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School is out for high-school graduates and activities planned to celebrate their newfound freedom is far ranging. New data obtained by Comparetravelinsurance.com.au reveals that interstate travel is common, yet these young travellers are unlikely to purchase travel insurance.
More than 80% of travellers aged 16-18 said they would not bother with domestic travel insurance for their week of festivities.
Natalie Ball, director, Comparetravelinsurance.com.au says,
“It’s worrying that young travellers are failing to take the precautionary measures to safeguard their holiday. Schoolies can be fraught with risks that young school-leavers simply can’t afford. When you consider the cost of a trip cancellation or a medical mishap affecting your journey, travel insurance is a wise investment.”
Schoolies has had a long-standing history of drug and alcohol abuse as well as senseless violence and ill-advised behaviour. Whilst most revellers ultimately survive the week or two with little more than a bad case of sunburn, a fair number will come home with an injury, criminal record or worse. During 2010 schoolies, 145 people were arrested on the Gold Coast alone.
Flight cancellations, broken bones, natural disasters and illnesses are never on your trip itinerary. But should the unexpected force you to cancel your holiday travel insurance can help to recoup your costs.
“Even though parents and teens are increasingly looking at travel insurance for overseas trips as a must-have, they are still largely unaware of the benefits for domestic travel".
“The cost of Schoolies is significant for young people. Flights, event tickets, accommodation and any pre-paid deposits can amount to a small fortune. If a last-minute emergency forces you to cancel your trip, a domestic policy can cover these expenses and more."
Ball cites 2017’s Cyclone Debbie as a prime example of the need for domestic travel insurance.
“Cyclone Debbie hit tourists heading to Northern Queensland hard. Those with travel insurance would have been able to recoup their prepaid deposits and out-of-pocket expenses. If an unexpected event plays havoc with your Schoolies trip, travel insurance could save you significant costs.”
Domestic travel insurance would also be of assistance if an injury or illness forces you to cancel, or cut-short your trip.
The words, ‘Your flight has been delayed’ are probably the last thing you want to hear while waiting to board your flight for a week of festivities.
Nevertheless if you are stuck in transit or on your way home a flight cancellation could equal additional accommodation and food expenses along with a truckload of hassle.
Should you experience a cancellation or delay for circumstances beyond the airline’s control (i.e. poor weather) – a comprehensive domestic policy is likely to cover your extra meal and accommodation expenses.
“Often these benefits will kick in if you’re delayed for around six hours. It’s a great asset when you’re out of pocket, tired and frustrated.” notes Ball.
Additionally some insurers can help you get to an event or festival on time should your flight be delayed or cancelled.
“If it doesn’t look like you’re going to make it to a prepaid tour or event some insurers like 1Cover, Simply Travel Insurance and Zoom Travel Insurance will actually pay your additional travel expenses if your scheduled transport is delayed or cancelled. This can be a real lifesaver when you’re running short on time and risk missing out on your special event.”
Domestic travel insurance can also be of assistance should your belongings get lost or stolen. And with an ever-growing fondness for gadgets, those planning to travel with some tech in tow will want their items covered.
“Most policies come with cover for belongings and you would have grounds to claim for lost or stolen gadgets such as smartphones, laptops and cameras. For items of high-value you can usually add them separately to your policy to avoid depreciation. Just make sure you don’t leave your valuables unattended or in an unlocked hotel room!” says Ball.
Of late, schoolies and balcony fatalities have become a worryingly growing trend. In 2012 Brisbane woman Isabelle Colman caused shockwaves after she died falling from a Gold Coast high-rise balcony. Isabelle was the sixth person to die from a balcony death in just 12 months.
Eva Chan, who witnessed a young man falling from a balcony in 2009, says she was greatly affected by the event.
“I was just crossing the road when I heard a loud ‘bang’ and realised someone had fallen off a balcony. Film crews were on the scene before the ambulance even arrived. I was on holidays with my mum and we had no idea that schoolies was on or that these kind of things happen. We just happened to be there at the wrong time and it was pretty awful.”
Often spurred on by alcohol, reckless behaviour such as ‘apartment jumping’ (leaping from one balcony to the next) and leaning, sitting or hanging off the sides of balconies have led to a frightening spike in deaths and injuries.
And whilst buying travel insurance may be a good way to safeguard schoolies, note that cover may not apply to a balcony fall.
For instance, a claim would be invalidated if the insured was drinking excessively at the time or found to be behaving recklessly.
In 2011 a well-known travel insurer rejected a claim related to a balcony fall that killed a young man in Fiji who was heavily intoxicated at the time.
After leaping off a balcony into a swimming pool the teenager drowned after allegedly participating in a breath-holding dare underwater.
Ms Ball says that people are often unaware that claims for injuries and accidents are not covered if alcohol is involved.
“Travellers need to be aware that dangerous behaviour, in combination with excessive alcohol consumption will almost certainly void your travel insurance. If you can’t take reasonable steps to ensure your safety, then your insurer can’t be expected to pick up the pieces,” says Ms Ball.
As to whether or not tighter reinforcements such as balcony bans would reduce or limit deaths or injuries during schoolies remains to be seen.
“Ultimately it is the individual’s responsibility to ensure that they are taking all precautions necessary to prevent accidents. Travel insurance is there to protect you for unforeseen events, such as sudden illness, unfortunate accidents, severe weather, cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings. Intentionally putting yourself in danger will not be covered.”
The popular notion is that teens on holidays abroad are at greater risk but those on domestic trips are not immune from danger. Schoolies is often synonymous with wild, destructive behaviour which, left unchecked, can have serious consequences for young adults.
As a final note Ball advises those heading for schoolies to keep their wits about them along with a good understanding of their travel insurance policy:
“Of course Schoolies is all about celebrating end-of-exams and having a good time, but it’s important to remember that travel insurance does not replace common sense. Stay safe, keep a close eye on your friends and pack travel insurance. Schoolies may feel carefree, but don’t forget to be careful.”
Natali is a former kids magazine writer whose credits include working for the mouse (Mickey that is). An avid traveller, Natali spent part of her childhood in Israel and enjoyed several stints across the globe. Having worked in travel insurance for three years, Natali likes to simplify the fine-print and help Aussies make sense of their insurance policies. She currently lives in Sydney with her husband and one-year old son.