Travel insurance for multi-generation and skip-generation holidayers

We are family
We are family

Multi-generation and skip-generation holidays are a steadily growing niche market. Insurers talk to David Kernek about the advantages and pitfalls of providing cover for this ever more popular travelling group model

Families separated by geography, changing lifestyles and perhaps work commitments are increasingly looking at vacations as opportunities for bringing the generations together. Whether it’s a multi-generation – or multi-gen or 3G – holiday that includes perhaps parents, children and grandparents, or a skip-generation – or skip-gen or gap-gen – holiday that usually involves children and their grandparents, such trips give the older generations quality time with their grandchildren and/or allow parents some time at home alone or additional help with childcare responsibilities if vacationing as part of a multi-gen group.

“It’s no secret that people have busy lives and work hard providing for their families but with the school holidays, spiralling childcare fees and hiked up holiday costs, it’s no surprise that this adds a huge financial burden onto a family’s shoulders,” said Julian Kearney, CEO of Staysure in the UK. “According to a recent ABTA report, 37 per cent of families rely on their own parents to look after their kids, often sending them on a holiday abroad with the grandparents. The report showed that in the UK alone 40 per cent of grandparents care for their grandchildren while the parents work, with 25 per cent of grandparents contributing towards holidays for their children and grandchildren.”

Of course, this arrangement is beneficial, not just for the parents, but for the children and grandparents too. “Grandparents enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and taking them away on holiday really helps strengthen the bond between them,” commented Niall Palmer, Senior Travel Insurance Product Manager at Saga in the UK. The company reports that self-catering villa breaks are the most popular choice for multi-generation holidaymakers, many of whom say they just want the chance to spend time together. Other reasons include travelling together to celebrate family occasions, such as weddings and anniversaries, and shared desires to visit particular destinations. 

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Allianz Global Assistance Canada has reported a five-per-cent increase in the purchase of cover for multi-generation trips, while the Conference Board of Canada – which researches and analyses economic trends – says that among the 26.9 per cent of Canadians who travelled with a group of related adults and children in the past year, more than one quarter included more than two generations. 

Not many months before UK tour operator Thomas Cook sunk under the waves, it published the results of a survey which found that 64 per cent of UK families either go on multi-generation holidays or are thinking about them, up from 57 per cent in 2017. The company predicted that 37 per cent of British parents would be sending their children away on holiday with grandparents or considering doing so for future holidays. Never slow to miss a trend, Virgin Holidays has also noted that ‘more British holidaymakers are choosing to go on holiday with their granny than ever before’, and has curated a suite of three- and four-bedroom villas in Florida and the Caribbean tailor-made for ‘families of all ages’.

Allianz Global Assistance Canada has reported a five-per-cent increase in the purchase of cover for multi-generation trips

Multi-generational travel is becoming increasingly popular, agrees Jonathan Etkind, Head of Sales, Digital & Marketing at InsureandGo and Mapfre Assistance in Australia. “It is particularly popular among millennial parents looking to take their own parents on family holidays. Although any type of traditional travel destination can be ideal for multi-generational holidays, there is a stronger focus among parents and seniors to opt for kid-friendly places, with less emphasis on holidays that involve adventure and extreme sporting activities.” This is where the company is seeing the three types of customers – families, seniors, and cruise-goers – converge, as families are increasingly travelling with grandparents on cruise holidays. 

Rajeev Shriavastava, CEO and founder of Silicon Valley insurtech VisitorsCoverage, has witnessed similar activity: “Travel insurance providers have seen the rise of multi-generational travel for the last two decades, especially in the cruise industry where specialty policies have begun to surface,” he told ITIJ. “Now on the horizon comes split-generational travel where the kids get to leave mom and dad at home and travel with grandparents or other older relatives.”

Skip-generation is a growing trend, agrees Etkind: “These trips are also popular in the cruise market, with the Cruise Lines International Association stating that skip-gen cruises were a top trend in 2017. Earlier this year, research found that approximately 15 per cent of baby boomers were already planning for skip-gen trips in 2019.”

Birds of a feather

Looking at the types of cover on offer for such holidays, Saga says it offers multi-generational holiday cover for up to 10 family members, including free insurance for customers’ grandchildren if they are travelling on a skip-gen vacation with their grandparents. “Saga’s travel insurance policy allows the policyholder to add up to nine people to their single or annual policy,” says Palmer. “All named travellers are covered with a comprehensive level of cover, including any grandchildren via our website or through our call centre.”

At Free Spirit, a UK-based specialist provider for people with medical conditions and disabilities, Managing Director Peter Hayman says the main policy for multi- and skip-generation holidays is one that has no upper age limit and caters for people with medical conditions. “We are seeing,” he says, “some increased activity for skip-generation holidays under this scheme.”

In offering family policies, insurers must first define ‘family’, which they’ve not found too difficult, says Hayman: “The common definition of a family is one involving husband and wife (or co-habiting partner) together with dependent children under the age of 18. Our Free Spirit wording reads: ‘Parents or grandparents (up to a maximum of two adults) and their children or grandchildren’. In effect, children are insured free of charge; we would be collecting a premium only for the grandparents.”

