Travel insurance can give you extra protection if your holiday doesn't go as planned. So you should make sure you have cover if you're planning a trip away.
It's particularly important to take out travel insurance if you are travelling independently because you may find yourself stranded with no way to get home and no-one to help sort out your holiday problem.
Read this page for more information on what you need to think about before you take out a travel insurance policy.
- travel insurance is essential, particularly if you are travelling independently
- choose a policy that covers your needs
- compare policies on the cover they offer as well as the cost
- check if you have other insurance that will cover you away from home
- If you're travelling in Europe, register for an EHIC card to get free medical treatment.
Why take out travel insurance?
Travel insurance can protect you against the following things going wrong:
- cancelling or cutting short your trip for reasons beyond your control
- missed transport or delayed departure for reasons beyond your control
- medical and other emergencies
- personal injury and death
- lost, stolen or damaged items, including baggage, passports and money
- accidental damage or injury caused by you.
If you don't have travel insurance you will have to pay out of your own pocket to deal with a problem while you're away. Or you may lose money if you have to cancel a trip and can't get your money back. This could cost you thousands of pounds.
If an insurer or broker can’t offer you insurance because of your age, most of them will refer you to an alternative insurer or give details of a signposting service such as the British Insurance Brokers’ Association’s (BIBA’s) ‘Find a Broker’ service .You can use this service to find specialist insurers who can offer specific types of cover based on factors such as age and medical condition.
You can find the BIBA’s ‘Find a Broker’ service by phoning their helpline on 0870 950 1790 or by going to their website at www.biba.org.uk.
You can find out about Age UK's travel insurance at www.ageuk.org.uk.
Where can you buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance is widely available. You can buy it from:
- insurance companies
- retailers and supermarkets
- travel agents
- online comparison websites
- holiday companies.
Sometimes, travel insurance might be included as an extra service offered through your bank account or credit card. You should check how much you're paying for this and what kind of cover it offers. For example, cover may be limited for your spouse or partner. It might be better to buy a stand alone policy.
Your travel agent may offer you travel insurance as part of a package holiday. You can opt for this if you want to but you don't have to buy this insurance. The travel agent is breaking the law if they try to make you take it out or charge you more for your holiday because you refuse to accept it. If this happens, you should get advice.
Before you buy holiday insurance
It's important to get the right type of cover for your needs. Think about:
- where you're travelling to. For example, if you're travelling to the United States you will need extra medical cover
- how old you are. Travel insurance can cost more if you're over 65. There are special policies for older travellers which may be worth looking at
- how often you travel. If you go away several times a year, it may be better to buy an annual travel policy rather than several single-trip policies
- what you'll be doing while you're away. You may need extra cover if you're taking part in dangerous sports, such as skiing or scuba diving
- whether you're travelling independently or on a package holiday. Package holidays usually offer you greater protection if things go wrong with transport or accommodation so you may not need to make a claim on your travel insurance
- how you're travelling. Cruises and budget airline flights may not be covered by some insurance policies.
What cover should travel insurance include?
Your travel insurance should always include the following cover:
- medical expenses and cover for getting you home if you're injured or fall ill abroad
- personal injury and cover for accidents or damage caused by you
- cover for lost or damaged items
- cover for lost or delayed baggage
- cover for cancellation or missed departure.
How much you pay for your insurance depends on the amount of cover you're likely to need. You should never under-insure yourself just to save money. However, you may be able to keep costs down.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
If you're travelling in Europe, the EHIC allows you to get free treatment in public hospitals in many European countries. However, it won't cover getting you home if you need medical help to return to the UK, so you shouldn't rely on it as your only form of medical insurance.
Home contents insurance
Check if your household contents insurance policy covers you for items you take away from home. If it does, you could choose a larger excess on your travel insurance policy. The excess is the amount that your insurer won't pay out for the claim and is typically between £50 and £100. If you choose a higher excess, your travel insurance may cost less.
Choosing the right insurer
The cheapest policy may not offer best value for money, so it's important to check what the policy includes as well as how much it costs.
You can check what different policies offer and how much they cost by using an online comparison website. However, comparison websites usually only offer general cover. If you have particular needs, it may be better to find an insurer that offers specialist cover.
Other useful information
- Free medical treatment in other countries www.doh.gov.uk
- Travel insurance for families with disabled and seriously ill children or young people through the Family Fund at www.familyfund.org.uk
- Information on travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions from Tourismforall at www.tourismforall.org.uk
- Getting travel insurance if you have cancer from Macmillan Cancer Support at www.macmillan.org.uk