It’s a phrase you’ll often see on advertising for package holidays – “ABTA Protected”. But what exactly does this mean? There’s lots of confusion about what ABTA protection does, and in which circumstances it might kick in and save your holiday.
ABTA stands for the Association of British Travel Agents. It’s the industry body for companies offering organised package holidays of all types and includes the big high street names like Tui or Thomas Cook as well as the many smaller companies too. ABTA members all pay into a central insurance pot of money in order for them to be part of the scheme and use the ABTA name and logo on their marketing. ABTA members also have to sign up to a code of conduct, and if you are unable to resolve a complaint with your operator, ABTA can help sort it out. Buying a package holiday or charter flight from an ABTA member gives you a degree of protection should the company go into liquidation when you are away on holiday, or before you go.
The ABTA Protection scheme means that if you buy a holiday from a company which is a member, and that company goes bankrupt, you will get any money back if you are still in the UK and are yet to travel. If it happens when you are abroad on holiday, you will be able to complete your holiday and ABTA will meet the cost of your accommodation and getting you home. This protection is in addition to any travel insurance you might have.
Adventurous sports insurance
If you’re planning on getting active on your next foreign holiday, it’s important to make sure that you have the right level of insurance cover. Many standard travel insurers exclude certain activities which they class as adventure, extreme or risky, and the activities which fall into this class often come as quite a surprise.
Your standard travel insurance policy is going to cover you adequately for a holiday lying around the pool, or perhaps playing tennis or going for a gentle stroll in the countryside around your hotel. But if you’re planning on going out on a jet ski, scuba diving, white water rafting or climbing in the mountains, you’re going to need special cover. This cover will cost a little bit more than your standard travel insurance, but will cover all your medical bills in the event of something going wrong. There’s usually legal protection cover too – so if you lose control of your jet ski and injure someone else, their compensation will be taken care of.
When buying this type of insurance, make sure you’re clear about what types of activities you’re likely to be taking part in, and check that you’re fully covered. Not all adventurous sports insurance covers the same activities, and there may be some exclusions such as not climbing above a certain height or scuba diving to a certain depth. Sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more for a policy with a good level of cover – you want a policy you can rely on to pick up the pieces if it all goes wrong.
Annual travel insurance
Gone are the days when international travel was a luxury which most people could only afford once every few years. Budget airlines and changing lifestyles have sparked a huge rise in the number of foreign visits made by UK residents – up to over 70 million in 2016. This changing pattern of travel has led to the rise of the annual travel insurance policy, which has many advantages for the frequent traveller.
The main benefit to annual travel insurance is that it often offers far better value for money than buying a single-trip insurance policy each time you go away. It also makes life easier – no more sitting up late at night frantically trying to organise travel insurance for a trip leaving the next day. Annual insurance policies can be bought for individuals, couples or families, and usually cover a set geographic zone; Europe, North America or rest of the world. The United States and Canada are covered separately given their high charges for medical care compared with the rest of the world.
Annual travel insurance policies cover the same eventualities as single trip insurance, such as losing your passport, having to cancel your holiday or needing to fly home in an emergency. Not all policies are the same though, so when you are shopping around don’t focus solely on the price – make sure the cover offered is sufficient for you and your family’s needs too. If any member of the family has pre-existing health conditions, or if you are planning on doing adventurous activities during any of your holidays, you may need additional cover.
ATOL protection often goes hand in hand with ABTA protection, and both of these schemes are designed to offer financial protection to travellers who book with companies which are members of the scheme. ATOL stands for Air Travel Organisers Licence and in order to sell flights as part of a package holiday, UK operators are legally obliged to hold an ATOL licence.
ATOL protection covers the flight element of any package holiday or charter flight you’ve booked. In the unlikely event of your tour operator ceasing to trade, ATOL will step in and make arrangements to get you home. This could mean chartering aircraft or using alternate flights to bring you back to the UK. This protection comes as standard when you buy flights from a tour operator which is ATOL registered, and you don’t pay any extra money. ATOL protection is completely separate to any travel insurance policy which you may have taken out.