At Saga, Palmer told ITIJ that the definition of ‘family’ can vary between insurers. “Saga includes a wide range of external family under our definition. We also include step-children, foster children, legal guardians and common law partners as close relatives.” 

InsureandGo’s definition of a ‘family member’ – otherwise known as a relative in their policies – includes those who would usually take part in a multi-generational holiday. The company defines ‘relative’ as partner, parent, brother, sister, son, daughter (including adopted or fostered children), son-in-law, daughter-in-law, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, grandparent, grandchild, step-parent, step-child, step-brother, step-sister and next of kin, said Etkind.

What is crucial, of course, is making sure all members of the travelling family group are covered under the terms and definitions of the insurance being offered, by ensuring that ‘family’ and ‘relative’ are clearly defined in your policy wording and by explaining to consumers clearly who is and is not covered so that customers’ expectations are met if a claim becomes necessary.

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For the record

“Travelling with family members from different generations can be a very rewarding experience and create many shared memories, but it also raises a number of issues that should be addressed in advance,” says Dan Keon, Vice-President of Market Management at Allianz Global Assistance Canada. “Organising the itinerary so that each generation can enjoy the trip is challenging enough, but travelling families should also be mindful that children can be more prone to illness due to changes in routine, environment and diet, while seniors might have pre-existing medical conditions that could affect coverage, so having adequate travel medical insurance for everyone is vital.”

The company has advice on pre-trip planning for multi- and skip-gen vacations. As the size of the group grows along with age gaps, there are more planning steps, which include adequate travel protection for every traveller. “For multi-generational travel, we recommend that one person is assigned to ensure that pre-trip details related to health and travel protections are managed, including everything from accessibility issues, vaccines, special dietary needs and age-appropriate activities,” Keon told ITIJ. “This will help to ensure that the needs of all members of the family are taken care of.” 

Children can be more prone to illness due to changes in routine, environment and diet, while seniors might have pre-existing medical conditions

On the subject of age-appropriate activities, Kearney at Staysure says that it’s important to ensure that family members think about what they might need cover for. “Grandparents might find themselves doing something they wouldn’t normally do, so the insurance policy they buy needs to cover a wide range of activities to cover all age ranges.”

Certainly, making sure the policy purchased for the family group meets all members’ needs is key. “The main concern when covering multi-generation and skip-gen travellers is ensuring that the policy is suitable for children and grandparents alike,” said Etkind. “We recommend the purchase of insurance as soon as the holiday is booked to cover emergency circumstances prior to the trip.” 

Confusion sometimes arises, however, says Hayman, when members of a travelling family group need to make a claim if they have purchased cover from more than one provider. “If one of the grandparents is taken ill with a (covered) pre-existing medical condition it is conceivable that the underlying family policy might not provide reimbursement for cancellation costs or additional accommodation and travel expenses overseas. Accordingly, we always recommend that the entire party is insured under one policy.”

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Certainly, the risk of a grandparent falling ill prior to or while on vacation is very real. But one aspect of skip-gen holidays to consider, says Hayman, is the scenario in which one or both of the grandparents are taken ill. “Under these circumstances, it might be necessary for the assistance provider to authorise a parent or other adult to fly out to care for or repatriate the children should that be necessary.”

Among the 26.9 per cent of Canadians who travelled with a group of related adults and children in the past year, more than one quarter included more than two generations

Palmer elaborated: “A risk associated with this type of travelling group is that in the unfortunate event of a claim, the responsible adults (grandparents) might not be in a position to supervise the grandchildren.” In such situations, insurers often allow a family member to be flown out to be with the children and visit the grandparents. “Or we could potentially fly the children back to the UK with a responsible adult,” Palmer added.

As the cover of medical conditions is often important for skip-gen and multi-gen holidays, making such policies easier to purchase is something insurers have been working on. “Some insurers are already doing this by implementing easy online application processes for families, simplifying the procedure for seniors to declare health conditions online, and making travel insurance premiums more affordable for families travelling with their children,” said Etkind. With InsureandGo, he said, children under 18 years of age are eligible for a free policy when travelling with their parents or grandparents and the company’s tailored cruise policy appeals to seniors by providing cover up to the age of 100, while considering all pre-existing medical conditions, which can be declared online without a medical or doctor’s certificate. “These benefits can be useful for seniors travelling as part of a skip- or multi-generation holiday,” he said. 

Other considerations for travelling family groups, especially those convening from different parts of the country, is out-of-state or out-of-province coverage and cancellation cover. As Keon states: “While the destination is usually the major decision, travellers might not recognise the need for coverage if they are staying within Canada (for example). Provincial health insurance does not cover everything in other regions across the country.

Expenses for things like ambulances and paramedic assistance might not be covered by a traveller’s provincial health plan while travelling out of province. And it’s not uncommon for family members to come together at a destination from different cities, which makes the need for trip interruption or cancellation coverage beneficial to help protect your travel investment.”

It’s not hard to understand why skip-gen and multi-gen holidays are rapidly becoming more popular, what with the pressures of modern family life. Insurers have begun to build policies that meet the unique needs of travelling family groups that contain older and younger travellers, each with their own risk profiles, and it will be interesting to see how they develop their policies further as these types of vacation continue their upward trajectory.