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Holiday checklists of Yesteryear: Shoe trees and hat cleaning kits (but no sewing machines)

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1950s travel customers could claim for too much rain while holidaying in the UK. 1954 Aviva holiday checklist included shoe trees, field glasses and three types of lingerie. Past travel policies have excluded typewriters, sewing machines and cassette players.

With the traditional holiday booking season now underway, insurer Aviva has explored its archives to see how travel planning has changed over the years.

According to the insurer’s latest How We Live report, 71% of UK adults hope to take a UK break in the next 12 months, while 51% of UK adults intend to take a holiday abroad in 2022.

A recent Aviva travel checklist advised customers to read Government and FCDO advice, carry a valid EHIC or GHIC card when travelling in the EU, and check the level of Covid cover on their travel insurance.

But a look back to Aviva customer literature in 1954 reveals more of a focus on holiday packing. A travel checklist from Aviva’s archives includes coat hangers, shoe trees, handkerchiefs, braces and “field glasses” for men, along with needles, cottons and cleaning equipment (for clothes, hats and shoes) for women – as well as three types of women’s lingerie for evening, day and night. Passports, tickets and traveller’s cheques feature at the bottom of the list, along with travel insurance.

The insurer, which celebrated its 325th anniversary in November 2021, has insured tourists since 1854 when ancestor organisation, The Travellers and Marine Insurance Company, provided an annual Whole World Tourist’s Policy. Priced at £1 and 10 shillings, it combined cover for the risk of accidental death while travelling by land and sea.

Other policy wordings in the archives show how things have changed through the years, particularly regarding which items people might have considered taking away. In 1938, the company offered a baggage policy which excluded cover for typewriters. It also excluded ‘valuable laces’ of greater value than £25 unless specifically mentioned and valued on the proposal form.

Excluded items under luggage insurance in 1961 included sewing machines and tape recorders.

Around this time, holidaymakers would usually have had a separate policy for expensive items such as cameras.

The company also offered ‘pluvius insurance’ for UK breaks in the 1950s, in case “excessive rainfall” ruined people’s holidays. The policy even offered extra cover for UK resorts known for wet weather, including “West Coast resorts” and the Lake District.

Aviva travel insurance now offers baggage cover as an optional extra, with cover of up to £1,500 per person and a single item limit of £400 and a total valuables limit of £400 – but no specific restrictions on sewing machines or typewriters.

Anna Stone, Group Archivist for Aviva says: “Holidays and travel plans have evolved enormously since we first introduced cover for tourists in 1854, so naturally our travel insurance has developed too.

“We still offer baggage cover and insurance for accidents and injuries overseas, but now we also provide insurance against a range of Covid-related incidents, such as cancellations, quarantining and contracting the virus while abroad.”

Aviva has also seen its fair share of unusual travel-related claims over the years. For example:

  • A customer had his baggage stolen while travelling in Australia. A few days later he was surprised to find the insurance policy which had been stolen along with the baggage duly returned to him, so that he could be reimbursed for the loss. [1934]
  • A customer visited Monkey Forest in Bali. He claimed for a pair of glasses which were stolen by one of the monkeys. [1990]
  • A customer needed medical treatment in Corfu when she ran into a wall while being chased by a lizard. [1995]
  • While on holiday in Kenya, a customer put his false tooth in a glass of water overnight. Having to go out very early the next morning, he omitted to put his tooth in. On return, the tooth had vanished. Investigation revealed that one of the hotel’s stewards assumed it was waste material and flushed it down the toilet. [1979]
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