ATOL is a British scheme only, so it’s something important to consider if you are booking a trip or package holiday with a company which is based outside the UK. Many UK travellers were caught out by this when LowCostHolidays went into administration in 2016. As the company was based in Spain, ATOL protection didn’t apply and customers who had not taken out additional travel insurance lost everything. Take care when browsing online – don’t assume that just because a company is using a .co.uk web address that they are based in the UK. You can also check the ATOL website to make sure that the company you’re thinking of booking with is part of the scheme.
Avoiding Travel Insurance Claim Rejections
The insurance industry has a bad reputation, with many policyholders thinking that companies will do everything possible to wriggle out of paying a claim. Although this stereotype isn’t entirely true, it is true that there are many situations in which insurers will refuse a claim. Knowing the rules and what evidence you must provide will make any claim run much more smoothly.
One of the main reasons for rejecting claims is failing to declare pre-existing medical conditions. Yes, it will make your premium more expensive to tell the insurer about your medical history, but failing to do so could mean your claim is rejected. Drinking alcohol is also often a reason for rejection of a claim, especially when claiming for trips or falls.
Insurance companies are attentive to the issue of fraud, and therefore will ask for proof that you owned items you are claiming have been stolen. Receipts are the best way of doing this, but if you haven’t kept the receipts, take photos of your valuables with timestamps so you can prove you had them. You will also be expected to report any theft to the local police, and provide your insurer with a copy of the report or the reference number.
The final reason why many claims are rejected is negligence – the insurer thinks you haven’t taken sufficient care of your belongings. Not using the hotel safe provided and then trying to claim for stolen money will probably lead to a rejection, for example.
Backpackers’ Travel Insurance
It’s not just teenagers who spend a year or more travelling the world and exploring all manner of exotic destinations. People of all ages are taking career breaks or sabbaticals and heading off across the globe on a backpacking adventure. If you’re planning this sort of extended trip, taking in several countries, then ordinary travel insurance isn’t going to be sufficient and you’re going to need a specialist backpacker policy.
Most backpacker insurance policies are designed to cover people who are intending to be out of the UK for up to 12 months. If you’re travelling for longer, you will need to approach a specialist broker. In terms of cover, backpacker insurance offers the same levels of cover as many other standard policies and will cover you for medical emergencies, having to cancel part of your trip, theft, and many other eventualities. Make sure that the cover provided is enough to pay out to replace all of your items, especially if you’re taking expensive gadgets away with you.
Backpacking holidays also often take in parts of the world which ordinary tourists don’t reach, and may also involve adventurous sports like bungee jumping or white-water rafting. These items might not be included on a standard backpacker’s policy, so seek out special cover if you’re planning to travel off the beaten track. This may cost a little more than the standard backpacker policies, but the last thing you want is to be stranded in a remote hospital without adequate insurance cover.
Baggage Cover for Lost and Delayed Luggage
A recent survey found that the average British holiday maker packs almost £1,000 worth of contents in their suitcase when they jet off for their fortnight in the sun. All of those clothes, bottles of sun cream, shoes and toiletries mount up in value. Many travel insurance policies will cover lost baggage, but many don’t offer enough cover to replace every item in your suitcase. Delayed baggage can only be costly, especially when that means hitting the shops to buy the essentials you’ll need until your bag turns up.
Many insurers offer special cover for lost and delayed luggage, which can be purchased as a stand-alone product or as a top-up to the standard policy. When evaluating policies and deciding what to buy, think about not just the overall value of your baggage, but also any single expensive items like laptops or watches which you are taking with you as valuables often have to be declared separately and policies have a single-item limit.
Unlike most home insurance policies which replace items on a new for old basis, most baggage cover makes allowances for wear and tear, and will only cover the value of the item in the condition when it was stolen. You’ll also be expected to take reasonable care of your luggage in order to be able to claim – so for example if you leave your bags unattended in your car, or fail to notify the local police of a theft the insurer may reject your claim.
