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We all hope for a relaxed and easy going holiday with little drama. Buying travel insurance when you go away is essential if you don’t want to risk unforeseen costs if something goes wrong. Which unfortunately sometimes they do. Have you ever put in a claim and your holiday insurance won’t pay out?

I learned at the Beach Budget Ready event I wrote about last week that taking a ride on a banana boat is a ‘dangerous activity’ when it comes to holiday insurance. This banana boat scenario got me thinking about all the things we do as holidaymakers which we don’t realise might invalidate a holiday insurance claim. There are so many – I thought they would make a great ‘what not to do’ post.


So, here are my top five reasons that insurers won’t pay out on holiday insurance. Be aware of them and hopefully you won’t ever get caught out.

1. Leaving your valuables unattended

All insurance policies require the policy holder to take ‘reasonable care’ to protect whatever it is that is being insured. When it comes to your personal property while you are on holiday, this means not leaving it unattended.

  • If a hotel safe is available, use it to keep valuables locked up. If you don’t and anything goes missing, even in a locked room which could only have been accessed by hotel staff, you will likely have a claim rejected.
  • However, you do need to take valuables out and about with you. When it comes to being by the pool, or at the beach, everyone will usually have a wallet and a phone on them at a minimum. Those towels with hidden compartments to zip away your small items are great. Even still, if you were to have anything stolen from your zip up towel, beach bag or sun lounger, if the area was unattended whilst you were swimming or at the pool bar, your insurance claim will fail on the grounds you weren’t adequately looking after your belongings. The only way you can protect your valuables from beach and poolside theft is to either not take them at all or have one person stay with the valuables and take turns in the water.

  • If you arrive before your room is ready or you have checked out but have a late flight home, you’re going to need to do something with your luggage whilst you wait. Most hotels offer a ‘luggage storage’ service. However, if you leave your bag with the masses of other bags and come back to find it gone, you will have little sympathy from your insurer. Unfortunately, in their eyes, the act of leaving your bag out of your own sight is classified as leaving it unattended. This often applies even if it is in a locked room. If you have to leave bags in the hotel luggage storage area, make sure you have your valuables in a small bag on your person.

2. Asking someone to take a photo of you with your phone

I’m usually behind the camera snapping the family holiday photos for prosperity. Unless I ask someone to take a photo of all of us together, I never feature in family photos. So I quite frequently approach strangers with phone in hand and a big grin so I get at least a couple of shots of the four of us.

You know the scene. First you scan the people around you searching for someone you determine can operate a smartphone without needing instructions. Then you make eye contact and with your best smile, fire off a cheerful ‘would you mind taking a quick photo for us?’ Then you hand your swanky, latest edition iphone over to a complete stranger.

I’ve never had anyone refuse, let alone smile with delight and do a swift runner. But, if the kind stranger you have entrusted with your phone turns on their heel and makes a run for it with your phone, your insurer will never pay out on it as you’ve willingly handed it over to them.

Either pick someone who looks trustworthy. Or someone you guess you could outrun if they do make a break for it!

3. Are you tipsy?

If you have an accident or lose something and it turns out you were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident, you may find that your insurance company won’t pay out.

Who is to say how many drinks you can have before they say you’ve had too many? Different insurers have their own guidelines on what is reasonable but even these are fairly vague. Probably the best gauge is to appreciate your own tolerance to alcohol and know when your ability to make sensible decisions is impaired.

Keeping hold of drinks receipts is a good way to have evidence of exactly what you have had to drink if you ever did need to prove your sobriety!

4. Know which ‘dangerous’ activities you are covered for

When you are heading off on a skiing holiday, you know that you need your policy to cover you for skiing so you will likely actively check for this when you are buying your policy. But not all holidays, and especially beach holidays, will get you thinking about what dangerous activities you need to be covered for.

You could find yourself on the beach watching the banana boats, the parasailing, and the jetskis and think you want to give it a go. Most of these activities are on the ‘dangerous activities’ list – where restrictions in your travel insurance policy apply. Unless you opt in for individual sports when you purchase your insurance, you will likely not be covered.

Even something as innocuous as hiking could be on the ‘off limits’ list of your insurer. As I write this, I am thinking of my sister with her old Achilles injury who recently trekked up to the summit of Mount Teidi in Tenerife!

Always check your policy small print before you sign up to do any form of activity whilst you are away.

5. Do your homework & know the local law

Simply reading the terms and conditions of your own insurance policy isn’t always adequate. You need to do some homework on your holiday destination and its local laws. It’s fairly easy to break local laws if you aren’t aware of them.

When it comes to protecting your right to claim on your insurance policy, always check if it is a requirement, or law, to do something specific when participating in a certain activity in the country you are in. Then do it! If you need to wear a helmet by law in the country you’re visiting when doing particular activities e.g cycling or skiing, then make sure you are wearing one. Have an accident without one on and your insurance claim will go out the window.

What to do if you do need to make a holiday insurance claim

  • In the event of a medical claim, contact your insurer as soon as possible so that you understand how invoices will be paid. You may be advised to settle invoices and claim them back on your return, or your insurer may deal directly with the treating clinic or hospital.
  • Make sure you ask for receipts for everything. For medical claims where you have had to make purchases whilst abroad, keep hold of your receipts for any medication you have had to buy or appointments you have had to attend.
  • Act promptly. Accidents do happen and things do get lost and stolen on holiday. If this does happen to you, much as it is a huge annoyance to have to deal with when you just want to be enjoying your holiday, you do need to act fairly quickly. You’ll need to get a written police report for any lost or stolen items to support most insurance claims. The terms and conditions of individual policies will specify the time limit within which you must get this police report. This is commonly within 48 hours but do check your own insurance policy to ensure you comply.
  • Take photos and video to support your claim if relevant.


Always check the small print of your insurance policy and make sure it is appropriate for your holiday. While you are away, make sure you don’t invalidate another important insurance policy – your home insurance – by over-sharing your holiday pictures on social media. I’ve written all about this here