Travel Insurance: Sun, Sand and Sickness

Travel insurance is probably one of the most confusing types of insurance around. Numerous clauses, sub-clauses and a myriad of little stipulations make for a very complicated policy, which nevertheless is very important for any holiday-maker.

People going on holiday tend to adopt an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude and, hopefully, it won’t. But nobody is immune to ill-health or robbery, and baggage loss can happen to the best of us. So, for sheer peace of mind, it’s worth looking into travel insurance when booking your trip.

The medical aspect of a travel insurance policy is probably the most important and the most needed. Far more people fall ill abroad than you’d think, and the cost of OTC medication can be extortionate abroad as well as at home. Even contracting a simple stomach bug can cost you dearly. And if you need to be hospitalised in a foreign country, you could find yourself deeply out of pocket – most countries don’t have an equivalent to the NHS.

It’s important to remember that most travel insurance policies won’t cover you for any problems related to pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, especially if you haven’t mentioned these to your insurer when taking out the policy. Like any other type of insurance, omitting details on application can result in claims being refused, so make sure you tell them everything. This also goes for any dependents who are travelling with you; their medical history needs to be disclosed, but if the holiday is cut short because of a pre-existing condition it’s unlikely you’ll be reimbursed. Pregnancy, although technically a pre-existing condition, will normally be covered as long as you will be less than 28 weeks pregnant by the end of your trip (24 weeks for a multiple pregnancy). This restriction can vary between insurers, so always check your policy.

If you lose your possessions on holiday, your insurer will normally only pay out if you had taken reasonable care of them; if you had left them unattended you will be seen as negligent and claims will normally be refused. Likewise, if you leave any valuables unattended in your hotel room, vehicle or mobile home, and they are stolen, you may not be able to claim. If possible, keep your valuables in a room or hotel safe, or keep them on your person.

If your holiday has to be cancelled, there are some situations you will not be covered for. If you cancel simply because you decide not to go, for example because of a relationship break-up, you won’t be refunded. If your holiday is cancelled by the hotel, or if you have an accident or unforeseen emergency at home, most insurers will refund the costs you have paid so far, plus any cancellation fees due. Again, check your policy first to see what is and isn’t covered.

When you look for a travel insurance policy, don’t just go on price alone. Annual travel insurance may work out cheaper, but if you only go away once a year for two weeks, you’d only really need cover for that time. Also, read all the small print, and ask questions, to make sure the policy covers exactly what you need.

The best way to find cheap travel insurance is to shop around online. While holiday insurance isn’t mandatory, it’s always wise to take out a policy. The one time you go on holiday without travel insurance could be the one time you need it.