Choosing travel insurance, Coronavirus and our Italy motorhome trip

So far, 2020 has not been a great year for travel. While the Coronavirus pandemic rages and the fallout spreads around the world, we’re continuing to work and housesit in the UK. Winter has been tough on my wanderlust though and one of the bright spots on the horizon was our Easter European road trip, which was set to begin in Italy. Given the events of this week, the trip has been cancelled.

Us outside Hampton Court Palace

Coronavirus and our Italy trip

Back in January, we were approached by a UK motorhome company, who asked if we’d like to drive one of their brand-new motorhomes back from the factory in Italy to the UK. Of course, we jumped at the chance and scheduled a 10-day trip during the school Easter holidays, when Andrew would be off work. We plotted a route that would take us up past Venice, through Austria, Germany and Belgium. Then the Coronavirus hit.

To be honest, we weren’t too worried about the virus and were determined to carry on regardless, adjusting our route to avoid the lockdown zones and zip out as quickly as possible through France. That all changed this week when the UK Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Italy and the Italian government put the country on lockdown. That’s when the motorhome company told us the trip couldn’t go ahead, unless we could postpone until late April when the virus would (hopefully) have died down.

Neuschwanstein Castle from the Marienbrucke Bridge, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, on a previous trip to Germany

This was impossible for us because of Andrew’s teaching contract. So, although we hope to work with the company sometime in the autumn, our Easter plans have been cancelled. We’re luckier than many travellers though, as the trip was comped and pretty much all we had to pay for was a couple of cheap Easyjet flights to Pisa, which the airline are refusing to refund at the moment.

It’s not a big deal though when you consider the deaths Coronavirus has caused and what people who’ve gotten sick or are living in the virus hotspots are going through, not to mention the economic consequences for the world. Personally, we may yet be affected workwise since I literally write about travel for a living and the industry is taking a huge hit. Then there’s the thought of housesits drying up or being cancelled as people decide not to go abroad. We still count ourselves incredibly fortunate though.

Choosing travel insurance

In these uncertain times, travel insurance is more important than ever. We never travel without it but stupidly, we hadn’t gotten around to buying a policy for our Europe trip before Coronavirus hit. Had we done so, we might have been able to claim our flight costs back since the UK has now advised against all but essential travel to Italy. We’re not making the same mistake with our big summer trip to Canada though, we’re booking ours now.

Me, Andrew and Jo at Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park, California

We’re booking insurance for our Canada/USA trip now

But how do we choose the right insurance? Over the last seven years, we’ve had multiple travel policies while we’ve been long-term backpacking or living abroad. So, we know from experience how overwhelming finding the right one can be. You can read more about this in our detailed travel insurance post, but the most important things we look for are:

  • Comprehensive medical cover that includes repatriation and emergency evacuation costs.
  • If we’re travelling for long periods, we make sure the policy doesn’t require you to have a return ticket home booked, allows you to make claims abroad and can be renewed while you travel.

For our Canada/USA trip, we’ve been looking into a relatively new insurance provider, SafetyWing, a company that’s been created by nomads, for nomads. As well as hefty medical and emergency evacuation insurance, it includes cover for travel delays, lost luggage, personal liability and natural disasters. It’s great if you’re travelling long-term, because there’s no cap on the duration of travel and you either select an end date or let the monthly auto-renewal payments roll until you cancel.

Me hiking along the road to Everest Base Camp in Nepal

We needed extra insurance for trekking in Nepal

Throughout our travels, we’ve also bought insurance from a range of providers including Globelink, Explorer, Admiral and OUL Direct. When trekking to Everest Base Camp, we needed to take out an additional policy for hiking at high altitudes, which we did with World Nomads. We find that most travel insurance policies don’t cover all of our electronics – cameras, laptops and phones. To solve this problem, we usually take out an extra policy with PhotoGuard and I have separate insurance from PC World for my Macbook.

