Travel insurance is an essential consideration if you want to protect yourself against medical bills and loss of belongings whilst you are away. Most policies even cover you if you end up having to cancel before you are due to travel. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), travel insurers pay out an average of £540k a day for medical bills abroad and in 2019 insurers forked out a sum of £141m for holiday cancellations.
In this article, we look at the different types of travel insurance and the best way to buy a travel insurance policy.
What does travel insurance cover?
Travel insurance - sometimes referred to as holiday insurance - is an insurance policy that will pay out in the event that you need medical treatment whilst away on holiday or if you need to cancel your holiday and are unable to travel. Exactly what you are covered for will vary with each travel insurance provider so it is important to check your policy documents carefully so you know exactly what you are covered for. Most standard travel insurance policies, however, will cover medical treatment and repatriation back to the UK, public liability, holiday cancellation and lost baggage. If you need additional cover such as cover for dangerous activities or winter sports you may be able to add this as an extra on your policy at an additional cost.
What are the different types of travel insurance?
There are a range of travel insurance policies that offer different levels of cover depending on where you are travelling and how long for. You can also buy travel insurance that covers a couple, family or even a large group. With most travel insurance policies you can expect to be covered for medical treatment and repatriation back to the UK, as well as lost baggage and cancellation if you are unable to travel. Below we explain the key differences between the various types of travel insurance and any additional cover you can expect.
Worldwide travel insurance
When taking out a travel insurance policy you will have to select whether you would like to be covered for European or Worldwide travel. Worldwide travel insurance covers you for countries outside of Europe (some countries such as Egypt may be covered under European policies, check with the travel insurance provider to be sure). There are two types of Worldwide travel insurance, one with cover for the USA, Canada and the Caribbean and one without. Worldwide travel insurance that covers the USA, Canada and the Caribbean is usually more expensive than a policy that doesn't because of the increased healthcare costs in those countries. You need to check your policy documents carefully when taking out travel insurance to ensure you are covered for each country you are travelling to.
European travel insurance
When choosing travel insurance you will need to also select the destination for your policy. European travel insurance covers you for trips within Europe and some insurers also offer cover for countries outside of Europe, such as Egypt. This does however vary between providers, so check your policy documents carefully.
Single trip travel insurance
Single trip travel insurance insures you for one trip for a set period of time. How long you are insured for will vary depending on the travel insurance provider, however, it is usually around 31 days. It is possible to get cover for longer, for example, LV='s single trip insurance covers those under 65 for a trip for up to 366 days. Single trip travel insurance policies tend to be a cheaper option however it may be more cost-effective to buy an annual trip travel insurance policy, particularly if you are going away multiple times in a 12 month period.
Annual travel insurance
Annual travel insurance - also known as annual multi-trip travel insurance - will cover you for multiple trips over a period of 12 months and is generally good for those who take over three trips in a year. Most insurance policies cover you for up to 31 days per trip but with some insurers, such as The Post Office, it may be possible to extend this cover up to 60 days per trip. Annual multi-trip travel insurance is likely to save you money if you are a regular traveller when compared to purchasing multiple single trips, however, you must check your policy documents carefully to ensure all of your destinations are covered throughout the year.
Long stay travel insurance
Long stay travel insurance is designed for trips over a longer period of time, usually three months or more, so it is particularly useful if you are taking a gap year or having an extended holiday away from home. It is important to understand that this type of travel insurance covers one extended trip and so does not cover multiple shorter trips. An extended trip does cover more than one destination, so is good for those travelling on a gap year. You would just need to ensure that all of your destinations are covered by a European or Worldwide policy.
Pre-existing condition travel insurance
Travel insurance is an essential policy for all travellers but it can be difficult to obtain if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Those that are able to obtain a quote with a pre-existing medical condition will find that it can be extremely expensive. In this instance, you may benefit from getting a travel insurance quote from a specialist insurer. These companies specialise in insurance policies for those with pre-existing medical conditions and can help if you have had a policy cancelled, refused or amended due to your medical condition in the past. For more information on specialist insurers, read our article, 'The best travel insurance for pre-existing conditions' or check out Moneyhelper (formally known as the Money Advice Service).
