Travel insurance – the lowdown

Plane wings

25/05/17 It’s holiday time!

So you’ve clicked the ‘pay’ button online and have just cracked open the wine, or walked out of a travel agents feeling a bit giddy but excited. The holiday is booked! You may be making a list in your head of things to buy, currency to arrange and diets that you’re never going to stick to. But have you forgotten something?

We’re always going on about getting a good travel insurance policy at Resolver. But it’s easy to overlook in the excitement of booking the holiday – and a surprisingly large number of us (including 40% of young people) decide to wing it. 

If something is stolen or damaged then call the insurer as soon as you can. You may be required to file a police report.

But what is a good policy and how do you know if it will cover you for the things you’re planning on doing? Here are our tips on what to look out for – and what to watch out for…

Travel insurance: all you need to know

Single or Annual?

There are two types of policy. When you take out travel insurance, there’s a HUGE variety of choices. We’ll help you narrow those down a bit but first things first: do you take a single trip or annual travel insurance policy? Single trip insurance does just what it says on the tin. It’s cheap and cheerful and often sold alongside packages or at airports. Annual policies are worth it if you’re taking a few holidays in a year (lucky you!) and it’s useful if you want to take advantage of those last-minute bargains, knowing you’ll be covered. It’s better for long-haul trips too and the cover can be more extensive.

What if you can’t go?

Make sure you’ve got cancellation cover. If something unexpected happens in the run up to the holiday (death of a relative, illness, an unexpected event) then cancellation cover will pay out a sum towards the costs of not being able to travel. Cheap policies can exclude this completely, so never assume you’re covered. Cancellation cover isn’t for every eventuality. It only covers things happening to you or immediate family for example. And if you’ve splashed out on a megabucks trip, make sure you know what you know what the maximum payout will be. T&C’s alert! If you’ve got a medical condition that might affect your ability to travel, you’ll need to disclose this. If you don’t, then your claim might get turned down.

Do you even read the T&Cs?

There’s a ton of terms and conditions. Some travel insurance policies can read like War and Peace. We’ve seen ones pushing 100 pages. Nightmare. This is excessive, but then travel insurance covers you for many more scenarios than other insurance policies might do so the T&C’s are always going to be longer. Regardless, you should get a ‘key facts’ booklet that tells you the most important things, like excess levels and how to claim. T&C’s alert! If a clause in the contract is ‘significant’ it should be in the key facts document. If your insurer turns down a claim and you don’t think it’s fair, Resolver can help you make a claim – and the financial ombudsman upholds loads of disputes over dodgy clauses every year.

Excessive times

Always, always check the excess fees and the level of cover. In terms of the amount you should be covered for, we’d suggest policies that at least £2 million for medical expenses/repatriation (hospital charges can be terrifyingly high), £2-3,000 for cancellation, £1,500 for lost or damaged luggage and £1 million for personal liability (in case you get sued for damage you cause to you, property or other people by accident). You’ll find that cover for things like travel cash is low, so keep your money safe. The excess fee is what the insurers knock off your claim as a charge. The lower the excess the higher the premium. You can sometimes adjust and tailor this too.

Might not be easy to purchase travel insurance

Don’t give up if you’re high risk. There are a few things that can make getting insurance harder or more expensive;

  • Being older (over 70)

  • Being pregnant

  • Having a serious medical condition (even if it’s treatable)

  • Going somewhere where travel is dangerous.

  • Taking part in (legal) high risk activities.

Don’t give up. There are brokers, charities and specialist insurers who can help you find cover. Get in touch if you need details of who to contact for free.

It’s a common assumption that you’ll be covered for personal possessions by your travel insurance policy but this isn’t the case.

Adrenaline junkies

Speaking of high risk activities, if you’re planning on doing something wild on holiday, make sure you’ve taken out adventure (or later in the year, Winter sports) cover to your policy. This covers you for a range of things on a scale of risk, like bungee jumping, skydives, quad bike riding and even horse riding. A huge number of people fall off bikes while on holiday (motor or pedal) so check you’re covered. And even more sedate things, like off-trail hiking, might require extra cover. If you’re taking part in an activity on holiday with an aspect of risk, make sure they’ve got liability insurance and are trained and authorised to provide the service.

Family planning

There are lots of family insurance policies so if you’re going away with the kids, it’s worth opting for one. As with anything, if the kids are going to be out of your sight at a holiday club or taking part in an activity, check for suitable supervision as this may be part of the T&C’s. A family cover will also allow you to stay with a sick child in a hospital or travel home with them if necessary – but usually only covers one parent. This can be distressing for parents when they find this up, but it’s pretty standard in policies.

Curtailment

There are times when you might need to come home from holiday after a family event at home or an injury abroad. This is covered under curtailment. Check what your policy covers you for (replacing tickets, getting you to the airport, what happens when you’re at home). If you break a limb, you might find you have to wait for a flight that can fit you on so keep in touch with your insurer about how they can help you.

Ever lost your wallet, smartphone or camera during holidays?

How much is your bag worth? It’s a common assumption that you’ll be covered for personal possessions by your travel insurance policy but this isn’t the case. Most policies only have limited payouts for this and you’ll usually have to pay an extra premium before you travel. Back in more innocent times, most people would cart around a tattered paperback and their wallet on holiday. But now we have smartphones, tablet computers, expensive jewellery and watches and tons of other expensive electronic devices. Can you afford to lose them? If not, then think carefully about what you take away with you. Make sure you use a safe if the hotel has one – most insurance policies will require you to do this.

If you need to claim

We always recommend printing out your certificate of insurance or saving it on a smartphone or emailing it to yourself. Keep your insurer’s emergency telephone number to hand along with your policy number. If something is stolen or damaged then call them as soon as you can. You may be required to file a police report. If you’re in a hospital, then there’ll be a special team to help with medical issues. Get in touch with them and they’ll talk you through it. The hospital may want to know if you’re insured. Hold on to any documents that might be useful for the claim and send copies when your home.

Despite the best efforts of Icelandic volcano's, striking air traffic controllers, handbag snatchers and hurricanes, the vast majority of us will have a fabulous, trouble-free time on holiday. But knowing you’re covered while abroad frees you up to relax and have a good time. So get covered. And remember, if you’ve got an insurance or travel related problem, Resolver can help.

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