Your Guide to Comprehensive Travel Insurance


Planning a holiday or a trip to tick off a few places on your bucket list? Heading overseas to visit family or friends? On simply on a business jaunt within NZ?

In the midst of planning and packing, there’s one thing that you may not have given much thought to, and that’s whether or not to get travel insurance.

Comprehensive travel insurance, as the name suggests, is insurance to cover a wide range of possibilities that could disrupt your plans. There are a range of options available- frequent travellers may want to consider a multi-trip annual policy, while those who don’t travel that often or restrict themselves to one big trip every once in a while, may want to look into a single trip policy.

Whichever suits your specific needs, getting comprehensive travel insurance gives you the assurance and safety of having help on hand in the event of an emergency while you or your family are travelling.

What does travel insurance cover?

Most comprehensive travel insurance policies cover a wide range of possibilities, which can include trip interruptions or significant delays, trip cancellation, personal liability, medical and dental costs, baggage theft or loss, kidnapping or hijacking, accidental death benefits, 24-hour travel assistance, and emergency evacuation.

A typical policy is likely to offer 24-hour emergency assistance, medical cover, trip cancellation cover (within certain parameters), rental car insurance excess, medical emergencies and expenses, and additional costs for evacuation or accommodation that occur as a fallout of a natural disaster, illness, injury, or strike or state of emergency.

Medical coverage usually covers sickness, acute and sudden pain, dental emergencies, injury sustained during the trip, and emergency treatment that is required as a result. However there are limits, especially with regard to dental and any surgical procedures that are carried out while the insured person or persons are travelling outside of New Zealand.

How do you know what will be covered?

A good rule of thumb is that if it does not constitute an immediate danger or problem, and the treatment is not absolutely required and can wait until the person is back on home ground, it is likely not going to be covered.

However, in the case of a debilitating disease or injury, both accommodation and travel costs may be covered, including a ticket back home should that be needed. Do note however that the insured person needs to be cleared for travel before the trip, or else the policy benefits are unlikely to kick in.

If an insured traveller needs to return home to New Zealand ahead of their planned schedule due to the death or illness of a family member, some policies do cover the travel costs home and possibly the resumption of the trip afterwards. Disability arising out of an incident during insured travel or any legal costs that may occur will likely be duly covered by most policies. Personal liability, where the insured becomes liable for another’s life or property is also likely to be given some cover.

In the unfortunate case of a death during the trip, return of the insured’s remains to the home country will be borne by the comprehensive travel policy, or else the funeral expenses will be paid for in the foreign country. In the event of the accidental death of the insured, a pay-out will be made to the next of kin, as laid out in the policy. Should a hijacking of the chosen mode of transport (air, ground, etc.) occur, or if the insured traveller gets kidnapped, policies often offer not just assistance, but also monetary reimbursements.

How do you know what insurance policy is best for you?

Different policies offer varied types of cover, so your first step is to do some thinking – and research – to identify what types of coverage you need and then proceed to find a comprehensive travel policy that meets those needs.

The country and places you are visiting will impact the premiums of your policy as well. For those considering multi-trip policies, there are likely to be some caveats with regard to duration and length of trips away from New Zealand, so best to ask questions about these limitations.

It is important to carefully and thoroughly read the benefits of the policies you’re considering, what variations in coverage they offer, what is and is not covered under the policy, and if there are certain restrictions or obligations from your side in terms of disclosure. Lack of disclosure, misleading the insurer or providing misinformation can result in a claim being denied.

Travel insurance with medical conditions or pregnancy

Insurance becomes more complex when it comes to pre-existing medical conditions, or if you are pregnant. Often there are limits to how many weeks into the pregnancy a person will receive coverage from a travel insurance policy.

Most insurers have a set of applicable rules with regard to what is automatically covered, what is possible to cover, and what conditions cannot be covered or require additional premium to be paid when it comes to pre-existing medical conditions.

Policy writers are likely to draw distinctions between chronic and lifelong conditions, and it may not exactly match one’s definition or perspective. Terminal conditions and addictions are unlikely to be covered. This is not to say that coverage will be denied to someone with an existing medical condition – just that disclosing it and having the company conduct an assessment (which often begins with self-declaration and filling out and submitting a health assessment online) and creating the appropriate paperwork is required so that there is no confusion or denial of reimbursement or coverage down the line.