Business Travel Insurance
It’s not just people heading off on family holidays who require travel insurance. Thousands of British businesspeople travel across the world to visit customers, suppliers or attend meetings with colleagues, and they might require a specific policy which covers their needs more adequately than a standard travel insurance policy.
Business travel insurance typically offers the same types of cover as standard insurance, so will cover you for medical emergencies, costs associated with having to cancel travel at short notice and having your documents or travel money stolen. In addition, travel insurance aimed at the business market typically covers a higher level of gadgets and valuables than the standard policy, as most business travellers have laptops and other electronic equipment with them. Cover may also be provided for missing connecting flights or other costs which are more relevant to the business traveller.
Most business travel insurance policies are sold on an annual basis, covering as many trips as you make over that 12 month period. Check the conditions carefully to ensure that all of the countries which you could potentially visit are covered by the policy, and that any limit placed on the duration of a single trip is suitable too. Not all policies are equivalent in the limits and excesses put on any claims, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a more expensive policy means a better level of cover. Compare policies carefully to make sure that you are getting one which fits your business needs best and offers good value for money.
Cancellation cover is usually included as standard on travel insurance policies. It is designed to refund any money you have paid towards a holiday or business trip if you need to cancel before departure. Policies usually put conditions on the cancellation situation; you won’t be able to claim on your insurance if you cancel just because you change your mind about your holiday. There will be a list of circumstances in which you’ll be able to make a claim and these are often situations such as the serious illness or death of a close relative, having an accident on the way to the airport or being called up for jury service unexpectedly. Insurers will ask for proof when you make a claim. You will only ever be refunded any money which you have already paid out, not the cost of booking an equivalent flight or holiday at a later date.
The most important thing to bear in mind with cancellation insurance is that you’re only covered for unpredictable events. You won’t be covered for illness in a relative who is already ill when the policy is taken out, and you can’t take out insurance cover to meet the cost of your holiday when the jury service call-up letter hits the doormat. Always take out your insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday and don’t schedule the policy to start the day before your departure. Not all cancellation cover clauses are the same so compare policies to make sure you’re getting the best cover for your needs.
Cruise Travel Insurance
Cruise holidays have rocketed in popularity in recent years and it’s no longer a holiday just for retired people – increasing numbers of younger people and families are going on cruises too. Cruise holidays are often longer than the traditional week or fortnight, and may take in far more unusual destinations. Looking at specific cruise insurance could make things a lot easier when it comes to making a claim for an unforeseen event.
Although many cruises stick to the popular routes in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, others explore more exotic locations, and can take much longer. Some of the longest, round-the-world cruises, can last a year or more. Most travel insurance policies have a limit of a single trip of 30 days, but specialist cruise insurance can be arranged for longer periods. Specialist cruise insurance is often more accommodating when it comes to older travellers, and might be able to cover pre-existing medical conditions too. Delays or cancellations due to bad weather are also covered as standard. Cruise insurance will cover the standard items as in other travel insurance policies such as theft, loss of passport and other documents and medical cover.
If your cruise operator offers onshore excursions or activities as part of the cruise package, it’s important to make sure that you have proper insurance cover in place. Most cruise travel insurance policies won’t cover activities such as scuba diving or even hiking in the mountains, so make sure you have additional cover in place before signing up for the trip.
Family and Group Travel Insurance
If you’re travelling with a group of friends or extended family, getting everyone adequately covered can be difficult. And if something goes wrong and you’re all insured separately it can be a nightmare to resolve. Luckily, many insurers are now offering policies which are designed to cover all sorts of travelling groups on one holiday. This is the perfect sort of insurance for an extended family holidaying together, for a group of school children going on an organised trip, or a group of teenagers heading off on holiday without their parents.
