Every time I travel overseas, whether it's for work or pleasure, I always take out travel insurance before the trip. No-one likes parting with money for something that they may never use, however I have always believed it's one of those necessary evils that you just have to pay for, so I never travelled overseas without insurance. In twenty-five years of overseas travel, I'd never made a claim - until my trip to Europe in 2010. (Updated: November 2015)
Our family had set off for a four week holiday in Europe - carefully planned between the end of our eldest son's Year 12 exams and Christmas. As always, I had our itinerary meticulously pre-planned. All travel and accommodation arrangements had been pre-booked and paid in advance as I don't like to leave anything to chance. We spent the first week in Paris and then another in the south of France and were just about to head to Switzerland, northern Italy and Slovenia when disaster struck!
The day we were to leave our holiday house in Olonzac in the Languedoc region of south west France, my husband woke at 5am in excrutiating pain. Nothing he tried would take the pain away and so, after a bit of Googling, I came to the conclusion that he was suffering from a kidney stone attack. So, what to do? It was obvious that he needed medical attention - and pretty soon.
I found the number for the local doctor's surgery but, as it was now still only 6am on a Saturday morning, all I got was an answering machine message - in French! We were 30 minutes from the nearest hospital and I wasn't a nominated driver for our hire car, so it was obvious I needed some outside help. The only thing I could think to do, was ring the caretakers of our rental cottage and ask them for assistance.
Despite being woken from his sleep at 6am on a cold, wintery morning, Mark kindly offered to come and pick hubby up and take him to the hospital. Luckily for us, Mark speaks very good French, so he was able to explain to the emergency doctors what the symptoms were, but also to translate the procedures to my husband . So, off they went to the hospital, leaving me behind with the kids. All the while I was thinking that the stones would be 'blasted' and he'd be back with us that night or the next day! How wrong I was!
To cut a very long story short, hubby was transferred from the general hospital to a specialist clinic by ambulance that afternoon. The specialist came to visit and told him he would blast the stones first thing on Monday morning. The blasting didn't break the stones up enough to pass, so he needed another procedure on the Wednesday afternoon. Finally, he was released from hospital at Thurday lunchtime and we continued on our holiday on Friday. We had 'lost' almost a full week from our four week holiday and had to cancel some of our pre-booked and pre-paid travel arrangements, including car hire and accommodation, and pay for new bookings.
Without travel insurance we would have been out of pocket by over $6000. The expenses we incurred, which we were able to claim on our travel insurance were:
Hospital expenses $4095
Additional expenses (new hotels, train tickets) $ 847
Cancellation costs (of pre-paid hotels, etc) $1420
Total expenses reimbursed by travel insurance $6362
Whilst my husband's kidney stone attack and French hospital stay weren't part of our holiday plans, knowing that our expenses would be covered by our travel insurance was one less thing we had to worry about.
Update: In 2015 I had to make another travel insurance claim when our departure from Australia to Europe was delayed due to a medical concern. A few days before we were to leave for Europe my husband had to have some last minutes tests (nothing to do with kidney stones this time!) and the specialist strongly recommended we didn't travel until he had received the results.
Again, this meant cancelling some pre-booked and pre-paid travel arrangements and then re-booking when we had the all clear. Thankfully it was only a few days until we were able to eventually set off and knowing that our travel insurance would cover the cancellation fees and additional expenses was very comforting. Read what happened here.
The two incidents above are just two of the reasons why I never travel overseas without travel insurance. We've never had to claim for lost or stolen luggage or vehicle accidents - touch wood - but to my mind, it's just not worth the risk of travelling without it.
If you're not sure what a good travel insurance policy should cover you for, this article explains more.
Have you had to make a claim on your travel insurance before?