27 March 2013

Once you decide on a career break it is important to factor into your travel budget the relatively small cost of travel insurance - or backpacker insurance.

And, yes, it is a small cost in most cases, compared with expense and misery it could cause to you and your family if your adventure doesn't go to plan.

The reason so many people travel without insurance is sometimes a mistaken belief that it is too costly. You'd rather put the money in the 'fun' column of your travel budget and that is understandable - but not smart! If you are firmly seated with arms folded in the camp with those who think insurance is unnecessary, read on...

In the excitement of planning your career break it can be all too easy to forget about potential travel mishaps. Unfriendly bugs and critters inhabit many beautiful, sunny and tropical parts of the world. No matter how many inoculations you have or how much bug spray you use there is always a chance of being bitten or contracting something nasty. A dose of malaria, a bite turned septic, traveller's trots, a broken leg - or worse - could cut short your trip and cause havoc and distress. Without insurance the cost of medical care is likely to be disastrous. It's great to have a positive attitude and believe that nothing bad will happen but, as many who have gone before have found out, stuff happens to the best of us...

A career break is a great way to combine your wanderlust with something constructive to enhance your life and the lives of others. In fact, taking a career break may put you on a totally new life and career path. It's worth finding out, isn't it? Just take steps to ensure that the path does not lead to financial ruin.

Older career breakers may nurse a bucket list for years, waiting for the right time and the courage to do it. Whether your dream is to volunteer with children or animals, work in conservation, teach, learn a new language or use your existing skills to help others, you just have to start the process and explore the possibilities. Once the decision is made you will need to find travel insurance or backpacker insurance to suit your needs. Always check for any restrictions in the policy for working overseas. There should be a cooling off period in case you change your mind or find that the insurance is not right for you - so you have nothing to lose. The important thing is to have insurance in place - and to purchase it as soon as your trip is booked to protect your investment against unexpected cancellation.

You will need to check that your insurance covers the area of the world where you plan to travel. When obtaining a quote or buying the insurance you will usually have a choice of cover for travel within Europe or worldwide travel that either includes or excludes the USA and Canada. Check that the travel insurance covers all the activities you have planned, or think you might participate in. A number of adventure activities are automatically included in most policies such as bungee jumping, river rafting, snorkelling, safari trips, canoeing and jet skiing. If you plan to do any skiing or snowboarding you will normally need to pay a little extra to add winter sports cover to your policy. Check any exclusions, such as scuba diving to a specified depth, or river rafting confined to a certain class. Insurance jargon can be intimidating, so if you don't understand anything don't be shy just call the company and ask. The experts have the answers and they are there to help.

Travelling overseas for any reason is character-building and exciting, but the possibility of travel hazards and mishaps are also a reality. Travelling without insurance is a huge mistake, as many who have gone before you would testify. You may have read news stories about families desperately organising fund-raisers to pay off the medical bills or repatriation costs of a loved-one who ventured abroad without insurance... It happens.

The cost of medical care overseas can be crippling, especially if a mountain rescue, air ambulance or special arrangement to bring you home with a medical escort is required. Contrary to the belief of many travellers your embassy or consulate does not pay your hospital bills or provide funds to repatriate you (bring you home - dead or alive!) The financial responsibility is yours alone, or falls on your unsuspecting next of kin. It is highly unlikely you would ever need such a service, but what if you did? Could you cope? Do you have a spare £50,000 - £100,000 in your savings account to fork out for unexpected medical bills? Nope, didn't think so.

Wouldn't you prefer to set off knowing that you have a friend to phone - with access to 24/7 English-speaking emergency assistance provided by your insurance? In far-flung corners of the world there have been cases where specialist medical treatment is not available and patients are transferred by air ambulance to an adjoining country with more advanced facilities. Yep, you guessed it, without insurance the bill for that unplanned excursion is all yours.

Imagine you have your trip all planned, accommodation booked, counting down the days to departure and then grandpa, or your travel companion, is suddenly taken seriously ill. The Cancellation and Curtailment (cutting short your trip) section of your insurance provides cover in the event of illness or injury of a close family member or travelling companion.

Consider the cost of a serious illness or accident - especially in the US or Canada, or a broken leg or neck while skiing. An air ambulance to repatriate you from the US to the UK could set you back up to £50,000; around £20,000 from Australia - with a stretcher and medical escort. That's on top of the costs for a hospital bed, tests, x-rays, surgery or other treatment.

Why not ask family or friends to purchase travel insurance or backpacker insurance for you as a farewell gift? It's better than putting them in the position of possibly having to sell their house or possessions to pay your emergency medical bills. Travel insurance may be a big yawn, but travelling the globe without it could cause more than a few sleepless nights. You may end up using the bucket from your bucket list for tears of regret!

It's okay to be a big kid at heart, but when it comes to insurance it's definitely time to be a grown-up. Why risk ruining the memories of your trip of a lifetime?


This is a guest blog post from Jean Andrews of Travel Insurance Agencies Ltd (TIA Ltd), who regularly writes travel and insurance articles. Travel Insurance Direct-Ireland and Travel Insurance Direct (UK) are trading names of Travel Insurance Agencies Ltd (TIA Ltd). Their policies include single trip or annual multi-trip travel insurance; backpacker, long-stay, gap year, and student insurance; and ski and snowboarding insurance. We follow them on Twitter - you should too! 

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