What travel insurance do I need for a sabbatical?

When booking travel insurance for twelve months for a family of six from New Zealand, there was a lot of reading involved to understand what I needed. This won’t can’t down your policy reading time but hopefully this will help you to choose yours much quicker. Jump to the summary at the end if you’re in a hurry.

There are quite a few things I learnt when researching this. The first thing is to make sure you are researching the correct phrase. Researching “twelve month travel insurance” doesn’t necessarily get me the type of insurance I’m looking for. Be wary of booking “frequent traveller insurance” for 12 months or “annual travel insurance”. Both of these expect you to return to New Zealand within 30-90 days. They are designed for you to leave New Zealand frequently for longer periods, not for continuous long term travel while you are abroad. Instead search for “Long term travel insurance”. This will give you appropriate options which allows you to be out of the country for 12 months.

When purchasing travel insurance it’s best to buy it before you leave NZ. Some companies only let you book from your country of origin, very few will allow you to book once you’re already overseas. If you do book once you are overseas you could end up paying hundreds of dollars more for it than if you had paid before leaving New Zealand.

Things to be aware of when booking travel insurance is that some activities are not automatically covered and will require further insurance. These include but are not limited to high altitude treks, cruises, high seas sailing, snow activities. 

Your expensive digital equipment isn’t automatically covered and neither is expensive jewellery or accessories. There is a limit to how much they will cover in total, and per item plus some require that it has been purchased in the last twelve months to fall under this special insurance category.

If anyone in your family has a pre-existing medical condition, be sure to declare it so that you are still covered for it when you are overseas. And if any of your extended family have a pre-existing medical condition and you urgently need to fly back home for it, be sure to make sure you are covered for that.

Read your policies thoroughly before signing up and if you have any questions be sure to ask. These insurance companies are happy to answer your queries and usually respond promptly.

For New Zealanders there are a couple of long term travel insurance options:

World Nomads
Cover More


All of these will price your insurance based on the region you are visiting and that price is based on how expensive medical care is in that country.

In South East Asia medical treatment is quite cheap so generally this region is cheaper. But in America your medical bill could be $25,000 for one night so generally this region is the most expensive. Therefore if you are travelling to quite a few regions then you will probably need to purchase insurance for the most expensive region because then you will be covered for the others. The price is also dependent on the length of time you will be away to a maximum of 18 months. Because I’m travelling for less than this I haven’t looked into options beyond that timeframe. We purchased Worldwide as the region because we were headed to America. This gives us options to travel anywhere and be covered.



Read your policy and ask about anything you don’t understand

Google “long term travel insurance”

Book from NZ before leaving so you don’t incur fees

Make sure your activities, expensive items and tech are insured

Purchase for the most expensive region you plan to visit