A few years ago, friends of mine were all packed and ready to go off on their two week summer holiday to Portugal: the animals were boarded out, the fridge was emptied, plants watered, mail diverted, milk delivery cancelled, tickets and passports checked.
The children, backpacks filled with toys and sandwiches and all were gathered at the door awaiting the taxi to take them to the airport…when the house alarm wouldn’t go on.
They tried again, keyed in the alarm pin code and…nothing. Not a pip, not a squeak. They tried again and again.
The debate between the mum and dad went something like this:
“Do we call the alarm company?” “Yes.”
“Do we wait for the alarm company and hope they arrive quickly? Or do we call our keyholder – a neighbour – and get them to wait for the alarm company rather than risk missing the plane?” “Yes,” “No! The neighbour is not home.”
“What about your sister, my brother?” “Er, no. She’s coming on holiday with us, remember? He’s already away.”
“Look at the time! Do we just bloody leave it and go?”
That is exactly what they did, despite the fact that not only did the taxi-driver now know that the family was vacating the premises for two weeks, but so did the other neighbours and various passers-by, all of whom were peering out their doors and/or adding their two cents worth of advice.
In the end, another set of keys were given to another not very well known neighbour who agreed to wait for the alarm company who would fix the alarm. Which is what happened, but not until the next day. For that 24 hours their home was uninsured and a sitting target.
The main reason why this couple took the chance of leaving their house with a broken alarm –– is because they knew they hadn’t bothered to get travel insurance – on cost grounds. They had arranged the holiday themselves, rather than go through a package holiday company which automatically includes travel insurance. They got away with it – just about – but it could have been a very poor choice if they hadn’t sorted out the alarm and their home had been burgled.
But even it they had the insurance and my friends had been forced to miss their plane to deal with the alarm emergency themselves, they would have still had to pay for a new set of very expensive tickets to Portugal the next day, say insurance brokers.
Also their insurance policy (if, for example, it was purchased via one of the health insurance companies) may have included excess deductions not just on the total cost of the fares, but on every member of the family listed on the policy. To avoid this, you need to tick a box on the policy application form that stops the excess being applied to each person covered.
Nor should travellers expect a full cancellation refund to be paid by their travel insurer: airline taxes and charges are categorically not refunded.
Meanwhile, I was surprised to see a recent survey from AA Ireland that found in these hard times that just one in ten Irish people (9000 were surveyed) travel abroad without insurance.
The AA survey focussed on the cost of accidents and injury abroad, especially in the United States where hospitalisation costs can run into the tens of thousands very quickly “and can be financially life-changing” if you do not have cover. At the other end of the scale, “Being without your luggage for a day or two can be very inconvenient and sometimes expensive if you have to buy temporary replacement items.”
What no family should do, is count on any credit card offer of travel accident insurance as being sufficient to meet all the things that can go wrong or for the travel benefits on your private health insurance policy to also be sufficient to cover all medical emergency costs. Nor should you expect all related medical costs to be met in Europe by EU health insurance card.