Picking The Right Travel Insurance Policy

Buying a travel insurance policy is one of those things that so many people forget about until it’s too late.

A travel insurance policy is one of those things that doesn’t cross your mind until your luggage is lost, your flight cancelled or you’ve hurt yourself and are faced with extortionate medical costs.

A travel insurance policy is one of those things that a lot of people don’t consider because of the “it will never happen to me” attitude.

But trust me.
A travel insurance policy is something you need every time you travel.

But after working as a Medical Assistance Coordinator for some huge travel insurance insurers I can tell you; everybody thinks that and, I hate to say it, but the chances of it happening to you are pretty damn strong. So it pays to be prepared.

Nobody wants something to go wrong with your trip, trust me. You don’t, the travel insurance company don’t, and the people who are paid to work in medical assistance definitely do not. Not just because the phones are always exceptionally busy (especially during the winter sports season) but because there’s honestly no way to know what is waiting on the other end of that phone line. It could be something simple like needing an out of hours doctor for Diarrhea and Vomiting. Or it could be something devastating and life-changing like innocently slipping on a kerb on the way back from dinner, and facing brain damage or paralysis. Which is why it’s not just important that your purchase travel insurance for each of your trips, but that you purchase the right policy.

HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY

I can’t tell you what travel insurance policy you should buy. Sorry. I know it’s much easier when people make processes like this that much easier. But the reason I can’t is because the policy type you will need will depend upon what you’re planning to do whilst away and the way in which humans travel, is incredibly different. For example; the coverage needed whilst trekking through remote areas will be completely different to the coverage needed for an adrenaline filled adventure sports holiday which includes bungee jumping or skydiving.

But whilst I can’t specify what travel insurance policy should be picked, I can give the following advice to make sure you pick the policy that is right for you.

DON’T PICK THE CHEAPEST TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY

Travel insurance exists to protect the insured person/s against risk, but if the underwriter of the insurance company doesn’t know what an individual’s risks are – they won’t be able to offer the most comprehensive cover against those risks. This is why it’s important to check the policy wording to ensure that it’s the most suitable policy for your needs; both in terms of travel and personal health.

People are unique, and as a result they have unique requirements and whilst some policies cover a huge amount as standard, you’ll need to ensure that the policy you pick reflects YOUR requirements. Despite what many people think, not all travel insurance companies are just after your hard earned dough, most of them actually care about the customer’s they insure. Which leads, quite nicely, to my next point…

ALWAYS DECLARE YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions you must declare them.
No ifs, no buts, no coconuts.
You have no idea how many times not declaring a condition has come back to bite people in the arse with delayed treatments, repatriations and hiding them doesn’t achieve anything. It just causes undue delays and stress because insurers will always ask for a Dr’s report if you are being treated for something which could be construed as pre-existing – even if it’s the first time it’s ever happened.

Which is why, if you have suffered from something before, it’s always better to declare things up front – because if you try to hide it when the time comes that you need your insurance; the travel insurance company is going to check with your doctor anyway. So there’s just no point trying to hide anything.

High Cholesterol? Declare it.
High Blood Pressure? Declare it.
Had a Heart Attack? Declare it.
Mental Health Condition? Declare it.
Diabetes? Declare it.
Undergone Surgery? Declare it.
Have Asthma? Declare it.

Sometimes these conditions can affect the price paid by increasing the premium but to be honest it’s usually by £-££ amount, which is nothing compared to the price of what would need to be paid if something went wrong. Sometimes a pre-existing condition won’t affect the premium at all. The only way to find out is to discuss it with the insurer directly. Failure to declare a condition can put your entre policy at risk, which is kind of counter productive when that’s the reason to purchase a policy to begin with…

If you’re not sure whether you have pre-existing medical conditions the travel insurance policy team can do a medical screening. A medical screening is a process where you answer an array of questions regarding your health both at the current time, and in the past. Some conditions aren’t a worry if there hasn’t been an issue in the past five years, and some are. You honestly won’t know until you do it, but honesty is always the best policy – especially as a policy is void if you fail to do so, regardless of whether you are claiming for that condition or not.

CHECK THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY

There is nothing worse than thinking you’re insured and discovering that you’re not. There was one case I worked on where the person had a motorbike accident and thought they was covered because they were wearing a helmet and had the necessary licenses and insurances… Only it transpired that they were knowingly riding a motorbike of an engine size much larger than the 125cc scooter their insurance policy covered them for.

This particular person broke their legs in multiple places and required surgery to pin their bones together. They also required a medical flight to get them home because they couldn’t fly on a commercial plane and as a result they needed a repatriation and medical team to get them back. The costs for this were in the hundreds of thousands.

