It’s vital that you’re covered in case you have to cancel your holiday. The policy will cover a range of reasons for doing this. These should include the following:
- Illness or death in your family or of a business partner
- Jury service
- Serious fire, flood or storm damage to your home or business premises
- A request from the police not to go away following a burglary at your home or office
You should be able to reclaim any holiday costs you cannot recover, apart from the cost of insurance. Make sure the policy covers both yourself and your travel companions.
2. Medical Expenses
It’s vital you are covered for medical expenses, as hospital and doctors’ bills can be enormous, especially in North America.
Most policies require you to pay a small excess towards the cost of treatment and medicines, but will also pay benefits – up to a set limit – if you have to stay in hospital.
If you travel within the EU you should get form EHIC from a Post office. This will entitle you to reciprocal health service care in the countries you visit. However, few EU countries pay for the full cost of treatment, and you’re likely to be treated in a private clinic or hospital, so it’s important to have your own insurance. Remember to keep all doctors’, hospital and chemists’ bills to support any claim you make.
Your policy should also cover you for any extra accommodation or travel expenses you incur as a result of illness, or if you have to go home early because of the illness or death of a close relative or business partner.
3. Personal Accident Cover
Personal accident cover will pay out if you are killed or permanently disabled on holiday – for example, if you lose a limb or your eyesight.
A few simple precautions will help to keep you safe – follow them, and you’ll reduce your risk considerably.
- Keep away from dangerous areas, especially at night
- Don’t spend too long in the sun – wear a hat and use plenty of sun block
- Don’t go swimming after a large meal or drinking alcohol
- Check the local conditions before swimming in the sea – tides and currents can be extremely deceptive
- If you’re planning any long distance walking, always inform someone of your plans, and your expected arrival times
- If you’re driving your own car, always have a servicing before you go
4. Personal Liability
Most travel policies will insure you against personal liability. This means that if you injure someone or damage their property, you will be covered if they decide to sue you.
5. Legal Expenses
Some policies will pay your legal costs if you decide to sue a third party for damages as a result of personal injury or death.
6. Personal Belongings
Your insurance should cover your personal belongings and cash against loss or damage. However, insurance companies expect you to look after your possessions at all times – you may have problems trying to claim for a camera you left on the beach which was stolen when you went for a quick dip.
Most policies impose a limit to the cover on any one item. So it might be worth adding ‘all risks’ cover to your household contents insurance and valuables like jewellery or cameras.
Some policies pay a set amount for the loss of a passport. This should cover any extra travel and accommodation expenses you incur to get it replaced.
If you lose or have something stolen, report the incident to the local police within 24 hours, and get written conformation that you have done this.
Follow these tips for a thief-free holiday:
- Don’t leave your belongings unattended
- Never leave valuables on show in your car
- Always leave valuables in a hotel safe or safe deposit box
- Keep money, documents and valuables with you when travelling
7. Delays and Missed Departure
Most policies will compensate you if your luggage is delayed for more than twelve hours on your outward journey. This will enable you to buy replacement items, but don’t forget to keep the receipts for everything you buy.
You may also receive a lump sum if your departure is delayed or if you miss your flight for a valid reason. This should cover any travel expenses you incur in reaching your final destination.
8. Annual Cover
If you’re lucky enough to take several holidays a year, or if you travel frequently on business, you should consider annual travel insurance.
This type of insurance is based on a yearly fee regardless of the number of the number of trips you make, and can be a lot cheaper than taking out separate cover every time you travel.
9. Extended Stays
A number of insurance companies offer policies that cater for people who take long-stay winter holidays and round-the-world trips.
However, before you go, check your household contents insurance. Some policies stipulate that homes should not be left empty for more than 30 days without informing the insurer.
10. Hazardous Pursuits
More and more holidays offer the opportunity to enjoy a range of action pursuits. Bungee jumping, scuba diving, parascending and motorcycling are typical of the sort of activity you might be offered, so talk to your broker, who will be happy to arrange an extension to your cover.
