Once you are bitten by the bug, nothing beats the thrill of travelling. But it is not all exotic locations and exciting adventures. Like pretty much everything in life, there is a serious, grown-up side to travelling – organising your finances, planning itineraries, researching destinations.
And then there is travel insurance.
Travel insurance is one of those things that many people prefer to overlook when they are making arrangements for their trip. And estimated two-fifths of travellers from both the USA and the UK head abroad without insurance cover every year.
In this article, we hope to not only convince you why this is a bad idea but also provide all the information you need to make buying travel insurance a pain-free experience.
Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?
The bottom line is, travelling without insurance means taking a huge risk. Sure, you may have been on numerous trips and never had anything go wrong. You might look back at all those travel insurance policies you’ve bought without making a claim as wasted money.
But the point of insurance is to have it when you need it. That one time you haven’t taken out a policy and something goes wrong, that’s when you can land in all sorts of trouble. Travel insurance is there to give you financial protection against a range of issues that might arise while you are abroad.
The big one is the medical cover. If you fall ill or have an accident in another country, in most cases you don’t have the same rights to free or subsidised medical care as local residents do (one exception is the EU and its EHIC scheme). If you need treatment in another country, you will usually have to pay private healthcare rates. For hospital treatment especially, that can be seriously expensive – take a look at some of the eye-watering figures here.
Not to put too fine a point on it, travel insurance can be the difference between an accident or illness abroad bankrupting you or not.
One of the other things travel insurance protects you against is cancellations. Especially in the current circumstances with all the uncertainty around COVID-19, this is really important for any traveller. You just don’t know when a spike in cases in a certain destination might lead to a local lockdown, restrictions on travel and/or airlines cancelling flights. Likewise, you might decide to go through with your plans is too risky for you and your family, or one of your party might be struck down with the virus and you all have to isolate.
Without cancellation cover, any of these situations could lead to you losing all of your money on flights, accommodation, pre-booked excursions and so on.
What Are The Different Travel Insurance Options Available?
There are two main variables to consider when buying travel insurance. One is whether you want a policy for a single trip only, or to run for multiple trips over a fixed amount of time. The other is the level and type of protection you want from your policy.
Single Trip Travel Insurance Policies
They are the default standard. You buy a policy that runs for the duration of your trip and that’s it, and it may even be specific to your chosen destination. Multi-trip policies are increasingly popular, however. You will also see them called annual policies because most last for 12 months. Within that period, your policy is valid for as many trips as you like (usually up to a maximum specified in the policy details), to multiple different destinations.
Multi-trip Annual Policies
They suit frequent fliers, business travellers and those dedicated to life on the road.
Not only is it convenient to buy one policy and have it cover all your trips abroad for an entire year, you can usually also save money compared to buying lots of individual policies. But you should also be careful about the one-size-fits-all approach multi-trip insurance represents.
Annual policies offer generic cover across all trips. If you are heading off to go skiing, say, you need specific cover for the risks associated with all snow-related activities.
Types and Level of Cover
This brings us onto the type and level of cover. Many insurance providers will offer travel policies in tiers, ranging from basic to comprehensive. The basic cover will always be the most attractive price-wise, but you should be mindful of the fact that the payout limits will be lower. With basic cover, for example, you might have to pay an excess on cancellation charges or personal property claims which will still see you out of pocket.
Comprehensive travel cover, on the other hand, will cost more but will also give you ample payout limits, especially on medical cover, and often without any excess to pay.
Finally, as we touched on above, you shouldn’t assume that your policy will cover you for everything. Any activities deemed vaguely ‘high risk’ – skiing, diving, paragliding, all manner of other sports – will probably be excluded from the medical schedule of any standard policy you buy, meaning that if you get hurt doing them, you won’t be covered.
If you are planning a skiing or adrenalin sports vacation, you should track down specialist insurance cover.
Can I Get Travel Insurance For My Family?
Yes, you can. While most travel insurance policies are sold to named individuals, most providers will also offer family policies. These will cover two named adults, who usually have to live at the same address, plus their children.
Family policies will usually save you some money compared to buying individually.
If you are a couple with just one child, you could also look for insurers offering ‘couple and child’ deals which might be even cheaper again (family policies tend to be a fixed price for up to three or four children, i.e. the price doesn’t go down if you only have one child). You can also find single-parent family policies which cost less than paying for cover for two adults.
