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A week in a 15th-century chateau in the French countryside with five

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acres of garden and a pool for the children.

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But I'm afraid it ended abruptly with a very scared

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family fleeing into the night...

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We have got to get out of this house now.

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..and watching the property they had rented go up in flames.

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The roof right properly five feet from where we

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were sleeping above our heads, was fully on fire.

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It was properly ablaze.

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OK, cool.

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Danny Webb, his partner and their son Albie from East Sussex love

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combining their annual holiday with a proper catch up

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with close relatives and 2015 was no exception.

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We all go as a family once a year and this year it was France,

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so six adults and six kids.

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We found this amazing chateau.

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Danny paid 2,000 euros to rent the chateau in Realville for seven nights,

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booking directly with the owner.

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The family paid a further £46 for an insurance policy with AXA

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so that they would be protected if anything went wrong.

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Although at first,

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it's very hard to imagine anything could spoil things.

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When we got there, it was amazing.

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The kids immediately ran off,

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they were up, like, the tower and running around.

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And, "This is my bed!" "Bagsy this bed!" That kind of thing.

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It was a pretty picturesque, beautiful place in France.

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It's exactly what you want from a French holiday.

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Four days in and everyone was really enjoying themselves.

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It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day in Toulouse, it was boiling hot.

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The kids were in the pool.

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And things got even better with the stunning spectacle of the annual

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Perseids meteor shower.

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It seemed almost perfect, you know.

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The kids fell asleep, we were just having a nice,

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relaxed evening watching the meteor shower.

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It was the perfect day.

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But that night, after the family had gone to bed,

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a lightning storm broke the beautiful weather.

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And as the storm raged throughout the town,

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with lightning piercing the sky above the chateau,

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Danny was woken by a particularly loud sound overhead.

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There was a huge bang and I was lifted out of the bed by about an inch,

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I'd say, and literally sat bolt upright in bed, "What was that?"

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Danny soon realised that the noise had been

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something much more worrying than simply another thunderclap.

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The roof of the chateau had been struck by lightning

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and worse was still to come.

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My partner said, "There's a bright orange light in the corner,

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"why is that there?"

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And I said, "I've got no idea."

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Because the electric... We knew the electrics had gone because we couldn't

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switch the lights on. They'd gone with the lightning strike.

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And at that point, we realised that the roof was on fire.

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The fire very quickly took hold,

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ripping through the whole of the chateau.

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So, the family had to act fast

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and all 12 of them were able to escape unharmed.

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It was just like, look, this is our chance to get out.

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And we've got to get out now because it's coming down from above.

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Had we slept a bit heavier, had that lightning not woken us up, then,

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you know, anyone of us could have perished, I suppose.

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The fire in the roof raged all night as three fire engines battled to bring

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the blaze under control.

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But it was only when the next day dawned that they could see the extent of

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the devastation. And as well as the damage to the chateau,

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most of the family's possessions, including their clothes,

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all their train tickets and even a passport had been destroyed.

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The whole half of the house where we were living was basically collapsed

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in on itself. It was no longer three floors.

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It was like one and a half floors and you could see the sky through the roof.

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It was this kind of smouldering, smoky, stinky, wet mess.

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It was dawning on you what, what could have happened and

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really what you could have been dealing with considering...

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If we hadn't have gotten out, if we hadn't...

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If that fire... If that fire had started there any other point in the house, a bit lower down, or...

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then there would have definitely been casualties, without a doubt.

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They were very lucky, but in order to return to the UK,

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they needed to drive over two hours to the British Consulate in Bordeaux

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to get a replacement passport.

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And by the time they added to that the cost of replacement clothes, food,

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two nights in a hotel in Bordeaux, the new train tickets for 12 people,

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they were 3,140 euros out of pocket.

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The money had gone. The cash had been burnt.

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Luckily, we had two credit cards that we could use.

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We were kind of OK with that because we said, "Well,

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"we're going to get the money..." You know, by the time we get home,

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the insurance will be fine and we'll get it all back.

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But on top of all the drama of the fire, once they got home,

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the family was about to have two very nasty surprises involving insurance.

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And they're both things that you could very well fall foul of, as well.

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The first only became clear after they'd been in touch with the chateau owner's

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French insurance company called Gan,

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which they hoped would reimburse them for the expenses they'd incurred

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as a result of the fire.

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We knew to keep our receipts,

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make a list of everything and my partner e-mailed all the stuff for the

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claim and said, "This is what we've lost due to this fire.

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"Can you please advise how to proceed from here."

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We kept sending e-mails and it was now getting into like a month,

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you know, two months

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and at this point, credit card bills need to be paid.

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But with no word from the French insurers,

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Danny turned to his own travel insurers to see if that would pay out for

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all those additional expenses.

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And it was at that point he realised that that policy didn't do quite what

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he assumed it would.

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The travel insurance would only cover the actual stuff we had with us,

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like our baggage and that kind of stuff.

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But they wouldn't pay for anything

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incurred subsequently.

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So, like, after the fire, the hotel,

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the... you know, getting to and from the hotel, the meals,

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the extra clothes that we had to buy because we no longer had any clothes.

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All that stuff was not going to be covered.

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That's because Danny's policy didn't include what's usually known as

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disruption cover which protects you from all the extra costs you can face

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if something on your trip goes wrong.

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As a result, the family could only claim back from insurers AXA around

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£1,000.

