common mistakes when buying travel insurance

don’t make these common mistakes when you buy your travel insurance

booking a holiday can give you a real lift. the excitement of choosing where you want to visit, booking how long for, and then going on a shopping spree to buy your last-minute clothes, toiletries and sun cream – it’s all part of the fun!

but while most aspects of booking a holiday are fun, let’s be honest, buying travel insurance can be less exciting.

getting a quote for a basic travel insurance policy is usually straightforward – all you have to do is provide information around your age, trip destination, duration of trip, cost of holiday and so on. but there are one or two areas which our research shows can trip people up time and time again when it comes to making sure the most suitable cover for a trip is in place.

the main areas are: ensuring you have the right policy extension in place for your trip, checking the policy excess, declaring previous medical history, adding gadget cover, protecting your personal possessions and making sure the type of policy you have bought is suitable for the trips you have planned. 

we know that it can be a bit of a headache getting to grips with all this when you just want to go on holiday without being left out of pocket if something goes wrong. so, here’s our simple guide to the most common pitfalls of buying travel insurance and what you should consider when buying the travel insurance policy most suitable to your needs. 

how long are you going away for?

it doesn’t seem like a difficult question does it? but what many people don’t realise is that you only have protection in place for the amount of time that you’ve told your insurer that you’re on holiday for. that means that if you’re having too much fun in Ibiza, and don’t fancy coming home, unless you extend your policy dates, your cover will expire and you won’t have protection in place should you need it.

if you buy a single trip policy, then depending on who you bought your policy from it’s likely to be limited to 31 days. if you decide to stay longer you won’t be covered. it’s as simple as that.

you can buy special 90-day single trip policies, and they cost a little more, but a standard policy is unlikely to cover you if you stay over the 31-day limit.

on the other hand, an annual policy – called an annual multi trip (amt) – covers you for as many trips as you like as long as each trip is no longer than 31 days. some policies offer policies with a 90-day limit on each trip but again the premium is likely to be a bit higher.

one of the brands on the panel experienced a claim where a couple whose rented villa was burgled while they were out. it was a shocking experience for them both. they came back after lunch to find all their holiday money, a watch, sunglasses, phones had been stolen – everything they needed for their Spanish getaway.

understandably they didn’t want to carry on with their holiday and returned home early. while they successfully claimed for their stolen possessions, they were unable to claim for having to cut their holiday short, as they planned to be away for almost three months. they thought they were covered because they had an annual multi-trip policy, but under the terms and conditions of their policy, there was a 31-day limit on each trip.

even worse was the tragic story in the national press about a 28-year-old who suffered terrible injuries, including a fractured skull in a motorbike crash in Thailand. his family discovered that his policy only covered him for 31-days and he had been in Thailand for longer than that.

his family eventually raised the £20,000 for the medical bills, but it was a traumatic time for everyone involved and could have been less stressful if he had been aware of the limit. 

top tip: check the trip duration limit on your policy and choose one that matches your plans.

are you covered for loss or damage to your mobile phone, laptop or tablet?

things like mobile phones and laptops are personal possessions, aren’t they? wrong.

in insurance terms, personal possessions are classed as things like clothes, footwear, luggage, eyewear, jewellery, and watches. and depending on your policy, these things will be covered for loss and damage up to a certain limit.

mobiles, laptops and tablets are classed as gadgets, so if you want cover for these, in most cases, you must make sure you take out a gadget extension.

so, what is the definition of a gadget? look it up on Google and it will give you the Collins dictionary definition as: a small machine or device which does something useful.

insurers have their own definitions, like this one for example: “a gadget is a self-contained, portable device, having the design intention of supporting multimedia applications or obtaining multimedia content.”

now, research by one of our sister sites travel insurance explained found that 75 per cent of travellers expect their standard travel insurance to cover them for lost or stolen items such as phones, tablets and cameras. but many of these people could be left disappointed if they didn’t have the relevant policy extension in place and later needed to make a claim.

it’s a big talking point in the industry too. and a debate that’s been going on for some time. the travel insurance industry journal the ran an article on this very issue back in 2018 and explains why it is such a contentious area.

another complication is that there are certain types of home contents insurance that would cover loss or damage in all situations. or you may even have taken out cover when you bought your device.

top tip: if you have an expensive mobile, tablet or laptop, check to see if it’s covered under your travel insurance policy as standard – if not, check the limit you can claim up to in a gadget extension. and if your gadget costs more than the policy limit, then it is worth seeing if you have cover elsewhere, such as under your home or contents insurance.

do you have a medical condition that you should declare?

why is it so important to declare your medical condition? well, the answer is that one of the main functions of travel insurance is to cover you for emergency medical expenses if you should be injured or fall ill while on holiday and need emergency medical assistance.

so, if you have a medical condition, it’s important for the insurer to know when you take out a quote. that way, the insurer can offer suitable cover that protects you and your condition, or point you in the direction of someone who could, where possible.

if you don’t declare your medical conditions and later need emergency medical treatment, you might be left to foot the bill yourself – which can sometimes cost tens of thousands of pounds. crazy, right.

that’s why it’s essential to declare your medical history. our medical screening tool will take you through a number of questions to help the insurer measure the risk. and although the premiums may vary – well managed, common conditions generally add very little to the overall cost of your policy.

one of the most common misunderstandings is what constitutes a previous medical condition. for example, high cholesterol and blood pressure are common conditions that can be managed for many years with medication. but you should still declare them.

top tip: not declaring conditions can lead to your claim being denied – make sure you declare your medical history when you take out travel insurance.

are you going on a winter holiday or a cruise? what are you planning to do when you’re on holiday?

our research shows that not having cover for certain types of holidays or activities is one of the main reasons for claims being declined.

for example, cruise holidays need to be covered with a specific type of policy or extension, as being on board a ship can come with its own complications. for example, during a medical emergency.

think about it. if you fall ill in the middle of the ocean, you can’t just pop to the nearest hospital. in this scenario, you may have to be airlifted to the nearest port which can be expensive. during a cruise holiday, you’re also likely to be travelling to a number of different countries where the costs and standards of medical cover may vary. the insurer has to take this into account when calculating your premium.

the same applies to winter sports getaways, such as skiing and snowboarding holidays, which also carry extra risk. it’s surprising the number of people who don’t include these add-ons, which are known as policy extensions, when buying their policy, and who get caught out when they need to make a claim.

but even on a beach holiday you may be planning to take on a few extra thrills – jet skiing or paragliding for example. again, these carry extra risks, so you need to buy the relevant extensions before the adrenaline starts pumping.

top tip: think carefully about the type of holiday you’re planning and the activities that you’d like to get involved in. make sure you’re covered with the right policy and extensions.

some tips to make sure your claim goes smoothly:

documentation: if you’re claiming for medical expenses, lost personal possessions or a gadget make sure you have all the right documents – receipts for proof of purchase, a crime number if you’ve had property stolen and so forth. the more paperwork you have to back up your claim the smoother the process is likely to be.

excess: this is the amount you agree to pay in the event of a claim. make sure you understand how the excess is calculated. in some cases, the excess is applied to the claim you make under each section of your policy. choosing a bigger excess can bring down the cost of your policy – but it may cost you more in the long run.

buy when you book: insurers encourage you to buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday. this is because you will be covered if you have to cancel your holiday because of death, injury or illness and in some cases if you are made redundant or called for jury service, as a few examples. cover for cancellation starts as soon as you pay for your policy – so make sure you have enough cancellations cover for the cost of your holiday.

it’s worth giving a little bit of extra thought to these really important elements of your travel insurance to make sure your holiday goes off without a hitch.