TRAVEL insurance can ensure you are not left out of pocket if your holiday is cancelled or you need medical treatment when abroad
Here is how to find the best travel insurance.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is there to help you when something goes wrong with your holiday.
It can help cover your bills if your flights are cancelled, your luggage is lost, or you need medical help when travelling abroad.
The two main types of travel insurance are single and multi-trip cover.
There is also backpacking travel insurance which typically covers you for extended period to multiple destinations.
Which is best, single trip or annual travel insurance?
When you buy insurance, you will be asked if you want cover for a single trip or multi-trip.
It can get pricey if you keep buying insurance for several trips during one year.
For example, if you have two or three holidays in a year then it can often work out cheaper to take out annual multi-trip cover instead of a single policy for each time you travel.
Check how long you can be away for on each trip with an annual policy.
These policies will usually cover you for an unlimited number of trips but some insurers cap how long you can be away for, usually around 31 days.
Also check the policy terms of any annual travel insurance to ensure it covers the different places you are travelling to, and activities you may be doing.
What exactly does travel insurance cover me for?
Travel insurance can cover you for a range of situations, for example if your luggage has been stolen, you need to cancel your trip, or you need medical treatment while abroad.
Some policies may even cover you if your hotel has to close and you had to move accommodation, or if your flight was cancelled and you are unable to get your money back from the airline.
It may also provide protection if you have to cancel because of an illness, redundancy or a close family bereavement.
All policies have different inclusions and exclusions, so check the policy details thoroughly so you know what you are covered for before taking out a product.
What doesn’t travel insurance cover?
Check for exclusions in your policy but travel insurance essentially protects you against unforeseen circumstances.
If you could have prevented a claim or knew about a situation at the time of booking, then you may not be covered.
For example, If you had booked a holiday whilst knowing there was a global coronavirus pandemic not all policies would cover cancellations during, if restrictions meant people could no longer travel.
This is because it could be argued that you shouldn’t book a trip if you know there is a risk you may not be able to go due to lockdowns or self-isolation rules.
Additionally, your cover may be invalidated if your claim is as a result of getting drunk or due to medical conditions that you hadn’t disclosed.
How much does travel insurance cost?
The cost of travel insurance varies depending on your age, destination, the duration of your trip and the level of cover you want.
You can pay your travel insurance in one go or you can pay it on a monthly basis to spread your payments, but there may be an extra fee.
There is also an excess to pay if you make a claim. This is your contribution to the cost of the incident you are claiming for.
The excess can range from £0 upwards, and the more you pay, the lower the premium will be. There may also be different excess amounts on each section of your policy for example you may pay £0 on claims made for health benefits but there may be a higher excess of missed departure claims.
Is it worth purchasing travel insurance?
The risks of not having travel insurance can outweigh the cost of a big claim.
Accidents can happen, as well as cancellations, so travel insurance gives you peace of mind that you won’t be left footing the bill for unforeseen circumstances.
Check the policy before you buy though to ensure you have the right amount of cover.
You may also find you can cut your premiums by reducing the level of cover, as long as you are still adequately protected.
Do I need worldwide travel insurance?
Travel insurance policies typically cover trips either Europe, Worldwide or Worldwide (excluding USA, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean).
This is important as your destination will influence the price of your policy.
Worldwide travel policies are typically more expensive to reflect higher medical costs outside the UK and Europe, where most people have private medical insurance.
You will need worldwide travel insurance if you are going somewhere outside the UK or Europe, but you may need a separate product if you are going to the USA, Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
Do I need to declare my medical conditions?
One of the key questions on a travel insurance application is whether anyone travelling has a medical condition.
This is important as it will be priced into your insurance and you may not be covered while abroad if you have an incident related to a pre-existing condition you haven’t disclosed.
You and all travellers will need to complete a health screening questionnaire when taking out insurance.
This will give you an idea of the type of conditions that you need to disclose but generally any chronic conditions that you are receiving regular treatment for need to be mentioned.
You may also have to disclose if you have had serious health issues such as heart conditions or cancer, even if you have stopped receiving treatment.
Check the policy before buying to ensure it is the best travel insurance for pre-existing conditions that covers your needs.
When should you buy travel insurance?
Buying the best travel insurance for your needs should be the first thing you do after booking your holiday.
You will need to tell your insurer when you are travelling and if you buy straight away you are protected before you have left.
This covers you if you need to cancel your trip in advance.
Do I legally need to have travel insurance?
Unlike car insurance, there is no legal requirement to have travel cover.
But it is crucial if you want the peace of mind that you will be protected if there are issues with your trip and you won’t be left out of pocket if you are properly covered.
How long can I go away for?
Most travel insurance policies cover you for a limited number of days at a time.
This is typically around 31 days even if you have a multi-trip policy.