Most group and family travel insurance policies will cover up to 10 people as standard. If you are travelling as part of a larger group, you might need to seek out specialist group policies which cover more people. Getting a quote for group travel insurance should be handled by one person, called the Lead Traveller. This is the person responsible for organising the cover and adding the details of all other people travelling with them. This is quite straightforward if you know all the group well and are aware of their medical conditions, but more complex if not.
In terms of cover, family and group travel insurance will cover many of the same things as any other travel insurance policy such as theft of possessions, cancellations and medical emergencies overseas. Not all policies offer the same level of cover, and there may be different excess rates too. Always look at a few different group insurance policies for your trip before buying.
Flight Delay Compensation
Under EU law, British travellers have a high degree of protection against their flights being delayed. The law is fairly complicated though, and the one key thing to bear in mind is that the law only applies if you are flying from a European Union airport, or with an airline which is based in the EU.
Flight Delays over 2 hours – your airline is legally obliged to give you something to eat and drink, access to phone and email, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight. You will usually be given vouchers to cover the cost, but if you are asked to fund food and drink yourself, keep receipts to claim money back later.
Delays over 3 hours – in addition to food, drink and accommodation if needed, delays over three hours mean you can claim compensation. The amount varies depending on the length of the flight. You don’t need a claims management company to get your compensation for you, it’s easy to claim it back yourself.
Delays over 5 hours – if the delay is over 5 hours, you are entitled to your money back to make alternative arrangements. Compensation also applies in certain circumstances. Strikes and bad weather – two of the most common reasons for flight delays – are not covered by the compensation scheme. You are also entitled to claim compensation from the airline if your flight is cancelled by the airline, and the level of compensation depends on the length of time between the cancellation and the date of the flight.
Gap Year Travel Insurance
It’s become a rite of passage for teens to take a year out between leaving school and starting University, and although some stay in the UK to take a job locally, most head off on an adventure around the world. It’s also becoming increasingly common for older people to take a year off from work and head overseas too, perhaps with families. Extended holidays and gap years require special insurance, and there are many travel insurance policies on the market designed for this purpose.
Standard travel insurance just isn’t going to be enough for those considering long gap year trips. Most travel insurance policies limit any one trip to 30 days, and if you stay for longer your insurance could be invalid. Gap year insurance will cover the full extent of your trip, and will also cover you in multiple countries. Full medical cover is often included as standards, and it’s particularly important to get a policy which includes repatriation which will fund your transfer back to the UK for medical treatment in an emergency. If you’re planning on hiking in the Himalayas or white water rafting down the Zambezi, check whether the policy has dangerous sports cover.
Gap year travellers may be taking more valuables with them than regular holiday makers such as laptops, tablets or mobile phones. Often gap year travel insurance will offer higher levels of cover for these items, as long as you declare them in advance. Gap year insurance will also cover loss or theft of other items, such as passport or travel money.
Guide to Driving Abroad
Millions of us hire a car for our holiday overseas, or take our own car with us over the Channel. Driving in Europe is not difficult, but there are certain things which are important to think about before getting behind the wheel.
If you’re taking your own car, then get on the phone to your insurer and let them know that you’re planning on driving. There is often no additional charge on your insurance for driving in Europe, but if you haven’t informed your insurer you may not be covered. You will also need to make sure that your car conforms to the rules of whatever country you’re travelling in. For example, French traffic rules state that all cars must carry a warning triangle, reflective jacket and breathalyser. Failing to comply with regulations could result in a fine.
Hiring a car overseas is usually more straightforward, as long as you use a reputable company who will make sure their cars are up to scratch. Check through the company’s insurance policy carefully as often they come with hefty excesses which could be as much as £1000. It’s often better to take out additional insurance to help cover the excess and all other risks if you need to make a claim. Make sure you’re aware of the local laws regarding speeding and drink driving as ignorance is no defence if you are stopped by the local police. And remember that countries in Continental Europe drive on the right!
