Holiday season is upon us, but many Brits are taking a dangerous risk with their travel insurance.
As we move into summer, many of us are turning our thoughts towards our summer holiday. However, when the time comes to board that plane, train or ferry, an alarming number of us are doing so without any travel insurance in place.
Figures from AA Travel Insurance have found that up to 17% of Brits are heading off into Europe without any cover at all. And the firm also noted more than half of all European single trip policies are bought within three days of departure - and sometimes just minutes before departure.
Tempting though it is, taking such a gamble is simply not worth it. Here's my guide to the essential things you should be looking out for from your travel insurance policy.
What sort of policy do I want?
The first thing to consider before booking a policy is whether you need a single or multi-trip policy. Bear in mind that a single-trip policy will only cover you for a single trip, while a mult-trip policy will cover you for all the many trips you make in a 12-month period.
While multi-trip policies are more expensive, if you are often travelling about, it may prove better value than snapping up single-trip policies for each individual trip.
What should my policy cover?
There are a few key essentials that your policy should cover. If they don't, then keep on looking!
Whether you are rarely in Blighty, or just take the occasional trip overseas, your policy must include medical and health cover for any injuries or sudden illnesses which may take hold while abroad.
Make sure that your cover offers a decent level of cover - you don't want to be footing a bill to get you home, as well as being ill! It should also offer 24-hour assistance.
A word of caution - make sure you have declared any existing medical conditions. If you don't, you may invalidate any future claims. Honesty is always the best policy.
It wasn't me Guv
Good travel policies will include personal liability cover. So fear not if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property, and they decide to go down the legal route and sue you.
You should make sure your policy covers you should you cut the holiday short, or even have to cancel before you get there. However, always make sure you check the small print for the exact circumstances that your policy will cover.
Examples of things a policy may pay out on include accidents and illnesses, pregnancy (so long as you didn't know when you bought the policy), home emergencies, bad weather and even jury service!
Most travel policies will include cover should a thief do a sharp one with your possessions, or should they get damaged while on your trip. Generally, you can choose the limit in your policy, but make sure they are realistic.
Many policies also offer a standard excess charge which will see you foot the first part of any claim - by agreeing to pay a higher initial amount should your goods go missing, you may get cheaper cover.
If you are off on an adventure holiday, and plan to throw your body around with reckless abandon, ensure that your policy covers you for whatever extreme activities you plan to take part in!
ATOL, ABTA and AITO
Now I love a good acronym, and thankfully that comes in pretty useful when I book my travel insurance. Before you sign up to a policy, be sure to check the provider's accreditation.
If you book with a company that boasts an Air Travel Organisers License (ATOL), or is a member of a travel association like ABTA or AITO, then you will be covered should your travel provider go up the swanny, and leave you stranded in Timbuktu.
If your flights cost over £100, it's always wise to book them on a credit card. That way, you've also got Section 75 protection if the airline goes bust.
Where to buy
When you actually book your holiday, the travel agent will no doubt have a wonderful in-house travel insurance package that they will attempt to woo you with. And occasionally, it will be the best option for you.
However, there is no substitute for doing a bit of legwork and researching your options.
You may end up going back to the travel agent for the original policy you were offered, but at least you will do so in the knowledge that you are getting the best policy, and are not just being herded into taking the easy option.
But remember the cheapest policies are cheap for a reason - they may have certain exclusions. Make sure you don't miss out on something essential, in order to save on a few pennies.
Don't rely on an EHIC
The European Health Insurance Card is a nifty little thing that should be on your list of essential items, along with your passport, when heading abroad. It provides Brits with access to state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area countries (and Switzerland) either for free or at a reduced cost.
However, despite the name, it is NOT health insurance, and should not be viewed as an alternative to snapping up a proper policy.
The card does not cover any costs of healthcare which are not provided by the state's healthcare system - a particular problem when you consider some European countries do not even have a state healthcare system - and it does not cover the costs of being brought back to the UK, should something happen to you.
There are a lot of things to look out for when picking your travel insurance policy, and the only way to ensure you have the right cover at the right price is to do your homework and shop around. But whatever you do, don't get caught out by taking the easy option of skipping cover altogether.
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