Planning the perfect holiday can be a lot of work, planning a business trip or some other trip might even be more troublesome, but somehow you managed to do it. You managed to navigate the several options available to you to find the perfect trip filled with the perfect activities. You’ve found the perfect flight and the perfect places to stay and now it’s time for a very important aspect of your travel – picking travel insurance.
It might not be as exciting as other holiday and travel choices you’ve had to make, like choosing which resort to go to, or finding the most convenient and economical hotel for your business seminar and meeting, but it is perhaps, the most important decision when planning travel.
A quick google search will bring back a lot of results on insurance companies offering travel insurance with seemingly similar features and you might be tempted to close your eyes and pick just anyone. After all, they all offer the same benefits and insurance cover is often not needed in a large percentage of the population, right? Wrong.
Picking your travel insurance isn’t as easy, or as straightforward as choosing the cheapest policy. It is not the smartest thing to do either. Here’s why reading the fine print before you sign the dotted line on your insurance cover is important.
You need to find a policy that suits your travel plans
Not all travel plans are equal, and not all travel insurance plans are created to be the same. When you choose travel insurance, there are a lot of things you need to consider.
- Duration of your trip – An important question to ask will be “How long do you plan to spend overseas?” The answer to this question will determine what kind of policy will best suit your travel plans. No need to take out a one-year policy, if this trip is ‘a one off 5-day affair’.
- Frequency of your travel – How often do you intend to travel? If you know your year is filled with multiple travel plans, then that will help you make the decision to take the appropriate travel insurance- one year with multiple trip cover is definitely smarter than trying to buy a new policy every time you need to travel
- Reason for your trip – Business or pleasure? One may require a different type of policy than the other.
- Pre-existing conditions – Do you have a pre-existing medical condition that could require treatment while abroad? Be sure to buy a plan that will provide you with appropriate cover for this condition.
- Travel destinations – Be sure to read the fine print to be sure that your destination is covered. Remember that even at brief stopovers, anything can happen, so try as much as possible to ensure that your whole flight route is included.
- Travel activities – Again, the question of whether it is a pleasure trip or a business trip comes up, and even if it is a business trip, you need to consider the kind of activities you plan to be involved in.
You need to be aware of the claims process
Some travel insurance companies such as AMI insurance promise a more straightforward claims process than others. When choosing your travel insurance, find out as much as possible about the claims process, what you need to prove and how long processing your claim will take. You don’t want to have to wait for an entire year before you get your insurance sorted out
You need to be aware of what you are covered for
Reading the entire policy document is important because it will make you well aware of exactly what it is your travel insurance provides cover for. Make no assumptions and ask questions where and when required to be sure that you fully understand your cover.
You need to be aware of exclusions
Probably the most important aspect of choosing travel insurance are the exclusions. Failing to read the fine print could set you up for an unpleasant surprise if you eventually have to make a claim. Here are some exclusions that have the potential to make your claim null and void.
Pre-existing medical conditions
A large percentage of the population has a health condition that needs some kind of recurrent management, and a common question for travellers is how to get economical cover with a pre-existing condition. It might be tempting to hide your “perfectly managed” health conditions from your travel insurance provider, hoping to get low-cost cover, however, reading the fine print will help you understand the importance of full disclosure. Concealing, or attempting to conceal an inconvenient part of your medical history will instantly invalidate any claims you might need to make.
Read the fine print to find out about policy limits
While it is an unlikely occurrence, losing a bag, or having your money and other personal belonging stolen while on a trip can be an extremely unpleasant experience. What would be even more frustrating, would be trying to make a claim only to discover that you aren’t covered, or an action, or inaction of yours invalidated your claim.
Find out about the maximum amount you can claim in an incident like this, and look out for single limit covers on your insurance cover when reading the fine print. Mobile phones and other personal belongings are sometimes not covered so ensure that you get an optional cover for these items if required.
Again, finding out about the claim process could also protect you from being thrown a curve. Some insurance companies require that the theft be reported to appropriate authorities within a specific time or your claim may be invalid.
Travel insurance companies require that you take reasonable care of your possessions while on a trip for your claim to remain valid. Reading the fine print makes you aware of what actions will make you culpable in the event of any mishap.
Checking the exact wording of your chosen travel policy will also make you aware of whether you are covered for loss of cash if for example; you leave a large amount of cash or your personal belongings such as your phone or laptop in your hotel room and it goes missing.
Most times you are only covered if the items are lost while on your person, or locked in a safety deposit box in your hotel room. Not taking care with your personal property or cash could invalidate your claim.
Adventure travel is becoming increasingly popular, and if you are planning to take part in any of these activities during your trip, be sure to read the fine print of your policy to ensure coverage. Many travel insurance companies do not provide cover for a list of activities, which they term ‘hazardous’ and this is included in the policy wording.
Some provide partial cover. Even if you have to buy additional cover for these “hazardous activities”, the fine print specifies exactly what activities you are covered for. If you are planning a ski or snowboarding trip, then you often need to add these on as optional cover.
Alcohol and non-prescription drugs
The majority of travel insurance companies have exclusions for alcohol and other non-prescription drug related incidents. However, these exclusions are different depending on your chosen insurer. Reading your policy wording carefully will make you fully aware of what situations are excluded by your policy provider.
Many providers clearly state that if you have consumed enough alcohol to be considered judgement impaired, then any claim that arises as a direct or indirect result of your alcohol or other non-prescription drug intake will invalidate any claim you might want to make. The policy wording also usually contains what quantity of alcohol (if any) is considered acceptable.
How much time do you plan to spend overseas?
Read the fine print to confirm how many consecutive days cover you can get. Different providers set different limits and you can be sure that if you overstay, even by one day, your policy provider will definitely turn down your claim. So whatever your planned trip duration, a few days, or an extended trip, be sure that your chosen cover is appropriate for the period of travel.
Make sure your policy covers your destination
In choosing your travel cover destination, you will need to read the fine print because different policy providers sometimes use the same wordings to mean different things. An example is that for some policy providers, ‘European cover’ usually includes destinations such as Turkey and Egypt, while for others, these destinations are excluded. Even worldwide cover could have certain exclusions that you won’t be aware of if you don’t take the time to thoroughly understand your travel policy. Make sure you understand and have the correct policy to cover your destination. Also, remember to include stopovers and layovers in your planning.
Responsibility for a missed departure
Many insurance policy providers will not cover you for a new flight, even if missing it was not your fault. However, you need to find out what translates as being your fault and what doesn’t, information that can only be found in the policy wording. If your policy covers missed flights, you will still need to provide proof that your actions were sufficient to get you to the airport in time for your flight, and, that the circumstances surrounding your missed flight were indeed beyond your control. You are also required to lodge your claim within a time frame specified by your provider. These details vary from provider to provider.
Full disclosure when taking cover for bereavement or cancellation
Choosing to buy a policy that provides cover for a trip cancellation due to an illness or redundancy is a good idea. It is also a smart decision to check your policy to understand the limit and the specific situations for which you are covered.
Be sure to fully disclose if a close relative is ill when you are booking your trip. Also read the policy wording to determine what the policy considers a “close relative” as this definition varies from one provider to the next.
Buying the right insurance policy is not so easily arranged, especially if you have a vested interest in finding the best travel insurance cover for the best price. The only way to get the best cover is to read the fine print and make sure you thoroughly understand everything that has to do with your chosen policy. That way, you will be covered from any “nasty surprises” if something eventually happens and you have to make a claim.