Helpful Guide to ESTA
ESTA – or Electronic System for Travel Authorisation – is an American system which is designed to make going to the USA easier. Most countries in the EU are part of the ESTA system, and if you’re a UK passport holder and planning to travel to anywhere in the US on business or holiday, you’ll need to apply.
Getting an ESTA approval is straightforward. Log into the US Department of Homeland Security website, enter personal details such as name, date of birth and passport number, and in a few hours you will receive an email stating whether or not you are authorised to travel to the UK. You won’t receive anything more than this; no paperwork to take with you and no visa in your passport. The ESTA scheme is compulsory, and if you don’t have ESTA or another type of visa to enter the United States you will not be allowed to board the plane in the UK.
Some people are not eligible for the ESTA scheme. People with criminal records, or who have had immigration problems with the US before will have their application online rejected, and will have to go through the full process of going to the US Embassy or Consulate to be interviewed and have their visa application decided. This is obviously more costly and time consuming than a simple online application.
ESTA lasts for five years, and you must apply at least 72 hours before your flight leaves. Remember that ESTA does not guarantee entry into the US; you will still have to go through immigration and may be turned back for other reasons.
Holiday Curtailment Cover
We look forward to our holidays all year, and the last thing we want is to have to cut them short and return home in an emergency. Luckily, there is insurance which can be taken out to protect against financial loss in these consequences. Usually offered as part of a standard travel insurance policy, holiday curtailment cover can be taken out separately too if required.
Holiday curtailment cover will not reimburse the entire cost of your holiday if you are forced to return to the UK early because of an emergency; you’ll get a refund for the proportion of the “unused” part of your holiday and also any costs associated with getting you back home. There are a few situations in which holiday curtailment might apply, including having an accident, your house in the UK being burgled or a relative falling ill or dying. Check the wording of the policy carefully – not all companies define “close relative” in the same way, for example. As with other types of insurance, pre-existing medical conditions are often excluded unless you pay extra, so consider this carefully if you have relatives at home with health issues which may force your premature return.
Holiday curtailment insurance may pay out if you have a less serious illness, and spend a proportion of your holiday in bed in your hotel room. In order to make a claim on this basis you’ll need proof of your illness, usually a statement signed by a local doctor. Keep all evidence or receipts as this will make a claim easier.
International Health Insurance
Being offered the chance to live abroad for a few months or for a longer period is an exciting prospect. When you’re going to be out of the UK for an extended period, standard travel insurance is not going to be enough, as it’s designed to cover people who are just leaving the UK for a couple of weeks at a time. If you’re in this position, there are special international health insurance policies which can cover individuals or families.
When it comes to medical cover, international health insurance policies offer many of the same benefits as a standard travel insurance policy. Health insurance will cover the basics of your health needs such as visits to the GP, hospital treatment or being treated in accident and emergency departments. There may be an excess on the policy, and you may be asked to pay upfront and then claim it back depending on the insurer. Always keep receipts. Most insurers also offer additional services such as a 24 hour helpline staffed by UK operators to help you in an emergency, or a translation service to overcome local language barriers.
When looking at international health insurance check first that you’re not covered already by your employer as many companies have group policies to cover staff and their families when moving people overseas. If not, shop around carefully and compare policies to make sure the cover is right for your needs. Be honest about any pre-existing medical conditions as failing to disclose issues might lead to your insurer refusing to pay out.
Long Stay Travel Insurance
Most travel insurance policies put limits on the length of any one stay or holiday abroad, which can be as short as 30 days. If you’re planning a longer trip away, perhaps to study, or visit family overseas, there are special long stay policies available which cover stays of 100 days or more. Different stay limits might apply to people over the age of 65.
Most of the cover given by long stay travel insurance is similar to that for shorter trips. This type of policy will cover your medical care in an emergency, including getting you back to the UK if required. You’ll also be covered for loss or theft of valuables, lost luggage or having to cancel your trip. Some policies might also offer legal protection and personal liability insurance, and you should consider whether this is something you need.
