Travel Insurance: Single Trip, Multi Trip or Backpacking?

For most travelers, the longest holiday or trip you are likely to take throughout your working life is going to be around 3 weeks and standard travel insurance will take care of your basic needs. Do check though if you are planning on doing some sort of sport or hazardous activity that the policy protects you, if not you may have to pay extra to have additional things covered.  Always shop around to get the best deal, as what one company doesn’t cover as standard, another one might.

Quite a few organisations such as Banks are now offering ‘Free’ travel insurance and other goodies attached to certain types of accounts, obviously at a small monthly fee for having the account in the first place, so is it actually free?  Again I must point out, if you do activities you must check it is covered by this Free insurance or you will have to pay a top up fee. As divers and having one of these said accounts, we have checked into the cover offered and it would only cover you down to a depth of 15m with a maximum of 5 dives during the whole holiday! That wouldn’t suit us at all so separate insurance would be required.

Now, considering we are going on a trip to several foreign countries in one hit, and spending 5 months doing it, this brings other variables into the equation!

How old do you feel? Are you fit and well and have no previous or current medical conditions? Good for you, but I tell you now, if you didn’t feel that you were in the OLDIES bracket before, and at 54 we didn’t feel we were, you may be in for a bit of a shock when looking for travel insurance for long term trips. I was surprised when searching the ‘NET’, that a lot of companies ‘on-line’ quote machines age limit drop down boxes hit a maximum age of only 39!  So yes it’s official, at the grand old age of 39 you’re classed as old in the backpacking world of the insurance companies, as one can only assume that after that age you carry extra risks!

You also need to be careful when looking for long term traveling insurance, what type you choose and always do plenty of research to get the best deal. Now, the best deal may not be the cheapest, but it will give you the best cover, especially if there is a risk that you might want to do an activity such as diving while you are away for your 5 or however many month trip, even if it’s only on one or two occasions because your insurance may be null and void if there is an incident/accident whereby a claim might arise.

Let’s do another little list of things to consider while doing your ‘Net’ searching or spending numerous hours on the telephone with insurance companies. Even though you might get a great quote cost-wise on the ‘Net’, you may still have to make a phone call to get something confirmed, especially if the ‘Included Activities’ seem to have everything you need, I had to.

1) Write down a list of things you need to have your insurance cover.

2) Have a rough idea what excesses you are willing to pay.

3) Are there any activities you are considering doing while away?

1) Insurance Cover. You need to decide what type of policy you want to cover your adventure, whether it’s your 3 week trip to ‘Disney’ in Florida or a 12 month round the world extravaganza. Be very careful when making choices and READ all the print, no matter how small it is. You will quite often find disclaimers in policies stating that the insurance will not cover you for an ‘Event’ if it is covered by another policy/insurer. So, as an example, if your travel policy says it will cover you for personal possessions but your household insurance also covers you for personal possessions ‘While not in the property’ and this disclaimer appears on one or more of the policy documents, you would need to get it confirmed in writing which company is actually going to accept claims. That said, it is therefore no good paying out your hard earned cash on a travel policy that Won’t DO what you NEED IT TO!  Other things to consider are, single trip, annual multi-trip, or for longer trips Backpacker policies. Backpacker policies cater for trips usually longer than 12 months, but some will not insure any longer than 18 months. Some companies won’t insure you if your journey/trip has already started, but some are very good and will both insure you on the go and for longer than 18 months. Don’t forget the all important age limits, as after the age of 39 some companies think you’re ‘Past It’ for Backpacking trips!

2) Excesses. In the austere times that a lot of us are still living in, the amount of hard earned cash you can afford to part with regarding policy excesses is always a bit of a balancing act, but you will normally find the bigger the excess you are willing to pay in the event of a claim arising, the smaller the cost of the insurance policy in the first place. Insurance, no matter whether looking at it from a buyers perspective or an Insurance Company’s, is a Risk Management Exercise. Being willing to pay those higher excesses and get a cheaper policy is you Accepting the Risks and relieving the insurance company of them or part of them. Another term you might hear or read about while carrying out your search is ‘Underwriters’. This again is Risk Sharing, but between the insurance company and another financial institution who carries some of the risk for a ‘Return’ from the insurer.

3) Activities. This is a section of any policy you are researching that requires reading very carefully. If like us, you are going to include something in your itinerary such as a trek to Machu Picchu, make sure it is included in your policy. During my research I found while reading through policies on the ‘Net’, that these sorts of activities are called various things by different insurance companies. Terms used vary from being very general such as ‘Walking’, some use the term ‘Hiking’ and others use the term ‘Trekking’.  If you’re not sure what the companies are using as a definition for these terms, then it is more than wise to phone and ask the question. You may also find by reading the activities list, that there are height/altitude restrictions placed on these activities. An example is that Machu Picchu is at an altitude of approximately 2,500 metres above sea level, so a restriction of hiking below 2,000 metres may be covered by your insurance, but your trek to Machu Picchu falls outside this being 500 metres higher.  Some companies also confuse the issue by using the term hiking up to a certain altitude under the ‘H’ section, but then have a different term ‘Trekking’ under the ‘T’ section with different altitudes. A phone call is needed in circumstances such as these to get their definition between the two. The policy I chose in the end had a simple list of activities which it covered, but was very vague mentioning no restricting altitudes. This necessitated a phone call to the insurance company, who had to contact the ‘Underwriters’ to see if they would cover us. The reply came back as ‘Yes’, provided it was done with a company as part of an organised ‘Trek’, and not add hoc on our own.  I explained you could only trek Machu Picchu by booking through a company, accompanied by their guides and support team, something you think a travel insurance company would know.  I have already mentioned diving above as another example.

It took me the whole day on the PC and the phone, but that one phone call and adjusting excesses I was prepared to pay, made the difference between a policy that would have cost around £325 for what we wanted to do and a policy which I purchased for about £175, not a bad saving.

To sum it all up then, you are not over the hill at the age of 54, there are companies out there who will insure you for the ‘Backpacking’ trip of a lifetime. Read everything in the policy at least once over to get things straight in your mind, and if you are unsure or need something clarifying a phone call is required, don’t just ‘wing it’ and hope it doesn’t happen to YOU!

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