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Have You Read the Small Print on Your Travel Insurance Policy?

Article by Simon Christopher
Article added: 11/4/2008 - Last updated: -
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You’re all ready to jet off on holiday. You’ve got your bags packed, reservations confirmed and travel insurance sorted so that you’re covered if anything goes wrong – or are you? If you didn’t take the time to read the small print on your travel insurance policy, your bargain holiday might not be as cheap as you expect when you try to recover the cost of the digital camera stolen from your bags.

There are some standard cover benefits you can expect when you take out a travel insurance policy – and with them, some fairly standard terms and conditions for what will and won’t be covered in the event of a claim. Here are some of the most common policy conditions that can cause problems, and some tips to avoid them.

  • Claims for Stolen Possessions
    Your insurer expects you to take reasonable care of your property. If you don’t and it’s stolen, they may not pay out. The policy document will confirm the conditions under which the cover will not pay out for stolen possessions. In general, if you’re bringing valuables along with you – including expensive mobile telephones or digital camera equipment – you should never leave them unattended in your hotel room or accomodation. If at any time you won’t be carrying valuables with you, they should be kept in a locked safe.

    By the same token, your insurance company is unlikely to pay out for belongings taken from unlocked baggage, or left unattended in any public area.

  • Claims for High Value Items
    Even if you do take reasonable care with your possessions, many policies limit the amount that they will pay out for any single item. If you’re bringing along expensive jewelry or equipment such as your laptop, expect to pay extra to insure it specifically. Alternatively, check with your home insurance company as some policies can cover certain valuables away from the home.

  • Multiple Excesses
    Whilst all travel insurance policies have a standard excess, some apply this for every person travelling and/or for each claim event. This might sound nothing unusual until you insure a party of four travellers with a standard £50 excess and all of your baggage is lost or stolen. With a multiple excess you'll have to pay the first £200 of the claim, not £50. This can also apply for claims which appear to arise from a single event but a multiple excess is applied. For example, if someone snatches your handbag but your camera falls out in the struggle and is smashed, you might have to pay two excesses. One for the theft of your handbag and one for the damage to your camera. Look out for this in the small print of your policy.

  • Accident Claims
    Just as insurers expect you to take care of your property, they also expect you to take reasonable precautions with your health and personal safety. Most policies specifically exclude injuries or accidents that happen while you’re intoxicated, so if you trip and fall down the stairs after knocking back half-a-dozen shots at the bar, chances are that you won’t be covered for any related expenses.

    In addition, most policies will not pay out for injuries that happen in the course of extreme sports. If you’re planning on doing some whitewater rafting or cliff-diving, look into separate insurance cover for those specific activities.

  • Winter Sports
    If you’re holiday includes skiing or other winter sports, you’ll probably need separate cover as well. Many of the major insurers offer separate winter sports cover tailored to the risks and needs associated with activities like skiing, sledding, snowboarding or any other winter sport.

  • Terrorism
    While your policy may cover losses arising from terrorist activity, that cover can vary from insurer to insurer. However, no policy will cover you if you choose to travel to a country against the recommendation of the home office. You can check travel advice by country at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at

Being aware of the exclusions on your policy can help you cover any gaps or holes in the protection it provides. Take the time to read the small print before you go, and you won’t find yourself a victim of small print exclusions when you need cover the most.

PLEASE NOTE: The guidance published in this article is for information only and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any particular travel insurance product or provider. If you are in any doubt please consult an independent insurance adviser. A database of advisers in your area is available at

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