6 things to check when getting travel insurance for your vacation to the UK and Europe

For many of us, a trip across the pond to England or Europe is a once in a lifetime experience. Visiting a foreign country is often a life changing experience for many. The different culture and people you’ll meet along the way will often change your perspective on how you look at the world.

You may have already booked your flights, your accommodation and perhaps your rental car too, but what about travel insurance, for if something goes wrong? You might think you won’t run into any trouble when you’re away from home, but there are many things that can go wrong that can ruin your trip or cost you a small fortune. For example, you might miss your flight and have to fork out hundreds of dollars for a new one. You might leave your shiny new Smartphone in a restaurant or on the train. You might get sick or sustain an injury resulting in an expensive visit to the ER. Or you might get your rental car in a wreck.

That’s where travel insurance gives you the peace of mind that if something unexpected does go wrong, you’re covered.

However, not all travel insurance products are the same. It’s important to make sure that the coverage provided by your insurance policy is suitable for you. This applies even more if you’re relying on your credit card travel insurance (sometimes the coverage from your credit card is less generous than you might think). The US State Department provides some really useful information about travel insurance for Americans travelling abroad.

In this article we’ll provide some useful information to consider so that you can make sure you’re properly covered.

Coverage for your Smartphone, Tablet and Laptop

As a tourist in a foreign city, we tend to stand out like a sore thumb! Our accent and what we’re wearing often gives us away. Paris has a notorious reputation for being paradise for pickpockets. The crowded Paris Metro and tourist attractions make it easy for pickpockets to steal your wallet or phone, without you even realising. The US Embassy in France provides some great advice on how to avoid pickpockets in Paris. One common method the pickpockets use is to grab your wallet, purse or phone just as the train doors are closing. It’s not just Paris that has a risk of pickpockets: there’s a risk in any big city that your valuables might get stolen.

But it’s not just limited to Paris, nor just to theft. You could be taking the perfect selfie in London, only to drop your cell phone on the ground, and smash it to pieces. Or you could spill coffee all over your laptop when working remotely in a cosy London cafe.

Image of a pickpocket

After a cursory look at your travel insurance terms and conditions, you might think you’re covered for the theft, loss or damage to your valuables. But make sure to check for any sub-limits. These are the maximum that will be paid for any single item. For example, although the total coverage for loss or theft might be $2,000, there could be a sub-limit of $250 for each item. This means that if your $500 Smartphone is stolen, your insurance will only pay out $250, meaning you’ll be out of pocket for $250.

If your insurance does have sub-limits, it probably lets you pay a little more to cover your more expensive items, like Smartphones, cameras and laptops. Make sure to list these items on your policy, including their value. Carefully read the details in your travel insurance policy, give the company a call and ask them, and if you need to increase the coverage then it’s worth paying that little bit extrafor the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re fully covered.

Cancellation costs

Another thing to check is the level of coverage if parts of your trip get cancelled. What if your airline has a strike, and your flight is cancelled? Or there’s bad weather and the flight is re-scheduled to the next day? If this happens you’ll have to pay for a night’s accommodation. It’s not just flights either – pre-booked tours might get cancelled at the last minute. You or your travelling companion might get sick, or a close family member back home could pass away and you’d need to cut your vacation short.

Image of an airport departure board

Because much of your pre-booked travel is probably non-refundable, this underlines the importance of adequate travel insurance. That super special discounted airfare you purchased? Probably non-refundable. That bargain hotel you booked? Also probably non-refundable. So it’s important to consider what it would cost you in additional costs, and the money you’ll lose (that won’t be refunded) in the event of a cancellation.

So check carefully the coverage for cancellation. Shop around if necessary and pay a little extra for a travel insurance policy that gives you full peace of mind should the unexpected occur.

Finally, remember that travel insurance is there to cover you for unexpected cancellations that are outside your control. If you decide to cancel your trip because you don’t want to go anymore,  your travel insurance won’t cover you for those cancellation costs.

Make sure that your leisure activities are covered

Maybe you’re going skiing or snowboarding in the Swiss Alps? Or water skiing in Italy? Although most travel insurance policies provide coverage if you’re injured doing these activities, you might have to opt-in to cover these activities and pay a little extra. For example, we’ve seen some travel insurance policies that only give coverage for mountain hiking up to a certain altitude, coverage for kayaking only on lakes (not on the sea), and bungee jumping might not be covered at all.

Image of skiers on a mountain

The other thing to check with your insurance is whether you’re covered for your personal liability when doing these activities. What if you injure someone else when you’re riding a bike in Sicily? Or you crash into someone skiing on the mountain? You wouldn’t want to find out you’re not covered by your travel insurance, and end up getting personally sued for thousands of dollars.

Existing medical conditions

If you’ve got a pre-existing medial condition, check that your insurance policy has you covered. A pre-existing medical condition is a medical or dental condition that you’re aware of and that you’re currently having treatment for, or you’ve had treatment or examinations for in the past. Some common pre-existing medical conditions include cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease or asthma.

The good news is that most travel insurance policies automatically provide coverage for some pre-existing medical conditions. But check the list to make sure you’re covered. For example, some travel insurance products automatically cover you some pre-existing medical conditions including allergies, asthma, coeliac disease, vision impairment, diabetes and epilepsy. But this varies from insurer to insurer.

So if you have any pre-existing conditions it’s important to know if your travel insurance will cover you if you need to cancel your trip or seek medical treatment. For example, what happens if you have an asthma attack at the airport and miss your flight? Or you have a bad allergic reaction and end up in hospital? Will your travel insurance cover you?

Image of a hospital ER sign

Paying an excess or deductible

Just like most insurances, you’ll probably have to pay some type of excess or deductible if you make a claim. An excess or deductible is an amount you must pay in order for your claim to be accepted and paid by the insurer. For example, if your Smartphone is stolen, you might need to pay $50 or $100 (or more) before the claim is paid out by your insurer (although this amount is usually subtracted from the insurance pay out to you, eg if your phone is worth $500, and the deductible is $50, your insurer will pay you $450).

Image of American money

The excess or deductible will vary from insurer to insurer, so make sure you know what you’re up for in the event that you need to claim. There’s little point going for the cheapest travel insurance product if it has a big excess or deductible.

Seeking medical treatment

One of the main reasons for getting travel insurance is to cover you for unexpected medical expenses. These can be very high in some countries. An overnight stay in the ER can set you back thousands of dollars. If you require a medical evacuation by helicopter to a hospital, or evacuation back to the USA, this could be tens of thousands of dollars!

Many travel insurance products require you to seek approval from your insurer prior to getting medical treatment. Obviously if you’re rushed to the ER unconscious they don’t expect you to ring them. But if your tooth is knocked out, you’ll probably need to contact the insurer’s 24 Hour help line before seeking treatment. The insurer might have a list of approved medical facilities that you’ll need to visit, in order for them to reimburse your medical expenses.

Image of a doctor and nurse

So make sure to read and understand what to do in the case of a medical emergency. Keep handy in your wallet or phone the insurer’s contact number to call. The travel insurance company will most likely have a local 24/7 emergency help number in the same country that you can call.  And for that you’ll want to get a local SIM Card to make calls, rather than relying on international roaming on your phone, which might not always work. A local SIM Card will also give you a local number, in case the insurance company needs to call you back. The SIM Card from My UK SIM Card works in the UK and in 34 European countries, and comes with minutes, texts and high speed data.

We’d also recommend that you save as a favorite in your phone the international emergency services number 112 which, when dialed, will connect to the emergency services in the country you’re in.  Another good idea is to store the number of the US Embassy in each country you’ll be visiting.