Organising travel insurance isn’t the most exciting part of planning a getaway, but it can be the most important.
Why? If anything goes wrong – for instance, you need to cancel your trip last minute or require urgent medical attention overseas – having the right travel insurance policy can save you thousands. But how do you pick the policy that’s best for you?
Help is at hand. Speaking to MailOnline Travel, Garry Nelson, the head of corporate affairs for AllClear Travel Insurance, breaks down the dos and don’ts of buying travel insurance – and reveals the common mistakes that people make when purchasing a policy…
WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO GET COVERAGE FOR?
Don’t skimp on coverage that relates to any medical emergencies you might face, Nelson says.
Organising travel insurance isn’t the most exciting part of planning a getaway – but it can be the most important. Here’s how to choose an insurance policy that covers all your needs
The expert, who is a committee member of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, says: ‘By far the biggest costs from all the claims data we see at [travel insurance firms] AllClear and InsureandGo [owned by AllClear] relate to medical emergency expenses.’
He continues: ‘The U.S, Caribbean, Mexico and Canada have some of the most expensive charges when it comes to treatment but there are places even in Europe where having a medical problem while overseas can be very expensive.’
Spain is an example of a European country where treatment in a private medical facility can be costly, Nelson notes. In fact, Spain is ‘on average twice as expensive as its near neighbour Portugal’ for private treatment, he says.
He adds that ‘Turkey, Cyprus and Greece all tend to be more expensive [for medical treatment] than European countries closer to home.’
Another thing to look out for as a ‘potential cost factor’ is repatriation – returning a person to their home country following illness, injury, or death.
Nelson says that ‘the further you are from home the more expensive it is likely to be to bring you home’, adding: ‘Please ensure you have comprehensive medical expenses cover and that cost of repatriation is included in your cover.’
In general, he says it’s wise to ‘consider the healthcare services in your destination, especially if you are somewhere more remote, and make sure there is a suitable provision available’.
WHAT’S WORTH PAYING EXTRA FOR?
If you are going on a cruise or a high-cost holiday, make sure you have enough cancellation cover should you have to cancel due to an unforeseen issue arising
THE COMPANY THAT CHECKS INSURANCE POLICY QUALITY
Nelson says a policy that’s fully comprehensive and is well-rated by independent assessor Defaqto is ‘worth paying more for and could prove much better value in the event of a problem’.
Cancellation cover is important, Nelson reveals, especially if you’re ‘going on a cruise or a high-cost holiday’. He says: ‘Make sure you have enough cancellation cover should you have to cancel due to an unforeseen issue arising.’
He adds: ‘Also check whether the limits [for cancellation cover] are per person or just for the policy taken out, regardless of the number of people named on the policy. I would suggest paying more to have a per-person cancellation amount.’
And Nelson says that, for frequent travellers who venture abroad more than twice a year, an annual multi-trip policy is ‘definitely worth considering’ over lots of single-trip policies.
He explains: ‘It will cost more initially but it is likely to prove better value over a 12-month period and saves quite a bit of time when applying for cover each time you want to travel.’
For certain holidaymakers, ‘travelling companion’ cover is another essential. He explains: ‘Some people may not be aware that if they are travelling with someone with a medical condition who has to cancel the trip and you haven’t informed your provider, your own cancellation costs may not be recoverable.
‘At AllClear and InsureandGo we provide a “travelling companion” cover which, for a small additional fee, will allow the person with the medical condition to name fellow travellers and in the event of the trip being cancelled everyone named would be covered.’
Lastly, gadget cover for devices such as smartphones and laptops is important, according to Nelson, who says: ‘Available usually as an add-on, [gadget cover] is specialist cover for all those electronic gadgets we now can’t live without.’ He says it’s ‘well worth considering paying that little extra for’ it.
COMMON MISTAKES TRAVELLERS MAKE
When buying travel insurance, the most serious potential mistake you can make is not declaring your full medical history
There’s one major error people make when it comes to buying travel insurance, Nelson reveals.
He explains: ‘By far the most serious potential mistake is not declaring your full medical history.
‘With average costs of medical expense claims now running into several thousands of pounds and six-figure claims relatively common, I would strongly urge people to make sure they declare everything they need to.’
Nelson explains that research carried out by AllClear found that ‘cost of living pressures have driven some people to cut corners on travel insurance to get a cheaper quote – with around one in four people not disclosing medical information in order to get a cheaper quote’.