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Less than one third of what they had spent as a result of the fire.

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Now, many policies do include a disruption clause,

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but if your holiday insurance doesn't have it either,

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you may still be able to get it as an add-on,

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as personal finance expert Sarah Pennells explains.

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Travel disruption cover is a really useful part of travel insurance,

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but it's something that many people don't realise they need.

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What it will pay for is the cost of the extra expenses if you have to

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cancel your holiday or for example if the accommodation that you

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turn up at has a problem. There's a flood or there's a fire.

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Anything like that.

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Now, sometimes it's sold as part of a standard insurance policy,

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normally the more expensive option.

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Or you can buy it as an add-on to your own insurance policy.

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Sometimes you can buy it as a stand-alone.

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It's not too expensive, it'll cost generally between £10 and £20.

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Around that mark.

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Luckily for Danny,

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the family found a solution on their existing home insurance,

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so it really is worth checking what your contents cover actually includes.

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Someone had mentioned your home contents insurance being able to cover

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your content even though they're not in the home.

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So, my partner looked into this and it turned out this was the case.

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We could get money back for our clothes that we'd lost as long as could

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prove that we had them, photographs or receipts.

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Making that claim did mean that the family lost its eight-year no-claims bonus,

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increasing their premiums from £618 to £848.

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But they soon had a much bigger financial headache on their hands and,

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goodness, I warn you, this one is an absolute shocker.

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Four months after their trip,

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the chateau owner's French insurer Gan

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finally contacted Danny and his partner with some alarming news.

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Gan was holding them responsible for the damage to the property.

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That's not as absurd as it sounds because under French law,

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the person staying in the property is responsible for damage caused to it

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and with the insurer disputing that the fire had actually been started by lightning,

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it was now demanding that the couple stump up...

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and wait for this, 500,000 euros.

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We were just completely shocked, you know.

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It was just at... It seemed ridiculous.

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We knew it was a lightning strike.

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Everyone had confirmed that.

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It's force majeure, it's an act of God,

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it's something that's completely out of our control.

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There's no way they can get us on this.

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Danny knew that the fire was caused by lightning,

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but proving it would be another matter.

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Fortunately for him, this time his £46 holiday cover with AXA came to the rescue.

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Now, it might not have included everything he ended up

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needing, but in this case it came up trumps because it did cover public

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liability, which meant it was able to step in and pay for a fire inspector

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to go and inspect the site,

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and investigate the cause of the fire on the family's behalf,

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saving Danny and his family from losing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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And although their investigation into the fire is still ongoing,

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for Danny knowing that his insurers are fighting the claim and will cover

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any costs is very reassuring.

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The relief that we got from finding out that litigation was covered and it

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meant that we could send someone over there to go and look at the fire,

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the fire site and to confirm that it was a lightning strike,

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that was like a...

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You know, it was just a massive, massive weight off our shoulders.

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But all of this underlines why if you're booking accommodation directly

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with the owner, as Danny did,

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you should make extra sure that your travel insurance is watertight and

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getting adequate personal liability cover is a key part of that.

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In France, if you rent a property and something happens to it,

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you're liable - it's part of the French civil code

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and having looked it up, it is correct.

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Certainly relating to fire.

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If there's fire damage while you're there and you're renting it,

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then you are responsible unless you can show that it was an accident

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or an incident beyond your control.

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If there's a lesson for all this,

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it would be to check the small print of the policy when it comes to

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personal liability cover because what that cover does is pay out

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if there's something that you're deemed to have been responsible for.

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Make sure you've got at least £1 million worth of cover.

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More may be a good idea.

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But for Danny, the experience of the fire and unpicking what his insurance

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did and didn't cover has left him very cautious about booking the same

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kind of holiday again.

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It does leave a kind of a nasty taste in the mouth and I suppose we will

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consider all that before we think of booking to go again.

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It would've been much easier to deal with all that stuff

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had it been the UK.

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For many of us, one of the main reasons for going abroad on holiday is to

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escape the unpredictable British weather and instead spend a bit of time

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in a place that's virtually guaranteed to have sunshine.

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But whilst warmer temperatures are certainly going to happen further south you

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go from the UK, what it is also more likely is that as you get nearer to

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the equator, there's the possibility of encountering severe weather events,

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such as hurricanes.

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Now, of course, bad weather is not always something that you can predict,

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but the holiday-makers that we're about to meet have been left wondering

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whether or not the holiday companies with whom they recently travelled

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could have done a lot more to avoid them heading right into the eye of

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some very severe storms indeed.

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No-one wants weather like this on their holiday.

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And as well as putting a real dampener on your trip,

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getting caught up in a severe storm like these can also be a very

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frightening experience,

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as Soria Hassan from Cardiff found out when she took a Thomson holiday

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to the Pacific coast of Mexico in October 2015.

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Soria and her partner were looking forward to spending some quality time

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together and they wanted somewhere likely to have good weather.

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So, the resort of Puerto Vallarta seemed ideal and sure enough the trip

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got off to a perfect start.

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The day that we arrived, we went to the beach,

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had a walk down and then I turned around and he was on one knee

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and he proposed to me,

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which was the most amazing, like, thing ever.

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The newly engaged couple were on cloud nine.

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The first ten days of our holiday was absolutely fabulous.

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It was boiling hot, the sun was out, there was no clouds, it was amazing.

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But there was trouble on the horizon.

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A holiday maker came to us and said, "Do you know about this hurricane?"

