Is travel insurance worth getting for short-term trips?
Everyone loves a quick getaway. If you’re only heading away for a handful of days, you might be tempted to save a little money by not taking out travel insurance. This can be an expensive mistake.
Even on a short trip, you still face the same risks you would on any other holiday. Flights get delayed, diverted and cancelled. Luggage and personal items get lost, stolen, damaged and delayed. There’s also the cost of overseas medical and hospital expenses to consider.
This is why travel insurance is an essential consideration for any trip, no matter how short it is.
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I only want basic cover for a short-term trip – what is covered?
Basic travel insurance goes by many names including essentials cover, budget cover and even medical-only cover. These policies generally only cover a few risks. The exact type and level of cover available varies from one insurer to the next but most basic travel insurance policies for short-term trips include cover for:
- Overseas medical emergencies. If you experience a medical emergency overseas, these policies cover your ambulance, hospital accommodation, surgical and treatment costs, as well as the expense of evacuating you to Australia if medically necessary. Cover is also typically included for emergency dental expenses and for the cost of any other emergency medical assistance you require.
- Personal liability. This ensures that you are covered if you injure someone or cause damage to someone’s property while on your trip.
Some basic travel insurance policies also include cover for one or more of the following benefits:
- Hospital cash allowance. This is a daily allowance that is paid to you if you’re hospitalised for an extended period. It covers your incidental out-of-pocket expenses.
- Additional expenses. If you miss a connecting flight due to an insurable event, this benefit covers you for the additional expenses you may incur.
- Amendment and cancellation costs. If circumstances beyond your control force you to cancel your trip – for example if one of your parents dies – you’ll be reimbursed for any pre-paid deposits you are unable to recoup and any cancellation fees you must pay.
- Luggage and personal belongings. Some policies include a minimum level of cover for lost, stolen or damaged luggage and personal items during your journey.
- Accidental death. Some basic travel insurance policies will also offer a lump sum benefit if you die as the result of an injury you sustain during your trip.
I'm only going away for a weekend? Is it really worth getting travel insurance?
It really comes down to what type of trip you are taking and what you might want to be covered for. Remember that even if you are heading interstate for the weekend, travel insurance could still cover:
- Flight cancellations or trip delays that are out of your control
- Cover for valuables and luggage that is lost or stolen
- Replacement luggage if the airline looses your belongings
- Car rental excess charges from the car rental company if you have an accident (excess charges can be as high as $4,000 for some vehicles)
I make a lot of short term trips throughout the year – should I consider annual cover?
Frequent travellers may wish to consider the money-saving alternative offered by an annual policy. Rather than taking out a separate travel insurance policy for each trip you take, this type of policy provides cover for all the trips you take during a 12-month period. If you’re likely to take two or more trips a year, annual multi-trip insurance can save you money.
However, before you take out a policy, be aware that there are a few key conditions and limitations that apply to this type of cover. For example, insurers impose limits on the maximum allowable duration of each individual trip – in many cases you’ll be able to choose your limit when you apply for cover, such as 15, 30 or 45 days.
Each insurer also imposes maximum age limits on their annual multi-trip policy, so check the fine print in the product disclosure statement (PDS) to see whether you’re eligible for cover. It can be harder to find cover if you’re 60 years of age or older, but there are insurers out there who offer the protection you need.
Annual travel insurance is available for both domestic and international trips, and many insurers allow you to take out a single, duo or family policy.
How can I get cheap short-term travel insurance?
- Buy online. It may seem convenient to take out travel insurance cover through your travel agent, but be careful. Some travel agents will add a commission on top of the price of the policies they sell.
- Consider your cover needs. Take some time to think about where you’re going, how long you’re going for and what activities you plan on participating in during your trip. Next, consider the level of cover you want before deciding on the right policy for you.
- Weigh up your options. Are there any extras you’d like to include with your policy for an additional fee, such as winter sports cover? Make sure you’re only paying for the cover you need and not for anything you don’t.
- Buy an annual policy. If you travel a lot, consider taking out an annual policy. Not sure if it’s worth it? Read our analysis of when annual travel insurance is worth the money.
- Buy early. Take out travel insurance as early as you can, even if your trip is still a few months away. Once your policy is in place, you’ll be covered for any losses you may incur in the time leading up to your departure, such as if a relative dies and you are forced to cancel your trip.
- Take advantage of discounts. Another option to consider is the discounts insurers offer to existing customers. If you’ve already got car, home or some other form of insurance with a provider, they may offer you a discount on the price of your travel insurance premiums.
- Read the PDS. The only way to know whether you’re really getting good value for money is to closely examine a policy’s PDS. This contains key details about the features, benefits, limits and exclusions of cover, allowing you to find out exactly what is and isn’t covered.
- Shop around. Get quotes from a number of insurers to determine how much cover will cost. Remember to consider a policy’s features as well as its cost when making your final decision.
Can I get medical-only travel insurance for short-term trips?
Overseas medical expenses represent the most significant potential expense that travel insurance can cover. Ambulance transportation, hospital treatment and accommodation, doctors’ bills and medical evacuation can quickly lead to a huge medical bill, so the protection offered by travel insurance against overseas medical expenses is essential.
If you decide you only want cover for medical expenses for your short-term trip, some insurers do offer this type of policy as an option. For example, Virgin Money Basic Travel Insurance offers unlimited cover for overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses and overseas emergency medical assistance. The policy also includes $1 million of personal liability cover, but no other benefits are offered – so if medical cover is really all you want, you can save money and find a policy to suit.
Basic travel insurance policies from other insurers may offer a similar level of benefits or may also include limited cover for things like cancellation fees and lost or stolen luggage. Make sure to compare your options so that you can find the short-term travel insurance policy that’s right for you.
Picture: Marion Brite, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)