Woman in hospital (Dreamstime)
Article 01 August 2017

7 things you always need to check when booking your travel insurance

Booking travel insurance isn’t always straightforward. Matthew Prescott points out 7 things you should always check or ask to make sure you're travels are properly covered

 1: What is considered a valuable?

Smartphone (Dreamstime)

Most people assume that if something is valuable to them, it will be classed as such by the insurance company, but this is not always the case. If there is a specific item you're concerned about taking abroad, make sure you check the definitions section of the policy wording to see what your insurance policy classes as a valuable item.

For example, mobile phones are expensive nowadays and therefore valuable to the owner, but they are not always classed as a valuable item in the eyes of the insurance company. Extra cover may need to be arranged to cover an expensive phone. In short: don’t assume. Ask.

2: What types of cancellation are covered?

Departures board (Dreamstime)

Travel insurance policies provide cover in the event of you being unable to travel or needing to cut your trip short.  It’s designed to cover for the unused travel and accommodation expenses that you have paid (or agreed to pay and are unable to get back). This would also include local prepaid excursions, tours or activities. 

But in order to make a successful claim, the reason for the cancellation must fall within the policy terms and conditions in order to be considered. Make sure you check when booking exactly what those allowed conditions for cancellation are.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the start of the cancellation cover can differ depending on the policy type purchased.  If a ‘Single Trip / Backpacker’ policy has been purchased, the cancellation cover is likely to begin from the purchase date of the insurance, but if an ‘Annual Multi-Trip’ policy has been purchased, the cancellation cover begins form the start date of the insurance. That’s something to consider when purchasing ‘Annual Multi-Trip’ insurance, in order to ensure cover is in place. 

3: Make sure any activities you plan are covered

Snowboarder on mountain (Dreamstime)

If you're an adventurous type (and the majority of Wanderlust readers are) who doesn’t look for the sun lounger on holiday and looks instead for the parachute, bungee cord or snowboard, then you will need to make sure that the activity you have planned will be covered on your policy or whether additional cover needs to be sought. It’s worth checking if there are any limitations or restrictions to your planned activity that will take it outside of the cover.

For example, Bungee jumping may be covered as standard, but you could be limited to a maximum of three jumps. Hiking may be covered, but only to a certain altitude. Kayaking could be limited to non-sea-kayaking. Additionally, you may not be covered for personal accident or personal liability for any of these.

Snowboarding, skiing and winter sports in general are normally covered via an additional upgrade that’s subject to an additional premium. The main thing to remember is not to assume your activity is covered, regardless of how extreme or non-extreme you feel it is.

4: Are existing medical conditions covered?

Physio helping injured man (Dreamstime)

If you're one of the lucky few to have no previous medical conditions or ailments, then you can probably skip ahead. For the rest of us though, a common question people have is “Will the policy cover my specific medical condition? “

The good news is that the facility to offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions is commonplace, but it’s very important to be aware that declaring these conditions and opting for the policy to cover them will 90 per cent of the time carry an extra premium for doing so and the cost will be dependent on the number and severity of the condition(s) declared.

With some insurers and policies, you may have the option to not pay an additional premium and to just exclude any pre-existing conditions from the policy, though that does mean they wouldn’t be covered. But if in doubt about a particular condition, make sure you always ask.

5: What is the ‘excess’ you’ll have to pay?

British money (Dreamstime)

Just like any other form of insurance, most travel policies will have ‘excesses’ applied to certain areas that will be deducted from any settlement agreed by the insurance company. You will need to be aware that while the excess may not always be payable upfront, any settlement will have any applicable excesses already deducted.

As an example, on some insurance policies, if you need to make a claim for lost or stolen possessions, you may need to pay, say, the first £50 or £100 of the amount you claim, which will be deducted from the amount you’re paid.

Excess levels can sometimes be altered. Buying a cheaper policy is likely to mean higher excesses if you do make a claim. Paying more for your policy is likely to mean lower excesses or that the excess is waived altogether. It’s something to consider and weigh up.

6: Do you need to check before you get treatment?

Doctors helping patient in hospital (Dreamstime)

If the worst does happen and you're hospitalised while on holiday, if possible, always try to make sure you contact your insurance company to notify them before any treatment is administered to ensure that any costs will be covered. If you're unable to do this, someone else will be able to contact them on your behalf. 

Normally, all emergency medical assistance lines are open 24 hours a day and are there to guide you through what to do next.

All medical facilities are familiar with travel insurance and some may not administer any treatment until they receive a guarantee from the insurance company that they will cover any costs.

How much cover is provided for medical treatment also varies between policies, but as a general rule, the more you pay for your policy, the more likely it is that the amount of medical cover will be greater.

7: Always check the small print

Read small print (Dreamstime)

One of the biggest lies we are all guilty of using nowadays is “Yes, I have read the terms and conditions”. (Don’t act innocent, we know we all do it).

Insurance of any kind will always have terms and conditions that you're encouraged to familiarise yourself with. It is worth actually taking the time to do this for a number of reasons.

In particular, you should check that a certain item is covered, or the fact that you may have to obtain a police report in the event of a theft, or that you must be delayed for a certain amount of time before that particular area of benefit kicks in, or any other general exclusions on the policy.

Taking the time to ensure that the policy offers a level of cover adequate for your own personal needs is paramount to ensuring your policy offers you the best possible cover in the event you need it, which should give you peace of mind on your next adventure.  

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