Lots of us are busy planning summer getaways, but with holidays to some of the most popular destinations having jumped dramatically in cost, most holidaymakers will be looking at ways to keep travel bills down.
According to research by consumer association Which? a summer 2023 package break, booked between November 1, 2022, and January 3 of this year, is 19% more expensive on average than a summer 2022 package holiday.
If you’re looking at ways to cut costs, one thing you may be considering is whether to buy travel insurance. Here, we explain how it works, why it’s essential not to travel without it, and why you should buy cover at the same time you book your break.
- What is travel insurance?
- What does travel insurance cover?
- What are the different types of travel insurance?
- Does it matter what I’m doing while travelling?
- Do I need travel insurance if I’m travelling in the UK?
- What is the average cost of travel insurance?
- Do I already have travel insurance?
- What happens if I go abroad with no travel insurance?
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a type of insurance policy that covers major mishaps and accidents while you’re travelling, either in the UK or abroad. Even the best-planned trips can be thrown into disarray if something unexpected happens, such as your baggage going missing, or if you have an accident and need medical treatment while you’re away, and travel insurance is designed to refund you for any costs that should arise.
What does travel insurance cover?
Travel insurance policies can vary widely in terms of the level of cover they provide and what is and isn’t included. It’s therefore vital to read the small print carefully so you don’t uncover any nasty surprises if you need to make a claim. Here are some of the things most policies cover:
Money and personal belongings
Travel insurance will typically cover you for any personal possessions that may be lost, destroyed or stolen from you while travelling, meaning you will be refunded for the value of these items.
There are limits to this, however. The maximum value per item that you can claim is usually between £200 and £500, for both individual belongings and cash. Keep this in mind when packing expensive gadgets or jewellery, and consider getting these insured separately. For the same reason, it’s a good idea not to carry too much cash on you at once while away. There will generally be a maximum overall limit on the amount you can claim for money and personal belongings overall, usually up to around £1,500 so if you’re taking an item that’s worth more than this, for example, an engagement ring, you’ll either need to let your insurer know or consider leaving the item securely locked away at home.
Emergency medical cover
Hospital bills vary widely depending on which country you’re visiting, and they can be notoriously expensive in places such as the United States. Travel cover will take care of these medical costs, should you happen to get sick or injured while abroad.
If you have a European Health Insurance Card (or EHIC), then you will be entitled to state medical care in all European Union countries. This means you will receive the same level of care that would be available to a local resident. If your EHIC expires, or has expired already, then you can apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (or GHIC). Despite the name this still only applies within EU countries, not worldwide. Before 1 January 2021, an EHIC or GHIC would also cover you in some non-EU countries including Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, but now neither card will cover UK citizens visiting these countries. Find out more about the GHIC in our article Everything you need to know about the Global Health Insurance Card.
Bear in mind that state medical care works differently abroad, so the EHIC or GHIC might not cover all of your bills if you would normally be expected to pay for care in that country. It also won’t cover repatriation costs. Therefore, it’s still essential to have travel insurance even if you already have an EHIC or GHIC. Despite the name, they don’t technically count as insurance policies, so you won’t be considered double-insured if you have travel insurance in addition to a card.
It’s important to be completely honest about your medical history and any pre-existing conditions you might have when applying for travel insurance. If you are not, then it will put your cover in jeopardy and your insurer may refuse to payout. Find out more in our guide How to find travel insurance if you have pre-existing medical conditions.
Cancellation, curtailment, disruptions and missed departure
This feature of travel insurance will cover you if you have to cancel or cut short your holiday for reasons such as illness, bereavement, delays or cancellations to your flight or train, or similar emergencies. It may cover missed departures for reasons such as unexpected traffic, breakdowns and other delays. Some policies should also cover disruptions to your living arrangements, such as your accommodation falling through at the last minute.
Different insurers will accept different circumstances as suitable grounds for a payout, so you should be sure to check the terms and conditions carefully so you know exactly what is covered.
Personal liability should cover you for any legal bills that you incur on your travels, for example, if you were to injure someone by accident or damage their property.
