There’s lots to remember when you’re packing for a holiday, but what should be on your checklist when it comes to travel insurance?
Is insurance even necessary?
If you are traveling in a country that’s a member of the European Economic Area (that’s the 28 countries of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), a valid European Health Insurance Card card will give you free access to its public healthcare system.
Outside of these countries, however, an unexpected trip to a hospital could become a very costly affair very quickly, especially if your travels take you somewhere like the United States.
If you have private health insurance, you may be covered for overseas medical expenses in all countries, though this will depend on the exact plan you have.
Regardless, travel insurance is not just about medical bills and can protect you from costs incurred by delays, cancellations, theft and accidents.
And with the protection potentially costing less than a coffee and a pre-packed sandwich at an airport terminal, it is certainly worth your consideration.
Finding the right policy
There are plenty of travel insurance options from plenty of providers, but the type of trip you’re taking should narrow down your options considerably.
If there are two or more in your travel party, a group or family plan might be the most cost-effective. You should note, however, that the terms and conditions may require all of those covered to be traveling together at all times.
Most providers also offer multi-trip cover, where a single fee is paid in return for a year’s worth of travel insurance. This could give you a significant saving if you are expecting to travel a lot in the coming months - though if your overseas exploits are likely to be confined to one or two trips it may be best to get your cover on a holiday-by-holiday basis.
Another thing to bear in mind with multi-trip policies is that they often auto-renew, meaning you could be hit by another bill in 12 months whether you need the cover or not.
Meanwhile, the type of trip you’re taking can make a difference, as can the kinds of activities you’re planning while abroad.
Regular travel insurance will likely not cover you for certain types of holiday – such as skiing or backpacking trips and you’ll need to get special cover if that’s what you’re traveling to do.
Those pesky Ts & Cs
As the great philosopher Tom Waits once said: "The large print giveth and the small print taketh away".
And, unsurprisingly, there’s plenty hiding in your travel insurance’s terms and conditions that could catch you out.
While you’d be forgiven for not wanting to make yourself intimately acquainted with every line of that dense legal document to find them, there are a few key words you should keep an eye out for all the same.
Straight off the bat, insurance will almost certainly not extend to countries deemed by the Department of Foreign Affairs to be too dangerous to travel.
These will generally be obvious - for example countries in the midst of a war - but if in doubt check https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/ before traveling.
Assuming you’re going to a generally safe country, the next thing to look for is your policy’s ‘excess’.
This works a bit differently than it would on a car or home policy as it’s applied separately across different parts of the policy. That means you could pay it multiple times if there are multiple aspects to your claim.
So if your party of four is unfortunate enough to be mugged (stolen property x 4), and you all suffer some minor injuries (hospital trip x 4) in the process, that €50 excess could end up leaving you €400 out of pocket.
Keep an eye out for words like ‘exclusion’ and ‘invalid’ too. As already mentioned, partaking in certain ‘extreme’ sporting activities could invalidate your insurance. But even seemingly mundane activities, like cycling or hiking, may fall foul of your policy’s terms and conditions.
Not declaring a pre-existing condition will also cause problems for you if you need to claim, as will any other incorrect or incomplete information on your application.
Meanwhile, your insurer might have the ultimate get-out clause hidden amongst all that legalese - invalidating any claim you might make if the incident occurred when you had drink taken.
While it’s important to get familiar with your policy’s small print before you travel, you’ll need to take additional care to stay on the right side of it during your trip too.
Taking every precaution with your possessions may seem like common sense, but not doing so may equally allow your insurer to waive its obligation to cover them in the event of theft.
To avoid that you should take extra care not to leave baggage unattended, while any in-room safe or lockbox should be taken full advantage of.
If you are unlucky enough to be a victim of theft - or any crime for that matter - you should file a police report as quick as possible, as your insurer will want to see some kind of proof before it pays out.
Meanwhile, you may want to liaise with your provider before you seek medical assistance for any non-emergency issue, as it may have a preferred provider that it wants you to use in your location.
And a general piece of advice regardless of your policy or circumstance is to make a copy of all your travel documentation - including flight details, passport number and visa - as this will make it much easier to replace if lost or stolen.
It’s also best to email this to yourself rather than simply saving it on your phone, as there’s no guarantee that that won’t go missing on you as well.