He warns: ‘It is a false economy for anyone to cut corners or withhold information when taking out a travel insurance policy because it can invalidate a policy when it comes to making a claim.’
The expert also urges people to ‘update [their] travel insurance provider if there have been any medical changes such as an unplanned hospital admission or change in medication’.
Ensure that if you are going on a cruise, you tell your insurance provider you are. Cruise cover is a specialist area and if the policy doesn’t include any cruise cover, there could be a serious issue, not to mention cost, if a medical emergency occurs on board
Garry Nelson of AllClear Travel Insurance
On top of that, Nelson says it’s unwise to rely on a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) – which offers Brits healthcare in Europe at reduced prices or sometimes for free – to substitute for travel insurance.
Another mistake travellers make, he says, is assuming that ‘cover is there when sometimes it isn’t’.
He explains: ‘This happens more often when people are opting to buy at the more economic end of the market.’ Giving an example, he says that some people aren’t aware that cover for trip lengths can sometimes be shorter than their actual trip. And some travellers don’t realise that if they get insurance out for a trip to one country, it won’t cover them if they take a day trip across the border into another country – unless they’ve declared that when purchasing their policy.
Also, travellers planning cruise holidays need to be careful when buying insurance, Nelson says.
He explains: ‘Ensure that if you are going on a cruise, you tell your insurance provider you are. Cruise cover is a specialist area and if the policy doesn’t include any cruise cover, there could be a serious issue, not to mention cost, if a medical emergency occurs on board.’
A final mistake travellers make? Failing to check their driver’s license when renting vehicles overseas.
He explains: ‘If you are taking out a scooter, motor-bike or quad-bike, check your driving licence. On the back, it will tell you what you are and are not covered to ride. Some providers limit the size of the engine – 125cc is the most common limitation – but others will stipulate you can only ride what you are permitted to ride in the UK on your licence.’
And make sure you wear a helmet, as Nelson notes ‘you won’t be covered if you fail to wear one’.
THINGS YOU MOST LIKELY DON’T NEED TO PURCHASE
There’s no point in paying for a policy that includes winter sports if you aren’t planning to ski or snowboard
TRAVEL INSURANCE EXPERT GARRY NELSON’S TOP TIPS
1. Declare everything you need to that relates to your medical history.
2. Understand what you are and are not covered for. If you are unsure, check before you travel.
3. Don’t rely on an existing Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to substitute for travel insurance.
4. If you are going on a cruise, make sure you have declared that fact and your policy includes cruise cover. Also, check that every destination is covered by the policy.
5. If you are taking out a scooter, motorbike or quad-bike, check your driving licence. On the back, it will tell you what you are and are not covered to ride. Some providers limit the size of the engine – 125cc is the most common limitation – but others will stipulate you can only ride what you are permitted to ride in the UK on your licence. Much as it is a temptation not to in a hot country, wear a helmet. You won’t be covered if you fail to wear one.
Nelson says there’s no point in paying for a policy that includes coverage of activities you have no plans to do.
Listing examples, he says: ‘Don’t pay for a policy that includes cruise cover if you don’t plan to take a cruise… likewise if the policy includes winter sports and you aren’t planning to ski or snowboard.’
Travellers also have the option to reduce the cost of their insurance policy by choosing one that excludes cancellation cover, Nelson says.
‘This becomes a serious consideration if you buy a few days before you are actually due to travel when the risk of incurring a cancellation claim is low,’ he explains.
Nelson adds that while AllClear would not normally advocate removing cancellation cover, the insurance firm does provide an option that allows the customer to make the decision themselves.
SHOULD YOU GO FOR THE BUDGET OPTION – OR SPLASH OUT?
Nelson says: ‘Wherever you buy travel insurance, buying cheap doesn’t necessarily equate to buying quality. Like with most things, you get what you pay for.
‘For younger people travelling to the Mediterranean for a week with no medical history, it makes sense that they may visit a comparison website and I’m sure [they’re] basing their buying decision on price rather than breadth of cover.’
Referring to medical-condition coverage specialist AllClear and its sister company InsureandGo, Nelson adds: ‘People are coming to us to cover their medical conditions, regardless of age and where they want to travel to.
‘They understand, as car drivers who have just passed their test understand, that with heightened risk comes added cost, but they also have the peace of mind that they are fully covered should the worst happen.’