By Mark Hooson
If you are looking for cover for your children under 16, you'll have a number of options, and the choice you make will depend on how your child or children will be travelling.
For example, if your children are travelling with you, the best type of cover can usually be found through a family policy, however, if your children will be travelling with their school or friends, you might need to arrange separate cover for them.
Some family travel insurance policies will cover your children for free, and in some cases the children listed on the policy may be able to travel separately under this type of protection. This is a rarity though, so you would need to check the terms of your cover before assuming this to be the case.
Of course, if your child is travelling alone to another country, you will need to comply with any rules the airlines impose. Most have their own services to take children without an accompanying adult, but these will quite often cost you extra.
What cover options are there?
When looking to purchase under 16 travel insurance, it is important to seek a policy the right amount of cover to ensure you are not going to be left out of pocket should it become necessary for your child to make a claim whilst on holiday. It's also important to make sure they will be covered for any activities they may be planning to take part in - particularly when travelling with their school.
For example, if you go skiing as a family, then a family policy that includes winter sports cover may be sufficient for you. Remember though, you'll need to check that all of the sports you will be involved in are covered. In particular, it is important to make sure you have a high enough level of medical, piste rescue and piste closure cover in case of an accident, or should the slopes need to be closed due to an avalanche or unsavoury weather conditions.
As mentioned above, it is unusual for family policies to cover your children when you are not with them, but it is worth checking this out before committing to a purchase in case you might be able to save some money by opting for family cover instead of searching for a standalone policy for your child. Cover for children under 16 travelling alone is a rarity though, so you will have to do your research carefully in order to find the right policy.
When examining a potential policy you should always be looking for a high level of medical cover - usually around £1-2million - a policy that will include the kind of activities your children will be involved with - such as go karting or mountain biking - lost luggage equal to the value of their personal possessions, and cancellation cover equal to the cost of their trip (including any pre-planned activities and excursions).
Be realistic, think about what your child is likely to be doing and whether they are covered for that activity, because paying a little extra on a premium will be cheaper than shelling out the cash should a claim be refused.
You should also ensure that your child under 16 has his or her EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) if they are travelling within Europe or Switzerland, and this will provide access to basic emergency healthcare in the country they are visiting, providing it is part of the European Economic Area (EEA). This is not a replacement for insurance though. Please visit our EHIC page to find out more.
Make sure you compare a variety of quotes when looking for cover for your child, but do not be tempted to simply opt for the cheapest option as you may find your child's cover is left wanting; you may also find that the excess you would need to pay in the event of a claim may be higher.
Always read the T&Cs
No matter what travel insurance policy you are looking at, it is vital that you read the terms and conditions so you are aware of exactly what is covered and what is not covered. The core value of any insurance product is in your ability to claim against it, so if you buy a policy that fails to offer the cover you need, you would be wasting your money no matter how cheap it is.
You should also check what levels of excesses come with the policy as you would need to pay these to facilitate a claim. Cheaper holiday insurance policies tend to go hand in hand with higher excesses to deter customers from making a claim for smaller monetary amounts.
Check the T&Cs before you commit to purchasing the policy, then you will have no nasty surprises further down the line.
Tips for under 16 travel
It is not easy when your children first start heading off on their own, whether it is to visit relatives and you use the airline services to take care of your child travelling alone, or they are going away with the school, it's most likely to be a nerve-wracking experience. Don't worry though; here are three top tips to help make it as simple as possible for you and your child:
Teach your child some safety basics. If it is daunting for you, think how your child feels. Make sure they know the basics like what the process is at the airport, not to go wandering off without their airline-appointed travelling companion - or teacher should they be travelling with their school - make sure they have a mobile phone to get in touch with you -store emergency numbers they may find useful in the phonebook - and ask them to follow instructions when they are told to do something.
Prepare them for the climate. Whether they are going somewhere hot and sunny, or cold and snowy, you will not be there to make sure they keep their sunscreen on or their cold weather gear done up. Educate them on the basics, such as drinking enough water in hot countries and topping up their sunscreen to avoid painful sunburn.
Put their mind at rest. Children easily pick up on their parent's emotions and you're likely to be worried about them travelling alone. It's important to outwardly show your children that you are calm and collected so you don't pass your fears on to them. When you talk through the dangers they need to be aware of try to emphasize the positive also, after all, travelling should be an amazingly enjoyable experience.