Planning a trekking holiday to your favourite alpine destination? How about a ski trip? Diving, anyone?
Or maybe your kids are into horse-jumping or karate?
Better check your health and travel insurance policies. Now.
Even though we’re just back from another epic summer holiday in Europe, we are already planning our winter holiday, and this year we are going skiing as a family for the first time.
While I was doing my online research on ski resorts and ski schools for the kids, I saw ski insurance on offer.
Ski insurance? Hmmm. Do I need that? It got me wondering what our current health and travel insurance covered us for in the event of a sports-related accident.
What I found was rather shocking.
Check Your Coverage…Very Carefully
We actually have three insurance policies.
Now before you go thinking that having 3 policies is rather extreme, expensive, and redundant, I should clarify that the first policy, provided through my workplace, is quite cheap but lacks sufficient cover for my liking. That’s why I bought a backup policy with a high deductible in case of a catastrophic health event, a decision which I wrote about in a previous article.
The third policy is provided free of charge by our credit card company, but it is strictly for travel outside our country of residence.
So when we fly off to Austria this Christmas holiday for our ski trip, we will be covered by three policies. I decided to look closely at the wording of each to see what “extreme” or “adventure” sports were excluded.
Here is the wording of the first one. Remember, these are the exclusions.
All sickness or injuries consequent to participation in professional sports or hazardous/extreme sports, either as amateur or professional including but not limited to:
A) Any form of aerial flight (except as paying passenger or crew member traveling in a fully licensed standard type of aircraft and operated by a recognized airline over an established route), ballooning, hand gliding, parachuting or bungee jumping.
B) Competitive winter sports, ice hockey, power boat racing, water ski jumping, skin diving involving the use of breathing apparatus.
C) Hunting on horseback, show jumping, polo or competitive horse racing.
D) Pot holing, rock climbing or mountaineering normally involving the use of ropes or guides.
E) Riding or driving in any kind of race, rally or competition other than on foot.
F) Judo, boxing, karate wrestling and other martial arts of any kind.
That was actually pretty easy reading. It seems quite straightforward, but what really scares me is the “…either as amateur or professional including but not limited to” clause.
In essence, this means that the insurance company could deem any sport “extreme” at their discretion.
Now here comes the next one. I hope your eyes aren’t too tired because you have a bit of reading to do. 😯
Any Illness or Injury sustained while taking part in: Amateur Athletics, Professional Athletics, athletic activity that is sponsored or sanctioned by any collegiate sanctioning or governing body, or the International Olympic Committee, and adventure sports and activities, including, without limitation the following (including any combination or derivative of the following): abseiling; mountaineering activities where specialised climbing equipment, ropes or guides are normally or reasonably should have been used; athletic or sporting activities (except for activities that are non-contact, non-professional, and engaged in by You solely for recreational, entertainment or fitness purposes; aviation (except when travelling solely as a passenger in a commercial aircraft); motocross (MOTO-X); BMX; BASE jumping; bobsledding; bungee jumping; canyoning; caving; hang gliding; heli-skiing; high diving; hot air ballooning; inline skating; jet skiing; jungle zip lining; kiteboarding; kayaking; luge; mountain biking; parachuting; paragliding; parascending; rappelling; racing of any kind including without limitation by horse, motor or other vehicle (of any type) or motorcycle; rock climbing; any rodeo activity; ski jumping; sky diving; snow skiing except for recreational downhill and/or cross country snow skiing (provided that there is no coverage for any Illness or Injury sustained while skiing in violation of applicable laws, rules or regulations, away from prepared and marked in-bound territories, and/or against the advice of the local ski school or local authoritative body); snowboarding; snowmobiling; spelunking; surfing; trekking; whitewater rafting; windsurfing; wildlife safaris; and subaqua pursuits involving underwater breathing apparatus below a depth of 10 meters, except as expressly set forth in Your chosen Sub-Plan. Practice or training in preparation for any excluded activity which results in Illness or Injury will be considered as activity while taking part in such activity.
Whew! Are you still with me?
I don’t want to lose you here, so I won’t bore you with the third policy. Suffice to say it is very similar to the second one above.
What I got out of this is that the second policy will cover us for normal, run-of-the-mill skiing, but not snowboarding or heli-skiing. The first policy may also cover us, as recreational skiing isn’t expressly mentioned. But then there are no limitations to the exclusions…. 🙄
I also discovered that if my daughter had been injured while doing karate last year, she wouldn’t have been covered. Thankfully, she now does ballet, which I guess isn’t considered so extreme.
However, if she was into horse-jumping like the kids of some friends of ours, she wouldn’t be covered under either policy.
I also have a few friends who are insured under the first set of exclusions above who like to take part in the odd triathlon that includes a bike race…hmmm.
What Can I Do?
Check your existing policy wording very carefully. If you’re not comfortable with the cover provided, get supplementary insurance that includes the sports that you take part in.
For our purposes, we needed to be covered for skiing for 1 week. I felt comfortable enough that at least one of our policies clearly stated that skiing was included, so I didn’t feel the need to purchase any further adventure sports insurance.
Of course, I didn’t stop there. In the interests of keeping our readers informed, I dug deeper and did some research for those of you who may need to get some extra coverage.
I checked out a number of online “adventure sports insurance” brokers to see what was on offer and at what price.
What I found was that, just like health insurance, coverage and prices vary widely. Some policies are only offered to residents of certain countries and some are almost twice the price of others with no discernible difference in the benefits offered.
Most insurers, however, have coverage for flexible time periods and have discounts for family packages.
By far the best price for decent coverage that I could find was with World Nomads.
The cost for a family of 4 for 1 week: $87. If you’re travelling solo, it’s just $36.
This not only covers skiing, but a host of other related winter activities such as sledding, ice-skating, ice hockey, dog sledding and ice climbing.
In fact, the policy covers dozens of other year-round activities, and if your chosen activity is deemed more “standard” than skiing (such as trekking), the cost is even lower.
The big bonus: both plans not only cover all these activities, but are also comprehensive health and travel insurance policies.
This wasn’t the first time that I had come across World Nomads. I had used them a few years ago for a completely different purpose.
My wife’s parents were coming from Vietnam to visit us in the UAE and needed travel insurance coverage in order to get their visa. It only took me a few minutes to buy them a policy online at a very reasonable price.
World Nomads is also the travel insurance provider recommended by Lonely Planet, arguably the world leader in adventure travel guidebooks.
This endorsement is no small matter, as any travel insurance company is only as good as its reputation for paying out claims in a hassle-free, timely manner.
Go In Peace
So if you and your family members are, like us, active in a number of different sports – both at home and on holiday – then dig up that health/travel insurance policy, put on your reading glasses, and go over it with the eyes of an owl. If what you find doesn’t satisfy you, get yourself some supplementary coverage.
And go on your holiday with the peace of mind that every vacationer deserves.
How about you? Do you have any experience with adventure sports insurance? Any advice or warnings? Stories of broken legs? Share your wisdom with our community by posting in the comments box below.