Many of us go on a few trips a year. One longer vacation and maybe a few weekends away. Nothing outrageous really, but as soon as you are in this situation it is worth it getting an annual travel insurance. Choosing the travel insurance or cancellation insurance offered by your airline or tour operator for each trip separately, you’ll end up spending more and getting less guarantees too. But how do you pick the right travel insurance? And what do you need to pay attention to? Here are 11 things you need to know before you make your choice.
— My research was done on travel insurance policies in Belgium, but many of the conditions may apply to other countries too. Please always check your policy. I am not offering legal advice or trying to sell something. —
Having worked in both the legal world and in insurance (haha, I know), I got allergic to “legalese”: the way of wording things to make it more complicated. The small letters. Have you ever read the general terms and conditions of your insurance policies from beginning to end? Right. Me neither, until I went travelling and had a few “incidents”.
While it may be nice that you can return home early if your dog/cat/horse dies (donkeys are excluded), there are things that are far more likely to happen and you are far more likely not to be covered for. Here are some things you probably didn’t know.
- If your luggage arrives late or doesn’t arrive at all, most companies state a limit of say 250 euro for getting emergency supplies (after 48 hours). They promise to deliver a suitcase with your belongings to your destination. Meaning: somebody has to go to your house, pack clothes in a new suitcase, bring it to the insurance company and they’ll send it to you. Want to know how long that takes? Not to mention that most of us won’t have 2 pairs of hiking boots, backpacks, rain jackets and other travel gear. So that’s pretty useless. Also, experience taught me you don’t get very far with 250 euro for emergency supplies if your luggage is delayed 3 weeks.
- If you leave stuff in your car or in a hired car between 22h and 7h, you are not insured. Any valuables you leave in the car are never insured, even during daytime.
- Talking about valuables: money, beauty products, glasses and contact lenses, and electronic equipment are often excluded from claims for loss of luggage or theft. If they are included, it is often limited to 1250 euro for the whole lot, and each item to 30% of that. So if you lose your laptop, it is covered in your policy and it cost 1000 euro, you’ll still only get a compensation of 30% of 1250 euro. Which won’t buy you a new laptop. Leaving also only 70% of 1250 euro to compensate for ALL your other stuff.
- Good news for key losing people: most policies include the services of a locksmith when you lose your keys to your own home.
- If you miss your connection due to a delay of your first flight, you are probably not covered. You are left to the goodwill of the airline company. And if you are stranded in Delhi, alone, and your spokesperson is an Indian dragon with army style instructions to not give you anything, it is a battle of the wills to get compensation. Maybe, after 8 hours of waiting and negotiating, and finally bursting into tears out of sheer exhaustion, they will panic and put you in a hotel and book you onto the next flight. Maybe.
- Cancellation by the airline or train company are also excluded. They’ll book you onto the next flight. Again, forget compensation – unless you booked your flight on a European airline. So avoid Turkish Airlines, Etihad, Emirates: you’re subject to their goodwill. In the case of Turkish airlines: you’re screwed. Etihad was slightly better as they refunded me my ticket without any issues. But any arrangements you made (transport to the airport, hotel stay near the airport the day before,…): gone.
- Delays on your return trip home may also not be included. And forget compensation if your luggage is delayed on your flight home.
- Hiring a motorbike of more than 49cc (come on!) is often excluded.
- Your travel insurance may only cover trips of more than one night (in Belgium even 3 nights), in value more than 150 euro. So if you are planning a weekend away in Belgium Friday-Saturday night and you book a B&B for 50 euro a night, you are not covered if you need to cancel.
- If you do get ill or have an accident or there is a natural disaster and you have to extend your stay, your insurance will usually only cover your stay for up to a week. One. Week.
- You may have up to 3 years to make your claim before the incident becomes superannuated…
Travel insurance may be a rescue, but like any insurance there are so many loopholes and exclusions, you really need to investigate what you are entitled to. And if you are entitled to compensation, you have to deal with the bureaucracy of putting in a claim. I hope you never run into any problems while travelling… :)