Like many of my fellow Brits I've been looking out of the window recently, wondering if it will ever end. I've been trying to convince myself that, despite it being 'mid-summer', this awful weather will clear up eventually. But let's not forget that it is the same time of year Wimbledon traditionally sees the heavens open and Glastonbury (having a well earned rest this year) sees abandoned wellies sucked into six inches of oozing, drunken mud baths. Already in the past few days we've had floods, downpours and hopeful festival goers stuck on Isle of Wight ferries. Plus ca change, and so much for our stay-at-home summer.
It might be time to start packing our skimpies and thinking about heading off to 'the abroad' again. After all, what disasters could befall us there that would be worse than at home? What could possibly go wrong? Well I'll tell you: and it's more than just a tale of scooter crashes, falling off balconies and picking up the wrong girls (although sometimes it is). And I thought a camper van breakdown was bad enough.
According to travel insurance specialist, World First, there are much stranger things happening to some Brits abroad. They deal with all kinds of claims every day. Whilst the top 10 reasons to claim on the travel insurance does tell a few tales of woe, we're doing some odd stuff too. If you think that we are all about getting blotto in Benidorm, think again.
Let's begin with one of my favourites. A couple from the north were heading to Dover to spend their holiday touring France in their caravan with their very elderly mother. But when they got to the port they found that they had forgotten the mother's passport. So instead of turning round they locked her in their caravan and went anyway. When they got to France they discovered the mother had died during the trip. They went to the police station to report the death but the car and caravan - with the mother in it - were stolen when they were in the police station. They claimed on their insurance but never found the car, caravan or mother.
We are truly sorry for their loss. But it was a different story for another woman whose husband died when she was away. She insisted that she accompany the body home on the same flight - not to be near him but so she could claim his duty free allowance.
Then again we have to spare a thought for the coach party of sick travelers and their carers on their way from Glasgow to Lourdes. Nobody wants the trouble they had. When their coach broke down in France the local hospital had to go on a 'war footing' and sent out a fleet of ambulances to fetch them all from the side of the road. Another 80-year-old lady had to abandon her trip when her carer fell and broke her hip. The carer was her 100-year-old mother.
Lost luggage laments
Lost luggage isn't that high on the top 10 but it still causes a headache for those who have to live without their bags. One disabled traveler had to spend four days of his holiday in a wheelchair after the airline lost his bag. In it was his prosthetic limb. Another man had his leg stolen whilst he was in the toilet on a night flight, whilst one lady had her false teeth lifted from her bedside table. As you can imagine she was more than grateful to speak to a UK call centre to try and explain that one.
Another man put in a claim for a lost bag that contained 'sex toys and bondage gear' that he had purchased in Germany. Someone had a fright when they opened it anyway. But perhaps not quite the same olfactory encounter that befell the customs men responsible for one lady's luggage 'loss'. She attempted to claim for her suitcase but, when the insurance company looked into it, found that it had been confiscated because it was full of dried fish from Ghana. Yew.
In one recent claim a Brit was admitted to hospital in Bangkok because he had 'jabbed himself in the nuts with a pool cue whilst aiming for a particularly tricky shot'. Make of that what you will, but apparently when the doctors took a look at him they decided to treat him with a course of antibiotics, seeing as he was already 'very sensitive' in that area before the pool cue struck. And no, I am not going to make the joke. He was going for the green.
Still, it could have been worse. One traveler had to be evacuated from the Himalayas by World First's medical team. It wasn't a pleasant journey: two days down the mountainside on pitted and unmade roads. The injury? Bleeding, swollen and very painful hemorrhoids that were so bad he couldn't walk.
Mind you, it's better than nothing
We hear horror stories every day about Brits abroad so perhaps it isn't fair to have a giggle at their expense. But at least they were covered and could get help. Those without insurance end up forking out for it too. Bills can run into hundreds of thousands for serious cases. So if you are heading off in search of sun, sangria, sunshine and Ghanaian dried fish this summer, don't go without it. And don't forget that you EHIC (the old E111) will only cover you for the same free treatment as residents of the country you are travelling in. It won't pay your fare home.
Really? The top 10 travel insurance claims according to World First:
1. Cancellation due to ill health or a family member's ill health
2. Insect and mosquito bites
3. Gastroenteritis or food poisoning
4. Ear infections from hotel pools
5. Sunburn and heat stroke
6. Lost/broken glasses
7. Lost or damaged luggage by an airline
8. Loss of cash in Spain or loss of passport
9. Delayed departure at the airport due to strike
10. Medical Expenses as a result of injuries sustained by moped hire or assault, or twisted, fractured ankles due to broken and uneven pavement