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The hurricane in question, Hurricane Patricia,

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was brewing some 700 miles from the coast where they were staying

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and forecasters were predicting that it would hit Puerto Vallarta

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the next day.

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Potentially a catastrophic storm,

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gusts of wind close to 200mph as it arrives.

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But Soria says she was reassured by the Thomson reps that it was

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business, or holidays, as usual.

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So, the couple, who had booked a special boat tour to a nearby island,

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were happy to take that advice.

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The Mexican Government however was preparing for the worst,

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issuing multiple warnings, closing schools and distributing sandbags.

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And as the two-hour boat trip became increasingly uncomfortable,

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Soria's confidence began to falter.

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The change in the weather, the change in the sea,

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how choppy it was, it was horrific. I was so ill.

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And I've never been like that, even working on cruise ships,

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I've never been ill.

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Back on dry land at the hotel,

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the weather warnings had now been heeded.

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Staff were advising guests to pack up all essential belongings and in the

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early hours of the next morning,

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the army arrived to help evacuate the resort.

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The army came and banged on the door, "Evacuate!

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"Evacuate!" So, basically,

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we just had to leave our rooms with our suitcases, the blankets, and pillows.

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The guests gathered in the hotel lobby as the hurricane grew

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even closer.

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And you can see from this footage just how major it was.

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Next, everyone was loaded onto buses to take them to a safe distance from

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its path.

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We got on this bus, the driver couldn't speak English,

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so we were unaware of where we were going.

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Soria says she was taken ten minutes from the hotel to a small school,

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but as shelter from what was predicted to be potentially catastrophic weather,

0:18:120:18:17

she felt it was far from secure.

0:18:170:18:19

This is just a picture of all the water that was coming in.

0:18:210:18:26

And this, at the time, the hurricane hadn't even hit.

0:18:260:18:29

By now, the storm had been categorised as the most severe level of hurricane at force five.

0:18:310:18:37

So, for around eight hours,

0:18:370:18:39

the couple waited anxiously as it approached.

0:18:390:18:41

I can just remember ringing my mum and ringing my dad

0:18:410:18:46

and just basically like saying bye to them.

0:18:460:18:49

Though Hurricane Patricia proved to be the second-most-powerful hurricane

0:18:510:18:55

on record, miraculously, it changed course before it hit Soria's resort.

0:18:550:19:00

But it had been a terrifying end to the trip.

0:19:010:19:05

And Soria wasn't convinced that the holiday company

0:19:050:19:07

had looked after them as well as it could have done.

0:19:070:19:10

I wasn't complaining about the hurricane

0:19:100:19:12

because that can happen wherever you go,

0:19:120:19:15

it was how it was handled and how we were treated.

0:19:150:19:19

As far as she's concerned,

0:19:190:19:21

in a part of the world where hurricanes aren't uncommon,

0:19:210:19:23

the advice and procedures should be clear from the off.

0:19:230:19:27

So, when she got home,

0:19:270:19:29

she contacted Thomson and what really shocked her was that after

0:19:290:19:33

three attempts to get in touch, she'd heard nothing back.

0:19:330:19:36

I personally feel that they're quick enough to take your money,

0:19:360:19:40

but when something actually happens, they fail to even acknowledge what has

0:19:400:19:44

happened and what they could have done to solve that problem.

0:19:440:19:48

Well, when we put all of that to Thomson,

0:19:500:19:52

the company told us that it sincerely apologises for not answering Soria's

0:19:520:19:56

complaint, which it blames on an administrative error.

0:19:560:19:59

But it said its team in Mexico did everything it could under the

0:19:590:20:03

circumstances, following the emergency procedures led by the local

0:20:030:20:07

authorities to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its customers.

0:20:070:20:11

It reiterated that the situation was of course beyond its control.

0:20:110:20:15

The storm category was downgraded and all customers were kept safe and its

0:20:150:20:19

hotels were unaffected.

0:20:190:20:21

And whatever Soria's concern,

0:20:220:20:24

predicting just how severe a storm is and the appropriate

0:20:240:20:27

course of action to take is tricky, even for the experts,

0:20:270:20:31

as Professor Geraint Vaughan explains.

0:20:310:20:33

Big thunderstorms are still one of the things that cause most problems for forecasters.

0:20:350:20:40

It is a challenge to get it right and particularly to get the

0:20:400:20:44

intensity of a storm right.

0:20:440:20:45

And giving sufficient warning that people can

0:20:450:20:47

get out of the way, which is what we want to be able to do

0:20:470:20:50

is a problem still.

0:20:500:20:51

But whilst it's still not possible to predict the nature and severity

0:20:540:20:58

of storms every time,

0:20:580:20:59

improvements in technology and monitoring systems mean that understanding

0:20:590:21:04

and planning for bad weather isn't as hit and miss as it used to be.

0:21:040:21:07

We use these very sophisticated models and as the resolution of these

0:21:090:21:13

models gets better and better,

0:21:130:21:15

and as we learn to use new techniques of analysing them,

0:21:150:21:20

in some ways, we're making big strides in forecasting.

0:21:200:21:22

As part of that, following a tradition in the US,

0:21:240:21:26

once storms in the UK reach certain speeds,

0:21:260:21:29

they're now given a name to make clear that the severe weather is on its way,

0:21:290:21:34

so that adequate precautions can be taken.

