If you’re going on holiday, you’ll need travel insurance to make sure you won’t lose out financially if something goes wrong, for example, if you have to cancel your trip due to illness, or if your luggage is stolen or lost.
But with so many providers offering travel cover, what should you look for in a policy? Here’s our rundown of some of the things you need to watch out for when choosing travel insurance.
1. Start by shopping around
The first thing is not to go for the cheapest policy as it may not give you the cover you need, but you also shouldn’t automatically go for the cover offered by your holiday provider, as you might find more affordable cover elsewhere. Consider using a broker if you’re going on an activity holiday, are older or need specialist cover (you can find a broker on the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) website.
2. Levels of medical cover
Your travel insurance policy should include at least £2 million of cover if you’re travelling in Europe and £5 million if you’re travelling elsewhere, particularly the United States where medical costs are particularly steep. You can get some medical treatment free or at low cost in Europe if you have a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). But it won’t cover things like being airlifted to hospital or transport home. You can learn more about the GHIC in our guide Everything you need to know about the Global Health Insurance Card.
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.
3. Levels of baggage cover
Make sure you have enough cover in case you lose your luggage or have your money or valuables stolen. Some policies have very low limits on luggage cover, of just a few hundred pounds. It’s also well worth finding out what the single item limit is. This is the maximum you can claim for any single item (useful if you’re taking jewellery or an expensive phone or camera).
4. Family cover
If you’re travelling with your family, make sure you check that your children are covered. Family policies will normally cover children, but they could be limited only to children who live with you all the time, so may not cover your grandchildren if, for example, you’re taking them away on holiday with you. It’s also worth checking the age limit if your children are over 16. Many have an upper age limit of 18, but not all do.
5. Excess levels
Check the excess levels – the amount that’s deducted from any payout if you make a claim. All insurance policies will have an excess and most will apply this excess to each part of the policy. So, for example, there may be an excess of £50 if you make a claim under delayed departure, another excess of £50 if you claim because you’ve lost your luggage and another excess if you claim because you’ve lost your passport or money. Some insurers apply an overall cap (so you’ll only ever pay, for example, two lots of excess).
6. Sports and activities
If you’re the kind of person whose idea of a perfect holiday is to go camel racing, paragliding or deep sea diving, make sure your insurance will cover those activities! Even if you do something like pony trekking or take a hot air balloon flight, not all policies may cover you. Some only cover trips that are booked from the UK and other insurance policies will cover some activities but not the riskier ones, so it’s vital you read the small print before you go.
7. What happens if you've had a serious illness?
If you’ve been ill in the past, or you have a medical condition – even if it’s being controlled really well by medication – you must tell the insurer before you buy the policy. Some insurers won’t cover medical conditions, some will increase the premiums and others will restrict cover.
If you get turned down by one of the big insurers on a price comparison site, go to one that specialises in insurance for people who have existing medical conditions. Find out more in our article How to find travel insurance if you have pre-existing health conditions.
8. Proof of loss
Ask the company, or check on the policy documents, what evidence you have to provide if you want to make a claim. Some insurers will ask that you provide receipts for everything you’re claiming for. Others will say you have to get a police crime number within 24 hours or that you have to get a police report if an item has been lost, not just if it’s been stolen.
9. Making a claim
You should always contact your insurer straight away as soon as you’ve lost something or when you know you will need to make a claim. That way you can make sure you do what’s expected of you. If your travel insurer won’t pay out, first of all, go back to them and ask them why not. It may be that they need more evidence or that they want some extra medical information, for example.
10. If the policy won’t pay out
Make sure your complaint is dealt with and not pushed to the bottom of the heap. Contact the chief executive – by letter or email – if your complaint isn’t being dealt with. They probably won’t respond but most chief execs have an executive team to deal with complaints like these.
If you don’t get anywhere, make a formal complaint. It’s best to do this in writing – by letter or email. The insurer then has eight weeks in which to respond and if they don’t agree with you, you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Find out more in our guide How to complain about a financial company.
Another option is to contact the media or social media, such as Twitter or Facebook. If you’re going to do this, take care because you are essentially ‘publishing’ and you could be sued if you say something that’s untrue.
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