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Insurance and Travel

Travel Insurance Cover

Under the circumstances, this may be a good time to think about travel insurance. Before I start, however, I should point out that I am a travel agent and not a Financial Adviser and personally, do not sell travel insurance. I do, however, buy it.

A recent note appeared in Travelmole with regard to Allianz offering to cover laptops and such, if they have to be placed in the hold. This led me to look at their website as I wished to read the actual policy. I could not find the actual policy schedule, which is odd. Personally, I like to see what I am buying before I buy it. This may be a strange thing to do as I know a lot of people never actually read the conditions attached to their policy. So, here are a few points (NOT exhaustive) which I hope will prove of use to you all.

Medical: The largest ever claim on a travel policy for medical treatment was around £150,000. So, if you have 1 million or 10 million pounds worth of cover could be rather academic. If you need £300,000 worth of medical treatment then either you should not have been travelling or you are probably dead (or as near as dead as to make little difference). The important thing to note about "medical" is the part about pre-exisiting medical conditions. This means that if, say, you have myxomatosis, then you cannot claim for that.... but if you fall off something and damage something, then that is a valid claim (or should be) Pregnancy issues, by the way, are usually a big no-no and so is, if you know very well that you are on the waiting list for treatment for a condition. If you know you have it or if you think you may have it, you cannot cover for it.

A word about "Medivac" that is, when you have to be flown home. There is a difference between being flown home (certainly, long haul) on a regular airline, which flies at 32,000 feet and a proper medivac aircraft, that generally flies about 8,000 feet. If you have a serious condition where there is a risk of blood clots, then you do not want to be at 32,000 feet. Not all policies cover full medivac flights (as they are very, very expensive) - so it is important to know not so much IF a company would fly you home but HOW that insurance company would fly you home.

Property: Use simple common sense. If you own the crown jewels, unless you are going on holiday with, say, the 2nd Parachute Regiment, leave the jewels in the bank. Telling people you are going on holiday AND taking your valuable with you (as one famous-for-being-famous person did) is just stupid. If you do need to take valuable items, when you arrive, make sure they are locked in a safe (preferably the hotel safe, not the room safe). You must have receipts for anything of value - if you do not have the receipt, then get the item valued. Make photocopies of the receipts for anything valuable that you are taking and take those photocopies with you. When you have placed your valuables in the hotel safe, get a signature and if you do choose to use the hotel safe, photograph them in that safe.

There is a killer condition, here and that is that the items must always be in your possession. Thereby lies the rub with regard to placing any valuables in the hold. Most policies will not cover an expensive laptop in a hold bag (or similar item) and of course, we all know that baggage handlers are the world's most honest people. This may be a good time to get a stick for you data and get an old laptop out the attic, get it working and travel with that. If Windows does not work, remember that Linux usually works on even the oldest bit of kit.

Cancellation: (aka "Curtailment") ( and see my post about "self connect" flights!). Cancellation is very important - as long as it is for an insurable reason; that is, if a close relative dies (and no, that does not mean a 3rd Cousin, twice removed, even if you know them well and are "close" - that is not close in this sense. This means mothers, fathers, sons and daughters (incl. "step" of any) - possibly grandparents) you are taken seriously ill (and have a Doctors' certificate) or your house may suffer catastrophic damage. It is important to check the actual reasons that make up a bona fide claim as they do vary from policy to policy. Some cover business issues, loss of job for example but in all cases you cannot cover for something you know will happen. Another important issue, here is when you take out the policy. I suggest that you always make sure you have travel insurance in place when you first pay a deposit for your holiday or (if business) when you first book your flights. You must make sure that the amount of cancellation cover is enough to cover the whole value of your travel event. If your holiday costs £5,000 each, then you must have cover for £5,000 each. You cannot take out cover for £3,000 each and take the hit on the balance. It just does not work like that.

Theft, Attacks: If you are attacked or have anything stolen, you need to get a local police report. The police may well not be able to do much about it, but for your claim to be processed you will need hard evidence of the "event". You need to go to the local police station and report that such-and-such was stolen. You then need to get an official document from the police stating that you have reported the theft or assault. Another way, is to get a note from the hotel or other responsible person (e.g. your holiday rep) - but in all cases, police is best.

Credibility: Do not try it on! Insurance companies process thousands of claims over the year. You may think you have a clever idea for a false claim but whatever you think of, chances are the insurance company will have seen it, heard it and got the "T" shirt. If you are on a super-cheap, one week self catering holiday to the Spanish Costas then don't be surprised if the insurance company balks over paying out for your two stolen Rolex watches. That said, you may have a good Rolex watch, in which case you either a) are sensible enough to leave it safely locked away at home and use a cheap watch on holiday or b) as mentioned above, photograph it in situ and make sure you have a copy of the purchase receipt.

Airline/ Holiday Operator Failure: Not all policies have this. Credit card firms (and I mean credit card firms - not a card that happens to have a "VISA" sign on it) do cover the failure of your holiday firm and/ or airline if the whole holiday or ticket was bought on the one card. Some holidays (that's "some") are covered under the CAA's ATOL scheme - but you need to make sure who is going to cover you. Airline failure is a must-have if you have purchased your travel using a debit card or only partly on a credit card, used cash or used anything other than a credit card. Even if you do use a credit card, do not assume they will cover you. Credit card firms are (and quite rightly, I think) getting fed up with being a surrogate bonding agency, so always check.

A word about "free" travel insurance. Some bank accounts and/ or cards offer "free" travel insurance as part of their packages. Such insurance is usually very limited in scope and nature. Please do check carefully what is on offer.

Personally, I have an annual family policy from a well known provider and if I have to travel, I keep with me at all times two things: 1. The policy number and 2. The emergency contact number.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide. I hope, though, that it inspires you to read your policy document.

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