Bird strike. Volcano strike. Strike. It seems there are now more reasons than ever to cancel your flight. If you’re not the package holiday type, the only way to get your money back on ‘consequential losses’ – ie. the hotel room you paid for but now have no way of getting to, or indeed, leave – is through travel insurance.
Policies, though laid out in black and white, are not always so. Results of a recent survey by one major insurer suggests nearly a fifth of travellers either do not bother taking out specialist policies, assume they are covered by another policy they’ve taken out in the past, or just do not know what sort of travel policy they need.
It may come as a surprise that most travel insurance claims are due to cancellations rather than illness or injury.
A spokesperson for consumer watchdog Which? tells Kenwood Travel: “Travel insurance might not cover cancellation or having to cut the holiday short due to bereavement or illness. Unexpected events such as natural disasters, for example volcanoes, also might not be covered by some travel insurance policies.”
So with some help from Kenwood’s resident insurance brain and Which? here are some handy travel insurance tips to heed before you set off:
Check the small print
The golden rule. Check every line.
For a start, standard policies last 30-31 days. Any longer will likely add to your premium. Furthermore you should know if you’re going to need specific cover in your policy, for instance if you’re going on an extreme sports holiday.
Due to their prominence in claims, cancellation and curtailment clauses are key. Should you need to cut your holiday short because, say, a relative falls ill back home, you’ll need cover for a recommended £3,000 or the total cost of your holiday. Also check the fine print to ensure which specific potential incidents are covered. The policy may cover your return for a family member’s illness, but not a close friend, for example.
Don’t forget that the specifics of a policy may be restrictive. For example, you may need to pay extra on top of your premium if you know you’ll be diving beyond a certain depth. Alternatively, age can be a restrictive factor especially when engaging in high-energy sports.
Water sports including sailing, waterskiing and Scuba diving (to a certain depth) are often covered by standard policies. Double-check the fine print so you don’t end up paying unnecessary extras.
Children up to a certain age are often already covered, or free to add to your existing policy. Just don’t assume that every policy covers this.
Firstly, be upfront with your insurers about existing conditions or you may come unstuck if these present a complication while you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. Many insurers will not cover medical treatment at all unless informed about pre-existing conditions before travel, and even then are likely to put significant hikes on your premium to cover any treatment you may need for that condition.
ALWAYS ensure your medical policy covers all potential pitfalls. Treatment may not be free if it is fairly extensive, and access to treatment does not mean that the costs of flying you home for anything serious are covered.
Typically the average Brit warrants £2 million’ worth of medical cover for a holiday, which would include an air ambulance to transport you home.
Many travellers are offered ‘Travel Accident Insurance’ on their credit cards. This can be a grey area in terms of cover. Often it will cover only a serious accidental injury. Illness, costs of travel home due to illness, or cancellation of your holiday may not be covered so read the small print.
Again, check – the policy should cover up to £1,500 worth of goods. Furthermore there may still be limited payout on expensive items such as a camera or iPad – usually £250 – £500.
But don’t get caught paying for something that’s already covered. If you have house insurance that covers certain items outside of the home, then these may also be covered on your holiday. If not, it may nevertheless still be cheaper to add these items to your home insurance rather than your travel premium.
ATOL / Scheduled Airline Failure insurance / Financial Failure Protection
Tour and package holiday booking agents like Kenwood Travel should be covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) policy, which will find you alternative flights and make arrangements in the event your airline goes bust.
Similarly Scheduled Airline Failure insurance covers independent travellers for the failure of an airline, while the added benefits of Financial Failure Protection covers hotels, villas, excursions and the like not able to cater to your needs or going bust. Make sure your policy includes Financial Failure cover.
One last thing…
Organise your insurance on the day you book your travel, or you’ll miss out on some, if not all, of its benefits. Don’t leave it till the last minute. If you booked your flight a year ago for instance, but not your insurance, and had to cancel the trip in the meantime you’ll lose the entire cost of that trip.
As is always the case with insurance, read the small print to absolutely ensure the extent of your cover. If you’re spending a week on a beach, chances are your cover should be adequate. But don’t just go for the cheap option. You could be laden with a fraction of the excess by paying just a couple of pounds more on the premium.
Ultimately what you don’t want to do is pay twice for the stuff that’s already covered.