I’ll take the risk of sounding naive, as there is a lesson to be learnt here. But there was a time that I was one of those people… the kind that travelled the world without travel insurance. I was young and invincible, with what I figured was good credit card behind me (FREE travel insurance, there is such a thing as free lunch) to cover the basics – after all, my motto was “it’s me against the world”. Plus, I also resented the whole notion of travel insurance. And that question always made me wince – the “Would you like to add travel insurance to your booking?” question every dot com travel agent would ask… I saw this as an effort to upsell to me – the “would you like to go large?” of the travel world – and I just wasn’t tempted. It was my firm conviction that after all was said and done, it was unlikely that I would ever spend more on a travel mishap than I would paying policies. And besides, the whole “What if?” thing went against the basic principles of why I started travelling to start with.
But it was when I was on the road with a fellow travel journalist, whose laptop and camera got stolen from right under our noses, when we were in Argentina, I came to my senses. Like Dolly Parton’s boobs, and J-Lo’s ass, the tools of my trade needed protecting. And in my line of work, those tools go far beyond material possessions – my health, my safety, my flight connection, my time. Touch wood, I’m luckily still that invincible person – I’ve never had to make a claim (except for three nights’ compensation that was literally offered to me on a plate when an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano blew up a few years back).
I understand some people’s reticence – particularly for the less frequent traveller. But really, it’s about basic economics. Why take the gamble? Infrequent travellers are far more invested in their ‘me time’ – because should something go wrong, its impact is far greater – your precious time, spoilt… with zero recompense. Even for the jet-set – you travel for you … the basic nature of leisure travel is a selfish one, in that you’re treating yourself to something special – so in this case, the argument for insurance lies in absolute peace of mind.
On the whole, travellers are far more likely to buy insurance in situations where they are more at risk – far-flung lands, new tour operators, deciding to get out of your sun-lounger and do something a little more adventurous.
Yet ABTA states that 22% of all travellers go off on their holidays uninsured. It is also commonplace that those who do actually get insurance buy the cheapest without really understanding what exactly it covers them for. In insurance, the age-old adage applies – you get what you pay for. Basic cover is exactly as it says on the tin.
But what should travellers be looking for? Most importantly, take a few minutes or more to understand the policy you’re buying, and make sure it’s right for you. Look at your upcoming journey, or your year’s worth of travel. Ask yourself where you are likely to be going, who you are likely to be going with, what are you going to be packing and more importantly, what are you going to be doing while away? If you’re a scuba diver, with asthma, going to a minor city in a third world country, on an airline with a less than favourable punctuality record, with an expensive SLR camera in your pull-along, then read every fine detail.
For the rest of us, we should be looking out for good coverage on cancellations, delays, miss departures and curtailment. Also, look out for decent coverage of emergency hospital and medical (and repatriation, fingers crossed you won’t ever really need that) because in some countries, your credit card has to be surrendered as you enter the hospital before treatment. Also look out for a policy that covers additional expenses due to cancellations for ‘act of god’ – hurricanes, volcanoes, riots – you won’t believe how quickly you’re left on your own to deal with hotels and rebookings in such circumstances.
At the end of the day – it is most important that you pick a travel insurance product that is specific to you. We’re all different and as a result, our priorities are different too. That’s why the brand new insurance product from gay insurance provider Emerald Lifecaught my eye – it seems the company has spent much time reviewing and revising standard travel policies to take into account the needs of the gay traveller.
What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, there are some immediate wins – customer service that understands that when you talk about your partner, it’s a same-gender partner. Then there’s ‘Consular Assist’ and legal support if you are a victim of crime, extending specifically to if you are a victim of a hate crime because of your sexuality. Then the big guns – an empathetic team to help you cover any pre-existing medical conditions including HIV, HepB and HepC. The magic doesn’t stop here – because Emerald’s policies understand modern families, single parenting, fostering, adoption and surrogacy and a whole range of other really well thought-through circumstances we as gay globe-trotters may find ourselves in.
And the biggest win in my opinion? Not a product feature in fact, but the philosophy of the company. But beyond the LGBT+ frills, features and benefits, I think that when a company takes the time to go through and refine their policies, firstly to break the mould and swim against the tide of traditional insurers, and then again to ensure that a very specific community’s needs are well and truly covered, you know that you’re in good hands.