Sinead Ryan: Avoid the bad trip - don't forget holiday insurance
After last month's snow, thoughts have turned to planning a holiday in the sun.
Bookings increase as we try and find something (anything!) to look forward to. But while you're browsing the sun, sea and sand brochures, make sure you buy one other thing at the same time: travel insurance.
Forty per cent of people only purchase it at the last minute, even on the way to the airport! But half of all claims are made in the weeks and months preceding travel, not while we're away. If you don't have your policy in place, you won't be covered.
This week I'm de-mystifying travel cover and asking why it's needed. The panel shows how affordable it actually is. I'm also looking at why it's important, even where there's overlap with existing services.
Private health insurance and the European Health Insurance Card
All EU citizens are entitled to carry an EHIC (available for free at ehic.ie), which lasts four years. It promises you emergency hospital care in any EU member state on the same terms as that country's own citizens. What it won't do is pay for family members to stay with you or provide transit home.
Health insurance may go one step further and provide cover in medical cases and, perhaps, accommodation for a loved one. Again, it's limited and each policy varies in what it covers.
Travel insurance usually provides the extras like accommodation for a friend, transport and, of course, the non-health related events, such as lost bags, stolen items or holiday glitches.
Specialist cover is needed if you're going skiing or snow-boarding, and it's not expensive ('winter sport' additions start from €5.66 on most policies). Accidents are more frequent and injury costs can run into the thousands. Winter sports options also cover damaged sport equipment or piste closure.
Multi-trip or per trip?
Annual multi-trip policies are invariably cheaper than buying insurance for each holiday.
You can easily get a family of four covered in Europe for under €50 for the year (see panel). Multitrip.com sells a two-year policy starting from €31.99.
Older people will pay more for travel cover and over 80s can find it difficult to get insurance flying to the USA. Some conditions may be excluded or result in a higher premium. My advice is to ask a broker or travel agent to place the business for you.
David Hughes from GetCover.ie says the most common claims are for medical and cancellation or curtailment of a holiday. "It's important to understand what is actually covered," he says.
Policies are generally sold as budget, mid-range and top-end with appropriate premiums. What is generally covered is...
- Medical: Hospital costs, ambulance costs and repatriation expenses while away. It generally won't be underwritten (i.e. to exclude existing medical conditions), except for older people, but some applications ask you to disclose serious conditions.
- Baggage and Personal Effects Cover: "Lost or stolen possessions are covered, but customers should be aware that travel insurance generally doesn't extend to expensive jewellery, phones or laptops which are more appropriately covered under a household insurance policy (or left at home)," says Hughes. "Clothes, money, travel documents and, to a limited extent, valuable items are covered."
- Cancellation/Curtailment: Unexpected illness or the illness/passing of a close family member, or a close business associate or friend, is covered. Flight cancellations are not as it is the obligation of the airline to reimburse the customer in this event.