When looking at long stay travel insurance think about where you are going to be staying, and make sure the countries and regions are not excluded from the policy. Any regions or countries which the Foreign Office advise against travel to will not be covered by any insurer. Not all policies offer the same level of cover, so balance the price of the policy against the protection being offered to get the best policy to suit your needs. And finally, remember to take the cover note with you when you travel, or take a photo of the relevant details on your phone so you have them to hand if needed.
Passport Cover on Travel Insurance
Should you be unlucky enough to lose your passport on holiday or have it stolen, getting it replaced can be both time consuming and expensive. Depending on where you are staying when the loss occurs, you might have to travel several hours to the nearest British consulate to arrange emergency travel documents, totally spoiling your holiday. Luckily, there is passport cover as part of most travel insurance policies designed to meet the cost of losing your passport.
Losing your passport or having it stolen isn’t as uncommon as you might think, with British embassies overseas issuing around 38,000 emergency travel documents each year. If you lose your passport, the first thing to do is report the loss or theft to the local police; insurers are unlikely to meet the cost of a replacement without a police report, and the Embassy will ask for this too.
Insurance policies including passport cover will meet all of the costs you incur when you’re trying to get you passport replaced. This could include train fares or petrol to get you to the nearest embassy, the actual cost of issuing the paperwork, photographs and accommodation if you have to stay overnight. You will need receipts to claim all of these costs back so keep tickets and copies of documents which you are given. One important thing to remember is that policies will only pay out if you can demonstrate that you’ve kept your passport securely – so leave it in the hotel safe, not in your handbag or unattended in a car.
Pet Insurance when Travelling
Pet passports mean that its easier than ever to take the family pet with us when we go away. Taking your dog, cat or other animal is going to send you money on kennel fees, but what happens if your pet falls ill overseas?
Don’t assume that your pet insurance which you have already will cover your pet when you leave the UK as many don’t. Having a special pet travel insurance policy will also offer additional benefits. One of the main benefits of having a pet travel insurance policy is that it will cover the cost of vet bills should your pet fall ill overseas. Check on the policy wording as there will often be an excess to pay, or you might be asked to pay the bill and claim a refund when you return. Many policies also offer cancellation cover, which covers the cost of your holiday should your pet fall seriously ill which means you must cancel your holiday. There is a wide range of this type of policy on the market, so compare policies carefully to find the one which matches your pet’s needs most closely.
Taking a pet overseas also means a substantial amount of documentation such as pet passports, which can be costly to replace. Pet insurance will also cover these costs. Pet travel insurance won’t cover however for the basics of taking pets overseas such as any extra costs on a ferry or plane, or the cost of the routine health checks and vaccinations which must be done overseas before returning to the UK after your holiday.
Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance
Also sometimes known as SAFI, scheduled airline failure insurance is designed to cover the cost of any flight tickets you have booked should the airline go out of business. This sort of insurance is becoming increasing more relevant as more of us move away from booking package holidays to booking flights, accommodation and car hire separately. Many travel insurance policies have SAFI cover as standard, but if yours doesn’t, it could be worth buying a separate policy to cover your costs.
Not all travellers will need SAFI insurance; if you’ve booked your flights with a credit card that offers the same protection as this type of insurance. If you’ve paid with your debit card, by cash or by cheque however, you’ll need to think about SAFI. SAFI insurance will not just cover the cost of your flights, but will meet the cost of booking new flights to complete your holiday. The amounts you can claim will depend on the policy limits, so check the wording of the policy.
If your airline goes bankrupt while you’re already overseas, the SAFI will meet the cost of getting you home. Insurance of this type might also cover the cost of a travel agent going bankrupt. The important thing to remember if you ever need to claim on this type of policy is to keep proof of any additional expenditure, so never discard any paperwork or delete emails until you’ve spoken to your insurer and clarified what sort of proof they require.
