Gap year insurance, it’s one of the most important things you’ll buy for your trip abroad, yet many people put more thought into their backpack and the parties they want to attend than into their insurance.
First thing to clear up, insurance is a must. Whilst most gap year travellers will head abroad without problem, if you come into difficulty insurance will be essential to save you having to fork out thousands if not millions for medical bills.
Right bear with me here, I know it’s not the most interesting of topics, but here are my top pitfalls to watch out for and avoid. I promise I’ll keep it short and sweet…
1. Relying on an annual travel policy
This isn’t necessarily a problem, however, many insurers that run an annual policy then limit any single trip to a maximum of 40 days so if you’re planning on staying abroad for longer you’ll need a specific policy for your trip.
2. Forgetting to factor it into your budget
Many gap year students forget to budget for insurance. Along with your flight ticket and program if you choose to do one, insurance is the other big-ticket item you’ll be purchasing.
If you’re needing cover for around 3 months, you’ll be looking at between £180 and £250 depending on what you’re planning to do. There really is no benefit in skimping... Boring, laborious and expensive but it is always worth it.
3. Buying insurance at the last minute
It might not sound too much of an issue but if you rush the day before you fly to organise your insurance you’ll fall into 2 problems.
Firstly, in the rush to get a policy I almost guarantee you’ll fall into many more of the pitfalls on this list because you just won’t have time to look over each policy in detail.
Secondly, perhaps more importantly, you risk losing money. As soon as you’ve bought your flight or put down payments towards a volunteering activity or an adventure holiday activity you need to buy insurance.
Booked your flight, your volunteering program and maybe a couple of activities with your friends and then break your leg playing hockey 2 weeks before you're due to head away. Without insurance you’ll lose the majority of that hard-earned cash.
4. Not reading the small print
I know what you’re thinking, there are endless reams of small print to read. My advice, if it’s the only part you read, check the activities.
Ultimately, you’re more interesting on the road. Spontaneous trip kayaking, you’ve made new friends and they all want to abseil down waterfalls or decide you’ll head skiing because it’s an easy day trip out of Queenstown… you need to have the insurance to cover these.
Make sure that your standard policy covers a lot of activities that you may consider doing. Many gap year specific policies will cover a range of typical gap year favourites but you’ll need to know what isn’t covered.
An essential if you do plan to do any form of volunteering, get cover for manual labour. A policy like STA’s premier policy covers for this but many off the shelf policies don’t.
Didn’t think you’d want to bungee jump or sky dive and then decide you really do? If you don’t have the insurance cover then you can buy an add-on. Many policies will offer a one-day add on for these types of activities.
My top tip: if your policy covers adrenaline activities just check there isn’t a cap on the number of times. Some policies will stipulate only 1 bungee jump.
5. Not knowing the financials
We all now travel with our phones, some have iPads others take go-pros and the like. Many policies will limit how much you can claim per item and some will have an overall item limit too.
If your limit is £250 then that iPhone X you treated yourself to will definitely not be covered. Similarly, if your overall limit is £1000 and your valuables equate to more than this….
My top tip: it’s always worth checking home insurance policies as many policies do cover valuable items abroad, so it may not necessarily need to be covered by travel insurance.
6. Not getting curtailment/cancellation cover
…And not getting adequate cover. If you have trips planned, maybe you’ve decided to do conservation in Costa Rica or teach kids in Cambodia, if you have to cut this short for medical reasons then with curtailment cover you can claim back the portion of the trip you missed – allowing you to use that on your next travel adventure.
Make sure the limit covers the amount you’ve actually forked out. Spending £1000 on flights and £2500 on a program, having to cancel and only having cover up to £1500 is not a position anyone wants to find themselves in.
7. Returning to the UK
Clearly not many travellers’ top priority, however, if you do need to return to the UK and you are on a single trip policy, this will invalidate your insurance if you then head back abroad, instead you’ll need to purchase insurance again for this new trip.
8. Getting Drunk
We all do it, and yes enjoying the nightlife of the places you visit should be part of all gap years.
However, be careful and know your limits. Most insurance policies will invalidate a claim if you were under the influence of alcohol. A couple of glasses of wine no problem but stumbling out of a club, falling off the pavement and smashing your face in will not be on your insurance…
9. Not knowing the claims procedure
All gap year insurance policies have a claims procedure. If this is not followed they can easily reject your claim. So, find this out before you go away, then you’ll know what you need to do and collect if something were to happen.
My top tip: always notify your insurance as soon as possible and definitely within 24 hours of any incident. Keeping them in the loop and up-to-date will help you ensure any claim goes through as smoothly as possible.
10. Not declaring previous medical conditions
Whilst this does not apply to everyone, if you have any form of medical condition or are on any treatment this must be declared to your insurance. Some insurers, such as STA, will still cover you but they need to know all the details before you head away.
Know you're covered
So there you have the most common pitfalls for gap year travellers when it comes to insurance. Avoid these and you’ll avoid expensive mistakes and you truly can live by the saying ‘go big or go home’.
My last tip for you: take a paper copy of your insurance with you and leave one at home with mum or dad.
on 27 / 07 / 2018