The summer festival season has kicked off. The Isle of Wight music festival leads the way this weekend; next week thousands will be heading to Barcelona for the Sonar dance fiesta and many more are packing their wellies for Glastonbury at the end of the month. However, at any major event there is crime, and theft of personal possessions can spoil the weekend and leave a big hole in your finances. So how can festival-goers protect themselves?
"While in the past traditional festival-goers would have been happy with just their wellies and a waterproof, these days people can't live without their electronic gadgets and other valuable personal belongings, making festivals a prime spot for opportunistic thieves to strike," says Post Office's head of insurance Gerry Barrett.
It may be the last thing on your mind, but checking your insurance situation before you set off is a must. What cover do you have and what policies can help you out should the festival thieves strike?
Standard home contents insurance will not cover loss of your belongings away from home. If you take expensive items and they get stolen or damaged, you'll need additional personal belongings cover bolted on to your policy. The good news is that this peace of mind won't cost much. A male aged 25 covering a semi-detached house with £35,000 of contents could pay an annual premium of £83.04 for personal possessions up to £2,500, including camping gear, with provider Budget Insurance.
However, you should take the time to check the excess level. Depending on the worth of your equipment, if the excess is high, it may not be worth taking out just for the festival. Most insurers will also cover single items only up to a certain limit, often about £1,000 or £1,500, so if you have an item worth more than this, it may be better to leave it at home.
Before you fork out for a policy, however, make sure you're not paying for cover you already have or don't need. "Mobile phone insurance can cost up to £100 a year and isn't necessary as you can add cover more cheaply on to your home contents insurance under personal possessions," says Nick Cheek, fromconsumer group Which?. "You may have it already, so check."
Check your other insurance policies such as annual travel insurance to see if your belongings are covered by these. If you still live at home, check your parents' home contents policy as this may already cover you for loss of possessions away from home. But read the policy exclusions and conditions carefully as these will vary from one insurer to another.
If you have to make a claim, you will be expected to have "taken reasonable care" of your possessions, but in practice what this entails will depend on your insurer. Some may be more pernickety than others so always check exclusions. "While we wouldn't expect people to lock their tents, we wouldn't expect people to leave their valuables on show inside their tent while they wandered off to watch a band," says Rebecca Holmes from Aviva.
More and more people are choosing to go abroad to combine their holiday and festival experience in one. Popular choices include Benicassim in Spain this July and Pukkelpop in Belgium the following month, so it's important to think about travel insurance. Once again, this doesn't have to cost the earth and policies can cost less than £10 for a couple spending a week in Spain. But UK festival-goers should also consider travel insurance.
"If you don't have a home insurance policy that you can call on, a travel insurance policy that covers the UK can be picked up for just under £5, a small price to pay when you can make a claim for items totalling £500," says Julie Owens, an insurance expert at Moneysupermarket.
However, once again you need to check the details to be sure of exactly what you're covered for and by how much. For example, a one-week single UK-based policy for a male aged 25 could cost as little as £4.98 with OUL Direct. This provides cover up to £500 with a £200 excess level, while Ignite Insurance could cost a fraction more at £5.71 but covers up to £1,500 with only a £150 excess, according to Moneysupermarket.
What about your car?
Firstly, ensure you have appropriate motor breakdown cover in place before hitting the roads. But if you're planning to share driving with friends to cut down transport costs, make sure they're insured to do so or risk facing a huge fine and penalty points. It can cost from about £22 to £55 to add an additional driver to a policy for seven days.
When it comes to your belongings, your car may seem like a safer haven than your tent for valuables but don't rely on your car insurance policy to cover this. Many car insurance providers limit contents cover to just £100 for all your belongings left in the car – barely enough to cover most phones today.
The personal belongings sections under your home insurance should provide enough protection for things stolen from your car, although, again, single items may need additional cover and they must be in a locked and concealed boot or a closed glove compartment in a securely locked vehicle.
Your cards and cash
It's easy to let your guard down at a festival but this may make you easy prey for a pickpocket. This could lead to not only your credit cards and cash being stolen, but also your identity. But don't let this scare you into taking out ID fraud cover, though, as your bank should cover you.
"Paying for ID fraud cover is worthless because if you lose any money via fraud, banks will usually refund you the full amount you've lost, unless you've been negligent," says Mr Cheek.
Moreover, you may already have protection against this with your credit card. Capital One, for example, offers free subscription to its ID fraud alert service which applies to any credit card. This service offers email alerts within seven days of any key changes to your Equifax credit file, plus two free credit reports every year.
How to keep your valuables safe
Check what cover you already have – from an annual travel insurance policy and from your own or your parents' home insurance policy.
Avoid taking all your cash on day one. Most of the big festivals have cashpoints, although some may charge for withdrawals.
Keep your valuables in the security lockers provided. At some festivals these are free; others charge up to £15 for the weekend.
Use a zipped cross-body bag so that it can't be snatched easily from your shoulder.
Report any lost or stolen belongings to the police as soon as possible and get a crime reference number which you'll need to give to your insurer.