Travel insurance is designed to help cover the cost of unexpected events that may occur on your trip abroad or in the UK. Travel insurance covers emergency medical expenses should you fall ill whilst abroad and it can also cover cancellation costs or lost or stolen belongings. You can buy travel insurance for a single trip away or you can purchase an annual policy that covers multiple trips in a policy year. You can also buy travel insurance if you are travelling for a longer period of time, maybe for a gap year.
In this article, we look at why you need travel insurance, how to buy travel insurance and when is the best time to buy travel insurance.
Do you need travel insurance?
Travel insurance is an essential addition to any holiday as it offers protection for any accidents or unexpected events that may happen whilst you are away. In 2019 ABTA - the leading association of travel agents and tour operators - found that 1 in 5 holidaymakers travelled without insurance. Over a third of those holidaymakers thought that they didn't need it and others said they were willing to take the risk to travel without insurance. One of the main risks of travelling without insurance is the high medical fees that you may incur should you fall ill and need treatment whilst abroad. For more information on travel insurance and why you need it, read our article 'Do you need travel insurance?'
When is the best time to buy travel insurance?
It is quite common for travellers to take out a travel insurance policy a few days or weeks before they are due to go away as most may think that there is no need to take out a policy sooner. For example, data collected by MoneySuperMarket between January and April 2019 found that only 13% of holidaymakers took out travel insurance over 31 days before they were due to travel. In comparison, 21% of holidaymakers took out travel insurance the day before their trip.
The best time to take out travel insurance is in fact as soon as you have booked or paid for your trip. This is because the sooner you purchase your travel insurance policy, the sooner you are covered if something doesn't quite go to plan.
Why should you buy travel insurance early?
Buying travel insurance immediately after you have booked your trip will ensure you are covered right away, including if you need to cancel your holiday. Travel insurance will, however, only pay out for unexpected events for example if you need to cancel your trip due to a bereavement or if you have been made redundant and can no longer afford to go away.
You may also be able to claim on your travel insurance if you fall ill or have an accident before you go away and are no longer able to travel. In some instances, you may also be able to claim if you have fallen pregnant before your trip and can no longer fly because of how far along you are in your pregnancy.
Another reason to consider purchasing your travel insurance policy early is for coronavirus cover. With the travel uncertainty of the past couple of years, purchasing a policy with covid cover can help to protect you in the event of covid related issues as long as anything you claim for was unknown at the time of purchase. E.g. you make a cancellation claim as you have tested positive for covid-19 and did not have covid at the time you purchased the policy. Find out more information on the best travel insurance providers with covid cover.
One thing to remember is that travel insurance only covers the cost of irrecoverable expenses and so you may have to pursue other avenues first - such as contacting your tour operator or travel provider - before making a claim. You are also usually only covered for unexpected events, so if you knew you were unwell before taking out a policy and subsequently made a claim related to that illness or injury, you will not be covered. In any event, you should always contact your travel insurance provider to find out if you are covered.
How early can you buy travel insurance?
How far in advance you can buy your travel insurance policy varies from provider to provider, however, it is best to purchase your travel insurance as soon as you have booked your trip, if possible. Travel insurance provider HolidayExtras says that its single trip travel insurance policy can be bought up to 18 months in advance of travelling, whilst its annual multi-trip policy can be bought up to 90 days in advance. An annual multi-trip policy is then valid for 12 months from the date of purchase and covers a number of trips in that time. However, there may be a limit to how many trips you can go on and the length of each trip.
What to consider before buying travel insurance
When purchasing a travel insurance policy there are a few things that you should consider to ensure that your policy meets the needs of your trip and we list some of these below:
- Emergency medical cover - The amount of emergency medical cover you have is likely to impact the cost of your travel insurance policy but it is important to take this into consideration when purchasing a policy, particularly if you are travelling somewhere with expensive medical care.
- Policy type - You should consider the type of travel insurance policy you will need for your trip. Are you going away more than once in 12 months? If so, an annual multi-trip policy may be better. Or if you are going away as a couple or family it may be cheaper to get one policy rather than separate policies. More information on the different travel insurance types can be found in our article, 'What are the different types of travel insurance?'
- Trip destination and length - When purchasing a travel insurance policy you need to ensure your trip destination is covered as most travel insurance providers have set specific policies for certain destinations e.g. Europe or Worldwide cover. The length of your trip will also affect your policy type. If you are going to be away for a longer period of time a long stay or backpacker policy may be a better option.
- Age - Your age will affect your travel insurance policy and there are some policies that enforce upper age limits that restrict cover for older travellers. That being said there are some specialist policies that are suitable for older travellers over the age of 65.
- Pre-existing conditions - It is important that you declare all pre-existing conditions when taking out travel insurance as not doing so could invalidate your insurance if you make a claim. If you take out your travel insurance policy early you should notify your travel insurance provider if you develop a medical condition before your trip, to ensure that it is still covered by your policy.
How to buy travel insurance
You can buy travel insurance direct from most travel insurance providers and we summarise some of the best providers in our article, 'The best travel insurance providers in 2023'. Another quick and easy way to purchase travel insurance is via a comparison site such as MoneySuperMarket* or Compare the Market*. Comparison sites allow you to enter details about your trip and each person that is travelling so that you can find the best travel insurance policy for your holiday. One thing to remember is that it may be possible to get a better deal elsewhere as not all comparison sites are whole of market and some travel providers such as Direct Line aren't featured on comparison sites.
You may also wish to check that you don't already have a travel insurance policy as part of a benefits package with your credit card provider or bank. If you do, you should check the type of cover you have to make sure that it is suitable for your trip and that there are no age limits on the cover.
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