Also keep in mind that quite a few policies have age restrictions, in case you have seniors who need coverage. On the other hand, children travelling with an insured adult are often considered to be under coverage without the need to purchase a separate policy for them. This is a question you must ask when choosing a policy if there are kids in your travel group.

Travel insurance and luggage

When it comes to coverage for lost luggage, most companies do not cover valuables like jewellery and watches, electronics and gadgets including mobile phones, tablets, laptops, wearable devices, cameras and photography or videography equipment. In other words, items which you could reasonably expect to keep secure on your person due to their value are probably not going to be covered under your policy. Leaving your bag or camera on the bus or train, for example, may not be covered. Most policies will cover for stolen items of this nature up to a pre-set amount that will be clearly defined in the policy.

Comprehensive travel insurance policies also usually cover damage, loss, or theft of baggage during the trip overseas. This coverage also extends to replacement of travel documents and or credit cards. But following procedure is a must in terms of filing a police complaint and not having been irresponsible in the care of the luggage, documents, or other personal effects. If your luggage is delayed for over a stipulated amount of time (usually between 12 and 24 hours after arrival), your comprehensive travel policy will probably offer a delayed luggage allowance that you can use to buy clothing, toiletries and other essentials.

What activities are you planning to do on holiday?

Did you know that a comprehensive travel policy can be utilised to provide coverage for activities you engage in during your trip? Examples include adventure sports like kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, snorkelling, parasailing, paragliding, jet skiing, white water rafting, bungee jumping and horse riding.

Emergency assistance and evacuation

One of the most valuable aspects of getting a comprehensive travel insurance policy is the access to 24-hour emergency assistance. In the event of a medical emergency, one can easily reach out and get information about medical care options and be covered in terms of payment of hospital or emergency services bills once the claim is approved. Aside from medical assistance, 24-hour emergency assistance also provides help in case of lost passports, travel documents or credit cards. Cash, traveller’s cheques, bank or currency notes that are stolen from a safe or from one’s person will also be covered, with the insurer replacing this for you up to a certain amount.

Rental car excess costs, in the event of an accident or the car getting damaged or being stolen while in use, are also usually covered under a comprehensive travel policy. This means that you have an additional layer of protection in addition to your car/driver’s insurance. Do keep in mind that most insurers will ask for documentation and receipts or in the event of a theft, a police report. Keep original documents and make copies to ensure ease of claim approval, whatever the items the claim is being made for.

Trip travel changes

If for some reason you have to change or cancel your travel plans, your comprehensive travel insurance could come to the rescue. Many comprehensive policies cover cancellation and change of date costs that arise out of unforeseen circumstances in the home country or country of visit. For example, if a person were to fall ill enough to prevent their travel on the scheduled dates or have a death or illness in the family, the policy may cover the change costs. Or perhaps that the country one is travelling to experiences a natural disaster or political unrest, these too would constitute situations where the comprehensive insurance policy could pay for the resulting change in or cancellation of the travel plans. However, acts of terrorism and outbreaks of an infectious disease or a pandemic are usually exempt from being covered.

Check that the policy covers both interruption and resumption of the trip. Otherwise you may return home, only to find the return flight to your holiday isn’t covered.

There are also a number of other small but significant ways that having comprehensive travel insurance and coverage helps you in the case of an unforeseen circumstance that demands a change in your travel plans. If there is an event that necessitates a change in travel plans, and this event is covered by your insurance, there may be unintended costs that will be covered. For example, some policies cover pet care costs should your return be delayed. Rental car return and associated costs may be paid for by your travel insurance.

Read your policy thoroughly

In general, it is advisable to carefully read the entire policy and understand the policy conditions and deliverables. This includes what is outside the coverage, any cooling off period, time taken for payment and or refunds, the time within which claims must be raised, and what the required supporting documents are that will be expected.

Make sure to carry a copy of the policy with you when you are travelling and have all important information like contact numbers for support and emergency services on hand. Most policies will have a limit on claims and for larger sums or bigger pay outs, clearance may have to be taken in advance. Policies will have upper limits on pay outs in the various categories and for differing situations. They also all will likely have a list of general exclusions which you must be aware of.

It is up to you to be a conscientious consumer and know what will and will not be covered under your comprehensive travel insurance policy.