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Travel Insurance Horror Stories: What you need to know about annual travel insurance.

Bummer! It’s that time of year when my annual travel insurance needs renewing, and given I’m about to head off to India, I can put it off no longer.

I’ve suffered a few travel insurance horror stories in my time from being told that I should carry my dive regulators as hand luggage (uh clearly they have no idea how heavy or big they are!) to being told that I should have known when my mum was going to die!!

In short, I have had several incidences of travel insurance horror with declined insurance claims. It’s frustrating, annoying, upsetting and stressful. In the hope of helping you avoid a similar fate, here are a few things to consider.

Annual Travel Insurance Policies are Much Better Value

Avoid travel insurance horror

An annual travel policy, for you and all the family, can often cost only slightly more than one single trip travel insurance policy. In fact, a quick quote for a couple seeking a worldwide policy reveals that for just £4.23 extra they can upgrade their single trip policy to annual cover of unlimited trips.

If you are likely to travel more than once a year, an annual policy is absolutely the right way to go, as not only will you save money, but you will also save time. Policies will usually auto-renew so you will never be without cover.

How Dare My Mum/Nan/Other Die?

If a close family member is ill, or elderly, check the small print for the policy on bereavement. Pre-existing conditions are usually excluded, however you may be able to add these for an additional premium.

I was unable to claim on my policy for travel to Honduras shortly after my mum died. Although she had cancer at the time of booking, there was no indication she would not be with us at the time of our departure 10 months later.

Some policies do not cover bereavement of a family member at all, as my teenage step-daughter recently found to her cost, having just booked a trip which she had saved months to pay for, only for her boyfriend’s granddad to pass away just days before they were due to leave. No cover, no refund and no holiday! You can imagine the stress in our household!

Travel Insurance Horror in the event of a bereavement
Source: Pixabay

Oops My Luggage Hasn’t Arrived

I’ve had this happen 4 or 5 times which isn’t a problem if you are on the homeward bound journey. The airline will simply deliver your bags the next day when they track them down (for gods sake don’t throw away the luggage tags they give you when you check in!).

However if you are arriving in Russia on NY Eve, with just several hours until midnight, or in Egypt to board a liveaboard, then no bags becomes more of a problem.

On the latter, my husband’s dive equipment failed to arrive resulting in additional costs to hire equipment. The travel insurance company failed to pay because they said we should have carried valuables in our hand luggage.

Anyone who dives will know that the suggestion to carry regulators and a buoyancy Control Device (BCD) as hand luggage is beyond ridiculous!! A BCD is a similar size to a life jacket, and with more airlines scrutinising the size and weight of your hand luggage, it is impossible to take both items on-board as hand luggage.

Travel Insurance horror in the event of no luggage
Source: Pixabay

Oh No, I’ve Missed My Flight

Clearly this is an avoidable issue, so my advice would be to always leave plenty of time to get the airport. Of course, life is unpredictable. You may run out of petrol on the way to the airport, be caught up in traffic on the motorway (or worse an accident), or find that the airport has closed without prior warning resulting in our missed connection back to the UK (yes that really happened to us in Bali!).

Missed departure is usually quite strict on the claims criteria so do check the small print. Our insurer refused to pay costs incurred as a result of the airport closure, even though our missed departure was due to circumstances outside our control.

AMEX to the rescue – even though we were not covered on their policy either, they offered us a nominal payment to compensate. Wow! That British Airways Premium card really has its uses!

Travel Insurance Horror in the event of missed departure
Flickr: Joan Campderrós-i-Canas

Civil Unrest, Natural Disaster and Terrorism

Fortunately I have managed to avoid being caught up in a riot to date (although we did narrowly avoid one in Tunisia earlier this year) but I have been in India when civil unrest has occurred.

Thanks to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, we were also stranded in Brazil (there are definitely worse places to be stranded) back in 2010. These claims are not usually covered on a standard policy, but you can add them for an extra cost.

When I first started travelling, I would have thought this cover an unnecessary expense, but the world is more volatile these days. Terrorist attacks, civil unrest and natural disaster have become regular occurrences in recent times. Whether it is an earthquake in Nepal, flooding in Bangladesh, terrorist attacks in Tunisia, or riots in India, unless you pay for this cover, you will not be protected.

Travel insurance horror in the event of civil unrest
Source: Pixabay

For this reason, I would advise you to think carefully about the countries you plan to visit, and the likelihood of anything happening before deciding whether you need this option.

