Almost one in four Brits jet off without travel insurance, risking Ј1,000s in medical bills. If you've booked a trip but not insurance, do it NOW – it can cost as little as Ј13 for annual cover.
But it's not just about finding the best price, in this guide we also explain how travel insurance works and what to watch out for when you buy.
Travel insurance: Your 11 need-to-knows
The aim of travel insurance is to cover the cost of the unforeseen, such as illness and injury or theft of your personal possessions while you are on holiday. It's also designed to cover you if you have to cancel your trip, or need to return early due to an emergency. But before you buy, here are 11 things you should know.
Insurance is about covering the unpredictable
"Why should I get travel insurance, I might not use it?" you may ask. But the whole point is to cover you for the unforeseen – ie, unpredictable events that may occur either before or during your holiday. You need to accept that, and as it's impossible to predict the future, all you can do is to give it your best shot. To sum up.
Insurance is about making unpredictable events predictable in case the unpredictable happens.
Buy as soon as you've booked to cover cancellation and pre-trip illness
If you’ve booked a holiday and think it's no biggie to leave insurance on the 'things to do' list, you're taking an unnecessary risk.
Thinking you don’t need to arrange cover yet as your holiday’s not for another six months is a big mistake. In fact, it’s even more of a reason to arrange travel insurance, as anything can happen before your trip. Why? It's because travel insurance won't just cover you while you're away, it'll also cover you for cancellation or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip.
Never assume all policies are the same
While choosing a travel insurance policy isn't rocket science, don't think you can buy cover without first giving it considerable thought. Policies vary greatly and each have their own inclusions and exclusions.
Before you decide what you are going to buy ask yourself the following questions: Will I be bringing expensive personal belongings? Will I be carrying a relatively large amount of foreign currency? Am I taking part in winter sports? This will help you decide what cover's right for you.
In our our best buys below we give you two choices. Annual policies. which meet our minimum criteria for various things, including cancellation and medical care, and our top pick policies, which not only meet our minimum criteria but also have a good record on claims, strong customer feedback and a history of paying out in extraordinary situations.
What's typically covered under a travel insurance policy?
Every travel insurance policy covers different things but all would offer a varying degree of cover on:
Unforeseen illnesses, injuries or accidents will be covered under the medical section of your policy. This covers the cost of receiving treatment overseas – including dental emergencies in most cases – and repatriation,
the cost of having to fly you back to the UK.
On a slightly more morbid note, most policies cover cremation costs or the repatriation of a body should you or someone else covered under the policy die during your holiday.
Travel policies also cover cancellation if you can no longer go on your holiday or you need to come back early. However, there needs to be a valid reason for you to abandon your trip.
Being made redundant, having to do jury service, or having to take care of a seriously ill family member are among the list of valid reasons. But if you decide you no longer fancy a trip to the Canary Islands because you would rather go to the Maldives, or you want to return to the UK because you forgot to put EastEnders on series record, your claim will probably be rejected.
Baggage and personal belongings
Your travel policy will also cover you if your stuff is lost, stolen or damaged while you are on holiday. Almost everything you take overseas, including computers, phones, cameras and expensive clothing is included. Many providers will also cover you for the loss of a passport, cash or a driving licence.
However, policies can vary greatly both in the amount covered and in the excess – the amount you have to pay towards the claim yourself. For example, items such as cash or expensive goods can be subject to an additional higher excess.
Personal liability protects others and their property from accidents you may cause while on holiday. For example, the personal liability element of your insurance would cover you if, during a skiing trip, you crashed into another skiier and injured them. Insurers will typically cover you for up to Ј2m, which is generally more than enough.
Travel schedules are often the victim of adverse weather, so delay cover is one of the more important aspects of travel insurance. Most policies cover against more than just storms, with many including events such as industrial action and mechanical breakdown.
If your flight's been delayed for more than three hours or it's been cancelled you may be able to claim compensation of up to Ј470 directly from the airline but the reason for the delay or cancellation must be the airline’s fault, so bad weather for example, won’t count.
This compensation is only for EU-regulated flights. An EU flight is where the flight departed from an EU airport, regardless of the airline OR where an EU airline landed at an EU airport. Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. See our Flight Delay Compensation guide for more info.
If this doesn't apply – perhaps because you flew both from and to an airport outside the EU – you can also try making a claim on your travel insurance policy. Insurers typically pay out for each 12-hour period you've been delayed, but the payouts are often tiny compared to what you can get from your airline.
What is typically left out of travel insurance cover?
Like all insurance policies, there are a number of things that providers will not pay out for. Here are the most common: