You're on a 6 week European dream vacation that you've been planning for a year. You've just spent a week in Italy, exploring the mountains, eating gelato and shaking off all thoughts of work. It’s summertime and the sweet fragrance of flowers drifts through the warm air.
Italy has been magic, but now it’s time to head to France. You jump in the car and decide to to make a real day of it. Stopping at a small village for lunch, picking up some local wine, before driving up through the mountains. The roads are narrow as they wind their way up to the peaks.
It’s a simple jaunt down the mountain and you will be at your hotel. This is the hotel you have been excited about, it’s in a small village yet has a michelin star restaurant and a stunning pool with manicured gardens. You are already dreaming of that delicious buttery croissant you’re going to have for breakfast tomorrow.
But tomorrow is not at all what you imagined. Instead, you are sitting beside a hospital bed as the love of your life is in a coma awaiting the 3rd surgery in the last 24 hours.
It’s a plot twist most people don’t expect. But it was my reality 8 years ago.
My husband was hit by a car, his body was lifeless on the road.
I rushed to him, staring at his face, willing for his eyes to open, his mouth to speak. But there was nothing. I screamed at the driver as he phoned emergency services, tears streaming down my face. Searching for a pulse I found one, he was alive but his pulse was faint and his breathing shallow.
I sat beside him, telling him I loved him, pleading and begging for him not to die.
There was nothing else I could do, I felt completely helpless. What felt like hours passed before he was loaded into a helivac and taken to the nearest hospital large enough to deal with his injuries. It was a 3 hour drive and I didnt know if he would be alive when I got there. I cried a million tears that day and the next and the next.
His injury list was significant: a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula, an obliterated ulna, radius and humerus, fractured ribs from top to bottom, pneumothorax, brachial plexus, wedge fracture of the T12, lacerated sternum and frontal lobe damage. In layman's terms, he broke his leg, arm, back, ribs, punctured lung, severe nerve damage and most distressing brain damage.
The enormity of the situation itself was unbearable, it was terrifying, frustrating and heart wrenching all at the same time. Every emotion compounded on top of one another, there was no release to these soul destroying feelings. Throwing on top of that a hospital bill, helivac and ambulance transport, emergency accommodation and travel costs.
Combined, the bills totalled almost $300,000!
We were 25 years old. We didn’t have that kind of money.
Thankfully, not a dollar passed through our hands for these expenses, because we had travel insurance that literally saved us. They not only covered the entire cost while overseas but also took care of arranging many of the logistical problems too.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t perfect. And there was a lot of stress involved that was only heightened by the situation, but I would take all of that for not having to pay that bill at the end of the day.
No one ever thinks this will happen to them. But it can happen to you, just like it happened to us.
This was a freak accident, but not an anomaly. I had scores of people reach out and share their experience, from medical emergencies through to lost luggage and everything in between. Not to mention, 8 years later, I am sitting here writing this with a fractured vertebrae that happened while travelling.
I have always travelled with travel insurance but to be honest, prior to the first accident I never looked at the PDS (product disclosure statement) closely though. There are a lot of pages with tons of words, and I just assumed I would be covered for anything that went awry. Heads up…That is completely not the case and we were just lucky to be covered for everything we needed.
What to look for in the fine print of your travel insurance
After our experience I have become pretty savvy at reading through insurance PDS’s and know what I am looking for in relation to our situation. I want to point out a few key things you may want to take into consideration when choosing your insurance.
- Are you going heli-skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing or something else that may be classified as an extreme sport? In many circumstances this will not be covered under standard insurance.
- Expensive gear, such as camera equipment, sports equipment, laptops may not be covered. There is often a payout amount for portable items that looks like it will cover the costs, however the fine print may tell you it will pay a much smaller amount per item. For example $10,000 cover but only $1000 per item.
- Medical transport and repatriation is occasionally not covered in some policies. If something happens you want to be able to get home as soon as possible.
- Pre-existing medical conditions in most circumstances will not be covered.
- World Nomads, one of the biggest travel insurance providers out there, has an amazing page that easily answers all the “what's covered and what's not covered?” questions.
The Extra Perks of Having Travel Insurance
Travel insurance covers a broad range of things apart from medical coverage.
The list can be extensive, such as lost luggage, travel delay expenses, loss or theft of travel documents, cancellation and loss of deposits.
For example: if you purchase insurance prior to booking your trip and there are unforeseen circumstances that prevent you from taking the trip, you could be entirely covered for the costs. Or perhaps mid vacation there is a family tragedy, travel insurance may cover the costs of getting you home.
Knowledge is power, knowing what you are covered for will assist you getting the help when you need it the most. (Even if it's just getting meal vouchers because of a delayed flight!)
Hot Travel Insurance Tips
- If you are in a situation where you need medical assistance, you should call your travel insurance provider right away. Whether it is prior to, or soon after receiving treatment.
- If you are already overseas you can still buy travel insurance, certain providers will offer these policies.
- Travel insurance can be extended in most cases. If you have decided to stay somewhere longer simply get in touch with your provider and extend your coverage.
Do your homework and find a policy that matches your itinerary. In some cases, you may get great coverage from your credit card company, as long as the trip is booked and paid in full on your card. In other cases, you'll want to find a company that covers the kinds of activities you love doing.
If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you certainly can’t afford for anything to go wrong when you travel. Take it from my experience, it’s worth every penny!
Update on my husband's accident: After 18 months of intense physical therapy and rehabilitation as well as more surgeries than I can count on my fingers, my now-husband is mostly back to normal. He has a multitude of scars, small quirks he didn’t have before, but nobody else notices these things, just us.
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