One thing to watch out for with family policies is that they can be quite strict about the living arrangements of your travelling party. The strict interpretation is that all children travelling with the named adults have to live with them permanently too. So if you are taking a child or step-child who lives with another parent on holiday, be careful.
Should you need to make a claim on their behalf (e.g. if they fall ill) on family policy and it is discovered they do not live with you full time, you might find your claim is rejected. If in doubt, always ask your insurer upfront about your specific circumstances before you buy.
I’m An Older Traveller – Is Getting Insurance As Difficult As I’ve Heard?
A lot of older travellers feel very strongly about the way the travel insurance industry works in relation to age.
There are no two ways around it – if you are aged 60 or above, you are going to have fewer options when it comes to buying travel insurance. You are also likely to be quoted some sky-high premiums, and you will find that these issues get worse the older you get.
The problem is this – to insurance companies, older people represent a higher risk of making a claim. This is mostly in relation to medical cover, which is the biggest cost risk insurers take on. The older you get, the more health problems you have, the more likely you are to have accidents here and there. As a result, the more likely you are to need your insurance policy to pay out if something happens while you are abroad.
These are the arguments that insurance companies have used to secure exemption from age discrimination laws in countries like the UK. While most types of business cannot penalise people in the prices they charge on the basis of age, insurance firms can. They are allowed first of all to refuse to offer insurance to people over a specified age (many mainstream travel insurance providers have age caps), and they are also allowed to increase the premiums they charge if they do choose to provide cover.
What is perhaps most controversial about all of this is the way that many insurance companies choose to implement pricing policies for senior citizens.
Many use a pretty crude method of applying price increases year-on-year after a certain age, with the size of the hikes often accelerating alarmingly. This has led to stories of older people suddenly seeing the cost of their travel insurance from the same provider tripling or quadrupling in as little as 18 months, and becoming so expensive that they can no longer afford to go abroad.
While these things do happen, and there is no doubt that senior citizens have to pay more for travel insurance, there are solutions, if you know where to look.
Fortunately, there are now a good number of smaller insurance providers that have recognised just how many older people still want to be able to travel late in life. These specialists in senior travel insurance price policies based on individual circumstances, rather than applying price hikes across the board, and are therefore able to offer better value bespoke deals.
What About Getting Travel Insurance With A Medical Condition?
Like old age, having a pre-existing medical condition can make sourcing travel insurance frustrating and expensive, especially if you stick to the kind of mainstream, big-name providers you have been used to buying from before a diagnosis. But again like senior travel insurance, there are affordable options out there from specialist providers who take into account individual medical needs and offer bespoke cover accordingly.
The most important advice when it comes to your medical condition is to avoid the temptation not to declare it to your insurance company.
The medical cover included in a standard insurance policy is not designed for specific treatments relating to specific illnesses or conditions. It is there for what you might call unforeseen or emergency needs – catching a stomach bug or suffering an injury in a fall, for example. From an insurer’s point of view, any treatment for an existing medical condition is not an unforeseen circumstance.
In fact, if you don’t declare your medical condition, you will probably find your cover is declared void even if you make a claim for something unrelated.
Should you try to make a claim after catching a stomach bug or suffering a fall which requires medical attention, your insurer will make inquiries about your medical history. If they find you have a condition they didn’t know about, they will refuse to pay out on the grounds that you withheld relevant information.
By declaring your medical condition to your normal travel insurance provider, you do run the risk that they will either refuse to sell you a policy or will quote a price several times higher than what you have been used to paying. This will happen because most insurers are not set up to accurately assess the risks associated with specific conditions. If they do decide to offer cover, it will be at a price high enough to make it worth their while.
Again, providers who specialise in medical travel cover are a different proposition because they are geared up to account for the risks presented by different conditions. One of the key differences between a mainstream provider and a specialist in this regard is the fact that they will look into your medical background before you are offered a policy. This is usually nothing too invasive – normally a questionnaire, perhaps followed up by requesting further information from your doctor if you have specific health needs.
Although this might all involve a little more form-filling than a standard policy, the outcome will be that you not only get a travel insurance policy you can afford but one that also protects you fully for all of your medical needs.
Ultimately, this is what travel insurance is for – giving you peace of mind while you follow your travelling dreams.
To find out more, please visit https://www.avantitravelinsurance.co.uk/.