So you’ve booked your summer holiday and are thinking about travel insurance. But how do you make sure you are covered for everything you need and that you understand your policy document?
Policy schedules, which often run to 50 pages or more, are riddled with complexities and it can be difficult to spot where you are not covered.
Each year thousands of Brits travel abroad uninsured and you can have some sympathy when buying a comprehensive policy can be such a minefield.
According to a poll conducted on behalf of CompareCover, 37 per cent of participants confessed to only sometimes purchasing travel insurance while 14 per cent admitted they never buy it.
Rashpal Sidhu and Gurvinder Aujla-Sidhu travelled to Berlin to celebrate their 40th birthdays
One big area of confusion is cancellation clauses, which on standard travel insurance may only cover the policyholder if they cancel the holiday and not if their flights are cancelled by the airline.
Your travel insurer has no obligation if your flight is cancelled because of bad weather conditions, as airlines should cover it themselves by booking you onto a later flight, or giving you a refund.
Your insurer may cover you however for expenses you have already shelled out for that can’t be refunded. So a comprehensive travel insurance policy may cover things like hotels or car hire, if you’ve been unable to reach your destination due to adverse weather, but it may not cover you for delays on your return home.
It is always wise to make sure you understand exactly what cancellation cover you have, as almost 40 per cent of all claims in 2017 were in this category, according to All Clear Travel.
However it can be difficult to tell what cancellation cover actually means, as married couple Rashpal Sidhu and Gurvinder Aujla-Sidhu discovered to the cost of £900.
Earlier in the year the Leicestershire couple travelled to Berlin for a romantic weekend to celebrate their joint 40th birthdays and bought gold travel insurance cover for the trip.
But when they tried to catch their flight back on the Sunday evening they were told it was cancelled due to heavy snow. They were offered a refund or an alternative flight three days later on the Wednesday.
‘We were really worried about getting back to our family. We have two small children who were staying with their auntie in the middle of the country, nowhere near their school or nursery. And we both had work the next day,’ says Gurvinder.
‘On the day we looked through the policy document and thought we were covered. We thought we could book another flight and claim it back on our insurance.’
Destination: Rashpal and Gurvinder enjoyed a weekend in Berlin, but were left unstuck when their flight was cancelled (Pictured: The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin)
The couple decided to secure a place on the alternative Wednesday flight as a backup while they hunted for other ways to get home. In doing this they lost their entitlement to any compensation or refund.
They eventually found a flight going out the next day on another airline which cost them £600 altogether.
They then booked an additional night at the hotel they had been staying at for £300.
‘I just wanted to get home. It was really stressful and we needed to get back to our kids,’ said Gurvinder.
The policy the pair had taken out said they were covered if the public transport they were booked to travel on was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. The document said they would be paid £20 for the first 12 hours of delay and £20 for each full 12 hours after that up to a maximum of £300.
It also covered ‘up to £3,000 for any irrecoverable unused travel and accommodation costs’.
When they returned home they also had to pay an additional £15 for an extra day of airport parking.
On contacting their insurance company they discovered they were only able to claim back £40 for the delay and could not recoup any of their additional costs.
‘Looking at the policy it seems it is only for outgoing costs. Why are you not insured for returning home? The £3,000 was for any unused costs so if we were delayed on our way out and couldn’t stay in our hotel we could claim that money back but it didn’t cover any additional costs we had whilst stuck in Berlin.
‘It is really confusing for a consumer to know what you are buying and what you are actually covered for. They need to be clearer and more honest and up front. I would pay more is I knew we were going to be covered. It is a real shame because it took the shine off what would have been an amazing trip,’ said Gurvinder.
Other ways in which consumers get caught out is by not being aware of clauses that state they are not covered for self-inflicted injuries or drinking too much alcohol which results in a claim.
Covered: Travel insurance is there in case anything goes wrong – but policies can vary considerably, in ways that are only revealed by reading the small print
Andrew Johnson, money expert at the Money Advice Service explained: ‘This is really for people who have drunk to excess and are not in control. If you have just had a couple of glasses of wine and you have been turned down on a claim you should challenge them on that through their appeal procedure.’
And excesses can also be complex with some policies stating that they are per incident claimed for, under each section, by each insured person.
‘This catches many people out. There can be several different types of excesses so it is important to look out for that,’ said Andrew.
This means if you cancel flights for a holiday for a family of four, you could end up paying out an excess for each person, which could be close to the cost of the flights themselves.
‘There are some policies that offer a waiver of excesses but they may be more expensive,’ Andrew added.
And if you are travelling in Europe it is always important to register for a free European Health Insurance Card because some travel insurance firms require it and not having one may invalidate a related claim.
Other ways in which your insurance can be invalidated is if you do not declare pre-existing health conditions, even if you have not had a diagnosis yet.
‘If you have been to see a consultant or are waiting for test results you need to declare it up front,’ said Andrew.
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