0:21:340:21:36

And it was one of those named storms around British shores that led to

0:21:380:21:42

Sharon Clifford raising a complaint with a cruise company that took her

0:21:420:21:45

around the Mediterranean in March 2016.

0:21:450:21:49

Sharon's been on many cruise trips and for years has been trying to

0:21:490:21:53

convince her sister, Sue, to join her.

0:21:530:21:55

This time, after many years of nagging her,

0:21:550:21:58

she agreed to come with me on this cruise.

0:21:580:22:01

But as the sisters set sail, the weather had taken a turn for the worse.

0:22:010:22:05

Later on, we see Storm Katie arriving.

0:22:050:22:08

Named because we expect to see some fairly significant impacts,

0:22:080:22:11

mainly from the strength of the wind.

0:22:110:22:12

Katie has been moving across our shores.

0:22:120:22:14

There are some severe gales on the way, some heavy rain.

0:22:140:22:17

It's already lashing.

0:22:170:22:18

In fact, the winds the Met Office had christened Storm Katie

0:22:180:22:21

in some areas reached more than 100mph.

0:22:210:22:24

As we departed,

0:22:250:22:26

they were talking about Storm Katie on the television and saying that it

0:22:260:22:31

had hit the Isle of Wight at 110mph

0:22:310:22:33

and took out all the power on the Isle of Wight.

0:22:330:22:37

That made me very nervous.

0:22:370:22:39

And as the cruise liner made its way out to sea,

0:22:390:22:42

Sharon began to feel the effects of the storm first-hand.

0:22:420:22:45

We had gotten about three to five miles offshore...

0:22:450:22:49

..when the winds were getting bad and the ship began to move about.

0:22:500:22:54

And the further out to sea we went...

0:22:550:22:57

..the worse the rocking got.

0:22:580:23:00

It was a terrifying first night for Sharon.

0:23:010:23:04

How bad the weather was,

0:23:040:23:06

I knew in my heart that we couldn't get a helicopter out to pick me up

0:23:060:23:09

and get me off of there.

0:23:090:23:11

But I'd have done anything to have got off that boat.

0:23:110:23:13

I ain't a wealthy person,

0:23:150:23:17

but all I own I would have given up to get off that boat.

0:23:170:23:20

And her sister certainly wasn't enjoying her maiden voyage.

0:23:200:23:24

I don't believe in God. I prayed.

0:23:250:23:27

I laid there in that bed and I prayed.

0:23:270:23:32

I thought if I went to sleep, I won't be waking up.

0:23:320:23:35

Sharon was racked with guilt for persuading Sue to go along.

0:23:370:23:41

I was worried for both of us.

0:23:410:23:43

For all of us.

0:23:450:23:46

I didn't think any of us would get off that boat walking.

0:23:480:23:51

While the weather calmed down for the rest of their cruise,

0:23:530:23:56

the sisters say the events of those first hours them left traumatised.

0:23:560:24:00

And Sharon thinks that given the severity of the storm and the strong warnings being issued,

0:24:010:24:06

the ship shouldn't have set sail in such conditions and it would have been

0:24:060:24:10

better to delay their departure.

0:24:100:24:13

So when they got home, Sharon contacted P&O to say exactly that.

0:24:130:24:17

And when we contacted P&O,

0:24:190:24:21

the company stressed it would never compromise the safety

0:24:210:24:24

of its guests or crew.

0:24:240:24:26

It told us that on occasion it is unfortunately necessary to sail in

0:24:260:24:30

conditions which are less than ideal.

0:24:300:24:33

And if this occurs,

0:24:330:24:34

it does all it can to minimise the impact of the weather.

0:24:340:24:37

It went on to point out that the sea and weather are dynamic forces and

0:24:370:24:43

any decision taken are in compliance company,

0:24:430:24:46

flag and international regulations,

0:24:460:24:49

as well as in the observance of safe and good seamanship.

0:24:490:24:52

Clearly, how to deal with severe weather is a judgment call

0:24:540:24:57

and the companies in both these cases would argue that the right decisions were made.

0:24:570:25:03

What's more, in Sharon's case, though delaying the cruise

0:25:030:25:06

may well have been the preferred option for her,

0:25:060:25:09

for the many other passengers on the ship, it simply wouldn't.

0:25:090:25:13

But for Sharon, future holidays for the time being at least,

0:25:140:25:17

will be on dry land.

0:25:170:25:19

I would certainly not cruise if there was bad weather about.

0:25:200:25:23

That sort of rain and weather...

0:25:230:25:25

..I would not cruise again.

0:25:260:25:27

Still to come on Rip Off Britain,

0:25:340:25:35

a race against time when a baby made an unexpectedly early appearance

0:25:350:25:39

thousands of miles from home.

0:25:390:25:41

It wasn't until we were told by the doctor that they had no facilities

0:25:410:25:46

there for a premature baby that we started to panic, really.

0:25:460:25:51

Our travel expert Simon Calder has all the secrets to save you money on

0:25:550:25:59

your travels. He's full of tips on everything,

0:25:590:26:01

from how to avoid the crowds,

0:26:010:26:03

to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.

0:26:030:26:07

This time, cruises.

0:26:070:26:09

They've become one of the fastest-growing holiday options over the past 20 years,

0:26:090:26:13

with almost 1.8 million British holiday-makers

0:26:130:26:16

now reckoned to set sail on a cruise every year.