Senior Travel Insurance
One of the downsides of getting older is that finding travel insurance can get harder, or a lot more expensive. Travel insurance companies deal in risk, and the hard fact is that as we get older we’re more likely to fall ill or have some other sort of issue on holiday which will mean we have to claim on our policy. Although the risk starts to increase from around the age of 60, it’s travellers over the age of 75 who really find it a struggle to get adequate insurance, at a reasonable price. There are however several companies who specialise in covering older travellers with special senior travel insurance policies.
One of the main benefits of taking out a special travel insurance policy geared towards older travellers is that the cover is often different from that for younger people. Senior travel insurance policies recognise that older people are more likely to need to claim on the medical aspect of their policy, so offer higher limits on these types of claims. It is very important to be honest about pre-existing medical conditions when you are applying for travel insurance policies as failing to tell the whole truth might invalidate your claim.
Both annual travel senior travel insurance policies and per-trip policies are available, and both offer the same levels of cover. Annual policies might be better value if you are planning on being on several trips through the year, but as they are often considerably more expensive, work out whether buying single-trip insurance would prove better value.
Single Trip Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a must-have item when you’re heading abroad on holiday or business, and it’s worrying that up to 40% of British travellers heading overseas don’t bother taking out a policy. More younger travellers than older ones take the risk of travelling uninsured, but with a single trip policy for a week in Europe costing as little as £6, is there really any excuse for taking the risk?
Single trip travel insurance is the most economical way of buying travel insurance. It covers you for just the duration of your holiday, and if you’re planning several trips over the course of the year it will be better value to buy an annual policy. Single trip insurance will cover a whole range of emergencies which may happen overseas – a medical emergency, having to come home because of a family member’s illness, having your passport stolen or losing your money, for example.
There is a wide range of insurers offering this type of travel insurance policy and you’ll get the best policy for you by shopping around and comparing what the various companies are offering. Price is obviously an important factor, but many people choose to pay a little more to get a higher level of cover, or to lower the excess on their policy. Once you’ve chosen your single trip insurance policy and ensured it meets your needs, don’t forget to read through the main points of the cover and take details of policy number and emergency helpline with you when you travel – you’ll need it if anything happens overseas.
Skiing and Wintersports Insurance
Almost 900,000 Brits head off to the ski slopes every winter, mostly to Europe but some even further afield. A ski holiday offers a combination of sport and relaxation, and although most skiers will have a wonderful time, a small minority will have something go wrong which means they must make a claim on their travel insurance policy. Skiing is classed as a “risky” sport by most insurers, which means that if you’re planning this sort of holiday you’ll have to buy a special ski travel insurance policy, or an add-on to a standard policy.
When looking for insurance to cover you skiing, snowboarding or doing other sorts of wintersports, think about the potential risks which you may face. Accidents and injury are probably the main risk, and so it’s important to make sure that your policy has an adequate level of medical cover which will meet all costs of treatment and getting you back home again once you’re well. This is especially important if you’re heading to North America, where medical costs are significantly higher.
If you’re taking your own ski equipment on holiday with you, make sure that your policy covers both damage while in resort and also in transit. It’s your responsibility to keep your belongings safe, and this includes sports equipment as well as other valuables like tablets or smartphones. Don’t be tempted to leave your skis unsecured outside the chalet after a day on the slopes – you probably won’t be covered if they get stolen.
Travel Disruption Cover
Most standard travel insurance policies cover “travel disruption”, and if yours doesn’t then you can often add it in as an extra option. But what exactly does travel disruption mean, and what will you be covered for if you have to claim?
Remember the Icelandic volcano which erupted in 2010? The resulting ash cloud closed most of European air space for 6 days, and 10 million people were stranded overseas and unable to return home. This is a classic example of the “travel disruption” which would trigger a travel insurance payout. People travelling on a package holiday will often be covered by their operator in these situations, but if you’ve bought flights and accommodation separately, this type of cover could prove invaluable.
