8 rules to help you get the holiday insurance you need
Unless you’re a natural risk taker (or a fool), then the best advice is to take out insurance when you go on holiday abroad.
There are just too many tales of people who had thought all would be fine, only to find they were left with a massive bill to return home to – or worse: one that needed settling before being allowed to leave.
Medical insurance, in particular, is vital, especially if you're travelling to the US, where even a small procedure or stay in hospital can mean you’ll need to extend your mortgage.
And within the EU, while your medical card (EHIC) will give you access to the same treatment as the locals enjoy, it won’t cover repatriation.
So, how do you know what’s the best policy for your needs?
Here are 8 rules to ask to guide you.
Is the price right?
What this does NOT mean is: is the price the cheapest? It’s an almost unbreakable rule that if you have several quotes all clustered roughly around one price point and one that’s loads cheaper, well, there’s something wrong with the cheap one.
That doesn't necessarily mean it’s a rip off. It could just be that it’s not right for your needs, doesn't cover something that you thought it did, or has a massive excess.
Whatever it is, there will, nine times out of ten, be something that makes this policy totally unsuitable.
Rule number one: Don’t leap on cover just because it’s super cheap. It may end up costing you a hell of a lot more in the long run.
Travel agent’s insurance
Yes, some people do still use travel agents to book their holidays! Even if they don’t, insurance is often offered by airlines and other parties as an add on when they’re buying something else.
Be wary of these policies. This kind of up-selling often does not offer the best deal.
Rule number two: Don’t buy the first policy offered. Definitely shop around.
Buy the right travel insurance
This sounds like a no-brainer, but how many of us really read the small print or ask an insurer a whole series of questions about different scenarios to check whether we’d be covered.
Answer: too few of us.
First, make sure you have enough coverage, and enough might actually sound like a lot – no less than £1m million for medical cover – more in the US – the same for personal liability, and then look at what you’d get for cancellations, loss of baggage and spending money, etc.
You should ask lots of questions because insurers have an obligation to explain their policies clearly and what is and what is not covered.
Pay special attention to the level of excess – up to which you won’t be able to make a claim. Not surprisingly, the higher the excess, the lower the premium should be.
Rule number three: Ask lots of questions about the policy. You have a right to answers.
This isn’t just about morals, it’s about getting your insurance policy to pay up in the event of a claim.
If you have a medical condition, for instance, it’s best to declare it because the chances are it will emerge anyway in the even of a claim.
And, even if the condition is unrelated to the claim, it may still invalidate your insurance if you haven’t declared it.
Rule number four:
Be upfront about medical conditions and also any unusual activities you plan.
They may not make any difference to the price, but might make a big difference in the event of a claim. The golden rule with insurance is, ‘If in doubt, declare it.’
Consider a multi-trip policy
There are plenty of different types of policies around these days and the market can be confusing.
For many of us, a multi-trip policy might be more economic, so long as it offers the kind of cover that’s appropriate for all the trips we plan.
Some caution is needed here.
If you go skiing, take a trip to the US and then go to a malarial area on a safari (lucky you, to afford all this in one year), then you might find that a multi-trip policy doesn’t offer the breadth of cover you need.
But, if you do select a policy that’s flexible enough, it could save you plenty.
Plus, it offers immediate cover if you want to jet off suddenly, taking advantage of a special, last-minute price.
Rule number five: If you take more than one trip a year, consider a multi-trip policy, but make sure it covers ALL eventualities.
Are you already covered?
Before ticking all the options on a policy, have a think about whether you’re already covered under a different policy – for example, through your credit card issuer or your household insurance.
House contents insurance may well cover you for loss of baggage, for example. Then again, while you may be covered under your household insurance, would you want to make a claim under this policy?
The one consistent thing about insurance is that if you claim, you’ll pay an increased premium the next year. That could be significant on your home insurance.
Rule number six: Think about whether you might be already covered AND, if you are, consider whether you would really want to make a claim using that pre-existing policy.
Even if you book your holiday months in advance, don’t leave the insurance until just before you travel.
For one simple reason: if your holiday is cancelled, for whatever reason, you want to make sure you’re insured.
Check what the cancellation clause says and what the excess is – effectively the amount you would lose if your holiday was cancelled.
Rule number seven: Buy your insurance early, especially if you have pre-paid for an expensive holiday. If it’s cancelled, you want to be covered.
Check the limitations of any cancellation claim.
Remember car hire
If you’re planning to hire a car while on holiday, then you should consider this as part of your insurance needs.
It’s almost always better value to buy insurance to cover the excess set by the car hire company before you travel, rather than choose their cover at the desk.
And, again, if you plan more than one trip, you should probably consider an annual policy.
Similarly, if you are taking your own car abroad, you should think about extra insurance cover.
While UK car policies have to offer third party cover in the EU, most drivers will want more thorough cover And don’t neglect breakdown insurance.
Make sure you're clued up on the car rental scams you should know about.
Rule number eight: Think about cover for your car or car hire when you consider holiday insurance.
If you feel you've been unfairly treated by your holiday insurer, make your complaint on A Spokesman Said.