AAfter being stranded by the coronavirus pandemic, many British families are eager to head abroad this summer, but recent scenes of travel chaos at airports mean buying travel insurance should be top of mind off your to-do list.
The likelihood of widespread cancellations and delays means it has ‘never been more important’ to ensure you have adequate travel insurance from the moment you book your holiday, says editor Rory Boland from the Which? consumer group.
“We advise consumers to check the wording of the policy carefully to ensure that you fully understand what it offers and any limitations, as these can vary significantly from provider to provider,” says- he. “If there are specific reasons you are purchasing coverage, review these sections to make sure they meet your expectations.”
There’s no point in wasting money on an expensive policy that doesn’t suit your needs, or finding out that the basic coverage you purchased won’t reimburse you when you need it most. Here we outline the things to consider in finding the right policy for you.
When looking for a travel insurance policy, be sure to read the fine print. The level of protection you will need mainly depends on where you are going and what you plan to do once there.
For example, if you are traveling to a country with high medical costs, such as the United States, you should consider purchasing higher coverage for that. If you plan to play sports while abroad, you should also factor this into your policy.
Also consider whether it’s worth buying multi-trip insurance, which could save you money and hassle if you travel frequently. Experts say it might be worth buying if you have more than one holiday or mini-break planned.
There are several comparison sites you can use to find the best policy for you, such as GoCompare, Moneysupermarket and Comparethemarket.
A family of three, comprising two adults and one child, with no existing medical conditions, for example, could expect to pay between £13 and £153 for different levels of cover for a week-long trip to Spain in July, according to a GoCompare quote.
Adding gadget insurance, where it’s not included as standard, costs between £9 and £45 extra – depending on the level of cover you need.
You will need to check the detail of each policy to see if you are covered for using mopeds, quads or other activities, as this is not something you can select as an add-on. However, you can select coverage for winter sports, cruises and hiking.
Illness and injury
Your travel insurance policy should cover medical costs abroad and emergency repatriation to the UK if you fall ill while abroad.
It is important to have a free Global Health Insurance (Ghic) card in the UK, which replaced the European Health Insurance (Ehic) card for most Britons after Brexit, as it entitles you to receive “medically necessary” state-provided care in the EU and Switzerland.
Care may include emergency treatment and visits to A&E or treatment for long-term or pre-existing medical care. However, you may have to pay for some treatments, even if they would be free on the NHS in the UK.
The card does not replace a travel insurance policy and is not useful if you are traveling outside of Europe. If you are visiting the United States, for example, you need to make sure you have good medical coverage as hospital bills can get very expensive.
Even in an EU country the standard of care may vary and a travel insurance policy may mean that you can be treated in a private hospital. A Ghic or Ehic card will not cover costs if you need to be taken back to the UK for medical treatment, but most good travel insurance policies will pay for repatriation.
Most providers include medical care if you contract Covid-19 abroad in their policies as standard. However, you may need to check that cancellation due to Covid is included in your policy as you may need to pay extra for this.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions – physical or mental – be sure to declare them when you take out your policy, otherwise you may not be covered even if your claim is not related to your illness. You may also need to declare any recent hospital treatment or examination.
“When purchasing a travel insurance policy, customers will typically be asked if they have had any hospital treatment or medical tests, as well as any diagnosed medical conditions,” says Kelly Whittington, director of specialist claims at Aviva. UK.
“A customer may still be eligible for coverage, but the insurer may require additional information about their medical condition and types of tests before a decision can be made. Cases are generally assessed on an individual basis.
Reporting medical issues will likely increase the cost of your policy, but it will be worth it if you have to make a claim.
You may not be automatically covered for all the activities you have planned. For example, if you fall off a bike while on vacation, your travel insurance may not pay – unless you have cover for cycling and other sports.
Cancellations and delays
Canceled flights and delays are usually the responsibility of your airline, but travel insurance can fill the void when it won’t pay.
Airlines do not have to pay compensation if the disruption is not their fault and to be covered by UK law they must meet certain conditions, such as departing from an airport here or arriving on a European or local carrier.
Make sure your travel insurance policy will cover you for the full cost of your holiday – if your trip costs £1,000 you’ll need cover that will pay at least that much in the event of cancellation.
Your travel insurance will cover you for cancellations and delays in certain scenarios where you would not be eligible for compensation from an airline. For example, if you have to cancel your trip due to illness, injury or bereavement. You would also be covered if you are called to serve as a juror or if you have been fired.
It is important to take out insurance as soon as you book your trip, even if there are still months before your departure. Sean Tipton, spokesperson for travel industry body Abta, said: ‘If you fell ill and had to cancel your trip and were uninsured, you would be hit with cancellation charges. Take it out when you reserve it…don’t leave it on for weeks and months.
You may be able to make a travel insurance claim even if you received compensation from the airline. For example, you could claim expenses such as prepaid excursions or kennel or pet sitting fees.
You will not be covered if your trip is canceled for a “known event”. For example, if an airline strike is announced for the day you are due to travel, there is no cover if you purchase your insurance after the announcement.
Travel insurance will not cover the cost of missed flights or connections if you arrive late at the airport.
Loss and theft
Travelers who have seen cover for missing and accumulated luggage at Heathrow may be more concerned than usual about insuring their belongings. It’s usually included in a standard travel insurance policy, but it’s a good idea to check that the level of cover included matches your needs, particularly if you’re bringing valuables or specialist equipment.
You also need to look at excess charges — that is, the amount you’ll need to contribute before your insurer pays you — relative to the value of your stuff. Accepting higher excess charges can reduce the cost of a policy, but if it’s £200 and your missing bags are only worth £150, you won’t be reimbursed.
Insurance companies usually set a limit on how much they will pay for baggage claims and a decent policy should cover at least £1500 of personal effects. Check single item limits if you are packing expensive items such as wedding attire.
Find out if your phone and laptop are covered as part of your policy or if you need to purchase gadget insurance separately. Most price comparison sites will tell you which policies cover gadgets as standard and give you the option to add coverage.
It’s also worth checking to see if you have any personal effects covered under your home insurance, to avoid paying extra for duplicate coverage.