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Avoid these costly travel insurance traps

Cruise shipAre you confident your travel insurance will pay out if the worst happens? It pays to check the small print, as Confused.com’s head of travel can testify.

You may be organised enough to buy travel insurance before you head off on holiday.

But how confident are you that your policy will pay out if the worst happens? 

This is the question that Mhairi Edwards, head of travel insurance at Confused.com, asked herself recently.

Why? A delayed flight looked like it was going to force her and her new husband Simon to miss their honeymoon cruise round the Mediterranean.

"We booked our honeymoon months ago, and obviously the first thing I did was to sort out our travel insurance," says Edwards.

Getting the right travel insurance policy

"I spent a while getting the right kind of policy, making sure it was cruise-specific travel insurance, for example.

"I also checked for adequate medical cover, as if you need to get rushed to hospital while the ship is a day away from the nearest land you're in for some pretty hefty medical bills."

But shortly after the couple checked in for their flight from Bristol to Barcelona, where the cruise was due to begin, they were told that delays could mean they missed the connection.

Edwards says: "At this point we realised we may have to rely on our travel insurance.

Keep insurance details to hand

"But I couldn't remember whether they would pay our expenses to travel to Nice, where the ship was due to dock the next day, so we could pick the cruise up there.

"I also realised that I'd printed off my documents and put them in the case that we'd already checked in rather than in my hand luggage.

"This is something I always advise people against," adds Edwards.

Fortunately, the newlyweds made their cruise in time - although with just 15 minutes to spare.

And it turns out their travel policy would have covered a transfer to Nice as well as overnight accommodation in the city.

But Edwards adds: "I would have made a difficult situation a lot less stressful if I'd had my documents easily to hand and had made myself more familiar with them before we travelled."

Know before you go

Edwards says her experience highlights the importance of understanding the extent of cover before you travel.

"You should also find out the process for making a claim: is there a time limit for contacting the provider?

For example, if you're hospitalised you will usually need to tell your insurer, or have someone do it on your behalf within 24 hours."

She adds that travellers should know what documentation they need to support any claim.

"In our case, we would have needed something in writing from the airline to confirm the delay and the cause of it."

Your travel insurance checklist

Don't just assume your policy will cover every eventuality.

These are some of the most common reasons holidaymakers find their travel insurance won't pay out on part or all of their claims.

  • The airline goes bust

    The economic downturn has resulted in a lot of travel companies going out of business, leaving many holidaymakers stranded abroad or out of pocket.

    Some policies offer now supplier failure cover which will compensate you if your airline or tour operator gets into financial difficulties.
  • Limits on valuables.

    A new study from consumer organisation Which? has found that many travel policies will only cover individual items up to a certain value – perhaps £200 or £300.

    And the total amount covered may be just £400 or £500.

    So if you're taking expensive iPads, laptops and mobile phones on your trip, you'll need to boost your insurance levels.

    Richard Lloyd of Which? says: "Travel insurance has not kept pace with the changing times.

    "Insurers should raise the outdated limits for everyday items like smartphones and laptops or, at the very least, always clearly offer the option of cover at a higher premium."
  • Watch out for exclusions

    Mhairi Edwards, head of travel at Confused.com, says: "People often make the mistake of thinking they're covered for everything but you need to be aware of exclusions.

    "For example, in my case if we'd missed the flight because we hadn't left ourselves enough time to get to the airport we wouldn't have been covered."

    She adds that being drunk can invalidate a travel insurance claim, so if you injure yourself while under the influence, your insurer may refuse to pay out.
  • Get proof

    If you are making a claim for theft your insurer is unlikely to take your word for it.

    So you are a victim of crime while abroad, be sure to get a report or crime reference number from the local police.
  • Extreme pursuits

    Standard policies generally won't apply to accidents that result from activities such as whitewater rafting or bungee jumping.

    If you're planning this kind of thing, you'll need to pay for specialist cover.

    Edwards says the same applies if you're going on a golf trip or getting married abroad.
  • Pre-existing conditions

    As with health insurance, you risk having claims turned down for medical treatment while abroad if you don't come clean about any medical problems you have when applying for cover.

    If you're not sure whether a health issue is relevant to your policy, avoid any doubt and ask the insurer.

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris



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