This particular person was incredibly lucky that their insurance company decided to cover them, because their policy was completely void and they could have been left facing those costs alone. I don’t know about you, but I most certainly wouldn’t have had £100,000++ floating around for emergencies. My emergency stash isn’t even cash right now. It’s basically just a bunch of Reese’s pieces hidden on the top shelf of a cupboard where I can’t reach them on a day-to-day basis.

CHOOSE AN AFFORDABLE EXCESS OR BUY AN EXCESS WAIVER

A lot of people misunderstand what an insurance excess is, so to explain it is the first part of the claim which you pay before the insurer does. For example if you have a £250 excess and lose your luggage to the value of £1,000 you pay the first £250, and the insurer will pay the remaining £750.

The amount you pay varies per policy. Some policies offer a £50 excess, some offer a £250 excess. I personally feel that it’s more beneficial to pay a few more pounds when you purchase your insurance to get yourself a lower excess, because the excess amount must be paid per claim.

This means that if you had two separate medical conditions whilst away which you were covered for, you’d have to pay your excess amount twice; one for each condition. If you then lost your baggage, you’d have to pay your excess again and so fourth. It’s a pain but you can usually purchase an excess waiver for a few pounds. The way I see it is you can either pay a small amount more before your trip, or a large amount whilst on your trip.

TIPS FOR FINDING THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY

As I said before, the insurance policy you need will vary; but there are a multitude of ways to find the best cover for your needs. For example; if you’re an expat; there are travel insurance companies which specialise in policies which run for longer periods. Whereas you can locate prices for your standard annual insurance by using comparison search engines. You’ll need to check the coverage though, as your standard insurance only tends to provide cover for a certain amount of time, and for certain areas. For example; an annual policy may cover you for three trips per year, so long as it’s in Europe and doesn’t exceed 28 days in length.

Finding the most competitive pricing for travel insurance however, is another matter. Pricing is dependant on a variety of factors, such as; trip duration, level of cover, where you are travelling from/to and whether pre-existing medical conditions are applicable. Basic travel insurance cover is offered because it would take forever and a day to insure everybody individually. However, if you need a tailored insurance policy this can be done so it’s worth shopping around, especially as you never know where a deal may be lurking. Certain bank accounts offer incredible travel insurance which covers you for an array of activities for 28 days at a time in Europe, and companies you may not expect; sometimes offer incredible insurance deals. So shop around for your requirements!

ALWAYS CHECK THE SMALL PRINT

I know, I know, small print is boring and let’s face it – almost all of us pretty much never read it. I’m pretty sure Apple could have the rights to my firstborn child and I wouldn’t even know until the time came for them to cash in. But during my time as a Medical Assistance Coordinator I have seen a lot of cases where travel insurance was the thing that saved people both in terms of life and finances. Because whilst you may be covered for an array of things, not reading your policy correctly can leave you liable. Like, for example, in the motorbike case I mentioned above. That policy covered a motorbike, but only up to a certain size – and this can be the difference between having insurance coverage, and not.

The level of cover available with a policy will vary per insure,  so you must always read it because limitations almost always apply. Especially when it comes to activities, excursions or sports. There are an abundance of these things that won’t be covered unless you pay an additional premium. For example; snorkelling may be covered, but diving may cost extra and can be limited to a certain depth. Skiing may be covered, but it may only cover on-piste and not off-piste. Hiking may be covered, but only to a certain altitude. Bicycles or scooters may be covered, but motorbikes will cost extra and you can pretty much guarantee that skydiving, hot-air ballooning, paragliding and bungee jumping are almost never covered without paying an additional premium, because they’re considered high risk. So always check the wording of your policy schedule.

In addition to checking what is and isn’t covered, you’ll need to read about the circumstances in which you are covered for. For example; some policies only cover business travel, and some only cover leisure. Some policies cover you for extended periods of time, and some will only cover you for 14 days at a time.

In addition to this there will be wording regarding who is covered under your policy (some include just one adult, whereas others will ensure a child under a certain age), and what type of emergencies are covered. For example medical emergencies are pretty much always covered; but dental emergencies are a grey area. A dental emergency is considered an abscess, or a filling which has fallen out, or something like that. Getting braces or having a crown put in whilst on holiday are not considered emergencies. To summarise, if it can wait until you’re back home; it’s not an emergency.

You’ll be able to find the information on what is and isn’t covered in your policy wording, but if you’re not sure whether or not something is covered, just ask. If the insurer says that yes, something is covered, and it later turns out that it’s not you will have a record of them stating it was which they will have to honour.

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If this article has been helpful, please do share it with your friends and if you have any questions pop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!