12 Mar 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.