Of course, the better option would be to avoid areas where these things are likely to happen, but is this even possible?

So what is the best advice I can give you to ensure you are avoid your own travel insurance horror?

My Top Three Tips

Do Your Research

Establish what cover you absolutely want to be covered for, and what you think the potential risks are for the places you are planning to visit. Then ensure you seek out a policy which will offer cover for those risks.

Which offers a handy comparison showing which companies offer cover for specific types of claims.

Travel Insurance horror if you dond do your research
Source: Pixabay

Beware The Cheapest

Beware the cheapest policy will rarely be the best if you want comprehensive cover.

Read the small print

I cannot stress this enough. Having decided what things you must be covered for, make sure the policy definitely meets your needs.

Failure to read this could be the difference between an accepted and declined claim (I know from painful, and costly experience!!)

Why Bother with Travel Insurance?

After reading this, you may be forgiven for thinking that there is no point taking out travel insurance, but rest assured this is not the case.

For every declined case I have had, I have had a successful claim. I’ve been unfortunate enough to break my collar-bone  and snap my media and cruciate ligaments overseas (separate trips I hasten to add). On both occasions the insurers were brilliant, offering prompt assistance, additional seats on the plane, and repatriation options.

I’ve also lost items, and had items stolen overseas, and these have also been successfully claimed on my insurance.

Travel Insurance horror is avoided with planning

Probably the best advice of all that I can give you, is clearly not to travel with me!

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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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  1. I agree that you should definitely have travel insurance. you never know when something unfortunate will happen. Luckily we get ours through our credit card provider so I’ve not had to shell out much for it.

  2. I’m sorry to hear that about your mother. I always thought that was the one thing that was covered with insurance. This is a great informative post to make better decisions about travel insurance. Thank you.

    • Thanks Sarah. It has been a while but I was pretty gutted that they quoted pre-existing conditions as the reason jot to pay out even though my mother was in remission when I booked the flights.

  3. Thank you for bringing this up! I am definitely for responsible traveling. Whenever I travel solo, I always buy an insurance

  4. These are great tips! People so rarely think about travel insurance, especially slightly unusual circumstances. If you travel enough, things are going to go wrong eventually.

    One tip I’d add is to check with your employer benefits and credit card benefits to see what travel insurance you already have. My credit card covers a lot of things as long as I book my trips on the card. My work health insurance covers me for the first two weeks that I’m abroad.

    • Good point. I’ve recently switched companies and my new company provides annual travel insurance which is a nice perk. I also once claimed through my AMEX insurance and although I wasn’t insured for the issue in question, they did make me a payment as a gesture of good faith. Just another reason to use AMEX other than their ability to give me lots of travel rewards

  5. Very useful information. I briefly looked into travel insurance before going on a 3-month Europe trip but I found everything really confusing :s

  6. This is a very useful piece for me as I am in the process of deciding which travel insurance to opt for. As per my own research too, I def second that using an annual travel insurance is much better if I am constantly on the road, not to mention, cheaper too. Now, i need to go find a global or Indian co for the same.

  7. Preaching to the converted (and I mean that in a nice way). I always have travel insurance. As you said though, sometimes with the best of intentions, stuff still happens that tests even the best of us, and ultimately they are there to make money too. But, I would still never leave home without it. I will check these guys out as I was interested to read about the marginal difference between single and annual premiums. I know the company I use has a significant difference.

    • For me it is huge. I can pay £30 for a week if I book for a single trip and only around £40 more for an annual policy for myself and family including skiing. The key is definitely to chec the small print though as policies vary dramatically. I could buy one much cheaper but it would not cover the US, skiing or scuba diving potentially.

  8. Oh man! Sounds like you’ve had some serious unexpected incidents while on the road. I do agree with you about reading the small print – it is CRUCIAL with every kind of insurance! That’s really sad that they weren’t understanding about bereavement though 🙁

  9. These are really great tips. I’m about to purchase travel insurance for my 6-month-minimum trip my husband and I are embarking on this fall, and I definitely need to read more into this. When I was in SE Asia in 2015, my great-grandmother passed away and we didn’t have the money for me to get home for the funeral and it was so heartbreaking. I’ll definitely have to look further into this. Cheers!

  10. You know you’re well traveled when… literally everything that can go wrong with travel insurance does. I am so sorry to hear about the losses in your family and it’s unfortunate they were not more sympathetic. I do not have travel insurance yet. My German health care has covered me for the things I need, but this made me think about other scenarios other than getting hurt. I will look into it and use your advise as a guide.

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