Be prepared to make the most of travel insurance

If you've managed to escape the daily grind and get away, or if you've got a holiday booked soon, you'll know how important it is to have a good travel insurance policy.

Padlock bags before check-in
Padlock bags before check-in

Most of us will never need to make a travel insurance claim. But sometimes things can go spectacularly wrong. There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling when your baggage doesn’t appear on the carousel – and your first introduction to a foreign country is schlepping around a discount clothing outlet. Or discovering the delights of filling in forms after a fall lands you in a (rather pricy) hospital abroad.

Of course, millions of us manage to escape on holiday without anything going wrong. Yet weirdly, there are lots of things that we can claim on our travel insurance for, but don’t. When I speak to people about this they tell me that they “don’t want to make a fuss” or they’re worried about seeming greedy. I’m here to tell you to make full use of your insurance – after all, you paid for it.

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Here’s a few tips to ensure you don’t lose out on what’s rightfully yours.

◆ Start your insurance straight away. If something happens in the run-up to the holiday that means you can’t travel you can make a claim. But only if you’ve opted to start the policy immediately, not on the date of travel.

◆ If something goes wrong, report it. If you’re a victim of a crime while you’re away, end up in hospital, find yourself stranded or something else goes wrong, report it to the authorities and get proof that you have done so. This goes for the police, hospitals and embassies too. You’ll need the documents for your claim.

◆ Keep your insurer’s hotline number saved on your phone – you’ll need to tell them right away if something’s happened. I’d keep a photocopy of the insurance documents in a separate bag too, just in case. While I’m on this subject, I’d suggest keeping your bank telephone number handy, just in case they freeze your account for security reasons if you use your card abroad (it happens).

◆ Lock it away. Most of us know that we need to use a hotel safe for our valuables if there is one. But did you know you’re not likely to be covered if you leave your bag with reception and something gets pinched? You do now.

◆ Be honest. Tell your insurer about any medical treatment you’re on or conditions you have. If you fall ill somewhere like America, a disputed claim could leave you with thousands of pounds to pay if you haven’t disclosed a pre-existing illness.

◆ If you have to let personal items out of sight, for example, when you check in luggage, use a lock or padlock if you can. But as the luggage is in the care of an airline, if anything happens I’d expect them to deal with it first, followed by your insurer. Make sure you get proof of damage or theft (take a photo and get a written confirmation at the airport).

◆ Hire cars cause more teeth-gnashing than almost any other holiday problem. I’d suggest taking out “excess” cover before you travel. This pays out the excess fee charged if there’s any damage – often well over £500. You can buy this insurance from any insurer so don’t feel pressured into taking out the one sold by the hire car firm.

Most important of all, if you’ve lost out on a holiday on anything from lost luggage to misleading hotel advertisements, make a claim if you can, or go for a complaint. Resolver will help you get it sorted.