Gillian Cooper
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We spend ages making sure we’ve booked the right hotel, found the perfect beach, updated the holiday wardrobe and bagged the next-to-nothing flight, but how much thought do we usually give to making sure our dream getaway is covered if things don’t go to plan? If the hotel goes bust, suffer a poolside accident, your luggage goes missing or the airline cancels?
Mishaps might not happen in our holiday daydreams, but real life has a funny habit of keeping us on our toes – whether they’re being dipped in the warm waters of the Med or massaged on a spa break staycation back home. Cutting corners on travel insurance could prove a costly and complicated mistake.

So before stocking up on mini shampoo and dashing to Departures, take a little time to read our top tips on how best to keep your holiday protected. Some are common sense; others may come as more of a shock. Read on to find out our essential tips on getting the right travel insurance cover.

Check local laws

In some countries travel insurance isn't just advised, it’s mandatory. This means you might be required to buy it, there and then (and probably at an inflated price) before you’re allowed past immigration, and you could even be denied entry into the country full-stop. More than half of the Schengen nations (a combination of European Union states and independent countries like Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) already require some type of insurance for visitors outside of the Schengen Area, Thailand is also currently debating whether to impose a 20-baht (52p) premium for travellers at the airport, which would provide cover in the event of death of up to one million baht (£26,000).

Insurance experts suggest this trend is likely to continue, as countries try to clamp down on visitors either taking advantage of their free healthcare or jetting back home before paying their bills. In the case of Thailand, it’s also an attempt to renew the confidence of foreign tourists after a recent spate of traveller tragedies.

Be honest about pre-existing conditions

It might be tempting to not disclose a medical condition to get cheaper cover, but this is risky business. There are certain conditions which must always be disclosed, even if currently fully under control, for instance: heart conditions, breathing conditions (including asthma), diabetes, epilepsy, chronic illnesses. Failing to disclose them or travelling against doctor’s advice could see potential claims rejected. If you need a specialist provider, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association website (biba.org.uk/find-insurance) should be able to help.

Even if you haven’t been deliberately dishonest, your policy could still be in jeopardy if you forget to update details. For example, if your health suffers a setback between purchasing the policy and actually going away, or if you’ve an annual policy that renews automatically. Make sure your provider has your very latest details.

Don’t be seduced by the cheapest…

Although it’s tempting to choose travel insurance based on cost alone, be warned that ‘bargains’ often come with hidden fees and exclusions.

Basic policies may not include airline failure, terrorist acts and payment for lost tickets, passports or cash. You may not even be covered for lost or delayed baggage. If you are, check whether claims depend on having a receipt to prove ownership.

Higher excess charges – sometimes as much as £300 – are another reason cheap policies may prove a false economy. Excess can even be applied to different parts of a single claim or, if you’ve family cover or a joint policy with your partner, to every person named in the paperwork.

…but don’t pay over the odds either!

A lot of money is wasted buying several single-trip policies within a year, rather than saving with a multi-trip deal.

On average Brits take three holidays per annum but, according to research from the insurer Columbus Direct, only 16 per cent of travellers purchase insurance that reflects this. A multi-trip deal could cover all those breaks for just £26.15, it claims – compared to a total of £53-plus for three separate policies.

That said, if you’re going on an unusual or higher-risk holiday (like skiing), single-trip deals that allow for more specialist cover still probably offer the best option.

Read the small print

As with so many things in life the devil is in the detail, so make sure you read the policy documents thoroughly before committing.

A horror story that’s often quoted to illustrate this fact is the recent case of a woman hit with a £30,000 bill after suffering kidney problems while abroad. Her insurance provider initially refused to recoup more than a third of this, because she’d not declared a previous (unrelated) prescription for sleeping tablets when buying her policy.

It’s an extreme example but does prove that going through your paperwork with a fine-tooth comb really counts. As well as pre-existing condition caveats, it’s also worth paying close attention to how excess is applied to avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned earlier.

Buy it well before you’re due to go away

Leaving insurance to the last minute invariably means going for the simplest option (often a single-trip policy), cheapest (fraught with all kinds of exclusions or hidden fees) or overlooking the small print.

While we’ve touched on the dangers of all these above, there’s another very good reason to plan ahead. Many people assume travel insurance should only kick in on their date of departure. However, buying a policy as soon as you’ve booked your break can ensure you don't lose out financially if you fall ill or get injured in the weeks leading up to it, and subsequently must cancel. Or perhaps you’ve landed jury service and must forego the holiday for that reason, or because of the death of a loved one. Whatever the scenario, buying in advance could help protect you well before you’re queuing at security.

Bought to you by Unite Travel Insurance who offer a range of travel insurance policies and cover levels, to suit your budget and trip. Ready to get covered? Click here to get a quote from Unite Travel Insurance.


1:https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/thailand-compulsory-travel-insurance/ 2:https://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/More-Countries-Requiring-Tourists-Purchase-Travel-Insurance 3:https://www.express.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/1141420/travel-insurance-uk-holiday-medical-claim-valid-4:https://www.moneywise.co.uk/bills/insurance/travel-insurance-our-10-top-tips 5:https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/jun/16/travel-insurance-details-terms-condition-exclusions-fees  6:https://moneyweek.com/509348/beware-the-nasty-surprises-in-travel-insurance-small-print/ 7:https://www.telegraph.co.uk/insurance/travel/travel-insurance-mistake-means-holidaymakers-pay-double-should/

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