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7 Annual Travel Insurance Policy Tips You Need to Know

Having travelled professionally for over 30 years and taken many groups overseas in my role as a coach holiday Tour Manager I have seen how important it is to have travel insurance that is there when you need it.

Here are my top tips, learned through dealing with many different insurance claims with guests, on what you need to know. This article is aimed at a travel insurance annual policy but most of the items apply to any travel insurance.

Links You Might Find Helpful:
Get a Quote Quickly at Coverwise
Travel Insurance for Travellers with Existing Medical Conditions
Annual Travel Insurance vs Single Trip – Which is Best for You?

Annual Travel Insurance Policy Tips

Can you get travel insurance for 12 months?

Yes you can. It is often called annual, multi-trip or yearly travel insurance. It generally covers an unlimited number of trips in any 12 month or year long period.

Annual Travel Insurance Policy Golden Rule Number 1

1. Declare All Your Existing Health Conditions

You need to declare your medical conditions – even if they may have no bearing on travelling because failure to declare them can mean your claim won’t be paid.

I will repeat that because it’s super important;

Declare your health conditions even if they may not have any impact on your ability to travel.

Insurance companies will be happy to find a reason not to pay your claim so make sure you don’t give them one.

Many people worry that declaring a health condition will raise the cost of the premium. Not all health conditions do increase the premium.

However, not declaring the health condition means you could invalidate your year-long travel insurance completely so better to pay a higher premium and be safe in the knowledge you are fully covered than to take the risk of ending up with no coverage.

A year-long travel insurance policy differs because you are buying it for a year and you may not know what trips you are going to take at the time of taking out the insurance.

Declare everything.

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Annual Travel Insurance Policy Golden Rule Number 2

2. Read The Small Print (Yes Really!)

There is an automatic 14 day cooling off period when you take out any insurance. This applies to year-long travel insurance and the period is there to give you a chance to read all the details of the policy and cover if the policy doesn’t cover what you need to cancel it free of charge.

Those 14 days are there for a reason and you really should read the small print.

Whilst working as a Tour Manager with coach holiday guests I have met lots of people who have made assumptions about what is covered and what isn’t. Sometimes this relates to what is covered, sometimes this relates to what they need to pay themselves.

These assumptions can cause all sorts of problems and make a bad situation even worse as they often don’t realise the details of their policy until something happens.

The last thing you or your family need to be dealing with if something did happen when travelling is trying to sort out any misunderstandings about policy details.

Use those 14 days to check your cover and if you need to cancel do so and start again.

When reading all those details on your year-long travel insurance policy try and think of all the trips you are likely to take, ie business and leisure to ensure you have everything covered.

annual travel insurance policy tips

Annual Travel Insurance Policy – Golden Rule Number 3

3. Advise of Any Health or Fitness Changes Before You Travel

With year-long travel insurance, there can often be some time between arranging your insurance and taking your trips.

With year-long travel insurance, you are generally taking out cover for everything, not necessarily with a specific trip in mind.

Year-long travel insurance can also mean there can be a year between taking out your insurance and taking your actual trip – say you take out the policy in January but take a trip in December that year for example.

Having been a Tour Manager and taken coach holiday guests on trips across the world one of the most common problems I have experienced when it comes to travel insurance is the traveller hasn’t declared a change in their health before they have travelled.

Let me give you a real example to explain my point;

A single lady traveller booked a coach holiday. The holiday company took bookings a year in advance and she duly signed up.

At the time of booking, she was on the waiting list for a knee replacement. At the time she made the booking, she was in reasonable health but with a slightly problematic knee. She met the fitness criteria for the holiday at the time she booked it. (The fitness criteria is often described by holiday companies as the level of fitness you need to have to take part in their holiday experience. It generally describes the number of steps and walking you need to be able to manage.)

By the time she came to travel on holiday, her knee had deteriorated quite a lot. As such she no longer met the fitness criteria for the tour.

She arrived on holiday and was unable to manage to take her hand luggage on and off the coach. She could not keep up with the walking pace of the tour and she found the cobbled streets difficult.

Given the fact she had not updated her insurance company or the holiday company about her fitness levels, she did not have any travel insurance to cover her cancelling her holiday and returning home.

The end result was she was unable to enjoy much of the tour, and instead spent most of her time in the hotel or on the coach. She needed wheelchair assistance at the airports and was unable to take most of the excursions on the holiday either.

It ended up being a very expensive way to stay in a hotel.

(Just for clarity if you think that the Tour Manager i.e. me, should have helped her with everything, including her luggage, I should advise that I did help her as much as I possibly could. However, this is always difficult when travelling with a group of 45 people and there is guidance from holiday companies who can become liable in such situations so they restrict the assistance we can give.)

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Annual Travel Insurance Policy – Golden Rule Number 4

4. Have Other Funding Available

What many people don’t realise is that travel insurance only kicks on paying for things when a certain level of cost is reached. For example, an incident on holiday that requires hospital treatment but not an overnight stay generally needs to be paid for at the time by the traveller, who then claims the cost back from their travel insurance company when they get home.

When you consider that an accident when travelling could involve an emergency ambulance, emergency room treatment, some diagnostic tests, some treatment and perhaps medication this can add quickly add up.

As such travellers need to make sure they have adequate funds available to cover these costs while travelling, to be able to claim them back when they get home.

Of course, a credit card is ideal for this sort of scenario, but whatever you choose make sure you have some extra funding available.

All travel insurance generally has excess levels i.e. cover only is only payable once that level has been exceeded.

Like most insurance the higher the excess the lower the insurance costs, because the excess is the bit you pay yourself.

That means you always need to have funds to cover amounts that are below your excess when travelling, as well as anything that you need to pay and claim back when you return home.

