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What causes a travel insurance claim for a mature traveller – and how can you avoid the pitfalls?




It is quite an exceptional situation to be able to look closely at data that is not skewed. This is because what I have been doing this week is based on a very narrow cross-section of the population. Yet, narrow does not mean small because the number of people nationally who are in their 70s and upwards is growing quickly, as we all know.

Increasingly mature years do not correlate to a diminishing desire to travel – quite the contrary in fact! Having the time to travel and enjoy going to new places is one of the best benefits that retirement has to offer.

At Onestop4: our “average client” is 77 years of age. With very few exceptions, our clients are over 65 and under 100 and by far the majority are in their 70s and 80s.

Now there is nothing average about you personally I know, but I thought as I was working through our claim data recently, you might be interested to learn a few things to help you be better protected when you plan and take your next holiday.

It is true that older travellers make more claims. In insurance we talk about ‘frequency’ so to put this simply; for every 100 policies we sell, frequency tells us how many claims we can expect. The frequency is lower in the younger age groups and higher in the older age groups to a point – the point being that; younger people do make more baggage claims and fewer cancellation claims, whereas the older age groups make very few baggage claims and a vast amount of cancellation claims, which tend to be a lot more expensive.


What is a vast amount?

71.44% of all our claims are cancellation claims. These usually happen to our clients when their health changes and means they can no longer travel. The majority of these claims are triggered by events that happen in the week before travel is due to start. There is no time left at this point to get better, before your holiday. Who wants to leave home when they feel dreadful?


Tip No 1

Sort out your travel insurance as soon as you have made your travel booking.

If you fail to do this and at some point between you booking your trip and you buying your insurance, your health changes, you will want to be able to claim back your costs if you can’t travel.  

If you wait, each day you increase your risk of not being able to find insurance or it costing you a lot more, because as soon as you know, or suspect you have something wrong with you, you will have to declare it to your insurer.


Tip No 2

Don’t leave out any details.

Don’t think you can phone your insurer, tell them there is nothing wrong with you, and then in the next breath phone your GP to ask for an appointment to see why on earth the pain in your big toe is so bad. Your medical records will show the correlation between the diagnosis and treatment of gout and the inception date of your policy.  If the pain in your big toe is not noted on your policy, then neither will your gout be covered.


Tip No 3

If your health changes after buying your policy and before you travel, let us know ASAP. There are 2 reasons for this:

  • It means we can update your cover so that you still have complete protection.
  • If you need to make a claim, then there can be no question about your cover not being adequate.

Please don’t do what one chap recently did – he thought he’d wait a few months and see how he got on with his new treatment for his newly diagnosed condition, and then less than a week before travelling decided he’d better tell us what had been going on. It didn’t end well because we could not cover his health anymore, so he received all his premium back - fortunately we could recommend a cancer specialist insurer and they provided him with just medical expenses cover so he could take his trip. It’s not a great outcome, because all the other benefits he previously had were not part of the policy he ended up having to buy, at great expense. Talk about stress, we all felt it for him!


For the mathematicians amongst you…

You will have worked out that if 71.44% are cancellation claims, then not many can be medical expenses claims… you would be right, and I don’t mind telling you that these account for under 15% of all claims.


These are the most expensive claims. Many are eye-wateringly expensive. Food poisoning in Tampa $26,000 for under 24hrs in a hospital bed. Ouch!

$4,000 for a nosebleed in New York, ouch ouch!!

If you thought claiming for cancellation was miserable because your lovely holiday was no longer happening, please believe me that claiming because you are very sick in another country, when you should be enjoying yourself, trumps everything else.


Tip No 4

The majority of medical expenses claims happen in the first week of a holiday.

I can pinpoint it to Day 3 of the holiday to be precise. I think there is a reason for this and if you are aware of it, you may be able to avoid this happening to you – all it requires is some common sense.

I think it boils down to two main causes:

  • Flying – cabin pressure causes havoc with the human body. If we were meant to fly, we would have been given wings perhaps. Fit, active, young, healthy people can tolerate flying – but it’s a different kettle of fish for us older people, especially people who have heart conditions, respiratory conditions and those whose immune system is compromised.

Combine the above with:

  • Pre-holiday stress; early start to get to the airport, nightmare parking/travelling there, hanging around, then long walk to the gate, followed by hours sitting in a cramped space with a lot of other people, whose germs are heading in your direction.

It’s no wonder that Day 3 of your holiday sees the problem really take hold.


Tip No 5 – common sense.

Travel if you are well, don’t travel if you are not.

Travel Insurance is a financial safety net but it can’t stop you getting ill, and it’s much better not to get really ill abroad - anywhere.


Tip No 6

Do I think doctors really consider if their patients are safe to travel?

Sometimes I really do wonder about this. Obviously some are great and are very clued-up, but having sat with my husband who was desperate for a holiday (he was in the late stages of cancer at the time) to hear the doctor say, “Well it might do you good -  but make sure you have travel insurance…” was not exactly saying, “I think you will have no problems travelling.” I refer you back to Tip No 5. Use your common sense.


If you have travel booked and don’t yet have insurance to cover your trip – please do it now. You can save 20% by buying online via our website, but if you prefer to talk you will find us helpful, knowledgeable and very supportive. Your best interests are our only interest – it’s free to call too: 0800 848 8448