Life and travel update

I’m not going to lie, the UK winter has been pretty bleak, so I was really looking forward to our Easter road trip. Although I’m sad that it’s been cancelled, I’m trying to focus (around work and housesitting commitments) on planning our summer USA/Canada trip. So far, we have a camper booked to explore Jasper, Banff and Yoho National parks, plus car hire from Seattle for a detour to Yellowstone and perhaps, Utah.

Blossom trees in Bushy Park, London

Blossom trees views on a walk in Bushy Park

This is the longest stretch of time we’ve been in the UK since 2013 and although we’re saving lots of money, being here has had its challenges. I’ve struggled with the weather and taking on a full-time teaching contract until the summer, which has come with a never-ending mountain of paperwork and stress, has made Andrew re-evaluate his future work plans.

Mr Major the cat

One of the best cats we’ve looked after this year!

We’re still really focused on getting the money together to build our Tiny House next year and hope this will give us the freedom, yet security, we need to travel for longer periods again and avoid the British winter entirely. For now, like most of the world, we’re hunkering down and trying to avoid the sense of impending apocalypse. Here’s hoping the storm blows over soon and wherever you are in the world – stay safe.

If you’re travelling soon and are looking for insurance, you can check out SafetyWing for quotes, they have a Coronavirus information page and do provide coverage in pandemics. In the interests of full disclosure, we’re an affiliate of SafetyWing but all thoughts and opinions are our own.

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 16:10h, 12 March Reply

    Amy, só sorry about your Italy travel plans being cancelled. But fingers crossed you will be able to have a taste of motorhome life in a near future. Winter in the UK is hard, hence why we have been traveling in SE Asia. But your long term plans of buying a home base for yourselves remain a very good plan and something to focus on. How lovely that you will travel in the US and Canada with a camper van. I am looking forward to following along.

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:14h, 12 March Reply

      Thanks Gilda – I know your plans have changed too because of the Coronavirus. It’s certainly a weird time right now and must be strange being in Asia with all the reduced tourist numbers. Take care and hope to see you back in the UK/Europe sometime this year. Hoping we can reschedule our motorhome trip for the autumn x

  • Claire Danahay
    Posted at 22:40h, 12 March Reply

    Our travel plans have been affected by coronavirus. We travelled down to London today from Glasgow. We are meeting up with family and friends as planned but we had planned and booked flights to Gibraltar on Sunday with a view to spending a couple of weeks in Spain before flying to Sicily for a week. All now cancelled and we will travel back up to Scotland on Tuesday. Luckily for us we just moved back into our house on Monday after renting it out for 7 years so lots of work to be done! Travel can wait. Looking forward to reading about your Tiny House plans x

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:09h, 13 March Reply

      So sorry to hear that Claire. Glad you have some good news on the house front though and a project to keep you busy! We’re actually off for a Tiny House consultation at Easter now that the Italy trip has been cancelled – trying to find a silver lining!

  • Patti Maghamfar
    Posted at 02:22h, 13 March Reply

    Very unfortunate about your motor home road trip, I know how much you were looking forward to it. Hopefully, you’ll be able to make it happen in the fall.

    Banff is beautiful and Yellowstone is amazing. You’ll enjoy it so much.

    Be well…

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:07h, 13 March Reply

      I know you can relate Patti, since you had to give up your Europe plans too. Very strange times we’re living in. Yep, hopefully we’ll get another chance in the autumn. We’ve just got our fingers crossed that nothing will mess up the US/Canada trip!

  • Rhonda Delameter
    Posted at 17:33h, 14 March Reply

    Ugh. Sorry your plans were disrupted. This craze over the virus is truly stunning and I wish we were back in our bubble of Baja where it was all just seen from the sidelines. Make sure to keep us updated on your plans for when you’re in the PNW so hopefully we can get together!

    • Amy
      Posted at 18:59h, 16 March Reply

      Hi Rhonda, yes, it gets more stunning by the day. Hope you guys are well over there and our US/Canada trip can still go ahead, I’ll keep you posted 🙂

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