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Gap year travelers urged to pick insurance carefully

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Gap year and extended trip travelers are being urged to take care when picking a travel insurance policy as terms – including whether quick trips home are permitted – vary widely.

An analysis of over 200 gap year policies by Travel Insurance found a wide variation in the duration of the trip covered.

The policies – which differ from annual travel insurance in that they are intended to cover a single long trip rather than several shorter ones – vary significantly in whether travellers are permitted to return to the UK for short periods of time and the level of protection provided for lost and stolen possessions.

Half of policies allowed travellers to return to the UK for a short time during the travel period – for a wedding, Christmas or a family emergency, for example – while for the remainder a return would automatically invalidate the policy.

Policy lengths varied from 31 days to two years. 57 per cent of policies provided cover for a trip lasting over a year, 31 per cent covered travellers for a single year and 12 per cent covered 360 days or less.

Minimum ages ranged from 16 to 19 and policy limits for lost or stolen possessions varied considerably, from £3,000 to nothing at all for lost baggage.

Caroline Lloyd of Travel Insurance said: “Policy terms, conditions and exclusions vary from policy to policy, so it’s important to take the time not only to read-up on all the places you want to visit during your travels, but to go through the policy small print to make sure you don’t do anything to invalidate your cover.

“For example, extended travel policies typically provide cover for a range of less risky sporting activities as standard. But, if you’re after a more adrenalin-fuelled trip you’ll probably need to upgrade your policy to ensure you are covered. Insurers also make a distinction between you taking part in a hazardous sport once and it being the main purpose of your holiday. Also, some policies may only cover activities such as a safari, hot air ballooning or scuba diving if it was organised from the UK.”

If the traveler intends to volunteer or work abroad, terms and conditions relating to the nature of the work allowed may vary from policy to policy.

Common exclusions include travelling against Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice, failing to carry the correct documentation and neglecting to take proper care of yourself and your possessions.

Lloyd said: “Once you’ve found the right policy for your trip, don’t forget to take the paperwork with you. In case of emergency, it’s also sensible to leave a photocopy of the policy with your family or friends.”

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