6 travel insurance pitfalls

Travel insurance isn’t up there with the most exciting aspects of planning a holiday – but it happens to be one of the most crucial.


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Illness, accident, theft: these are all travel mishaps (which we hope won't happen to you – or us) that can be made 10-times worse without that document with all the boring small print.

So it's wise to know your way around travel insurance, even if only the basics, so you know what to do if something does go wrong.

And one of the most helpful ways to look at it is to think about what not to do when buying that vital policy, beginning with...

1. Going for the cheapest cover

Everyone loves a bargain, but think twice before you decide to go cheap on travel insurance. The lowest-cost policies often have skimpy levels of cover or such high excesses that putting in many claims becomes pointless. TravelSupermarket recommends the following degree of cover:

-Illness: £2million (Europe trips) or £5million (worldwide trips)

-Cancellation and curtailment: £3,000 (or at least the cost of the holiday plus any excursions)

-Personal liability: £1million

You may also want to consider bolting on cover for circumstances such as end supplier (eg, hotels, tour operators) failure, natural catastrophes and winter sports.

2. Not declaring a pre-existing medical condition

You may think the occasional bout of asthma isn’t something worth declaring to your insurer – you’d be wrong.

It's essential you declare any pre-existing condition you have – no matter how minor you consider it to be. Not doing so can void your policy, and insurance providers have the right to request access to your medical files – so be upfront from the start.

For more on insurance cover for pre-existing medical conditions, see our page dedicated to the subject

3. Failing to compare and buy online

Being a little lazy and buying the first travel insurance policy you come across might well be throwing money down the drain. A simple online search could easily reveal a better policy.

For example, to buy cover through the Post Office for a family of four going on a Turkey holiday, you could cough up £79.50 just for the basic policy. A two-minute search on TravelSupermarket reveals comparable policies for up to £66 less.

The Post Office policy is pricey partly because it doesn't include Turkey within its (less expensive) European cover. The devil is in the detail or, to put it another way, read the small print.

4. Not checking clauses for loss and theft (they're pretty picky)

Loss or theft of an expensive item on holiday is galling enough – it's even more so if you have a claim for it rejected.

Because these holiday mishaps are so common, insurers want to save themselves money and are quite specific about what you have to do to be covered. For a start, you may be asked to provide proof you owned the items in the first place. In addition, you'll need to report the item to the local police and obtain a crime number or the equivalent.

Other clauses include having to keep certain items (a laptop, for example; it varies from policy to policy) in a locked hotel safe or, more generally, showing you have taken reasonable care to protect your belongings.

You should also check before you buy how much you are entitled to for single items, as policy limits vary. Keen photographer? You may need to hunt around for a special travel insurance policy that will fully cover the cost of your equipment. 

5. Assuming all sports and activities are covered

Many of us feel more adventurous on holiday and try risky activities and sports we'd steer clear of at home.

But before you go hurtling through the jungle on a zip wire, throw yourself off a cliff on a bungee cord or suddenly decide you want to try kite surfing – be aware that these pursuits are unlikely to be covered on a standard travel insurance policy.

If you have a burning ambition to try an extreme activity, it's essential to pay for any extra cover.

6. Automatically buying travel insurance along with your flight

Sure, it's tempting – when the option to buy travel insurance flashes up after booking a flight online, it seems like a great way to save time and hassle.

What it probably won't save you, though, is money.

However, recent research from TravelSupermarket showed that, buying travel insurance in this way, you could be overcharged a mammoth 485%.

So it may take a few extra minutes – but wouldn’t you rather have that extra cash to splash on holiday? 

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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