0:26:160:26:19

You only have to unpack once -

0:26:210:26:24

that's the slogan often used to entice people on board cruise ships.

0:26:240:26:28

Once you've checked into your cabin,

0:26:290:26:31

you'll drift to a succession of lovely islands or coastal ports,

0:26:310:26:35

while enjoying five-star meals.

0:26:350:26:37

But how much will it cost you?

0:26:370:26:40

Well, Simon says working that out isn't always straightforward.

0:26:400:26:44

Let's start with the price.

0:26:440:26:46

Let me tell you the deal on most cruise ships.

0:26:460:26:49

The headline amount that you pay your travel agent or cruise line is only

0:26:490:26:55

part of the revenue you're expected to contribute.

0:26:550:26:58

You'll also be expected to tip, probably in US dollars.

0:27:010:27:06

The equivalent of around £10 per person per day.

0:27:060:27:09

For a couple on a fortnight's cruise, that's nearly £300.

0:27:090:27:14

Onboard sales are crucial for cruise lines.

0:27:180:27:21

While meals are included, drinks generally aren't.

0:27:210:27:24

And on everything from morning coffee to postprandial port,

0:27:240:27:28

you can expect to pay a service charge of up to 18% and shore excursions

0:27:280:27:33

are handsomely profitable.

0:27:330:27:34

Clearly, cruises can be pricey.

0:27:360:27:38

But there are deals to be had.

0:27:380:27:41

When's the best time to book?

0:27:410:27:42

If you're travelling at peak time,

0:27:420:27:45

Christmas and New Year in the Caribbean, August in the Baltic,

0:27:450:27:48

or you want a specific cabin on a particular cruise,

0:27:480:27:52

then book as early as you can.

0:27:520:27:54

However, the cruise industry business model

0:27:550:27:57

requires that practically every cabin has to be filled.

0:27:570:28:01

So, if you're prepared to take a chance at the last minute,

0:28:010:28:04

then you could grab a bargain

0:28:040:28:06

with just a week or so to go before departure.

0:28:060:28:08

One final tip, with unlimited food on board,

0:28:100:28:13

it's easy to put on a pound for every day you spend at sea.

0:28:130:28:17

The best way to tackle mid-ocean spread, forget the lifts,

0:28:170:28:21

stick to the stairs.

0:28:210:28:23

Many of us book our summer holidays up to or even more than a year in advance,

0:28:300:28:35

either to take advantage of a good deal,

0:28:350:28:37

or perhaps to tie in with a special event.

0:28:370:28:40

But a year can be a long time

0:28:400:28:41

during which your personal circumstances can change dramatically.

0:28:410:28:45

They certainly did for the two couples in our next film,

0:28:450:28:48

when they found they were expecting a baby

0:28:480:28:50

months after they'd booked and paid for their trips.

0:28:500:28:53

And as you'll see in both cases,

0:28:530:28:55

that led to some rather unexpected complications.

0:28:550:28:58

Painting the nursery...

0:29:000:29:01

You've missed a bit.

0:29:010:29:03

..choosing names...

0:29:040:29:05

Hazard.

0:29:050:29:07

..and shopping for prams.

0:29:070:29:09

I like the colour of that one. Do you?

0:29:090:29:11

Yeah. I think I do like it.

0:29:110:29:12

All part of the excitement that comes with preparing

0:29:140:29:16

for a new addition to the family.

0:29:160:29:18

I like him. He's really snugly. He's nice.

0:29:180:29:21

And when paramedic Eddie and primary school teacher Lisa

0:29:210:29:24

discovered that they'd got a baby on the way in March 2016,

0:29:240:29:28

the news was all the sweeter for coming out of the blue.

0:29:280:29:31

-He's got long ears.

-He's got nicer ears.

0:29:310:29:33

It's hard to put into words just how exciting something like that is.

0:29:330:29:37

Especially when we've... We wanted for quite a long time, haven't we?

0:29:370:29:40

So, yeah, it came as quite a shock to us.

0:29:400:29:43

But, yeah, tremendously exciting.

0:29:430:29:45

Yeah, it was fantastic.

0:29:450:29:46

But there was a bit of a problem.

0:29:470:29:49

-Thank you very much.

-Thank you.

0:29:490:29:50

Four months earlier in November 2015,

0:29:520:29:55

Eddie and Lisa had booked a trip of a lifetime to Las Vegas

0:29:550:29:59

and San Francisco.

0:29:590:30:00

It was a complete once-in-a-lifetime...

0:30:000:30:03

-Yeah.

-..holiday and experience that we wouldn't be able to do

0:30:030:30:05

at any other point, really.

0:30:050:30:07

Before we had children, as well.

0:30:070:30:09

Yeah. So, we planned to get remarried there in the white chapel

0:30:090:30:12

and all these crazy things that you do in Vegas.

0:30:120:30:14

The flights, booked with Virgin Atlantic via website Expedia,

0:30:150:30:19

had cost the couple almost £2,400,

0:30:190:30:22

as they were travelling in the school break.

0:30:220:30:25

And however welcome the pregnancy was,

0:30:250:30:27

it did throw something of a spanner into their travel plans.

0:30:270:30:31

We found out I was 14 weeks.

0:30:310:30:33

I remember sitting in the waiting room, didn't we?

0:30:330:30:35

And we were looking at the scan, really excited and ringing everybody,

0:30:350:30:38

as you do, and texting everybody.

