Travel insurance for families: Why you should buy travel insurance

Like so many children on holiday in Bali, she wears the ubiquitous hair braids.

Dozens of colourful beads create a rainbow around the bottom of her long bob. It's three-year-old Nancy Carroll's first trip overseas, so she wants to partake of the myriad delights of this island paradise. Sadly, the little girl from Drouin ends up spending most of her time in Nusa Dua's emergency ward, drifting in and out of consciousness.

"I honestly thought she was going to die," her mother, Liz, says. "I had never seen her that sick. I was beside myself."

Nancy initially complained of a stomach upset, hours after arriving in Bali. Then came the symptoms that scare even the hardiest parent: high temperatures, loss of appetite and lethargy.

Nancy's temperature was above 40 degrees and the doctors didn't know what was wrong with her. They talked of viral meningitis, before performing a lumbar puncture. Antibiotics brought her temperature down and, within two days, Nancy was recovering. It turned out to be gastroenteritis coupled with a bacterial infection.

But the hospital insisted it was owed $US1000 for Nancy's transfer from Kuta to Nusa Dua.

"Our insurance company, 1Cover, was quite adamant saying, 'No, no, you don't need to, don't pay, we'll cover it'," Liz says.

Fortunately, the insurer was able to smooth things over, after liaising with doctors in Sydney and Bali.

"I just can't fathom that people wouldn't take travel insurance," Liz says. "I mean, the hospital bills cost $5000 and we wouldn't have anywhere near that. It meant that I could focus on Nancy and not the financial side of things."

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The Carrolls' story is thought-provoking. We routinely take out an annual insurance policy through Covermore. But last year, I forgot to renew it.

It's easy to dismiss such cover as only important in the case of lost luggage or missed flights. But what if your child is sick or injured?

After reviewing feedback from friends in the travel industry, I eventually buy a policy online with Travel Insurance Direct. Sure, it adds to the cost of trip, but the peace of mind is – frankly – priceless.

"Medical treatment overseas can be costly and difficult to navigate," Natalie Ball, director of comparetravelinsurance.com.au, says. And this doesn't apply only to developing countries. Imagine what it's like in a place like the US.

Liz's policy cost $123, but she reckons it's a pittance. "You know that your children will have access to the best possible care and the best doctors," she says. "It was worth every single cent."

Nancy started kindy last week, while Liz is planning the family's next trip, to Thailand in August.

"She asked, 'Mummy, will there be mini-water slides there for me, like Waterbom park?' " Liz says. "She also said something about not wanting to visit the hospitals on this holiday."

Bon voyage, Nancy.

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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