That time one guy really wished he had travel insurance

Lots of people see travel insurance as optional, especially if you’re going to see family or friends in another country.  What could possibly go wrong exploring the Amalfi coast with your partner on a visit to family friends?  Or a big family get together with all the cousins?  Here, one traveller, Tom, tells us about the time when not having travel insurance cost his family enough to pay for a lifetime of policies…

So where were you going on this fateful trip?

I was staying with my uncle when I was in my late teens with him in Washington DC.  I was just visiting with family, helping out and doing a little sightseeing while I was there.

What happened?

I got really ill and when I went to the doctor they told me I had mono, with symptoms of low white blood cell count.  I was in bed for about two weeks and it pretty much wrote off the rest of the trip.  They had to prescribe really strong inhalers to treat it, amongst other things, and the cost came to £2,000 but because I didn’t have travel insurance my family just had to pay for it all.

How did that make you feel?

It was a huge shock - it was enough to pay for travel insurance for a lifetime!

How come you didn't buy travel insurance in the past?

As I was in my teens my dad had made most of my travel plans and I think because I was visiting family it didn’t really occur to us that it was necessary. You think of travel insurance in terms of adventure holidays and lost or stolen property.  Not going to see family, which has to be safest possible travel circumstance!

Did you rely on anything else instead of travel insurance?

I was fortunate that my family were able to sort it out and deal with the costs upfront.

Has this experience changed your habits when it comes to travel insurance?

I am really vigilant now about not just having travel insurance but really researching it to make sure the policy I have is really strong.  Not long ago I had a massive look at all the big three rated price comparison travel insurance websites according to Which? magazine.  I must have spent five hours going through them to the point where I almost wanted to start my own website in the end, it was really frustrating.  I went made a spreadsheet and found the best value for money with the complete coverage I wanted, especially for when we went for a month-long trip last year in the US.

What do you like about travel insurance?

It’s about being worry-free.  I think for me it’s more the concern I have for my partner.  If he were to get ill I know what to do about it, especially in foreign countries where most of us wouldn’t even know the emergency number to call.

Also, I think it’s about safeguarding your holiday and making sure that even if something goes wrong, you can still have a good time.  For example, if you go away and your suitcase is lost by the airline you can say to yourself, ‘ok it’s annoying but I can go out, buy everything new and claim it back on my insurance’. The holiday isn’t totally ruined.

What don't you like about travel insurance?

It’s a painfully long process to complete the questions and go through the process of organising it, and once you’ve paid it feels like they forget about you.  There’s not really a community element to it and you don’t feel you are taken care of generally.  The other problem is customisation.  A lot of policies are very fixed - they give a very confusing standard policy and to really make sure you’re covered you have to go to the Platinum version.  It’s almost Babylonian, the traditional way of doing it - it’s not connected, it’s not tailored and it takes ages.

I think that’s why I like the app approach; it’s on demand, submitting claims is easy, it’s quick and it feels like you’re more connected with the provider even though you’re not necessarily talking to them on the phone!

Find out about how Pluto are trying to fix some of the worst bits about travel insurance