Mama Holiday: Travel insurance grey areas

Insurers generally won't cover forgetfulness.
Insurers generally won't cover forgetfulness. Photo: Getty Images

It's a grey area in travel insurance. And often, families are the hardest hit. We all take personal electronic devices on holidays. But what happens if we leave our iPad in the seat pocket of the plane, the Nintendo DS on the table at the cafe, or a laptop in the hotel room? (Aside from cry and try to blame someone else. Sorry, hubby.)

Are all lost or stolen goods covered by insurance? Sadly, no.

"It's one of the most complained about, and misinterpreted, aspects of the policy," according to Natalie Ball, director of compareinsurance.com.au.

"The devil's in the detail when it comes to getting a successful claim."

In a recent case, a young boy left his orthodontic plate on the table while at a restaurant in Seminyak, Bali. His parents realised 20 minutes later after returning to their villa but, by the time they got back to the restaurant, the table had been cleared. The verdict? Claim denied.

"Remember, travel insurers generally don't cover carelessness and forgetfulness; you really have to look after your belongings carefully," says travel safety specialist Phil Sylvester from Travel Insurance Direct.

Another trap is trusting someone to look after your stuff. If something is stolen from your bag while it's "unattended" - by you - your claim will be rejected.

This includes luggage stolen from the carousel.

However if your baggage is delayed, over a certain number of hours as specified by the insurer, you can claim on expenses such as clothing, food and accommodation.

OK, I don't want to sound like a lawyer (although I do fantasise about being one of those sexy women on Law & Order) but you need to get everything in writing.

One friend and her family had their luggage misdirected while travelling to Hong Kong and the airline refused to accept fault in writing.

The result? Their travel insurance claim was rejected because there was no documentation. To claim for a theft of cash, you need a full police report.

"I know it sounds like a pain, but you should read the details of your policy," Sylvester says.

"We expect you to look after your belongings. There are career criminals all over the world looking for tourists who leave handbags hanging from chair backs, or their phone on the beach while taking a dip."

Steve Smith, from Mackay in Queensland, got lucky after a Mack truck ran over his 14-year-old son's iPad in Cambodia. A week after returning home, CGU sent him a new iPad.

Believe it or not, insurance companies are always looking for ways to help customers.

The level of service is the only point of difference, with price matching of policies these days. The best advice is to lodge a claim, regardless of the circumstances.

And, as one deep-throat puts it, "Don't overshare". If you admit to carelessness, your claim will be denied.

However, if you simply say, "I lost the item somewhere between the hotel and home; not sure whether it was lost or stolen", you might be given the benefit of the doubt.

KIDS' QUESTS

Your kids are just out of kindy, but they already know a gaucho is an Argentinian cowboy, Bollywood is in India and a Moroccan market is called a souk, thanks to Lonely Planet's new World Search series.

Aimed at five-year-olds and up, the three cartoon board books, Busy Places, Amazing Jobs and Incredible Animals, have flaps to lift, stickers to stick, treasures to find and a world to explore. $19.99 each, lonelyplanet.com.

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