When we go abroad for our holidays, we are only concerned with having a good time. The last thing on our mind is 'What will happen if I am ill?' or 'What if my luggage ends up in Iceland and I'm in Tobago?' Thankfully, most holidays pass without such incidents, but, as we all know, things can, and do, go wrong. There's nothing you can do to avoid fate, but there is a precaution that you can take to minimise the effects of Sod's law. So, here are a few golden rules on the enthralling subject of travel insurance.
The Golden Rule is not to travel abroad without adequate travel insurance. The risks covered, such as loss of luggage, delay, personal liability and of course medical assistance, are the kinds of occurrence guaranteed to ruin any holiday. The pain is just that little bit more bearable if you have cover and can claim some monetary recompense.
Don't Skimp on the Cover. The cheapest (sometimes free) policies offer basic cover only and seldom extend to areas such as the Caribbean. Numerous exclusions and sky-high excesses sometimes make these policies not worth the paper they are written on. If you are buying your cover through a broker (including travel agents or your flight agent) tell them that you want WORLD-WIDE cover and a comprehensive range of benefits. Perhaps the most essential risk is the medical expenses section. If you suffer a heart attack, a stroke or have a serious accident it will cost many thousands of pounds to get you home again. In severe cases, an air ambulance may need to be chartered to repatriate you. Charter flights will not carry anyone who poses a potential lawsuit to them. You may need to be flown to the USA for treatment. Can you afford the bills? The most expensive isn't always the best either, but you generally get what you pay for with travel insurance. Stick with the well-known companies. You have less risk of having a VALID claim rejected and will have less hassle sorting things out.
Don't Leave it until the last minute. An invaluable component of travel insurance policies includes cancellation due to illness, injury or bereavement. If you book your flights or package holiday in March but aren't travelling until August, anything could happen in the following six months, which might force you to cancel. If you have no insurance in place, you could not only lose your deposit, but be liable for the balance as well. Ouch!
Be Warned. Most travel insurance policies do not cover injuries, illness or death sustained whilst participating in 'dangerous' sports. Bungee jumping is out, as is free-fall parachute diving, although travellers to Tobago shouldn't worry too much about that. Diving (not snorkelling), horse riding and water skiing are all likely to be excluded sports. Surfing, including wind and kite surfing, and mountain biking may be excluded from certain policies. If you are likely to be participating in, or are arranging your holiday around any of these sports, check with your insurance company BEFORE you go.
Check annual policies before departure. If you have a policy offering 'family cover', these often only include children up to the age of 18. If your kids are now at or above this age, they may need to seek cover independently. Notify your insurer if you have suffered any deterioration in health e.g. if you've had a heart attack, since you took the policy out. If you haven't told them, they are likely to reject a claim if you have another attack whilst on holiday. This would be a perfectly valid reason for rejection of a claim as you have withheld a material fact, which should have been disclosed and may have resulted in an increase in premium at renewal. The same goes for the more 'mature' traveller. Many insurers charge additional premiums for the over 65's. Don't be tempted to fib about your age to get a lower premium (as if you would). Any claim could be deemed invalid; once the insurance company suss that you are not as young as you thought you were (based on your medical records or copy of your passport). At the very least, the claim won't be honoured, at worst; you could find yourself in trouble for fraud.
Read your policy before departure. Ensure that you are familiar with what is and what is not covered. I know it's boring, but it can save time and confusion and you should know what to do in the event of an insured incident e.g. if your camera is stolen, report its theft to the local police and obtain a crime report receipt. Most insurance companies will, naturally, require you to comply with their procedures before they will cough up. Retain any receipts for medical care or replacement of baggage or personal effects. If your plane is delayed or your baggage is lost, get confirmation from your carrier in writing to substantiate your claim. If you are part of a package trip, get the local rep to write a report.
Don't leave home without it. Take your policy document, or a photocopy, on holiday with you. In an emergency, it will tell you what you should do and how to ensure that any claim can be met. It will tell you who to contact for assistance and the limits for replacements of delayed or lost luggage or alternative accommodation if your flight is delayed or cancelled. This way you will be able to make any of these unfortunate, but all too common problems, tolerable.
Enjoy your holiday, safe in the knowledge that, if you are unlucky enough to require assistance, your insurance company have contracted to come to your rescue - but only for those risks that they have agreed to insure against.