Whether you’re after a cultural city break, a tandem skydiving adventure or a chance to lie on a sunny beach, everyone wants a holiday to go according to plan.
But that’s not always the way things work out. So if there’s a delay at the airport, you lose your luggage or have an accident when you’re abroad, what can you claim for and when?
If your journey is delayed because your flight, for example, doesn’t take off on time, let your insurer know quickly.
You may only qualify for a claim once you’ve been delayed a certain number of hours. So if you end up needing extra nights’ accommodation and want to claim for the expense, find out whether your insurer will pay.
The answer may be in the small print of your policy, which should outline how long the delay has to be before it will shoulder any of the expenses. If it’s not clear, give your insurer a call.
Every situation is different and in some insurance policies, it states that you need to have checked in for a flight, for example, to count as having been delayed.
But if an airport shuts, of course this won’t be possible. Insurers assess each claim individually, so call and explain the situation.
If you’re the last one standing at an empty carousel, head straight to the lost property department. If you start your holiday in just the clothes you’re wearing, the airline may give you a little bit of cash for initial expenses.
Fill in a “property irregularity report” at the desk, giving as many details as you can about what’s gone astray. If your luggage hasn’t turned up by the end of your break, you’ll need to make a claim.
This can usually wait until you’re home but there’s often an excess to pay and there are limits to how much you can claim for some items.
Receipts and proof of purchase, particularly for expensive items, can help speed up claims. If you’re planning to take pricey equipment check your policy covers it.
If you’re a victim of a crime there may be no need to tell your insurer until you’re home but you will need to report the incident to the police.
Your insurer will want a local police report, ideally within 24 hours of the crime. It may mean you spend hours waiting round a police station but insurers won’t usually pay out otherwise.
Illness and accidents
To stay safe and healthy when you’re overseas, see the tips on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website. Check the advice for the area you’re visiting to give yourself the best chance of a healthy break.
However, if you do fall ill or have an accident, this is when you will need to let your insurer know immediately.
For minor costs, you may need to pay upfront and claim the money back later. For anything over a few hundred quid, don’t wait until you get home.
Medical expenses can be extortionate: a flight home from Australia accompanied by a doctor can be as much as £20,000 and it’s an estimated £35,000 if you need to be brought back to the UK by air ambulance from the east coast of the US.
Call the insurer’s emergency number (or get a travelling companion to call for you if you’re not up to it). Once you know your insurer will meet the costs at least you won’t have to worry about the expense. You will need to keep the insurance company updated if you’re in hospital for a while to check you’re still covered.
Once you’re home
This is the time to collate your documentation - be it a medical receipt, lost luggage claim or crime report - and send them (after taking copies) to your insurer to make your claim. The insurer's website should have instructions or call the insurer if you have any queries about how to make your claim.
Check you’re covered
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all travel insurance policy and you can’t claim for something you’re not covered for. This is why it’s vital to check the small print before you buy. If you suddenly have an accident during a day’s whitewater kayaking that really won’t be a good time to find out your policy excludes extreme sports.
Just as you want your insurer to be upfront about what it covers, you also have to be honest. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, let the insurer know, otherwise any claim could be invalidated.
It’s worth remembering that the way you behave on holiday can have a bearing on whether an insurer will pay out. Taking reasonable care with valuables doesn’t mean slinging a towel over your camera while you’re splashing in the sea and while insurers won’t begrudge you a couple of glasses of sangria, having an accident after heavy drinking could invalidate your claim.