/ Travel & Leisure

Is your travel insurance policy packing a few surprises?

A life ring next to a tropical beach

Many travel insurance claims are rejected, or pay out less than you may have expected. Have you ever had difficulties claiming on your travel insurance if your holiday went wrong?

When you buy travel insurance, would you think to tell the insurer about the state of health of all your cousins?

I certainly wouldn’t. In fact I wouldn’t know about all my cousins’ underlying state of health. I can’t imagine calling them up to ask about their health and explaining that I need the information for my travel insurance policy, just in case they die suddenly while I’m on holiday and I need to cancel.

Yet that is what some travel insurers state in their small print. Many insist that all pre-existing conditions of ‘close relatives’ – sometimes defined as including cousins – must be declared.

Trying to expect the unexpected

When we looked at the reasons Which? members were given for having their travel insurance claims rejected, this issue was high on the list.

We heard about a travelling companion’s husband being diagnosed with a brain tumour, only to be told the insurer would not cover the costs of their lost holiday. Another member was told the same thing when their father-in-law died on the second day of the holiday.

The insurers’ positions were that these illnesses must have been known about before the policies were bought, so should have been declared. Our members’ view was that they didn’t know they had to declare it, because the clause was hidden in small print, and that the death or diagnosis was unexpected.

Complaining about claiming

Some people found that their insurers refused claims for lost or stolen items because the incident had not been reported to police within 24 hours. This included an example when the item was a pair of glasses that were lost on a cruise ship.

Other complaints included insurers saying stolen belongings were unattended when they were only out of sight for moments on a train or in a hotel – or even with a hotel porter – and insurers accepting members had a valid claim, but refusing to pay the taxes element of their airfare – which can make up more than half the total cost.

These exclusions are generally contained in insurers’ terms and conditions, but you often have to look hard to find them.

And while people may unrealistically expect travel insurance to cover every eventuality, Which? research has shown that travel insurance has the highest rate of rejection of all sectors we investigated, including car, home, pet, phone and gadget insurance. It also has the lowest satisfaction scores. This suggests that customers are getting a raw deal.

What’s your experience of travel insurance? Have you made a claim and was it met?

Falkenna says:
2 March 2013

Margaret Newman, I found a policy like that: I rang up to declare my pre-existing conditions, which are minor and I was not prepared to pay to cover, and they said if I didn’t want cover for them, they didn’t need to know. Keep looking.

There should be much more variety in travel insurance on offer. I go to the US about twice a year to see family. I can cope with travel delays, don’t carry much money, and could deal if something happened to my passport. But I am over 60 and need really good insurance for accidents or unforeseen (unrelated) medical emergencies. Why can I not just buy this, paying less money or at least knowing that my payments will go towards covering my needs?

jon says:
21 March 2013

Oh you make so much sense to me.
I have asthma and am diabetic ( diet and tablet controlled) so of course have had raised blood presure and cholesteral in the past) we got a quote for 10 day travel to USA and without declairing was £47 with declaring existing conditions was over £200.
I dont have problems at home with my existing conditions which are fully under control and never been in hospital for any of them.
dont carry lots of money around and take credit cards for emergencies. dont want compensating for flight delays and never take expensive hi tech with me.
all i want is cover to get me home / treatment in case of a “accident” yet if i dont pay the extra they wont cover for heart attack, stroke, diabetic coma, asthma etc etc .
I just want insurance to cover for a accident which can happen to anyone ie: being hit by a car , mugged etc. but insurance companies seem to use “unrelated” existing problems to get out of paying as in “so you were walking and tripped – you might have have a diabetic blackout ( never had one) and because you didnt cover for diabetes we are not paying out”
I know its about risk level but they take your money then dont want to pay out.
we have been paying accident insurance for last 3 years ( £220 per year ) to cover me and my wife. unfortunatly my wife broke her wrist in a fall at xmas. we filed a claim paid for doctors report (£30) sent all forms and sick notes off but because her “fit for work” ( new sick note ) said “ammended duties” then they said she could still work with arm in pot. yet hospital said she can not drive car due to braking stresses etc and her work is 22 miles away from home. her employer said she could not work with broken arm as job required lifting and paid her full pay while off for 6 weeks. yet still insurance company would not pay out as she was fit to work. we were not trying to claim any loss of earnings or anything else just the £100 p/w they offered us when we took out the insurance. just a further note i asked what if she did not work anyway, they said if not i would have had to prove that she had been housebound for the 6 weeks ??? and this is a well known insurance company. so thier tempory disability due to broken limb is not worth paper its written on. OFT will be next port of call then county courts to get payments and expences back


Some tour companies try to refuse your booking unless you take their insurance or ‘equivalent’. This even applies to a short (6 day) coach tour on the continent. I leave it till near to the departure so they’d have difficulty filling my place, then resolutely refuse to buy any extra insurance- the EHIC would suffice (I’ve used it twice with no problem) The travel company then sends me a disclaimer to sign, and that’s OK!
I never had insurance at all in the 50’s and 60’s- didn’t even know it existed. Now I’m 81 and presently in Spain, relying on the EHIC should \I need it.The quote for insurance at my age made it even less worth while buying. The non- medical items I don’t want to insure anyway, like flight cancellation or lost baggage.


my wife had her handbag stolen in Italy last year. Although our insurance covered “replacement passport” that is only pro rata on the full passport. As her passport was due to expire in two years we only got £20; the temporary passport you need to get home (€127) was not covered. Also her car keys (replacement cost £200) were not covered as they are “car accessories”!!!

erik99 says:
12 March 2013

To be completely fair to the insurers, it is very easy to make an excessive (or even fraudulent) claim for loss or theft . Just report it to police and you have your “evidence”. We were on a trip to Crete a few years back and two separate people “lost” gold jewellery on the beach. If genuine, it was at the very least “contributory negligence”.


Depends on circumstances and item values, but based on our experience these people are likely to get their claims rejected for the following reasons.
– a police report is not enough evidence, insurers will ask to see receipts and photos of the owner wearing the jewellery. You need proof you had the stuff in the first place
– was the jewellery in a bag that was left unattended? Or did it fall off your wrist and you did not notice? Either way, as you say, this is negligence

jon says:
21 March 2013

you work hard, buy nice stuff, insure your contents for £20,000, pay your premiums for 5 years , some low life removes your kitchen window and steals your 3 year old 42″ plasma tv and runs off. you report to police, provide original receipt etc and insurance company offer you £50 cos its 3 year old. no wonder people add a few items. but i do sympathise with insurance companies because of all the made up claims regarding theft.


would like a question about insurance claim .my girlfriend and i where to travel to rome on thursday the 7th of may and stay until 14th of may.with jet2 from belfast. our flight was cancelled while we were at the airport due to a fire at rome airport. jet2 rebooked us on a new flight the following sunday and we stayed until sunday the 17th. but this meant that we lost 3 days at our hotel. and as they where full we had to book a different hotel for the last 3 days. my insurance said as it was a fire that caused the cancelled its not covered. what course of action should i take if any. look forward to your reply . thanks patrick