Holiday Insurance

Thinking ahead (as I do), I am planning a holiday for the summer for me and Mrs O but I am getting an uneasy feeling that the powers that be might have other plans for the use of my time.

Does anyone have any good tips on insuring against cancellation that will include having to go on yet another of Uncle Tone's Tours? I am not sure whether the standard holiday insurance covers that type of thing.
Quite a few travel insurers offer cover for 'the exigencies of HM Forces'.

The important thing to check the exclusions - these may differ between insurers, as may the attitude of the claims handlers and underwriters, who may be two different companies.

If there is the remotest chance that you could be deployed, an insurer could decline a subsequent cancellation claim. In general, if you (as the insured), are aware of anything which might affect the cover, you are obliged to disclose it. It may be wise to speak to insurers first and let them know you are military and what your likelihood of being deployed/posted/buggered about in some other way is. They may ask for a letter from your unit which should not be a drama. Doing it this way may well save considerable argument if you do have to claim.

If a claim is paid, you may still lose deposits and/or excesses; I think (but am not sure) that you may be able to claim these uninsured losses through your unit - maybe an admin type can confirm the current rules.

Some general points on buying travel insurance, based on my working for an emergency medical assistance service and a travel insurer:

- Don't buy tour operator's travel insurance. Typically, tour ops and travel agents make upwards of 40% commission on the premium you pay for your policy. Go direct and you will save money.

- Ask for a specimen policy. Take it home and study it carefully. The time to discover obscure exclusions, limits of cover and terms and conditions is before you buy it, not when you have a claim.

- Make sure the policy covers what you need it to cover. 'Assume makes an ass out of you and me' is particularly apt in insurance matters. This is particularly true with 'high risk' activities.

- Ensure you aren't paying twice for cover. Much of your kit could be covered on your household insurance, and it's therefore pointless buying luggage cover with your travel policy. If you have dual cover, the travel insurers will ask the other insurer for a contribution anyway, and this could affect NCB.

- Ask questions. If anything isn't clear (such as their attitude to military pers cancelling), ring the insurer and ask. Speaking to them will also give you an idea of their attitude to customers, which may be revealing.

- Photocopy the insurance certificate and leave one copy at home and one copy with someone you can contact who has half a brain cell. Take the original with you, and keep it safe. Make a separate note of the emergency medical number and claims number in case you lose the certificate. If there is a huge drama when you are away, and you lose everything, one phone call should get your mate to fax the certificate to a hospital or whatever, and can save endless problems.

- Always act as if you ar not insured. It is a basic tenet of UK insurance that the insured must take reasonable care.

- If you have valuables such as cameras, watches and other Gucci kit, and you haven't got receipts, boxes, instructions and so forth that could prove ownership, take pictures of serial numbers and so on before you leave. If your camera has a date stamp function, so much the better. If you are also in some of the pics, that's also good. There is a huge amount of fraud connected to travel insurance, and a simple picture can save all sorts of hassle later.

- If you have a problem whilst abroad, take what tour operator's reps tell you with a pinch of salt. They don't usually have the insurer's authority (Thomson are an exception, but experience tells me not to go with their insurance anyway), and are not legal/medical/aviation experts anyway.

- Ensure the insurer is a member of the Insurance Ombudsman Scheme.

- If you are BFG-based, ask if the insurer covers repatriation to Germany.

Hope this helps.

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