Way back in the mists of time – or the end of the last century at least, the 1990s, the period in history Gen Xers and older Millennials get so nostalgic about – it wasn’t the norm for travellers to go shopping for their own travel insurance.
Remember, these were the days when the internet was just taking off. There weren’t such things as comparison sites to make finding and comparing suitable policies easily. Buying direct meant finding and contacting insurance companies one by one. How did anyone have any free time, you ask?
Well, that’s the point. People who bought travel insurance this way were in the minority. Something like 80% of all policies were sold through travel agents. Package holidays really were the full, er, package back then. Agents saved their customers time and effort by laying everything on a plate. And earned a pretty penny in commissions, no doubt.
Fast forward to the very much digitised world of 2022, and most people wouldn’t dream of buying travel insurance anywhere but online. Yet sales through travel agents do still happen.
So if you decide to book a package holiday through an agent, don’t be surprised if you are offered insurance as part of the deal. But the question is, should you take it? Will you get a good deal as part of a broader package, or should you always shop around for yourself these days?
The answer to that is – it depends. It depends on your own circumstances and what you need from travel insurance, plus what the agent is offering. Here are five things to do to help weigh up the offer.
Ask for details…
First things first, don’t take anything at face value. The travel agent offering you an insurance policy to go with your package holiday will give you the sales pitch. They will claim it is great value, perfectly matched to your holiday, and will give you all the protection you need. But you want to check out these claims yourself.
Ask to see the policy document. It might not be fun, but reading the small print on any insurance you buy is very strongly recommended.
Things to look for include:
- Does the maximum pay out for cancellations cover the full cost of your holiday?
- Is the personal baggage cover enough for all the belongings you plan to take with you?
- Are you covered for missed departures and having to cut your holiday short due to unforeseen circumstances?
- Is COVID included in the cancellation and medical cover?
- Is there an excess to pay on any claim? If so, how much?
And then check out the provider yourself
Travel agents can only offer insurance provided by a single company they are affiliated with. They are not licensed to provide general insurance advice or comment on products across the market. You naturally might want to ask how the cover they are offering compares to other products on the market. They can’t give you a proper answer. Instead, you will have to look up the provider and make a judgement yourself.
By all means, look up the insurance company and the policy you are offered on a comparison site. That’s a quick and easy way to compare it with alternatives. You might also want to go to the insurer’s website, where you might find you can get a better deal by buying direct.
Ask for time to consider your options
Of course, doing all of the above takes time. Don’t feel pressured into making a decision on taking insurance through a travel agent there and then. Any suggestion that you have to sign up for insurance as part of the rest of the package is poor sales practice – and probably a good sign that you should decline and look elsewhere.
A reputable travel agent will be more than happy to let you go away and do your research on insurance options before making a decision.
Tell the agent about any pre-existing medical conditions
It’s essential that you tell any travel insurance provider about a pre-existing medical condition. That includes a travel agent offering you insurance.
Travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions is a specialist area. Again, a travel agent will not be able to give you specific advice about the suitability of a policy for your personal needs. All they will be able to do is provide details of pre-pack policies for certain conditions offered by their affiliate. And they may not even have that kind of information, or else their provider partner will decline to offer cover for people with medical conditions.
In most cases, if you have a medical condition your best bet is to go through a specialist provider regardless of what your travel agent offers. Nine times out of 10, you will get a better deal and a policy that provides thorough cover for your medical needs.
Whatever your decision, don’t go without insurance!
Even if you aren’t impressed by the deal being offered by your travel agent, you’d be strongly advised to take out travel insurance elsewhere. The take-it-or-leave-it attitude many travellers have towards insurance, feeling the likelihood of needing to make a claim makes it not worth buying, has always been risky.
All it takes is one bout of illness or one accident abroad, and uninsured travellers can find themselves staring down medical bills running to thousands of pounds.
But the risks of travelling without insurance are currently higher than ever. If it isn’t a flight cancellation disrupting your travel plans and forcing you to make alternative arrangements for transfers, accommodation and more, it’s the high risk of luggage going missing as understaffed airport operations creak.
Plus, if your destination still requires COVID testing, all it takes is a positive result and your travel plans will have to be abandoned. Travel insurance remains the only way to get your money back.
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