For year-long travel insurance the excess is generally per claim but it is worth double checking this and if there is a limit on the number of claims you can make on your year-long travel insurance policy during any one year.

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Annual Travel Insurance Policy – Golden Rule Number 5

5. Be Reasonable When Incurring Expense To Claim Back

If you have to incur expenses that you need to claim back from your multi-trip travel insurance company bear in mind that the expense should be reasonable. Here are a few examples to illustrate the point;

If your luggage is lost generally the airline will compensate you. If it is delayed they will pay for immediate necessities such as night clothes and toiletries. If the delay is longer they will pay for some clean clothes purchased from the High Street generally as opposed to designer labels.

If you are the family member or spouse of someone who is staying in the hospital after an accident or illness on holiday, generally your meals will be paid for by the travel insurance company. They may arrange this directly with the hotel, or ask you to pay and claim back when you return. They will pay reasonable meal costs. They won’t pay for fine dining and expensive wines or drinks. If in doubt ask them for guidance before incurring any costs.

If you need to travel to the hospital to visit your family member or relative in the situation above then the insurance company will pay for a taxi if the distance isn’t too far. They won’t pay for a car and chauffeur for example. Again if in doubt ask for clarification – better to ask in advance and get paid out then try and guess and not be paid or paid a reduced amount.

There is a myth that if travel insurance has to fly travellers home from their holiday because of an accident or illness they will fly business class. This is not the case. I have had many guests fly home on budget airlines after having to end their holiday early due to an accident or illness.

annual travel insurance policy receipts

Annual Travel Insurance Policy – Golden Rule Number 6

6. Keep Proof of Expenses And Details of What Happened

In the case of an accident or illness happening while you are travelling it can be really helpful to keep a note of what happened and when. This can be really useful if you have to pay and then claim back as it can help the travel insurance company understand the series of events.

If you are given any paperwork from the hospital or doctors, even if it’s in a foreign language, you should keep it as the travel insurance company may want to see it.

If you had an accident then photos are always a good idea, again to help the travel insurance company understand how the accident happened.

If you are travelling with a holiday company they will have a representative or a Tour Manager who may be able to assist you. This helps depending on the situation, the rules of the holiday company relating to liability and assistance and the nature of the accident/injury.

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Annual Travel Insurance Policy – Golden Rule Number 7

7. If In Doubt Ask

Multi-trip travel insurance companies are very helpful if you ask their advice – they want happy customers who will recommend them and use them again.

That’s why asking for their advice is really important.

This might be in relation to checking details of activities or trip specifics before you travel. A multi-trip travel insurance policy by it’s nature covers you for multiple trips a year, which probably means you are going to be doing different things.

Asking for advice might also apply when something has happened. If, for example, you have an accident or injury while travelling it might be better to ask for clarification about what level of expense is reasonable if you need to incur any expense than to guess or assume this. This ensures you can incur expenses knowing that they will be paid.

Asking for clarification around any terms, wording or clauses before you travel can be very helpful and it’s ideal if you can do this when you initially buy your policy. This means you can cancel your policy if it is not suitable. Much better to cancel an unsuitable policy and start again than to travel with something that you think will pay out but actually won’t.

Like any insurance doing your research and reading the small print really is vital, and having spent many hours with travellers in hospitals and emergency departments it really is worth taking the time to check thoroughly.

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Annual Travel Insurance Policy

8. Additional Points to Consider

I’ve met many guests who have not had access to a phone or email when travelling. That has been fine up until the point that something has happened and then they need to speak to their insurance company.

For those that have been involved in an accident or been ill and required hospital treatment, there is a lot of discussion required with the insurance company. This will involve notifying them of a hospital stay, notifying them of tests and treatments, and discussing how to deal with the incident or illness.

You may well have to speak to their medical team for further advice or assistance, as well as dealing with their operations team who will be managing all the practical requirements about hotels, flights, repatriation home etc.

On top of that, there are probably going to be some friends or family members that need to be updated as to your situation.

If you are going to travel think about how you will communicate in the event of an incident happening. If you don’t want to travel with a mobile phone perhaps think about taking a pay-as-you-go mobile phone either with a local SIM card or a local dialling number so you can call your insurance company cost-effectively.

Hospitals generally can’t provide phone facilities to overseas travellers, any more than they would be able to do that here in the UK.

Don’t assume that the travel insurance will always ring you so there is no need to think about outgoing calls. In my experience, travel insurance companies are often dealing with multiple claims and incidents at the same time, and sometimes things can become quite critical in terms of timing and information.

A real life example is when I was travelling back from Portugal with a tour group. One of the guests had collapsed in the street in Spain with an irregular heartbeat, something she had never experienced before. She had lots of tests in Spain and was sent back to the tour after a day. However, the insurance company required her to be checked and certified as ‘fit to fly’ before returning home. She spent a very long day undergoing lots of tests which did not give enough clarity to the medical team.

However, the decision wasn’t made that she couldn’t fly until we were at the airport checking in for the flight home. In fact, the decision wasn’t made until the flight was just about to close, leaving the insurance company to make some very last-minute arrangements.

Thankfully she travelled safely home a few days later but without being able to speak to the insurance company it was very difficult.

Interestingly this lady did not have a mobile phone with her. I spoke to the insurance company as she had holiday company insurance coverage and she wanted me to deal with everything, as she had not travelled very much and had no experience of what to do.

When she was denied boarding we had to part company, meaning the only way the insurance company could contact her was going to be through the telephone in her hotel room – far from ideal when she was going to have more tests, and then flights and transfers home.

Links You Might Find Helpful:
Get a Quote Quickly at Coverwise
Travel Insurance for Travellers with Existing Medical Conditions
Annual Travel Insurance vs Single Trip – Which is Best for You?

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