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I booked a family holiday to Portugal in July without travel insurance. Is it wise to wait?

When getting insurance, what coverage should I check for, especially regarding wildfire disruption?

Commentary from Paul Walsh, MD of Peopl Insurance

It is not a good idea to wait until nearer the time of your holiday to get your travel insurance. Almost 1 in 3 of travel insurance claims arise on foot of holiday cancellations and are made before the policy holder ever sets foot on an airplane or boat, according to recent figures from Peopl Insurance.

This is why it is so important that prospective holidaymakers take their cover out at the time of booking their holiday. Holidaymakers who only take out travel insurance a week or two before they travel – or, worse again, by doing so on their way to, or even from, the airport risk limiting the benefit of, or losing, their holiday cancellation cover. For example, a number of travel insurance policies sold in Ireland cover holiday cancellation if you or your travelling companion fall ill with Covid when at home and cannot travel as a result. However, generally, this Covid cover won’t apply if you or your travelling companion fall sick with Covid within 14 days of the date you bought the insurance, unless the insurance is purchased within 48 hours of booking the trip.

Check what exactly cancellation cover means on your policy. Having cancellation cover in place does not necessarily mean you are covered for any and all events that might lead to the cancellation of your trip. For example, an overly cheap policy may not cover delayed and missed departures – which is a basic feature of standard policies.

As well as holiday cancellation cover, it is hugely important to have good medical expenses cover in place in case you become ill or injured when abroad. The bill for medical expenses in some international countries could run into the tens of thousands, or more. Make sure you know to what extent doctors and hospital fees will be covered in the event you become ill or are injured while on holiday. Be sure too to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions to your insurer – otherwise you run the risk of the policy being invalid in the event of a claim. As travel insurance for people with pre-existing conditions is more complicated than for those who don’t, it is particularly important that you don’t leave it until the last minute to get travel insurance.

You mention that you will be travelling to Portugal for your holiday. As you know, wildfires erupted in parts of Portugal last summer with Irish tourists evacuated from some areas. Losses arising directly or indirectly from adverse weather conditions, such as wildfires, may or may not be covered by your travel insurance. It’s very important therefore that you check your travel insurance policy to find out if you will be covered if your holiday is disrupted by wildfires or indeed any other extreme weather events – such as for example if you have to be evacuated or have to change plans or are even injured. You may for example be covered for delays, missed departure or holiday abandonment if wildfires are the cause.

Most travel insurance policies have a prior knowledge rule which means you will usually not be covered for any claim which arises as a result of a risk which you already knew existed prior to the date of booking your trip and/or travel insurance. This is another reason why it is so important to take out travel cover at the time of booking a holiday. If for example the date of your holiday nears and you hear that wildfires have erupted close to your resort, it will likely be too late at that stage to buy a travel insurance policy which would cover you for wildfire disruption – because you already have prior knowledge of the risk. However, if you bought your travel insurance long before these wildfires erupted, you should be covered, assuming such cover is included in your policy.