The holiday season is in full swing and the organised among us will already have booked the flights, bought the sun cream and, of course, sorted the travel insurance.
But don't sit back feeling smug just yet - because you could be in for a nasty shock if you have to make a claim: insurance policies always include terms and conditions buried in the small print that you can breach without even realising. And if you do, your insurer will refuse to cough up.
Here we reveal 10 common clauses travellers are most likely to fall foul of – and what you can do to make sure they don't catch you out.
ONE: KEEP RECEIPTS
If you've had something stolen and want to lodge a claim with your insurer, you'll need to prove that you owned it. Your policy may stipulate that you provide a receipt showing proof of purchase – regardless of when you bought it.
Manuals for electrical goods will often be accepted if you don't have receipts. Failing that, you need to provide photographic evidence, so get a photo of your belongings before you travel. However, there's no need for you to be pictured holding or wearing the item.
Advice: Insurers understand that you won't have a receipt for every item in your suitcase, but if you buy anything new for your trip, keep the receipts.
TWO: GET A POLICE REPORT
When making a claim for lost or stolen goods, you will need to get a crime reference number from the local police. Failure to get the correct police report to support your claim can often result in a refusal. “The policy wording will specifically ask that you report a crime, often within a specified time,” says Bob Atkinson, travel expert at TravelSupermarket.com.
However, while you should aim to report any loss within 24 hours, your insurer will understand if there's a delay because it's a Sunday or national holiday and the police station is closed.
Where it's not possible to obtain a police report, you must provide other proof of the loss, such as a letter from your hotel.
Advice: If you can't report the theft immediately, your insurer will expect you to do so at the earliest opportunity.
THREE: TAKE 'REASONABLE CARE' OF PERSONAL POSSESSIONS
If you fall asleep on the beach and leave your valuables unattended, your insurer is unlikely to allow you to claim for theft. “Insurers expect you to take ‘reasonable care' of your belongings,” says a Georgie Frost, consumer advocate at GoCompare.
“If you leave your wallet and phone unattended on a café table, for example, the insurer may well refuse to pay out.”
Advice: Use your hotel's safe for your valuables. If it hasn't got one, make extra sure you look after your belongings at all times.
FOUR: KEEP VALUABLES IN YOUR HAND LUGGAGE
While airlines do have some responsibility for items in their care, most insurance policies won't cover valuable items if they have been checked into the hold with your baggage.
“You're covered for your baggage in the hold, so your clothes and toiletries are fine,” says Ms Frost. “But small, high-risk, expensive items – such as cameras, jewellery, ornaments and cash – would be excluded.”
Advice: Keep valuable items in your hand luggage, and if your luggage goes missing, get a report from the airline as soon as you can.
FIVE: GET PROOF OF DELAYS
If you want to log a claim with your insurer for a delayed or cancelled flight, you'll need a letter from your airline to confirm the delay or cancellation; fail to get this letter, and you could find your claim is turned down.
“If you miss a flight due to problems with the bus or tube, you need to get proof that you set out in good time and that public transport let you down,” says Mr Atkinson.
Advice: Carry your insurer's contact details and your policy number with you at all times, so if an issue arises, you can contact it first to ensure you follow the right procedure.
SIX: WATCH THE DRINK
A survey by TripAdvisor.co.uk found 65% of Brits drink more while on holiday – but having a tipple could make any medical claim void. The same rule applies if you're a victim of theft after you've been drinking.
“Many holidaymakers are unaware that their insurance claims may be rejected if they've been drinking,” says Antony Martin, director of insurefor.com. “Claims are considered on a case-by-case basis, but if a medical report suggests alcohol was a contributing factor, your claim may be invalidated.”
Mr Atkinson agrees that you must use your common sense. “The onus is on you to prove that you were in control of your actions," he says. "After all, if you went out in the UK, got drunk and lost your bag, would you expect to be able to claim?”
Advice: Feel free to enjoy a tipple on holiday, but make sure you drink responsibly.
SEVEN: DECLARE THE MEDICAL CONDITIONS OF DEPENDANTS
Everyone knows if you fail to answer questions about your own medical history accurately, your insurer might not pay up. But the same applies if you fail to give full and correct information about dependants travelling with you, as well as those left at home.
"If a family member is ill at the time you book your holiday, for example, and then takes a turn for the worse, you may have to cancel your trip,” says Mr Atkinson. “But if you didn't declare their medical condition when you took out your policy, you could find you're unable to claim.”
Advice: Be honest and upfront with your insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions that you and anyone else in your party may have.
EIGHT: DEATH IN THE FAMILY
Many policies will include cover if you need to cancel your holiday due to the death of a close family member. But Ms Frost warns: “Insurers have different opinions on who qualifies as a ‘close' family member. The death of a parent, sibling or child would be accepted by most insurers, but a grandparent, aunt or uncle may not.”
However, if you decide to cancel your holiday for any reason other than the one listed on your policy, you won't be able to claim back the cost.
Advice: Check the wording of the policy. If in doubt, contact your insurer beforehand.
NINE: UPGRADE FOR HIGH-RISK SPORTS
The need for extra cover for activities like skiing is common knowledge these days, but did you know the same rules apply to a whole host of other sports?
“If you have an accident while taking part in certain activities considered ‘dangerous', such as water-skiing or quad biking, you could find you're not covered,” warns Atkinson.
Other exclusions include activities such as mountain biking, American football, paintballing and rowing, to name but a few.
Advice: Check the activity list for your policy and pay the additional premium for an ‘upgrade' to cover sports with a higher exposure to accident or injury.
10: CHECK OUT COVER FOR FINANCIAL FAILURE
In the past few years, several airlines have gone bust, including Scotland's largest budget airline Flyglobespan in December 2009 and, more recently, Monarch in 2017.
You might be forgiven for thinking your travel insurance will cover any losses resulting from the financial failure of an airline or hotel, but you could be in for a nasty surprise. According to the British Insurance Brokers' Association, only one in six policies will cover this.
Advice: Explain to your insurance broker the cover you seek. Specify you want financial failure included and they will source a suitable policy.
HOW TO COMPLAIN...
If your claim does get rejected by the insurer, and you believe that payment has been withheld unfairly, you should first formally complain to your insurer.
If you haven't heard anything within eight weeks – or if the answer is unsatisfactory – you then have the right to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
You can contact the FOS on 0300 1239123 or 0800 0234567 or visit financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumer/complaints.htm