What are the different types of travel insurance?
The type of cover you will need depends on a few things.
Where you’re going: Depending on your holiday destination, you’ll either need UK cover, European cover or worldwide cover. Bear in mind that these are often defined differently by insurers. For example, some companies include certain African countries in their European cover, while some do not include the United States in their worldwide cover. It’s always wise to read over your policy carefully before buying.
Who you’re going with: Different plans are available for individuals, couples and families. Getting a couple or family plan is typically better value than getting separate insurance policies for each person individually.
How many trips you will be making in the next year: If you’re only planning on going away once or twice a year, you might decide to opt for single-trip cover for each occasion. Any more than this and it may be worthwhile getting annual travel insurance, which will cover any trips you make over the next 12 months.
Find out more in our guide How to get the right travel insurance policy for you.
Does it matter what I’m doing while travelling?
Holidays based around particular activities are often covered by specialist travel insurance policies, which provide protection for specific mishaps related to what you’re doing. For instance, travel insurance policies are available which cover winter sports and ski holidays. These are considered high risk activities and so aren’t usually covered by standard travel insurance policies. Another example would be cruise travel insurance, which would offer a payout if you were confined to your cabin for medical reasons.
If your holiday revolves around a type of break like a cruise or a certain activity like winter sports it’s therefore important to check that the travel policy you’ve chosen covers this.
Do I need travel insurance if I’m travelling in the UK?
It’s worth getting travel insurance even if you don’t intend to leave the UK on your holidays. Most of the scenarios that travel insurance covers can still occur on domestic trips after all.
Bear in mind that UK travel insurance generally won’t cover staying with family, or holidays within a 50-mile radius of your home. Your stay will also usually need to be pre-booked and last more than two or three nights in order to qualify.
What is the average cost of travel insurance?
The cost of a travel insurance policy depends on where you’re going, how much cover you want, and how long the policy will run for, along with your personal circumstances and any pre-existing conditions. Because there are so many variables, it’s tricky to give an overall average.
However, the cost of cover for a week in Spain can set you back as little as £10-£20 if you don’t have any medical conditions, which is a small price to pay if you end up needing to make a claim.
If you’re looking for travel insurance, we have partnered with Staysure to provide you with first class travel insurance, tailored to suit your needs. There’s no upper age limit and they’ll cover most pre-existing medical conditions. You can also take advantage of their 20%‡ discount, just quote REST03 at checkout.
‡Discount applies to the base premium of the policy only and not to medical screening costs or add-ons where relevant. Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.
Do I already have travel insurance?
You might already have travel insurance with your packaged bank account or credit card, so it’s worth double-checking if you’re uncertain. If you do, then look at the terms carefully and make sure that it covers everything that you’re concerned about.
It’s very important to make sure that you don’t already have travel insurance before taking out a new policy, as being “double-insured” can make claiming difficult and much slower. If you try to make a claim while double-insured, then each insurer will only have to pay a certain share of the total amount, even if you have been paying full premiums to one or both. Documents for your policy will include a “contribution clause” that outlines exactly how much the insurer will pay in this situation.
What happens if I go abroad with no travel insurance?
There is technically no legal requirement to get travel insurance before going abroad. However, if you run into any emergencies that you are not covered you could end up with a hefty bill, and potentially no way of paying it off. Even the best-planned trips can be turned upside down by unexpected accidents, illnesses, cancellations, and so on. For the amount of things it covers, travel insurance is almost always a worthwhile investment. After all, as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Make sure you buy cover at the same time you book your holiday, as this will mean you’re protected from this point onwards. That doesn’t mean you have to buy cover from the same company you’ve booked your holiday with – it’s always worth shopping around for travel insurance so you can be certain you’ve found the best policy to suit your needs at a competitive price.
Travel insurance is usually extremely affordable given the amount of protection that it provides, and can greatly reduce the financial impact of any number of stressful situations that could occur on your travels. You can find out more about travel insurance, where to buy it, and how to keep costs to a minimum in our article Travel Insurance for over 50s.