Each trip can’t be longer than 31 days, so if you stay longer, you risk not being protected if there was an accident or emergency.
If you need cover for a longer period, such as if you went backpacking for a year, you will need to get long-stay cover.
This can provide cover for more than a month and often up to 18 months, which may be the best travel insurance for backpackers.
Can I claim for cancellation before my holiday starts?
Cancellation cover is usually a standard feature of travel insurance policies.
It protects you if you have to cancel your holiday due to unforeseen circumstances, such as if you lose your job or a close family member dies.
Other reasons may be if you are ill, are called for jury duty or your home is burgled before your departure date.
Check your travel policy so you are sure what is covered, and also make sure the level of cover is enough, so you don’t get left out of pocket.
Cancellation insurance cover usually pays out for pre-booked flights, transport and accommodation.
However, you won’t be covered if the cancellation is due to a medical condition you didn’t declare, or there were circumstances you knew about before you bought the policy.
This means an insurer may refuse to cover you if a relative was already ill when you took out the policy and then passes away.
It is worth taking out travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday so you are covered immediately in case you have to cancel.
Can you buy travel insurance after buying a flight?
You can buy travel insurance at any point before your trip.
Getting covered as soon as your flight is booked can be beneficial, as you are then immediately protected in case your trip has to be cancelled.
Some airlines may try to sell you travel insurance when you book a flight, but it is best to shop around to ensure you are getting the best cover and most appropriate protection.
Will my travel insurance cover business travel?
You need a special type of cover if you are travelling abroad for work.
Business travel insurance covers more specific work-related items, such as if work laptops or official documents are stolen or damaged.
It will also cover you like a standard policy, so you will be insured for your personal possessions and if you need medical treatment.
The same exclusions apply though, so your insurance will be invalidated if your claim was as a result of reckless behaviour or due to an undisclosed medical condition.
If you are making several business trips a year it may be worth taking out multi-trip cover; alternatively, a single-trip policy will cover you for one-off work travel.
How can I get cheaper travel insurance?
The main costs associated with travel insurance are your premium and the excess.
You can reduce the premium by offering to pay more excess.
This will lower the upfront costs of your policy but means you will pay more if you need to make a claim.
You can also make your insurance cheaper by reducing the level of cover.
For example, a policy may give cover for up to £3,000 of luggage, but if yours is worth £2,000 there may be a better alternative product with lower premiums.
How do I find the best travel insurance?
Travel insurance can be purchased from travel agents and holiday companies when you book, but there is no obligation to take this.
Banks, supermarkets and insurance companies also offer travel cover and a comparison website can help you find the best product for your needs.
You will need to provide the names and ages of all travellers, the destination and any medical conditions.
Results can then be filtered based on the level of cover and the excess you want to pay.
You can also sort policies by price to find cheap travel insurance but check what is covered, as the lowest-cost deals may not always provide the best protection for you.
It may also be worth using an insurance broker if you have more complex needs. You can find a regulated insurance broker on the British Brokers Association website.
Also check your current account as some banks may offer travel insurance automatically to their customers, although you should still check what is covered.
How do I choose travel insurance?
Whether it’s the best annual travel insurance or a single trip, getting the right cover and level of protection is vital.
The best travel insurance should cover medical expenses, accidents, lost or damaged items and delays.
Policies should also pay-out for cancellations and missed flights, as well as if you need to return home early due to an emergency.
Check the amount of cover before taking out your policy to ensure you have the right level of protection for the value of your flights and baggage.
The higher the level of protection, the more you will pay for your insurance although this can be reduced with a higher excess.
You may need specialist insurance if you are going on a cruise, skiing or if you have a medical condition.
If you are travelling with the kids, it may be worth shopping around for the best family travel insurance.
This will usually cover two adults and up to eight children under-18 as long as they live with you.
Some policies may also offer free cover for children, which should reduce the cost of your insurance.
What is the best travel insurance?
The best travel insurance will depend on your needs.
You need to make sure the best travel insurance company for you and your family provides enough level of cover for the value of your luggage, flights, accommodation plus any excursions.
Additionally, you may also need cover for medical conditions.
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What is Covid-19 cover?
Holidaymakers can get travel insurance that includes Covid-19 cover but the level of protection, if any, varies as it is a known risk that holidaymakers should consider before booking.
Check the policy and where you are travelling to before you buy, as levels of cover may vary if you have to self-isolate, can no longer travel or are stuck abroad for longer and need to pay for hotel stays
Some may only cover you for certain things such as if you need medical treatment for coronavirus while on holiday. It is unlikely to cover you if you decide to cancel due to having to quarantine when you come back into the UK.
Read the full policy rather than relying on any one page summaries of cover that you may be sent, so you understand what you are paying for and what is protected.
Remember, your insurance will be invalidated if you travel against Foreign Office advice so you may not be covered if you have a medical issue when abroad.