If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
Hands up who has had travel plans thrown into disarray this year? Yep, as we thought, everybody! Whether you had to make the mad dash home to quarantine in Hong Kong (or somewhere else around the world) or spent hours on the phone to airlines and hotels trying to postpone, rebook or cancel your Easter holiday, chances are you’ve at least had the thought; can my travel insurance help? Unfortunately, the answer may be hidden in the fine print, something not a lot of us read before we book. There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to get you thinking about what else is and isn’t covered by your policy.
What if you were seriously ill? What if your suitcase full of kids essentials went missing? What if, heaven forbid, there was a death in the family? These are all the what-ifs that we don’t want to think about when planning a much-needed family getaway, but imperative for coverage by a good travel policy.
Inclusions And Covered Events
Medical Coverage: Injury And Illness
Without a doubt, medical coverage when you are overseas is paramount. Be sure to check the limits of your family’s medical coverage. The last thing you want is to find that either you can’t afford the treatment in the country you are visiting (the USA has a notoriously expensive healthcare system) or that your vacation spot has sup-par medical facilities and you can’t be repatriated in order to get quality treatment. A broken bone might not seem like a serious injury, but if you are travelling with a child on a remote island, suddenly the stakes become a lot higher!
Sassy Mama tip: Save your travel insurance contact details in your phone and make sure all family members (and ideally an emergency contact back home) have the details. If injury or illness occurs, you’ll want to be in touch as soon as possible to both get your claim started and also so your provider can direct you to the best level of care. Good insurance providers will have a 24-hour emergency phone number and be able to put you on the line with a nurse or doctor who can help assess the seriousness of your condition to help get you the care you need sooner.
Lost, Stolen Or Damaged Items
No one plans to be pick-pocketed, or drop their expensive camera, or have their toiletries leak all over the electronics. But these things do happen! When choosing your travel insurance policy, check the coverage on individual items like cameras, phones and laptops. Are you taking any expensive jewellery? You’ll want to check there is sufficient coverage for your engagement and wedding rings along with anything else.
Sassy Mama tip: Check your home insurance policy as there may be coverage for some portable items (like phones and laptops).
You should take out your family travel insurance policy as soon as you start making bookings. That way, if you or a family member suddenly fall ill before or during your trip you can recoup expenses for everything ranging from accommodation to flights and even tour bookings.
Natural Disasters And Emergencies
Earthquakes, tsunamis, bushfires, cyclones and (heaven forbid!) terrorist attacks can happen out of nowhere. The most important thing to look for in a policy is that there will be there to help if disaster strikes. It is also worth noting that while many policies will cover you at the time of an event, for example, if you were on holiday in Japan when an earthquake hit, but they won’t cover you if you travel into the area after the event has occurred (and before it has been declared safe). This is what many people are finding with insurance policies taken out after 11 March, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
Sassy Mama tip: Look into the fine print on this one and if in doubt, question your provider.
There are not many insurance providers out there that will cover for pre-existing conditions. If you have any underlying health conditions be sure to check how your coverage would work. Likewise check the age limits on your policy, especially if the grandparents are coming along.
You might not be taking the kids sky-diving, bunjy-jumping or para-gliding (or maybe you are!) but even more innocent sports like scuba diving and skiing may be considered “extreme” by your provider.
Any avid scuba diving families should definitely look into membership and coverage with DAN (Divers Alert Network) as they not only cover the basics of travel insurance but also things like equipment damage and more importantly provide evacuation assistance to the nearest decompression chamber. If you’re someone who dreams of taking the kids on a liveaboard around Raja Ampat one day, this is a must!
Snow bunnies should also carefully check their policy. If snow sports are covered, there will likely be exclusions and fine print. For example, World Nomads has a specific ski and snowboard policy which will cover you so long as you are in a resort or on a marked trail and will also cover activities like ice-skating and snowmobiling. But, activities like heli-skiing or boarding may not be covered so you want to check carefully.
Government Travel Advice
While you might not be travelling into any warzones (especially with kids!), it is definitely worth checking the official travel advice of your destination. Many policies will be void if the travel warning reaches a certain level. As an example, Borneo is a fabulous family-friendly destination to see all kinds of wildlife both in the rainforests and under the sea! But, parts of the north and east coast, including the coral reefs of Sipidan, have had a level four travel restrictions for a number of years due to a local terrorist threat. While local reports might say it is safe, even the basics of your trip wouldn’t be covered by travel insurance.
This one is a bit of a grey area. What exactly constitutes “reckless behaviour” in insurance-speak? Generally, it could be anything to do with taking illegal drugs and excessive alcohol use, but the range could be quite broad. If you do injure yourself, one of the first things the insurance provider will ask is where were you and what were you doing to see if there was reckless behaviour on your part.
While your family holiday might not involve the crazy all-nighters of your youth, who doesn’t like to enjoy a few cocktails by the pool? Just don’t go getting too crazy and outrageous!
Read more: How To Travel With A Newborn Baby
Type Of Policy
Credit Card Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is often a perk that comes with premium credit cards. While they can save you money in the short term, and are great for small claims like lost luggage, these policies can fall short in the event of a serious emergency. Check the limits on essentials, such as medical and injury as well as what needs to be purchased with the credit card in order to activate the policy.
With Hong Kong being so well connected, you might find yourself popping away for more than one holiday per year. It might be a long weekend in Bangkok or Bali or your annual trip to see family and friends back home. Whatever your plans, it might be worth considering an annual travel insurance policy for your family. Many big companies including AXA, AIG and Blue Cross all offer products with a range of coverage. Things to check are if there is a time limit on how long a single holiday can be (this is often 90 days) or how long total you can spend outside of your country of residence each year.
Sassy Mama tip: You’ll need to be sure that the coverage applies to the area that you are travelling. Be especially sure to check annual and multi-trip policies to see if there are any destinations that are excluded or require extra payment for coverage.
Single-Trip Travel Insurance Policies
If you take each trip as it comes a simple single-trip policy should provide the cover you need. Be sure to input the dates of travel correctly as well as all your destinations and inform the company if these details change.
The Fine Print
No one likes reading the fine print and you could be forgiven for purchasing your policy and promptly filing away all the documentation. When it comes down to it though, if there is reason in a policy to not pay, it will often be found in the fine print.
The big question for many booking holidays, even as far away as 2021, is whether cancellation will be covered if the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Probably not, so be sure to check any reservations are flexible and fully-refundable. Earlier this year, no one could have predicted how bad the pandemic would be. Likewise, it will be very difficult to predict when countries will open borders again for travel, so it’s best to opt for refundable bookings.
Pregnancy And Travel Insurance
Another reason to call the travel insurance provider before your holiday is when there is a baby on the way. Some providers will cover you while pregnant, but only up until a certain point (often 34 weeks, but it could be earlier) and it is unlikely they would cover routine check-ups, or if you are at high risk (for pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes for example). Regardless, it is worth checking exactly what is and isn’t covered before booking that babymoon!
Sassy Mama tip: If you have private maternity cover you can check whether there is medical coverage overseas.