AMany families in the UK have been waiting anxiously since they were brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic travel abroad this summer, but the final scenes the chaos of travel at airports means purchasing travel insurance should be first on your to-do list.
The likelihood of mass cancellations and delays means it has “never been more important” to make sure you have the right travel insurance from the moment you book your holiday, says Rory Boland, travel editor at consumer group Which?.
“We encourage consumers to check the policy wording carefully to make sure you fully understand what it offers and any restrictions, as these can vary widely between providers,” he says. “If there are specific reasons you are taking out insurance, check these sections to make sure they meet your expectations.”
There’s no point wasting money on an expensive policy that doesn’t suit your needs, or finding out that the basic coverage you bought won’t pay off when you need it most. Here, we’ll walk you through what you need to consider to find the right policy for you.
When looking for a travel insurance policy, make sure you read the fine print. The level of protection you’ll need depends largely on where you’re going and what you plan to do when you get there.
For example, if you are going to a country with expensive medical costs, such as the US, you should consider getting a higher level of insurance for this. If you plan to exercise while abroad, this should also be factored into your policy.
Also consider taking out multi-trip insurance, which can save you money and hassle if you travel a lot. Experts say it might be worth getting one if you have more than one holiday or short vacation planned.
There are several comparison sites you can use to find the best policy for you, such as GoCompare, Moneysupermarket and Comparethemarket.
A family of three, consisting of two adults and a child, with no medical conditions, for example, can expect to pay between £13 and £153 for different levels of cover for a week’s trip to Spain in July, according to GoCompare Quote.
Additional gadget insurance, if not included as standard, costs between £9 and £45 extra – depending on the level of cover you want.
You’ll need to read the details of each policy to see if you’re allowed to use mopeds, quad bikes or other activities, as this isn’t something you can choose as an add-on. However, you can choose a cover for winter sports, cruising and hiking.
Diseases and injuries
Your travel insurance policy should cover medical expenses abroad and emergency repatriation to the UK if you become ill while abroad.
It is important to have free UK Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic), which replaced the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) for most Britons after Brexit, as it entitles you to ‘medically necessary’ public assistance in the EU and Switzerland.
Assistance may include emergency treatment and emergency room visits or treatment for long-term or pre-existing medical conditions. However, you may still need to pay for some treatments, even if they are free on the NHS in the UK.
The card is not a substitute for a travel insurance policy and will not be required if you are traveling outside of Europe. If you’re visiting the US, for example, you should make sure you have good health insurance because hospital bills can get very expensive.
Even within the EU, the level of care can vary and a travel insurance policy may mean you can be treated in a private hospital. A Ghic or Ehic card won’t cover the costs if you need to be flown back to the UK for treatment, but most good travel insurance policies will pay for repatriation.
Most providers include medical care in case of contracting Covid-19 while abroad in the standard policy. However, you may need to check that cancellation due to Covid is included in your policy as you may have to pay for this.
If you already have any medical problems – physical or mental – make sure you declare them when you buy the policy, otherwise you may not be covered, even if your claim is unrelated to your illness. You may also need to declare recent hospital treatment or tests.
“When taking out a travel insurance policy, customers are usually asked if they’ve had hospital treatment or medical tests and any diagnosed conditions,” says Kelly Whittington, director of claims at Aviva UK.
“The customer may still be eligible for cover, but the insurer may require more information about their health and the types of tests before they can make a decision. Cases are usually dealt with on an individual basis.’
Declaring a medical problem will likely increase the cost of your policy, but it’s worth it if you need to file a claim.
You may not be automatically covered for all of your scheduled events. For example, if you fall off your bike while on holiday, your travel insurance may not pay out – unless you’re covered for cycling and other sports.
Cancellations and delays
Your airline is usually responsible for canceled flights and delays, but travel insurance can fill the gap if they don’t pay.
Airlines do not have to pay compensation if the failure is not their fault, and to be covered by UK law they must meet certain conditions, such as departing from an airport here or arriving on an EU or home-grown carrier.
Make sure your travel insurance policy will cover you for the full cost of your holiday – if your trip costs £1,000, you’ll need cover that will pay out at least that much in the event of a cancellation.
Your travel insurance will cover cancellation and delay in some cases where you are not entitled to compensation from the airline. For example, if you need to cancel your trip due to illness, injury or bereavement. You will also be covered if you are summoned to a jury trial or fired.
It’s important to get your insurance as soon as you book your trip, even if it’s months before departure. Shaun Tipton, spokesman for travel industry body Abta, says: “If you get sick and have to cancel your trip and you’re uninsured, you’ll be charged a cancellation fee. Get it out when you reserve it…don’t leave it out for weeks and months.”
You can make a travel insurance claim even if you have received compensation from the airline. For example, you can claim reimbursement for expenses such as pre-paid excursions or kennel or babysitter fees.
You will not be covered if your trip is canceled due to a ‘known event’. For example, if there is an airline strike on the day you plan to travel, the insurance will not cover you if you buy your insurance after the strike.
Travel insurance will not cover the cost of missed flights or transfers if you are late at the airport.
Loss and theft
Travelers who saw that the cover of the bags went missing baggage is piling up at Heathrow may take more care than usual to insure their property. This is usually included in a standard travel insurance policy, but it’s worth double-checking whether the level of cover meets your needs, especially if you’re taking valuables or special equipment.
You also need to look at the surcharge – that’s how much you’ll need to put down before your insurer pays out – compared to how much your stuff is worth. Accepting a higher fee may reduce the cost of the policy, but if it’s £200 and your missing luggage is only worth £150, you won’t get your money back.
Insurance firms usually set a limit on the amount they will pay for baggage claims, and a decent policy should cover at least £1,500 of personal effects. If you are packing expensive items, such as wedding dresses, check the single item limits.
Find out if your phone and laptop are covered under your policy or if you need to take out gadget insurance separately. Most price comparison sites will tell you which policies cover the gadgets as standard and give you the option to add coverage.
It’s also worth checking whether your personal belongings are covered by your home insurance to avoid paying extra for duplicate insurance.