Last month I wrote about the pitfalls of the small print. Little did I know that within a matter of days the importance of the small print would become an even more apparent. The cloud of ash grounded flights all over the world, and left many travellers stranded and unsure as to what cover they did and didn’t have.
Many were able to sit back in the assurance that their travel insurance would fit the bill, and that their airline was at least required to put them up in a hotel with some pocket money. Others weren’t so fortunate and there have been horrible tales coming back of people taking out mediocre travel insurance and not getting the cover they were expecting.
This serves as a timely reminder to all of us as we start to focus on our summer holidays. We need to know what we are buying and if it is fit for the purpose we need it for. Think of the scenarios you may face and check if it will be covered. Some of the things to know so as to avoid the pitfalls are;
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.
While travelling to Europe you will be covered by your European Health Insurance Card or E111 (available at your local Post Office) so ensure that you have applied and obtained this for the family. 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 and keep a copy of any bills.
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.
Aside from their own personal health concerns, many people fail to advise their insurer of a dependent or close family member who isn’t travelling, yet upon whom the trip depends. For example if your mother-in-law is having a complicated procedure carried out the day before your trip, you need to tell the insurer about it if you want to have cover that includes possible delays due to this procedure.
Taking out cheaper insurance on a healthier traveller has its risks as well, because they may not be covered if a fellow traveller delays the trip due to a pre-existing illness.
If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition then contact a charity that deals with your specific needs and they may be able to refer you to an insurer who specialises in that field and who may include cover for the condition.
Accommodation on annual policies
If you are savvy with your insurance you may have taken out a multi-trip policy to last a full calendar year, however most policies require you to have booked at least two nights accommodation for your policy to cover that trip. This can mean that you aren’t covered when you thought you were. If you do many one night trips ask will they be covered.
Some of the most frequent claims include cancellation (by passenger of service provider), baggage loss and weather conditions so be sure that all your valuables, every eventuality and even pets are covered.
The important things to remember are to read your documentation, keep it safe and keep it with you. If you got into hospital while on holidays in the states, their system is private and you won’t get any treatment until they are sure you have the documentation or can pay for the treatment yourself.
And finally, if you are planning a bungee jump, scuba diving or motorsport you should ensure you get a policy which covers hazardous activities (and winter sports if you plan to ski).
Though sometimes it can cost a little more, it is worth dealing through an insurance broker who will understand your needs, know the market and to whom you can ask the important questions about cover. Many a holiday disaster can be salvaged purely by choosing the right insurance.
Jason Holmes owns Lumen Financial Planning; a local fee based financial planning company. He can be contacted on 028 9044 7102 or Jason@lumenfinancialplanning,com