0:30:380:30:40

All of a sudden thinking, "Oh, hang on, that will mean that I will be...

0:30:400:30:44

.."32 weeks pregnant on the 3rd of August."

0:30:450:30:48

Four days before we were supposed to fly.

0:30:480:30:50

Come back...

0:30:500:30:53

That meant by the time of their return flight,

0:30:530:30:55

Lisa would be 34 weeks pregnant.

0:30:550:30:58

Try as he might, Eddie couldn't find an insurance policy that would cover

0:30:580:31:01

them past 32 weeks and with the cost of health care so high in the US,

0:31:010:31:06

they knew they couldn't afford to be in California

0:31:060:31:09

if Lisa suddenly went into labour.

0:31:090:31:11

To have a baby delivered normally after 32 weeks in America

0:31:110:31:15

would cost anywhere between 3,000 and 25,000,

0:31:150:31:18

which was just a crazy amount of money

0:31:180:31:21

that we just wouldn't be able to afford.

0:31:210:31:23

We're not in a position to do that.

0:31:230:31:25

So, much to their disappointment,

0:31:250:31:27

the couple felt they had no choice but to cancel their holiday.

0:31:270:31:30

It just seemed madness really that there was no option for us.

0:31:300:31:33

It felt like there was no option other than to not go.

0:31:330:31:37

-Which was a real shame, wasn't it?

-Yeah.

0:31:370:31:39

They contacted both Virgin and Expedia to ask for a refund,

0:31:400:31:45

but the response was a shock.

0:31:450:31:47

When Virgin told us that we couldn't get the money back, we were just stunned, really.

0:31:470:31:50

They basically said because the flights were non-refundable,

0:31:500:31:53

there was nothing they could do. It was in the terms and conditions.

0:31:530:31:56

It seemed completely unreasonable.

0:31:560:31:57

Considering especially the amount of notice that we'd given to them.

0:31:570:32:00

The couple were told that as Expedia's terms and conditions had made clear,

0:32:020:32:06

the flights weren't refundable,

0:32:060:32:08

the only money they'd be able to get back was the taxes they'd paid.

0:32:080:32:12

The flights cost just under £2,400

0:32:120:32:15

and we'd been told that we could get £222 back,

0:32:150:32:18

which just seemed insane.

0:32:180:32:21

-There you go, my love.

-Thank you.

0:32:210:32:23

Eddie tried suggesting that they transfer the flights to Lisa's parents,

0:32:230:32:27

but was told that wasn't possible, either.

0:32:270:32:29

It just seemed completely unreasonable they wouldn't change the names.

0:32:290:32:33

-Yeah.

-We would have happily paid an admin fee.

0:32:330:32:35

Now, on Virgin, unlike some other airlines, with a doctor's note,

0:32:350:32:39

pregnant women can fly right up to 36 weeks.

0:32:390:32:43

But doing so would mean travelling without insurance so close to the due

0:32:430:32:47

date and Lisa and Eddie didn't want take that risk.

0:32:470:32:50

I felt Virgin's kind of response was completely irrational and the fact

0:32:500:32:54

that they said, well, it's not our fault,

0:32:540:32:56

you can still travel, you can still fly.

0:32:560:32:58

Clearly we're not going to be able to fly without travel insurance.

0:32:580:33:02

When we put these points to Virgin and Expedia,

0:33:020:33:05

both companies reiterated that in this instance,

0:33:050:33:08

the fare booked was a non-transferable and non-refundable ticket.

0:33:080:33:12

They added that customers are made aware of any terms and conditions at the

0:33:120:33:16

time of booking, and went on to say

0:33:160:33:18

that if there's a chance changes might be needed,

0:33:180:33:21

a flexible ticket should be booked to avoid any disappointment.

0:33:210:33:25

Expedia also explained that for security reasons,

0:33:250:33:28

the name on a ticket must exactly match the name written in a passport.

0:33:280:33:32

So, in the vast majority of cases,

0:33:320:33:35

even a name amendment will require a new ticket to be issued.

0:33:350:33:39

Well, you can understand why Lisa and Eddie no longer felt they could travel.

0:33:420:33:45

And the experience of Sharon Halls from Ipswich just underlines

0:33:450:33:50

why they were right to be concerned about what might happen.

0:33:500:33:53

Sharon, too, had booked a flight long before becoming pregnant.

0:33:530:33:57

This time to the Dominican Republic and for a very special occasion.

0:33:570:34:01

When I was asked to be maid of honour to my best friend's wedding,

0:34:010:34:04

I was over the moon.

0:34:040:34:06

She'd said she was going to get married abroad,

0:34:060:34:08

which made it all the more exciting.

0:34:080:34:10

13 months after Sharon booked the trip, she found out she was pregnant.

0:34:100:34:14

By the time the wedding came out, she'd be 26 weeks.

0:34:140:34:18

So, determined not to miss out on her friend's big day,

0:34:180:34:21

she checked with her doctor that she would still be safe to travel.

0:34:210:34:25

We knew we were OK to fly.

0:34:250:34:28

I wouldn't have gone if they'd said, "No, you're not fit to fly."

0:34:280:34:32

After being given the medical all clear, Sharon and her partner, Daniel,

0:34:360:34:40

double-checked with their insurer that they'd be covered for any hospital

0:34:400:34:43

bills should she go into labour whilst in the Dominican Republic.

0:34:430:34:47

And after confirming that she would be,

0:34:470:34:49

the couple decided to go ahead with the trip.