If you do have your travel disrupted, your insurer will pick up the cost of your additional accommodation, food and other expenses until you can return. In order to make a successful claim you’ll have to prove your costs, so keep all receipts. An airline going bankrupt is also often covered on this type of policy but you should check the terms and conditions carefully.
Not all insures define “travel disruption” in the same way, so you should read the policy details carefully to see what is covered. Apart from flight disruption, other issues such as political unrest, natural disasters or a disease outbreak are often covered too. Always take the cover note and emergency helpline number away with you, so that you can contact your insurer immediately if something goes wrong.
Travel Insurance Fraud
The insurance industry is clamping down on customers who try to submit a fraudulent claim in the wake of reports that the number of fraudulent claims has doubled in a year. Fraudulent claims are highest among the under 35s, and fraud protection measures are having an impact on anyone trying to make a claim on their travel insurance policy.
Fraud prevention measures have led insurers to demanding more proof regarding any claim. The main area of fraud concerns customers claiming property was stolen when it wasn’t, or overdeclaring the value of stolen items. As a consequence, it is now common practice for insurers to ask for proof of ownership if you are claiming that your smartphone, tablet or watch has been stolen on holiday. If you can’t provide receipts for purchase, or timestamped photos showing the items, then the insurer is likely to refuse to pay out on your claim. You will also be expected to report thefts to the local police, and the insurer will ask for copies of the police report or the crime reference number.
Claims for food poisoning overseas have also rocketed, with some insurers reporting a 700% increase in claims. Aggressive marketing by some claims management companies is thought to be fuelling the false claims for having contracted food poisoning on all-inclusive holidays, and the government has recently announced the plan to introduce jail sentences for fake claims.
When it comes to travel insurance fraud the advice is simple. Don’t be tempted to put in a fraudulent claim. You’re likely to be caught.
Travel Insurance With Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Medical expenses are often among the highest claims which travel insurance companies pay out. The bill for being admitted to a hospital overseas can escalate rapidly even for a simple illness, especially in North America. If you already know that you have a pre-existing medical condition, the insurer considers you at greater risk of having to make a claim for that illness overseas, and charges you a lot more for your insurance as a consequence.
If you do have a pre-existing medical condition, the first piece of advice is to be completely honest with your travel insurance company when you are at the stage of getting quotes. This might mean you calling the company and going over your medical history – simply ticking a few boxes on a webform probably won’t be enough. A risk assessor will look at your individual circumstances and adjust the price accordingly. For example, someone with well-controlled diabetes who has never been admitted to hospital with their condition may pay less than another diabetic who is regularly treated in hospital.
Specialist insurers may offer better policies and better prices for people with pre-existing medical conditions than the mainstream insurers. Charities associated with your medical condition might also be able to assist you in finding insurance if you are finding the search difficult. The key piece of advice is not to be tempted to lie about pre-existing conditions to lower the price; if you do fall ill you could be significantly out of pocket.
UK Travel Insurance
It’s a common misconception that you only need travel insurance when you’re leaving the UK for your holiday or business trip. Although it’s true that some aspects of traditional travel insurance – such as the medical care aspect – are only relevant when you leave the UK and no longer have access to the NHS. But other aspects of travel insurance cover are still hugely relevant when you holidaying closer to home.
One of the main benefits of having travel insurance cover for your UK break is cancellation cover. UK holidays are not necessarily any cheaper than going overseas, and if you’ve paid out considerable amounts on renting a holiday property or booking internal flights which you then cancel because of an emergency, you could be out of pocket. Travel insurance for your UK break could reimburse the cost of your lost holiday.
The other aspect to consider is the theft and loss aspect of travel insurance. Many of us assume that our property is insured through our home contents insurance policy, but many policies exclude your contents away from home, or charge extra for this cover. UK travel insurance will pay out if you have valuables stolen from your hotel room or holiday cottage when you are away on holiday, as long as you have taken adequate measures to keep them safe. Always use the hotel safe if there is one, and make sure you take the same precautions with locking doors and windows as you would at home.