25/11/2013 10:58 GMT | Updated 24/01/2014 05:59 GMT

Cover Me: Why Travel Insurance is Essential

A lot of people think insurance is a racket. Whenever the discussion comes up amongst my friends, someone always has a story along the lines of thinking they would be completely covered against loss or damage, only to find there was a clause in the contract that prevented them getting reimbursed. There was the utilities insurance that didn't cover the gas leak coming from the pipes under the floorboard or the buildings insurance that chalked up water coming through the walls as being due to wear and tear (and thus exempt from any payout). So is insurance worth the money we pay for it?

Let me offer a salutary tale. There is one kind of insurance that I was glad that I had. A few years ago a week long snowboarding trip in Chamonix, France ended in a very painful way. It was the last day of the trip and there had been a big dump of snow the night before. The day dawned bright and sunny for the final opportunity to get out there before taking the flight home. With six days of injury free confidence behind me and all that new soft snow ready to comfortably cushion any kind of fall, I felt bulletproof. That is, until the nose of the board wedged itself in the thick snow and slingshotted me in a direction in which the knee doesn't normally bend. I heard (or experienced, it's a bit blurry) a kind of pop, felt a stab of pain and knew at once the injury was pretty bad. How was I going to get off the mountain?


My companions crossed their skis in the snow and waved at the pisteurs. Pretty soon I was being swaddled into a sledge, having my snowboard strapped to the side of me and feeling pretty sheepish as I was taken down the mountain. Whilst companions mocked relentlessly, those new on the mountain looked away as if I might jinx their day. I was the only one going down in the cable car but was met at the bottom by an ambulance and then taken to the doctor who would confirm that I'd ripped my cruciate ligament.

The only good news about all of this was that a call to my insurance company meant my trip back to London was made as comfortable as it could be. They booked out an extra couple of seats for me on the plane so that I could rest my leg and had a wheelchair and car waiting for me at the other end to transport me home. The bills came to more than £1000 even without those extra plane seats; I paid none of it as the insurance company took care of it all. Paying for all of that at the time would have crippled me financially as I was still a student at the time. Despite all the depressing stories of insurance companies not paying out when you expect them to, travel insurance seems seems much more straightforward a contract. I'd never travel without it.