0:34:490:34:52

The holiday was great.

0:34:520:34:54

Beautiful beaches, sun all day.

0:34:540:34:58

Just relaxing, really.

0:34:580:34:59

But two days before the couple were due to return to the UK,

0:35:000:35:04

Sharon went into labour.

0:35:040:35:06

We were completely in denial.

0:35:060:35:08

I was like, "She can't give birth now. She can't give birth now.

0:35:080:35:10

"This is too early."

0:35:100:35:12

I didn't want to...

0:35:120:35:14

to give birth there,

0:35:140:35:15

I had a birth plan!

0:35:150:35:16

Of course, all plans went out of the window

0:35:160:35:19

and Sharon was rushed to the nearest hospital.

0:35:190:35:22

But it wasn't equipped to deal with a baby born so early.

0:35:220:35:25

It wasn't until we were told by the doctor that they had no facilities

0:35:250:35:30

there for a premature baby that we started to panic, really.

0:35:300:35:35

The nearest premature baby unit was at a private hospital two hours away.

0:35:350:35:39

But before they could move there,

0:35:390:35:41

the couple were told that they'd have to pay 10,000 for their care,

0:35:410:35:45

so they wanted to be sure their insurer would,

0:35:450:35:47

as it had previously suggested, cover the cost.

0:35:470:35:50

It was a race against time because my baby had to wait for us to come up

0:35:500:35:56

with the funds. We were on the phone backwards and forwards to

0:35:560:35:59

the insurance company to try and sort it.

0:35:590:36:02

And they just kept saying, "In theory, we're going to pay."

0:36:020:36:06

So, in theory, that didn't get us moving.

0:36:060:36:09

And we needed to know

0:36:090:36:12

as soon as possible what was going to happen.

0:36:120:36:14

With Sharon getting ever closer to giving birth,

0:36:140:36:17

the couple felt their best choice

0:36:170:36:20

was to try and get the 10,000 together themselves.

0:36:200:36:23

We pulled as much as we could together,

0:36:230:36:26

several credit cards and the rest of it.

0:36:260:36:29

And off we went. We just needed to get there and it was scary.

0:36:290:36:33

Upsetting.

0:36:330:36:35

With the money cobbled together,

0:36:360:36:38

Sharon and Daniel raced to reach the specialist private hospital and they

0:36:380:36:41

arrived with hardly a minute to spare.

0:36:410:36:43

Their baby, Evie, was born on the 28th September 2015

0:36:450:36:49

just over 12 weeks premature and weighing only 2lb 10oz.

0:36:490:36:54

Compared to all the other babies in the room, she was so tiny.

0:36:540:36:57

I couldn't touch her.

0:36:590:37:00

I couldn't hold her.

0:37:000:37:02

It was a good feeling to see her though.

0:37:020:37:05

But Evie needed round-the-clock care and of course that was going to cost

0:37:070:37:11

an extra 2,500 a day.

0:37:110:37:14

Rather than pay that,

0:37:140:37:16

the insurance company recommended that Evie was moved instead to a local

0:37:160:37:19

public hospital which was free.

0:37:190:37:21

But when the family arrived, their first impressions weren't great.

0:37:210:37:25

The level of...

0:37:250:37:27

..I guess sanitation and the equipment,

0:37:280:37:32

it's not what you would imagine.

0:37:320:37:36

-It was a shock.

-We thought straightaway,

0:37:360:37:38

"What jeopardy have we put Evie in bringing her here?"

0:37:380:37:41

Believing that Evie would be better cared for in the private hospital,

0:37:430:37:46

but worried that their insurers wouldn't be prepared to pay for it,

0:37:460:37:49

the couple turned to the internet to help raise money to pay the bills.

0:37:490:37:53

The fund was initially too obviously pay for Evie's medical care costs,

0:37:540:38:00

to get her back into the private hospital.

0:38:000:38:02

Evie. Good girl.

0:38:020:38:03

Good girl.

0:38:030:38:05

But after meeting the dedicated team of doctors and nurses at the public hospital,

0:38:060:38:10

the couple were reassured that this was the best place for Evie

0:38:100:38:14

to be cared for, after all.

0:38:140:38:16

And there was no need to pay privately.

0:38:160:38:18

And within seven days of Sharon going into early labour,

0:38:190:38:22

their insurers did agree to pay that initial 10,000,

0:38:220:38:26

plus any other expenses relating to Evie's care.

0:38:260:38:29

That financial support turned out to be invaluable.

0:38:310:38:34

Evie's health complications meant it was four months until they made it

0:38:340:38:38

back home.

0:38:380:38:39

It was amazing to just know that we were finally taking her back to see

0:38:410:38:46

people who... Like his mum.

0:38:460:38:48

Yeah, my family, your family.

0:38:490:38:50

-Yeah.

-Friends. The people that were on the wedding with us there,

0:38:500:38:54

-as well.

-Finally meeting little Evie.

0:38:540:38:57

Are you on the slide?

0:38:570:38:58

Now back home in the UK,

0:38:580:39:00

the website set up to raise cash for Evie continued,

0:39:000:39:03

but any money raised was instead sent to help local charities,

0:39:030:39:07

as well as to the public hospital that looked after Evie in the Dominican Republic.

0:39:070:39:11

So far, £75,000 has been donated

0:39:110:39:14

and Evie is now thriving after a difficult start to life.

