By doing so, some of us are leaving ourselves vulnerable to potentially huge costs should we have an accident or other calamity either while we're away or before we're due to travel.
Insurance can also prove useful if there is a prolonged delay or severe disruption to a journey – such as might follow a strike by air traffic controllers.
Medical bills can soon rack up into the thousands should you need hospital care while you are overseas.
And even those choosing a holiday in the UK can be left massively out of pocket if they have to cancel due to an emergency of some kind.
It’s a big risk to take – especially considering the low cost of travel cover.
You can, for example, buy insurance for a two-week Spanish holiday for a family of four for less than £10.
That’s under a pound a day for the time you’re away.
Bob Atkinson, our travel expert, said: “If you have a holiday coming up and haven’t taken out travel insurance, I urge you to buy some as soon as possible.”
Travel insurance – top tips
Buy it when you book
The best time to buy travel insurance is just after booking your holiday.
Only one in six of us do this, according to MoneySuperMarket research, with more than a quarter of us leaving buying insurance until just a week or less before our departure date.
But that’s a risky move should anything happen in the meantime to force you to cancel your trip, such as illness or death of a close relative.
If you buy when you book, you’re covered against cancellation immediately.
Consider the annual option
Whenever you buy, you will need to decide what type of travel insurance to take out: single trip or annual cover.
Single trip cover is perfect if you are heading off on your one big summer holiday and do not expect to go away again this year.
"The best time to buy travel insurance is just after booking your holiday."
However, if you are planning two or more trips in the next 12 months – including weekend breaks – it may well make sense to buy an annual policy instead.
Cover your location
Whatever type of travel cover you choose, you will need to specify where you will be travelling.
If you are staying in the UK this summer, for example, check out a UK travel insurance policy that will cover you for cancellation and the theft, loss or damage of your bags – you won’t need medical cover thanks to the wonderful NHS.
When taking out an annual policy, it’s also vital to remember that standard European cover will not protect you for a holiday in the US, or for certain activities such as winter sports.
If you decide to go skiing or travel further afield later in the year, you will therefore need to upgrade your policy accordingly.
European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs)
Some people think that an EHIC is a substitute for travel cover if you are travelling within the EU.
But beware: an EHIC only entitles you to the same level of health care as a resident of the country you’re in.
It will do nothing to protect you should your flight be cancelled or your holiday accommodation burgled.
And even some medical care is only covered by travel insurance – not an EHIC.
Bob said: “When travelling within the EU, Brits should ensure they have both a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and travel insurance.”
Remember, an EHIC card is always free via the NHS. Don’t be seduced into paying a fee to get one.
Levels of cover
Not all travel insurance policies are the same, with some offering much more protection than others. We recommend at least the following levels of cover:
- £2m for medical expenses
- £1m personal liability
- £3000 cancellation - or enough to cover the total cost of your holiday
- £1500 baggage
- £250 for cash
- Policy excesses under £100
- Cover for scheduled airline failure and end supplier failure as desirable
- Delay cover (e.g. £20/hour for first 12 hours).
“When choosing a policy, it’s important to check exactly what you are getting as the levels of cover vary considerably,” says Bob.
“Taking out insurance with ‘end supplier failure’, for example, will ensure you get a full refund if your airline or accommodation provider goes bust before you travel.”
You can get a travel insurance quote quickly and easily here.
Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.