There isn’t any ‘one-click’ solution when buying travel insurance. It may be tempting to go for the cheapest, and just leave it at that.
But Emma Coulthurst, of TravelSupermarket (travelsupermarket.com), says this can bring big problems down the line: ‘Should the worst happen, you may find you don’t have the cover you expected and therefore can’t make a claim for items from cancellation to curtailment, personal baggage, travel delay or the cost of replacing lost passports.’
The main advice is to shop around.
Can a pre-existing medical condition be covered?
There isn’t any ‘one-click’ solution when buying travel insurance. The main advice is to shop around
‘Medical specialist providers often won’t be found on the usual comparison sites,’ says Matt Hepburn, of the consumer watchdog Which? (which.co.uk).
‘You can generally track these down elsewhere online, with some listed by charities established around particular health conditions.’
To help find the right cover, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association runs a ‘find a broker’ service on its website, which is well worth checking: biba.org.uk.
Which? rates Boots Silver policy, Blue Bear Travel’s Gold policy and Holidaysafe’s Premier policy as particularly good providers if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or breast cancer.
Blue Bear Travel’s Gold policy in particular stands out with a cost of just £19 to cover any of these three conditions as part of a package that includes up to £2 million (Europe) or £5 million (worldwide) worth of medical cover.
Even common and comparatively minor conditions can be excluded from cover. Some travel insurance policies don’t even include asthma — so read the terms carefully before you buy.
‘Ehic’ cards . . . Are they useful?
European Health Insurance Cards (Ehic) give you free state-run medical care in all 27 EU countries and will continue to be valid after Brexit if there is a deal
If your holidays are being taken within the European Union then ensure you carry a European Health Insurance Card (Ehic).
These free cards — ehic.org.uk — give you free state-run medical care in all 27 EU countries and will continue to be valid after Brexit if there is a deal. There is a question mark over what might happen in the event of ‘no deal’.
Remember, these do not rule out the need for travel insurance as some expensive treatments and repatriation are not covered.
One-off or annual protection?
Elderly travellers may find that annual policies are particularly expensive and that it may make more sense to buy single-trip cover. Some companies will only offer single-trip cover to customers they consider risky.
If you’re fit and healthy, however, and in middle age, then the situation is different.
According to Travel-Supermarket’s website, if you want a single-trip policy for an individual aged 49 to Spain for seven nights in early December with £750 minimum cancellation cover, at least £20 million medical cover, £1,500 baggage cover, £350 cash cover and an excess up to £50, then you can get a policy for around £15 for an individual trip.
If you apply the same criteria for an annual policy in Europe, this comes to £21 — £6 more.
And what about ‘excess’?
Data collected by Travel Supermarket shows that the most commonly searched insurance requests are for cover that includes zero excess or £50
Excess is simply the extra bit of money automatically deducted by the insurer when they pay out on a claim.
Data collected by Travel Supermarket shows that, predictably, the most commonly searched insurance requests are for cover that includes zero excess or £50.
In the worst cases, the excess you pay can be equal to what you can claim. If a policy says you can claim up to £200 on luggage if it gets lost or stolen, but the excess is also £200, then your insurance policy is, essentially, worthless.
Which activities are covered?
Even a relaxing cruise counts as an ‘excursion’ so check if your policy includes it.
Scuba diving, trekking in high altitudes and skiing are often not on the included cover list so you’ll need to pay an extra amount to be insured.
But be aware of relatively ‘safe’ activities such as elephant or camel riding. Some insurance policies don’t cover things like this. The Ski Club Of Great Britain (skiclub.co.uk) is a specialist in winter sports travel insurance policies. Check if off-piste is covered and whether your policy is invalid if you do not wear a helmet.
Can I take out a family policy?
Family policies offer good value but they often have an age limit of 18 for children
Family policies offer good value if you bear in mind the level of cover, but they often have an age limit of 18 for children. This is the case with the Post Office (postoffice.co.uk/travel-insurance/family).
One alternative, when dependants are over 18, is to buy a ‘group cover’ policy. For example, AXA Insurance offers policies for up to ten people in three categories for worldwide travel: bronze, silver and gold.
For a family with two children below 18 and one above, and parents in their 40s, a ‘bronze’ annual package would cost £86, covering 30 days’ travel, £1,000 in case of cancellation, £1,500 for possessions and £10 million medical cover.
Its ‘gold’ package though, costing almost double the price at £167, covers 45 days, £5,000 in case of cancellation, £5,000 for possessions and £15 million medical cover.
Suppose I bought the wrong cover?
Yout can ask for a refund within 14 days of purchase, as long as you have not already travelled. If you want general advice on the correct travel policy, see the Association of British Insurers’ website, abi.org.uk.
TRAVEL INSURANCE CHECKLIST
Declare all medical conditions.
Ensure you have correct vaccinations for exotic destinations.
Provide correct travel dates on single-trip policies.
Buy your policy as soon as you book a trip so you are covered against cancellation.
Tell an insurer you are taking a cruise — not doing so could invalidate your cover.
Add travelling companions to policies, in case illness causes a trip to be cancelled.
Choose annual cover if you travel more than three times a year.
Read the policy and familiarise yourself with it.
Note the emergency contact number.
Just buy the cheapest policy; shop around.
Ignore the maximum length of trip covered on annual policies if on a long holiday.
Forget your European Health Insurance Card when travelling in the EU.
Fail to mention if you are visiting a country for a short period within a longer trip.
Take part in illegal activities.
Drink too much — failure to act responsibly can invalidate claims, especially involving accidents.
Take part in any hazardous sports unless they are specified in the cover.
Think insurance is unnecessary — medical costs can balloon.
Always make sure you have…
At least £2 million medical cover for Europe and £5 million cover worldwide.
Cover of at least £3,000 if you have to cancel or cut short your holiday.
Cover worth at least £1,500 for personal belongings or money that may be stolen or goes missing on holiday.
Prices quoted correct at the time of going to press.