Don't let travel risks trip you up
Published 29/01/2012 | 06:00
Luckily I don't play much netball. This week I was looking at the website of sportscover.com, a specialist in travel insurance for sporting and adventure holidays.
It has an 'injury calculator' that gives you your chance of 'injury' in any particular sport over a year.
Having keyed in my age and fitness levels, I found that the most dangerous activity I could undertake was a game in which you can't move once you have the ball.
Netball is apparently so dangerous that, were I a regular participant, I would, according to the calculator, have a 99pc chance of being injured over the next year.
Other activities I quickly got anxious about were skiing (58.65pc risk of injury) and mountain biking (53.55pc). I even considered giving up golf altogether, so high were the apparent risks (66.3pc).
Then I read the small print. The definition of injury according to this calculator included "anything from sprains and muscle tears to cuts and abrasions".
For anyone looking for travel insurance to cover an adventure or sports holiday, this reveals two key points: that you should always read the small print, and that evaluating risk is a tricky business.
Travel insurance is normally sold as a standard product, with the emphasis on price. That's fine, except that every buyer has different needs and expectations.
This applies to many different areas of cover, from the value of your luggage to how much of an 'excess' charge you are prepared to risk. It applies especially to the exclusion clauses that specify 'hazardous activities'.
In recent years, insurers have become much more careful to specify exactly what these activities are.
But each insurer seems to come to very different conclusions. What you might think is a safe activity might be excluded as too risky.
So how do you make sure you get proper cover?
It can be very hard to anticipate what you might do on holiday. Looking back, I realise that when my wife and daughter booked a spontaneous horse ride while we were in Iceland one year, they weren't covered by our insurance.
Canoeing at sea is often excluded, as are some beach-based activities such as water skiing.
Take the list of exclusions with you. Then if you are on holiday and decide you want to do something out of the ordinary, it will be easy to check if it is covered.
If you buy your travel insurance from the tour operator you are travelling with, it is duty bound to sell you a policy which is appropriate for the holiday you are going on.
But there are two things to consider. The first is cost: if you can buy an adequate policy from an insurance company for a significantly lower premium, you will probably want to do so.
Second is suitability. While the required activities may be covered, you may have other needs.
Annual policies which cover you for all the trips you make abroad in a calendar year usually save you money if you travel more than three or four times a year.
Think hard before you invest -- you will need to anticipate which activities you want to cover for the year, as well as which parts of the world you will be visiting.
Most travel insurance policies allow you to add snow sports cover for an additional premium.
Normally the best deal is to add it to an annual policy. But make sure that all aspects you need are included -- especially tobogganing and off-piste skiing, which are usually only covered when undertaken with a guide.