When Holidays Go Wrong...

By: Caroline Poynton


We are all getting more adventurous - not only in the distances we are prepared to travel, but in the activities we indulge in once we get to our holiday destinations. Lying on a beach with a good book seems so passe when you can go bungee jumping, galloping a horse down a beach, skiing or paragliding. But with excitement comes danger, especially if you don't ensure you're sufficiently covered by your travel insurance.

American Express Travel Insurance recently issued a warning, stating that not all skiing-trip travel insurance will cover inexperienced skiers who go off-piste (even if accompanied by a guide). This has become a particular concern following an unusually mild winter with low snowfall across Europe. Many holidaymakers risked going off-piste to find the best snowfall, resulting in twice as many accidents in the French Alps compared to the year before. If you are thinking of going skiing in the next year, it is essential that you check your insurance policy before you leave - you could be liable for huge costs if you have an accident off-piste and you discover your policy does not cover you. Airlifting you from the French Alps, for instance, could cost as much as ?2,000. Quite simply, you need to tell your insurers if you are planning any kind of activity that could put you at greater risk of injury.

According to recent research, 15% of British people risk going abroad without any kind of travel insurance, let alone 'extreme sports' cover. Consider some of the costs you might incur should you fall ill or have an accident abroad, and you might think twice before gambling with your health and finances. Even if you holiday in Europe where your medical treatment might be covered by a European Health Insurance Card, you may still have to cover the costs of getting home to the UK, following your accident.

Examples of typical medical costs abroad:

* Air ambulance (East cost USA) - ?30,000-?35,000
* Air ambulance (Canaries) - ?12,000-?16,000
* Scheduled flight, stretcher and doctor escort (Australia) - ?15,000-?20,000
* Scheduled flight, seated economy with a doctor escort (Mediterranean) - ?1,800-?4,000

Source: health and wellbeing provider, First Assist

Tales of woe, however, shouldn't put you off travelling far and wide, and enjoying all the activities on offer once you get there. The following guide provides some tips on how you can holiday, while gaining the best travel insurance at the best price for what you would like to do abroad:

1. If you are going to do anything that will be seen as risky such as skiing, canoeing, scuba-diving or climbing - you must tell your insurers and ensure your policy covers you in the event of an accident. Some activities such as paragliding or ski jumping may require special policies.
2. Do not skimp on your travel insurance. If the worst happens and you are injured abroad, you will want to know that you have the right insurance policy and company behind you to make the best of a bad situation. Check that the policy covers everything you need and choose one with a 24-hr international helpline.
3. Beyond your potential holiday activities, make sure your travel insurance covers other basic essentials, such as medical and dental treatment, getting you back home, personal liability, missed departure, cancelled flights, theft and lost luggage.
4. Shop around for the best deal. Don't just assume that your travel agent is the best option for travel insurance - look at the different insurance options and choose one that works for you both financially and practically.
5. Ensure you take all your travel insurance documents with you. If you need to make a claim, you will need all your details close at hand.

One final piece of advice: once you have your travel insurance secured, try and forget about the potential dangers and enjoy your break. After all, holidays are really meant to be about having fun...

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