11. Winter Sports
You’ll need a specialist policy if you’re going on a winter sports holiday. This will probably cost twice as much as normal holiday cover, due to the greater risk of claims for medical expenses, personal accident, piste closure and ski equipment.
It’s vital that you have adequate cover for medical expenses – it can cost hundreds of pounds simply to stretcher an injured skier off the slopes. Personal liability insurance is essential in case you injure someone else.
If you plan to go ‘off-piste’ check that your policy allows you to. You might also need specialist cover if you go ski-jumping or bobsleighing.
12. Pre-Existing medical conditions
If you suffer from a permanent or recurring illness, you must tell your insurer. Some companies cater specifically for people in this situation, but they may request a letter from your doctor saying that you are fit to travel. You won’t get cover if you have been advised against travelling, are within the last two months of pregnancy, or are travelling to obtain medical treatment abroad.
13. Motoring Abroad
If you’re planning to take your car abroad, you must have adequate insurance before you leave the country.
UK motor insurance provides the minimum cover required by the EU and certain other countries. However, this will not be enough if you have an accident. Nor will it cover you for theft, fire or damage to your vehicle, and it may not cover your legal liabilities to other people.
So make sure you have the same level of cover that you have in the UK. Check your policy carefully, as some insurers provide free continental cover for a limited period each year.
- Green Card – Under European law, it is no longer compulsory to have a Green Card when driving in Europe, which shows that your policy meets the minimum legal requirements of the countries in the scheme. However, a Green Card can still save time and problems if you need to provide evidence of your insurance. It is also advisable to have a Euro Accident Claim.
- Accidents — Should you be involved in an accident, you must tell your insurer or their representative in the country immediately. Many companies issue a European Accident Statement – this is printed in several languages, and allows drivers to exchange facts without admitting liability.
- Breakdown — Even with an extended policy, you might not be covered if your car breaks down, but you can buy a vehicle breakdown policy either with your travel insurance or separately. This should cover you for the cost of a hire car while yours is being repaired, as well as roadside assistance, the cost of delivering spare parts and of returning your car home.
- Theft Precautions — Don’t forget that your car may be targeted by car thieves, so always lock it, don’t leave valuables on show, keep your car documents with you and use an anti-theft device.
14. Beware the pitfalls!
Apart from the exclusions mentioned above, there are a number of pitfalls to avoid.
- If you injure yourself while under the influence of drink or drugs, your policy is unlikely to pay up.
- If you’re pregnant, there will be a cut off date.
- Medical expenses and personal accidents caused as a result of war are also excluded in many policies.
- Any claim you make against your household insurance – for example if you have something stolen while on holiday – will risk losing your no claims bonus.
- Many insurers claim part of any payment for possessions lost or damaged abroad from your household insurers, which can lead to the loss of your no claims bonus.
Where to go for advice
Before choosing your travel insurance, always consult a BIBA insurance broker or intermediary. As an independent expert, they will be able to help you through the maze of covers available, and choose the right insurer for your needs at the most reasonable cost.
By law, registered brokers have to put your interests first. You can be sure that they will provide you with impartial advice, and a choice of products.
BIBA – the British Insurance Brokers’ Association – is the country’s leading association for insurance brokers. All its members offer the highest professional standards and financial integrity, and place the interests of their clients above all else.
Click here to select a BIBA BROKER
Before you go
To help you organise an enjoyable and trouble-free holiday, follow a number of simple rules:
Before you go:
- See the latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice at www.fco.gov.uk/travel
- Cancel the milk and papers
- Ask the neighbours to keep an eye on your home, and remove any free papers and circulars
- Use a time-switch to turn on some lights at night
- Lock all your doors and windows
- Advise your household insurer if you’re planning a long trip abroad
Remember to take:
- Passports, visas, tickets, money, traveller’s cheques
- The number of your insurance company’s 24 hour helpline
- Details of any private medical cover you hold
- Details of your vehicle breakdown cover
If you are driving abroad:
- A spare set of car keys
- Your vehicle insurance documents, including a Euro accident form
- Driving licence and registration document
- GB sticker
- Warning triangle