0:39:140:39:19

Evie's great.

0:39:190:39:20

She's a bubbly little girl.

0:39:200:39:22

Always quite content.

0:39:220:39:24

She was a fighter from the beginning.

0:39:240:39:26

And she'll continue to be a fighter, I'll make sure of that.

0:39:260:39:29

But for women wondering whether to travel while pregnant,

0:39:300:39:33

financial expert Sarah Pennells says it's essential to ask insurers

0:39:330:39:37

the right questions in advance to identify what the level of cover might be.

0:39:370:39:42

One of the big problems I think for anybody who's thinking of buying

0:39:430:39:46

travel insurance when they are likely to be pregnant is that it varies so

0:39:460:39:50

widely between insurers.

0:39:500:39:52

Now, one of the big things that varies as the range of complications

0:39:520:39:55

that they'll cover. Some will pay out for quite a wide range,

0:39:550:39:59

some for much narrower.

0:39:590:40:00

And also, in terms of what they will pay out if your holiday has to be

0:40:000:40:05

cancelled. The kind of level of medical advice that you have to have

0:40:050:40:09

before they'll pay out.

0:40:090:40:10

So, my advice for anybody who thinks that they might be pregnant when

0:40:100:40:14

they're going to go on holiday is to have a really good look at the terms

0:40:140:40:17

and conditions of any insurance policy.

0:40:170:40:20

It's not the most romantic thing to do, by any means,

0:40:200:40:22

but I think you will thank yourself if you need to make a claim afterwards.

0:40:220:40:26

But Eddie and Lisa whose baby boy Ethan is now four months old think that

0:40:270:40:31

airlines and insurers should be more flexible if, as happened to them,

0:40:310:40:36

plans suddenly need to change.

0:40:360:40:38

I'm sure there's lots of other couples that this has happened to

0:40:380:40:41

-the past.

-Yeah.

0:40:410:40:42

I think something needs to change in terms of the rules for the future,

0:40:420:40:45

to make sure other people don't get stuck in this

0:40:450:40:48

-same unfortunate position that we've been put in, really.

-Yeah.

0:40:480:40:51

If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,

0:40:590:41:02

we now have even more ways to get in touch.

0:41:020:41:04

You can join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

0:41:040:41:08

Just look for BBC Rip Off Britain.

0:41:080:41:10

As well as the most up-to-date news,

0:41:110:41:13

you'll also find exclusive behind-the-scenes clips and pictures

0:41:130:41:16

from the show.

0:41:160:41:18

Or you can log onto our website,

0:41:190:41:21

bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain,

0:41:210:41:24

where there's plenty of advice and fact sheets full of tips on how to

0:41:240:41:28

avoid getting ripped off.

0:41:280:41:30

If you'd like to send us an e-mail, then our address is...

0:41:300:41:33

Or, if you want to send us a letter, then our new address is...

0:41:370:41:41

Well, I know they say that lightning does not strike in the same place

0:41:520:41:56

twice, but I don't know about you,

0:41:560:41:58

I have to say that after hearing about the awful consequences of that fire

0:41:580:42:02

in the French chateau that we saw earlier,

0:42:020:42:04

I am certainly going to be

0:42:040:42:06

double-checking the details of both my travel and my home insurance

0:42:060:42:10

the next time I go away. How about you, Gloria?

0:42:100:42:12

You won't be on your own because I'll be checking mine as well.

0:42:120:42:15

Because there's such a strong warning.

0:42:150:42:17

And every one of the stories that we've looked at today really does

0:42:170:42:19

underline how important it is to

0:42:190:42:21

make sure that when you're getting travel insurance

0:42:210:42:24

that first of all you're getting the right kind,

0:42:240:42:26

and crucially from the right date.

0:42:260:42:28

And remember the only way that you'll be covered if you do need to cancel

0:42:280:42:32

is if you take it out from the very moment that you book your holiday.

0:42:320:42:35

Well, with that precious nugget of advice,

0:42:350:42:38

I'm afraid we've reached the end of today's programme.

0:42:380:42:40

We'll be back very soon to investigate more of the stories you've asked us

0:42:400:42:44

to look into on your behalf.

0:42:440:42:45

But in the meantime, do keep letting us know your own experiences.

0:42:450:42:49

We look at every single one and its on that basis that we decide what we're

0:42:490:42:52

going to cover in the future, isn't it?

0:42:520:42:54

And I loved today's programme because of the diversity.

0:42:540:42:57

I love when people share their stories and of course it prevents other people being in a trap.

0:42:570:43:00

-Absolutely. It helps everybody.

-It does.

0:43:000:43:03

And it's all down to you.

0:43:030:43:04

Well, that was like all from us.

0:43:040:43:06

From all of the three of us in sunny Tenerife, goodbye.

0:43:060:43:09

-Bye-bye.

-Goodbye.

0:43:090:43:10

Julia Somerville, Gloria Hunniford and Angela Rippon hear about dramatic stories of how holidays were scuppered by unexpected disasters. One family reveals the terrifying fall-out from a fire in the French chateau they were staying in, where they fell foul of a law that saw them hit with the bill for its repair.

Plus, families caught up in extreme weather and hurricanes question whether holiday companies looking after them did enough to keep them safe.

Travel expert Simon Calder has invaluable advice on sailing through the various extra charges on cruises, and the experience of two mums-to-be exposes surprising complications of travelling when pregnant.