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“It was absolute hell”: Travel expert Catriona Rowntree shares her biggest travel nightmares (and how you can avoid them!)

Reviewed by expert, Sarah Orr
4 min read
22 Aug 2023
Catriona Rowntree 2022 using Compare the Market Simples App

Catriona Rowntree is Compare the Market’s expert for all things travel. As one of Australia’s most travelled women, she is the perfect planning companion for your next holiday.

Holidays are meant to be an escape from the problems and stress of everyday life but – with such high expectations – it can be especially hard when things don’t go to plan.

Over two-thirds of us admit we’ve made mistakes while travelling. Nearly 10% have missed a flight, 7% say they’ve booked the wrong dates, and 23% of us have forgotten to pack essential items.

Even the slightest misstep can send us into a spiral of dismay when everything is meant to be picture-perfect!

It’s important to put things into perspective and remember there will always be another flight. But when things do go awry, it’s so important to have travel insurance.



Merchandise lost


I have lost valuable and sentimental items during my travels and have learned the hard way never to pack anything you could not stand to lose.

But sometimes it’s necessary to pack things like a laptop for work, which can be difficult and expensive to replace as well.

Once while passing through security checks, I left my laptop on the X-ray conveyer belt. By the time I had realised, it was too late – someone had stolen it.

That was when I learned very quickly, a great travel insurance provider could be a dear friend. They had my back.

I was forgetful due to tiredness. I lost it. I want to blame. But my travel insurance immediately helped me out.

When purchasing a policy, always check the wording to make sure you have the cover you need.  All policies have limits and sub-limits, and most will have a cover limit on laptops and other electrical items!


Don’t book the hire car, named desire


I was recently offered a hire car upgrade to an electric model. Despite having no experience with EVs, I got caught up in the excitement and thought it could be fun.

Well, it was absolute hell! I had no instructions and no idea where to start! I was scrambling to find charging stations and could hardly relax. There is nothing fun about that.

In the end, I wish I had stuck with the little Toyota Camry I was originally offered.

My best advice if you’re ever offered a hire car upgrade: only accept models that you are confident with driving.

When you hire a car, the excess is normally much higher than any car insurance excess you may be used to.  Many comprehensive travel insurance policies can include Rental Vehicle Excess cover and this could save you thousands if you are at fault in an accident.


Fashion faux pas


Don’t overpack. Pushing the limits on your luggage allowance could cost you hundreds of dollars in extra fees at the airport.

A travel-friendly wardrobe is not simply thrown together. Pick clothes in similar colours that you can mix and match to create different looks during your stay. Choosing things that you can re-wear multiple times could also help reduce your laundry bills.

Most importantly, check the weather. Springtime in Europe, for example, is much chillier than what we experience here. I once went to Paris, with the idea I’d look like Audrey Hepburn in pretty dresses. I checked the weather app at the airport and discovered it was expected to be 15 degrees!

If you’re unlucky and affected by wild weather, you’ll want to make sure you have travel insurance for unexpected cancellations.


Ouch! Doctor’s visits that hurt the hip pocket


It is extremely common to find yourself unwell during the first few days of your holiday but nobody wants to be that person that’s coughing on their flight or sneezing on their cruise.

While Australia does have medical agreements with certain countries, seeing a doctor in some parts of the world could really cost you.

If you’re visiting Mexico or the United States, for example, you’ll want to make sure you have appropriate travel insurance cover to help take the sting out of any unexpected medical emergencies.

And, when you go cruising, remember you will not be covered by Medicare or your private health insurance. You’ll need your travel insurance policy to include cover for medical expenses.

You can visit Compare the Market to browse a range of travel insurance policies to look for one that suits your needs and budget.

Make your next holiday Simples!

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avatar of author: Catriona Rowntree

Written by Catriona Rowntree

Catriona Rowntree is an Australian travel icon, having hosted Australia’s longest-running travel show, Getaway, for 25+ years. She has travelled extensively around the world and visited over 100 countries, with some incredible stories to tell along the way. Catriona is a wealth of knowledge and is always happy to share travel advice for any destination. When she’s not out on a whirlwind adventure, she loves to spend time with her family on their farm in rural Victoria.

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