The art of travel (insurance)

Get the lowdown on getting covered

1. Buy the policy when you book the trip, even if it’s months away. This ensures you’re covered if you need to cancel. Check also that the cancellation payout will actually cover the cost of your holiday.

2. Are you going away more than once or twice a year? An annual or multi-trip policy may work out cheaper and is less hassle than buying insurance for each holiday. A family policy can also be a saving: it covers everyone and usually adults travelling alone too.

3. Prices vary according to which country you’re visiting because, outside the UK and Europe, medical costs can be very steep. Especially with annual policies, make sure all your destinations are covered.

4. Cheaper policies may carry large excesses (the part of a claim you have to pay) and aren’t always comprehensive. As a rule of thumb, the minimum recommended cover for medical expenses is £1 million in UK/Europe and £2 million for the US/Canada.

5. Check the limits on cash, baggage and single item claims. The value of your phone, camera or lap-top may vastly exceed what the insurer is willing to pay out.

6. You’ll need to pay more or get a dedicated policy if you do a ‘dangerous sport’ like skiing. Check what is covered – some insurers consider kayaking off the beach to be perilous.

7. You must tell the insurer if you have a ‘pre-existing condition’ (ie heart trouble, blood problems) before you travel. Otherwise, if you get sick abroad, the insurer may refuse to pay out. If the illness is very serious, the insurer may decline your business and you’ll need to look for a specialist policy.

8. If you’re over 65, you’ll be charged more even if you’re in perfect health. If you’ve had your 80th birthday, finding insurance at all is hard. Visit comparison websites such as MoneySuperMarket* or search online for the best deals.

9. Get an EHIC card if you’re going to Europe so you can get medical treatment in most European countries for low or no cost. This does not replace travel insurance though and may not last beyond when the UK leaves the EU. The card is free so don’t buy it from rogue websites which charge.

10. Shop around. Buying travel insurance from a travel agent or airline can be much more expensive than from a specialist insurer.


More stuff:

  • Discover what makes a good travel policy with the Which? consumer guide here
  • Find the best deals on travel insurance at Money Saving Expert here.
  • If your flight is screwed up, look at Citizens Advice for guidance.


Last updated 18 January 2019.