Bummer! It’s that time of year when my annual travel insurance needs renewing, and given I’m about to head off to India, I can put it off no longer.
I’ve suffered a few travel insurance horror stories in my time from being told that I should carry my dive regulators as hand luggage (uh clearly they have no idea how heavy or big they are!) to being told that I should have known when my mum was going to die!!
In short, I have had several incidences of travel insurance horror with declined insurance claims. It’s frustrating, annoying, upsetting and stressful. In the hope of helping you avoid a similar fate, here are a few things to consider.
Annual Travel Insurance Policies are Much Better Value
An annual travel policy, for you and all the family, can often cost only slightly more than one single trip travel insurance policy. In fact, a quick quote for a couple seeking a worldwide policy reveals that for just £4.23 extra they can upgrade their single trip policy to annual cover of unlimited trips.
If you are likely to travel more than once a year, an annual policy is absolutely the right way to go, as not only will you save money, but you will also save time. Policies will usually auto-renew so you will never be without cover.
How Dare My Mum/Nan/Other Die?
If a close family member is ill, or elderly, check the small print for the policy on bereavement. Pre-existing conditions are usually excluded, however you may be able to add these for an additional premium.
I was unable to claim on my policy for travel to Honduras shortly after my mum died. Although she had cancer at the time of booking, there was no indication she would not be with us at the time of our departure 10 months later.
Some policies do not cover bereavement of a family member at all, as my teenage step-daughter recently found to her cost, having just booked a trip which she had saved months to pay for, only for her boyfriend’s granddad to pass away just days before they were due to leave. No cover, no refund and no holiday! You can imagine the stress in our household!
Oops My Luggage Hasn’t Arrived
I’ve had this happen 4 or 5 times which isn’t a problem if you are on the homeward bound journey. The airline will simply deliver your bags the next day when they track them down (for gods sake don’t throw away the luggage tags they give you when you check in!).
However if you are arriving in Russia on NY Eve, with just several hours until midnight, or in Egypt to board a liveaboard, then no bags becomes more of a problem.
On the latter, my husband’s dive equipment failed to arrive resulting in additional costs to hire equipment. The travel insurance company failed to pay because they said we should have carried valuables in our hand luggage.
Anyone who dives will know that the suggestion to carry regulators and a buoyancy Control Device (BCD) as hand luggage is beyond ridiculous!! A BCD is a similar size to a life jacket, and with more airlines scrutinising the size and weight of your hand luggage, it is impossible to take both items on-board as hand luggage.
Oh No, I’ve Missed My Flight
Clearly this is an avoidable issue, so my advice would be to always leave plenty of time to get the airport. Of course, life is unpredictable. You may run out of petrol on the way to the airport, be caught up in traffic on the motorway (or worse an accident), or find that the airport has closed without prior warning resulting in our missed connection back to the UK (yes that really happened to us in Bali!).
Missed departure is usually quite strict on the claims criteria so do check the small print. Our insurer refused to pay costs incurred as a result of the airport closure, even though our missed departure was due to circumstances outside our control.
AMEX to the rescue – even though we were not covered on their policy either, they offered us a nominal payment to compensate. Wow! That British Airways Premium card really has its uses!
Civil Unrest, Natural Disaster and Terrorism
Fortunately I have managed to avoid being caught up in a riot to date (although we did narrowly avoid one in Tunisia earlier this year) but I have been in India when civil unrest has occurred.
Thanks to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, we were also stranded in Brazil (there are definitely worse places to be stranded) back in 2010. These claims are not usually covered on a standard policy, but you can add them for an extra cost.
When I first started travelling, I would have thought this cover an unnecessary expense, but the world is more volatile these days. Terrorist attacks, civil unrest and natural disaster have become regular occurrences in recent times. Whether it is an earthquake in Nepal, flooding in Bangladesh, terrorist attacks in Tunisia, or riots in India, unless you pay for this cover, you will not be protected.
For this reason, I would advise you to think carefully about the countries you plan to visit, and the likelihood of anything happening before deciding whether you need this option.
Of course, the better option would be to avoid areas where these things are likely to happen, but is this even possible?
So what is the best advice I can give you to ensure you are avoid your own travel insurance horror?
My Top Three Tips
Do Your Research
Establish what cover you absolutely want to be covered for, and what you think the potential risks are for the places you are planning to visit. Then ensure you seek out a policy which will offer cover for those risks.
Which offers a handy comparison showing which companies offer cover for specific types of claims.
Beware The Cheapest
Beware the cheapest policy will rarely be the best if you want comprehensive cover.
Read the small print
I cannot stress this enough. Having decided what things you must be covered for, make sure the policy definitely meets your needs.
Failure to read this could be the difference between an accepted and declined claim (I know from painful, and costly experience!!)
Why Bother with Travel Insurance?
After reading this, you may be forgiven for thinking that there is no point taking out travel insurance, but rest assured this is not the case.
For every declined case I have had, I have had a successful claim. I’ve been unfortunate enough to break my collar-bone and snap my media and cruciate ligaments overseas (separate trips I hasten to add). On both occasions the insurers were brilliant, offering prompt assistance, additional seats on the plane, and repatriation options.
I’ve also lost items, and had items stolen overseas, and these have also been successfully claimed on my insurance.
Probably the best advice of all that I can give you, is clearly not to travel with me!
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