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Travel Insurance & Family Emergencies

11 July 2022 By Eugnene Wylde

It's only natural to be concerned about your loved ones when you go away on your holidays.

If a family member or travelling companion falls ill or is injured on your trip, or before you depart for your holiday, it's important to know where you stand with your cover.

A common question that comes up again and again is; 

Does travel insurance cover family emergencies? The answer is yes, but like all insurances, there are terms, conditions, and exclusions that will affect your claim.

Keep reading to learn about the cover conditions when it comes to travel insurance and family members.

Who is classified as 'Family'’?

'Family' in the world of travel insurance usually refers to your spouse (or legally recognised defacto) and your dependants.

Cover for furbabies

For those with pets, it may be of some consolation that some insurers provide cover in the event of their illness, injury or death. Cover-more, for instance, provides cancellation benefits of up to $10,000 should your pet cat or dog suffer a life-threatening illness or injury or dies suddenly.


Who is classified as a ‘Relative’?

'Relatives' in terms of travel insurance will typically include, your or your travelling companions' spouse, de facto partner, parent, parent-in-law, daughter, son, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, step-parent, step-son, step-daughter, fiancé, fiancée or guardian.

NOTE: aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and close friends are not often included as a ‘relative’ so it pays to pay attention.

When Does Travel Insurance Cover For Family Emergencies?

Your policy will kick in if a family member or relative (as defined above or within your insurers' definitions);

  • Dies unexpectedly
  • Is disabled by an injury
  • Becomes seriously sick and requires hospitalisation

When Are You Not Covered For Family Emergencies?

Like any type of insurance terms and conditions apply to your cover.

Where your relative resides matters: Relatives who live outside Australia or New Zealand are typically not covered by your policy. Most insurers state that they will only pay claims concerning ‘Relatives’ who reside in Australia or New Zealand. If you have a family member that lives in a different country to you, chances are you wouldn’t be covered for cancelling your trip. 
Pre-existing illnesses can cause difficulties: If you were already aware of a Relative’s illness when you booked your travel insurance, you may not be covered should they take a turn for the worse. However, some companies like 1Cover, Fastcover and Zoom Travel Insurance would provide limited cover under these circumstances, provided you were not aware of the likelihood of their hospitalisation or death when purchasing your policy.

How the family member dies matters: If the death was due to the relative committing suicide, or related to alcohol or drug consumption you may find that isn't covered.  Any claims to do with alcohol, drugs or mental illness are typically excluded in Australian travel insurance policies. 

Age limits apply: For example insurers such as Boomers, Southern Cross Travel Insurance and Worldcare will not cover for any benefits for Relatives who are 85 years or older. This means even if a Relative has an unforeseen accident or illness, not relating to a pre-existing illness, travellers would not be covered for any events involving those who are older than the specified age limit.

Compare Family Member Age Limits

As mentioned above, many policies have age restrictions in the event that a family member falls ill or dies while you are travelling or before you depart.  Whilst travel insurance can help you recover your cancellation costs including pre-booked tickets and hotels, costs associated with returning home at short notice, and in some instances resuming your journey at a later date, it's important to understand the restrictions.

Our experts have done some digging to bring the important relative age limits to the forefront.  Many insurers limit a relative's age to 84 and there are a few insurers that do not pose any age restriction.


General Advice Warning: The contents of this article were accurate at the time of writing. Insurers change their policies from time to time, so some information may have changed. You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement of your chosen insurer to understand what is covered and what isn't. The information provided is of a general nature only and does not take into account any personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your personal circumstances.

Can I resume my trip if it was cut short due to a family emergency?

Most policies with a family emergency benefit will allow you to resume your journey at a later date after being forced to return home due to the illness or death of a relative and still be covered.  This is sometimes included as a sub-limit within the trip cancellation benefit or, it may be under a benefit called "resumption of journey".   This will often include the cost of flights for you to return to the destination where your trip was disrupted.

There are normally specific conditions surrounding this type of cover, including:

  • You must have had no knowledge that such an incident might occur prior to your departure
  • Your resumption expenses may be limited or must be pre-approved by your insurer
  • You must resume your journey before your policy expires
  • You may need to resume your journey within a certain time of returning to Australia.  Usually within 30 days.

Other Options

As mentioned, the majority of insurers would not cover family emergencies if the relative in question suffered from a pre-existing medical condition. However, specialist insurer AllClear may cover you provided that your relative’s doctor is prepared to state that at the date you booked your trip, he/she would have seen no substantial likelihood that his/her patient’s condition would deteriorate to such a degree that you would need to cancel or curtail your journey.

Contributor Carolina

Carolina Tran

Carolina has been working exclusively in the travel insurance industry for over two years. With a customer consultancy background and currently studying law, she is a fine-print wizard who loves helping travellers find a policy that actually works for them. Speaking two languages and having travelled all over the world, Carolina discovered that she is not cut out for working holidays after a stint on her grandparents’ southern Vietnam farm, and is definitely a lounge-by-the-pool kind of lady.

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