Holidays should be a time for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation, but they can soon turn into something far more stressful if we get sick, have an accident, lose something valuable or need to cancel our plans at the eleventh hour.
We all know purchasing travel insurance before we set off is a good way to alleviate some of the stress if something unexpected does happen, but if you’ve ever tried to compare travel insurance policies in the past, you’ll know too well just how confusing it can be.
To make it a little easier, here are some tips on what to look for when searching for the best travel insurance policy for your next trip.
What to look for in a travel insurance policy
Medical cover is possibly the main reason to take out a travel insurance policy.
While you can generally rely on the public health system if you have a medical emergency while in Australia, the moment you leave the country, there are no guarantees about the quality or affordability of the medical treatment you’ll have access to.
Most travel insurance policies will provide cover for medical emergencies, hospital, road ambulance or other treatment you receive because of a sudden illness or serious injury while overseas, as well as cover for medical evacuation or repatriation if needed.
If you’ll be doing snow sports, going on a cruise or doing some other sort of high-risk activity, make sure you specify this when completing the application or check the PDS to make sure you’ll definitely be covered to avoid nasty surprises down the track.
When selecting a policy, take note of the level of medical cover your policy provides. While a comprehensive/premium policy should provide unlimited cover for medical expenses, basic policies may specify a cover limit.
In addition, if you have a pre-existing medical condition it’s unlikely your policy will cover you for it unless it’s explicitly listed as an accepted condition in their Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). If you do have a pre-existing medical condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get cover, but you may need to shop around a little and it’s likely you’ll need to pay a higher premium.
Another benefit of taking out a travel insurance policy is that you’ll likely be covered if you need to cancel your trip for any unforeseeable circumstances that are out of your control. This could include things like an illness or accident, a natural disaster or act of terrorism that’s occurred at your destination, the bankruptcy or financial default of your travel company or a range of other reasons.
Generally, your policy should cover you for the cost of any transport or accommodation you’ve already paid for (including compensation for any frequent flyer points you used if that’s how you made your bookings). Many will even provide cover if you experience delays while travelling which result in additional expenses.
It is however important to check the limits included with your cover, as this can vary between provider and policy. A lot of policies with a basic level of cover won’t cover you for cancellations.
Most travel insurance policies also provide cover for the loss of valuables while travelling—this could include your luggage or other personal effects like electronic devices, jewelry or cash. However, it’s important to look beyond the total dollar amount quoted, as it’s likely your policy will also specify sub-limits for individual items, so very expensive items may not be covered.
Because of the obvious opportunity to profit from lodging false claims, submitting a claim for lost or stolen items can be tricky. If you have an item lost or stolen while away, make sure you get a police report completed and a statement verifying what happened from your hotel or any witnesses, as this will help you when you submit your claim. You’ll also need to provide any receipts or documentation as evidence that you own the item to support your claim.
While most insurers compensate you financially for your item, they may choose to repair or replace the item instead.
Make sure you also look at the excess (the amount you’ll need to pay if you do need to make a claim).
While most comprehensive/premium policies will not require you to pay an excess if you make a claim, you can almost guarantee that a basic policy will include an excess. As a general rule, the lower the excess, the more you’ll pay upfront for the policy.
As with any type of insurance, the price of your policy will be determined based on the insurers risk assessment of the likelihood you’ll need to make a claim. This is largely determined by the age of the travellers, the length of your stay and the safety/risk rating of the destination/s you’ll be travelling to.
It’s very rare that the cheapest policy will provide you with the highest level of cover, so when selecting a policy it’s important to consider the quoted price in comparison to the level of cover you’ll receive and the likelihood you’ll need it.
Best travel insurers
To help you work out which insurer will be best for you, I did a little research and here’s what I found…
Best insurer for family travel: QBE
The main things you need when travelling as a family is free cover for any children and good medical cover in case anything goes wrong. QBE offer a policy that covers dependents up to the age of 25 for no extra cost, and not only covers medical, but also dental injury expenses. They also provide cover for things like missed connections or costs if you need to defer your travel.
Best insurer for seniors: Australian Seniors Insurance Agency
Because they focus primarily on providing insurance for travellers over the age of 50, Australian Seniors Insurance Agency policies are tailored to the specific needs of the seniors market. If you’re under 75, they automatically cover you for a range of pre-existing medical conditions not covered by other insurers and you don’t need to provide a medical certificate to support your application unless requested.
Best insurer if you’re pregnant: Columbus Direct
The concept of the ‘Babymoon’ has grown in popularity in recent years and companies like Columbus Direct have developed policies specifically for pregnant travellers. They offer policies which provide cover for both you and your child until the 25th week of pregnancy, with the option to extend your cover up until the 30th week of pregnancy (most won’t cover you past 26 weeks) provided you’ve had an uncomplicated pregnancy to-date and the pregnancy isn’t a result of assisted reproduction.
Best insurer if you have a pre-existing medical condition: Travelinsurance.com.au
The best insurer if you have a pre-existing medical condition will really depend on what condition you have. Because each insurance provider will automatically cover and exclude certain conditions, it’s worth using a travel insurance comparison site like travelinsurance.com.au to make it easy to see what is and isn’t covered by several providers in one go.
Best insurer if you’ll be carrying valuables: Travel Insurance Direct
While most insurers will limit claims for individual items to around $500-$700, Travel Insurance Direct provide policies which cover individual items up to $700, or $4,000 for items like laptops, tablets, cameras or video cameras. They also offer optional additional cover for specified items for added peace of mind.
Best insurer for domestic travel: Cover More
If you’re not leaving the country but still want some added protection if something goes wrong, Cover More provide a domestic travel insurance policy which will cover you for additional expenses resulting from things like sickness, natural disasters or loss of travel documents, as well as cover for your luggage, rental car insurance excess and travel delays up to the value of $750.
By no means is this a comprehensive assessment of all the insurance providers on the market, so please comment below if you know of a good or bad insurer or policy so we can all benefit from your experience…