Travel insurance tips: what to consider before purchasing a policy for stress-free holidays
Whether it's a medical issue or a cancelled flight, travel insurance could potentially save you thousands of pounds
and live on Freeview channel 276
Another summer of flight disruption has been capped off with one of the worst spate of cancellations in a decade.
After months of strikes and unexpected mishaps, UK airports have been hit by a technical fault with air traffic control systems. It has left travellers stranded in the UK and abroad, with the disruption expected to last for days.
Some of those who have been hit by this nightmare situation will be able to secure refunds or compensation from their airline or package holiday provider. But others will have to claim on their travel insurance in order to get money back on the hotels or holiday experiences they may have missed out on.
It underlines why getting a decent travel insurance policy can be so vital when travelling - whether within the UK or further afield. Recent figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) showed 362,000 claims were made in 2022 - an average of one every two minutes. Overall payouts sat at £352 million.
The number of claims shows that issues can hit large numbers of travellers. But what does a good insurance policy look like?
Why do you need travel insurance?
Most holidays pass by without any major issues. But, as with anything in life, accidents happen and things can go wrong. Travel insurance is there to make sure that you don’t get bankrupted by any problems you face - be they medical or otherwise.
On the medical front, injuries can be extremely expensive for anyone who doesn’t have travel insurance. While UK tourists can receive state-provided healthcare in EU countries if they have a GHIC card, many nations may charge eye-watering fees. Those outside of Europe, especially in the USA, can prove to be even more expensive.
According to examples provided by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) - the industry body for the firms who provide travel insurance - costs can easily add up to five or six figures for medical care and travel back home. In an instance one of its members had seen in 2022, a person in Thailand picked up a life-threatening blood infection that needed intensive treatment and an air ambulance back to the UK, with the cost coming in at £250,000.
There are also horrendous costs if you die abroad but don’t have a travel insurance policy. It could leave your family facing a bill that runs well into the thousands to repatriate your body at a time when they will be grieving.
As well as financial support for the above, travel insurance can cover you for cancellations and lost or stolen luggage. Again, having a policy could save you a lot of money in these instances. For example if you’ve had to give up on your trip and head home as a result of flight disruption, a decent policy will cover you for missed hotel stays or experiences.
What does a good travel insurance policy look like?
According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) a good travel insurance policy will cover you for any medical expenses, cancellation charges, or lost luggage. Here is a quick runthrough of what ABTA says you should look out for:
First and foremost, ABTA recommends going for a policy that offers a minimum of £2 million for medical cover in Europe and £5 million worldwide.
Most policies should cover the following: emergency medical treatment, medication, any repatriation, emergency accommodation, the cost of someone travelling out to wherever you are in the world if your doctor recommends it. The organisation urges people to check the small print of any policy to make sure these things are included.
A key point to note is that you won’t be covered for any medical expenses you face if you injure yourself or lose something while drunk, or if you come to grief while taking part in extreme sports or activities, like skiing or bungee jumping. However, you can get specific insurance which will cover you.
People can fall unwell at any time and the current economic climate means job security is by no means guaranteed.
A good travel insurance policy will cover you if these issues mean you have to cancel your holiday, ABTA says. Cancellation charges should also be covered by your insurer if you have a family bereavement, an unexpected pregnancy, jury service, or some form of home emergency, like a fire.
The policy you take out ought to cover you if your flight gets cancelled due to bad weather (for further information on your consumer rights if your flight is cancelled or delayed, NationalWorld has an explainer that will help you out). And if any strike action takes place that you were not aware of at the time of your booking, you should be covered for it.
The travel agents association also recommends taking a policy out as soon as you have booked a holiday, as you can never predict when misfortune will hit.
Another thing to note is that you should cancel your holiday if the UK Foreign Office (FCDO) has advised against all but essential travel to the country you are visiting. If you still go, you will not be covered by your insurer. Make sure you check what the current FCDO advice is before you book and once again before you travel.
NationalWorld asked ABTA whether the Foreign Office’s warning about the potential for forest fires in Spain this summer could count as advice not to travel. But it said tourists should still be insured despite the warning.
Staysure is a travel insurance provider that promises to cover most pre-existing medical conditions, and sets no age limits on its policies. NationalWorld readers can access a 15% discount on a policy with them by following this link to the Staysure website.
This text box contains an affiliate link. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this link, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.
Lost luggage and belongings
When you take out a travel insurance policy, ABTA suggests you work out the value of the items you’re likely to take on holiday with you. You should then make sure your figure is under the level of the financial cover the policy says it will pay out.
As well as the headline figure, you should also be wary of where the policy says your personal belongings will be covered. Some providers may not cover you at certain points of your holiday, with ABTA recommending you opt for cover that applies to your baggage throughout your time away.
A good policy will cover individual valuable items, lost and stolen items or money. But it will only pay out if you have taken enough care to ensure your belongings are as safe as they reasonably can be - for example, you haven’t left them lying around while in a public place.