Here are a few handy travel insurance tips for the holiday season:
1. It's safer to buy travel insurance from a reputable insurance company – a cruise line, airline, or travel company may go out of business, and your insurance may not be honoured. (You may wish ask about a company’s Standard and Poor’s rating to check their financial security.)
2. Understand the different policies for different travellers. There are single-trip, annual, backpacker, worldwide, ski and winter sports, and other specialty insurance policies. When you decide on a policy, make sure you know what activities it doesn't cover, such as certain sports (eg bungee jumping).
3. Make sure you understand the medical coverage. Does it cover repatriation to your home country if required? Does it cover ambulances? If you’re getting a policy for your family, make sure all members are included, as some policies have limits on the number of people. Also find out about coverage for pre-existing conditions and (for your own good) make sure you declare any you might have.
4. Make sure you know the cover limits and specify valuable items. Many policies limit the amount of money paid to you in case of theft or damage. Find out if everything you plan on taking with you, from jewellery to high-tech camera equipment, is covered. If they are not, you can choose to extend your policy to cover expensive items. Make sure you have photos, receipts and current valuations at home.
5. Cancellations. Make sure you know if you will be fully refunded if the trip is cancelled or cut short or if you need to cancel your trip for any reason. If you have cancellation coverage, purchase your travel insurance as soon as you pay your travel deposits (air tickets, tour fees etc). That way if something happens and you can’t travel, you will be covered for your loss of deposits.
6. Know your excess, in particular rental car excess cover. Most policies require you to pay something first, so make sure it's not more than the value of your luggage. For rental cars there is the option to increase the rental cover to suit your needs.
7. Read the exclusions in all sections. Many policies exclude terrorism cover to certain countries. Check what you’re covered for if you’re travelling to at risk countries.
8. Emergency hotline. Finally, make sure you keep copies of your emergency contact number in several different places in case your ‘documents bag’ gets lost. Ask if your emergency line is 24 hour and whether it will be answered in New Zealand. It can be frustrating to call for emergency assistance and find a recorded message or speak with someone who is difficult to understand.