Adventure/Winter sports travel insurance
If you are partaking in dangerous sports or activities whilst you are away you need to double-check with your travel insurance provider that you are covered for the activity. With some standard travel insurers, you can add winter sport or adventure cover as an additional extra or if your trip is exclusively for a winter sport e.g. skiing, then you may benefit from a specialist winter sports insurance policy. Winter sports travel insurance will cover sports such as sledging, ice hockey, skiing and snowboarding and you may also get cover for damaged equipment and avalanche delays. Check with your insurer directly so you know exactly what you are covered for before you travel.
Cruise travel insurance
Cruise travel insurance is designed to protect you against problems that can specifically arise whilst you are away on your cruise, such as missed port departures or cabin confinement due to illness. Cruise travel insurance is also likely to offer cover for each destination you are travelling to whilst on your cruise, but it is important to check your policy documents carefully to ensure you are definitely covered for each destination.
Over 65s travel insurance
Some insurers enforce upper age limits on their travel insurance policies which may mean that once you reach a certain age you are unable to get cover on a standard travel insurance policy. This is because as you age you are more likely to suffer from illness and are therefore more expensive to insure. Because of this, you may need to take out a specialist insurance policy if you are over the upper age limit on your existing travel insurance policy.
Over 65s travel insurance offers the same cover as most standard insurance policies but is likely to be more expensive because of your age and the added associated risks. However, some insurance companies, such as The Post Office do not have upper age limits on some of their policies so you may still be able to get cover with some restrictions in the length of time you are covered for each trip.
Couples travel insurance
Couples travel insurance insures two people in a relationship and living together at the same address. Couples travel insurance may work out cheaper than two individual single trip policies but do shop around to get the best deal. Couples travel insurance will insure you for medical treatment, delays and cancellations but it is unlikely to cover you if you need to cancel due to a break-up. Check your policy documents carefully so you know exactly what you are covered for.
Family travel insurance
A family travel insurance policy will insure each member of the family for single or multiple trips in a year, depending on the type of policy you choose. Family travel insurance typically covers 2 adults and up to 8 children under the age of 18. Each family member must be living at the same address. Some family travel insurance policies may insure adults for holidays without the children but you would need to check the policy documents carefully. In addition, if your child is due to travel without you it is unlikely they will be covered. In some cases it may be cheaper to buy a couples policy and separate policies for your children, depending on how many you have, so be sure to shop around to get the best deal.
Group travel insurance
Group travel insurance can cover a group of up to 10 people under one policy. Policyholders on a group travel insurance policy do not have to be related in order to be covered and so it may be a cheaper option for a large group of people that are travelling to the same place, perhaps for a wedding. When booking a group policy you will need to read the policy documents carefully to ensure everyone is covered as there can be strict rules that insist all travellers depart together, either on the same flight or at least from the same airport.
Do I need travel insurance?
If you want to protect yourself against high medical bills in the unfortunate event that you require treatment when abroad, then this alone should make you consider travel insurance, particularly if you are travelling to a country with expensive medical care such as the USA. Without travel insurance, you will be expected to pay for the costs of high medical bills, which, depending on where you are travelling to, can reach thousands of pounds. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) says that a simple infection or stomach bug treated in a hospital in the USA with return flights back to the UK could set you back up to £100,000. As long as you meet your insurer's requirements, travel insurance should cover this cost.
In addition, travel insurance can also provide extra protection for holiday cancellation and lost belongings as well as travel delays and lost baggage. For more information on whether you need travel insurance, read our article, 'Do I need travel insurance?'
It is better to take out travel insurance as soon as you book your trip so that you are covered in the event you are unable to travel.
Where can I buy travel insurance?
The quickest and easiest way to purchase a travel insurance policy is via a comparison site such as Compare the Market* or MoneySuperMarket* as they allow you to easily compare the cost of numerous providers for the type of cover and destinations you are travelling to. One thing to consider before taking out a travel insurance policy with a comparison site, however, is that they are not always whole of market and so you could miss out on a better deal elsewhere.
You may also be able to get a travel insurance policy included when you book with your airline or via a package holiday but this may not be the best policy for your needs, so make sure you look at the policy terms carefully and shop around for the right level of cover. Finally, it may also be worth checking with your bank as some banks offer packaged current accounts for new and existing customers that provide a number of benefits included in the monthly price.
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