I spent a decade working as a travel agent, and over this time I had many clients who needed to claim on their travel insurance. Sometimes these were for general travel mishaps, such as lost luggage or petty theft, but sometimes these incidents were incredibly serious and life-threatening. Having a really solid insurance policy in place can be the difference between making it out of such situations alive, or not being so lucky. So I really cannot stress this enough: you NEED travel insurance.

Imagine: you and your girlfriends are on a boat, heading towards Koh Phangan for a full-moon party. Your boat collides with another at full speed, sending you flying into the water. You black out. When you wake up, you’re in a hospital with a fractured pelvis and you’ve suffered a brain hemorrhage. Pretty terrifying stuff right?

Then, just as you get better, you’re hit with a bill for thousands and thousands of dollars. Now, along with the rehab you have to do, you also have to figure out how to pay your medical bills. Just the kind of stress you need right now – NOT!

Yet thousands of people find themselves in situations like this – because they either don’t take out travel insurance, or they take out inadequate cover for their activities. The story of the boat crash is real, but luckily for Natalie, she’d purchased a comprehensive policy with Cover-More. So here’s what you need to look out for when considering a travel insurance policy.

I’ve worked with many different insurance providers, but my favourite is Cover-More. Below, I outline everything you really need to know before purchasing a policy, and why I encourage you to look into Cover-More as well. In particular, I go through some of the specific coverage terms you’ll see when purchasing a policy, so you understand the basics and can choose the right option for you.

The bottom line: always keep your Product Disclosure Statement (hereafter called a PDS) handy as it has everything you need to know. But here, I’ll break it down without the jargon.

Note: if you click through and purchase a policy, I’ll make a small commission at no cost to you. However, travel insurance is serious and important, so I would never recommend Cover-More unless I truly believed it was the best option (just like everything else I recommend on A Winter Escape).

Medical and dental coverage

How your policy pays out will depend on the extent of your illness or injury. For example, if you had a minor illness that required seeing a doctor but you weren’t hospitalised, in most cases you would pay the bill and claim for reimbursement from the insurance. However, if you were gravely ill and admitted to hospital, you (or a travel companion, or the hospital) would notify the insurance company and they would liaise on your behalf with the hospital.

Medical coverage may change depending on your destination, and it’s part of why policies can be more expensive in different parts of the world. For example, it’s a lot more expensive to purchase travel insurance for a trip to the United States than, say, Thailand, because medical bills are just so much more expensive in general in the U.S.

It’s important to note that, just like at home, there’s a difference in coverage between medical and dental, and differences also exist in what might be classed as an “emergency”. Medical and dental are also two different things: for example: if you fell over and broke your leg and smashed out your teeth at the same time, you’d need medical cover for the leg but dental cover for your mouth.

COVID Coverage

Currently, not every travel policy is covering COVID. Because at this point getting COVID is not unlikely, many policies exclude coverage as it isn’t an “unforeseen” event. However, many countries now require you to have adequate insurance that covers COVID in order to enter.

There are two types of COVID coverage to consider: cancellation costs if you catch COVID before you’re scheduled to travel, and medical care if you contract COVID while you’re away.

(Cover-More has released a COVID-19 Travel Guide so have a read)

If you purchase the Comprehensive+ policy from Cover-More, this will cover you for up to $5,000 of pre-departure amendment or cancellation costs if you can’t travel due to contracting COVID and need to reschedule. However, you need to make sure you’ve purchased your policy at least 21 days before your scheduled departure, and to have selected cancellation cover on your policy.

On any of Cover-More’s three policy levels (Basic, Comprehensive, and Comprehensive+), up to $5,000 is covered for amendment or Cancellation Costs cover if your non-travelling relative or business partner residing in Australia or New Zealand becomes ill with a life-threatening case of COVID-19; or if you are an essential health worker and have your leave revoked due to COVID-19.

When it comes to health cover while you’re away, COVID-19 medical care is included in the medical expenses sublimit.

If you are diagnosed while away and need to pay isolation expenses or change fees, you should be able to claim these too.

You won’t be able to claim for border closures.

Adventure sports and other risky activities

It’s really important that you’re covered for the type of travel you’re doing.

Are you going to the snow? Skiing and snowboarding may require extra cover, so make sure your policy includes this.

Likewise, are you likely to ride a motorbike or moped on your travels? Are you a thrill-seeker who likes bungee jumping, skydiving, rock/climbing/abseiling, white-water rafting, or anything else considered adventurous?

All of these may require additional cover, or may not be covered at all depending on your policy. Always make sure you check the PDS.

Are you taking a cruise? You might not think a cruise is that risky, but you’d be surprised. Thousands of people in a confined space together means an increased risk of transmissible diseases. Slips and falls are also really common, as the decks outside are often wet. Medical care can be more expensive onboard, and if your issue is serious, you’ll need to be airlifted to a hospital on land. This can be reeeaaallly expensive.

Things to remember about travel insurance

Always remember to check the PDS for the levels of cover, and keep a copy of the PDS in your travel documents (preferably with the emergency number on the front).

If you are travelling with expensive goods, such as a really good camera for example, make sure it’s covered – you may need to declare it and pay for extra coverage when purchasing your policy.

If you’re travelling more than once in a year, get a quote for a multi-trip or annual policy – you might save some money. Just make sure that your policy covers all your destinations (definitely double-check this if you plan to travel to the U.S.)

Make sure you’re covered for any risky activities you might try – again, this might require purchasing extra cover.

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