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A decent policy is a must-have. It will provide cover for medical expenses, loss, damage or theft of your baggage and personal belongings, delay, cancellation and curtailment of your trip as well as personal liability cover, in case you accidentally injure someone or damage their property.
Travel insurance doesn’t have to be expensive. According to MoneySuperMarket data, a family of four (two adults, two children) could get a week’s insurance for a trip to France in April for as little as £7.99.
An annual policy covering all the family’s holidays in Europe for 12 months would cost from £22.95.
In fact, it’s a bargain if you think of the possible medical bill and repatriation costs if you were to fall ill on holiday.
Cover your staycation
But don’t just buy travel insurance if you are jetting off to sunnier climes over the Easter break – insurance is just as important for a UK staycation.
You’d be able to claim, for example, if you had to cancel the holiday or cut it short because of illness in the family, or if you were the victim of theft.
Buy when you book
Wherever you’re headed, it’s a good idea to arrange travel insurance as soon as you book the holiday so you’ve got that all-important cancellation cover in place straight away.
Don’t make the mistake of timing your insurance to start when you set off. Simply put in the dates of your holiday, and your cancellation cover is effective immediately – and it won’t cost you any extra.
Levels of cover
Many insurers offer different levels of cover, usually in ‘basic’, ‘standard’ and ‘premium’ form (think bronze, silver, gold and occasionally platinum).
With the top of the range policies, you pay more, and get higher levels of cover in each section of the policy – such as medical expenses, and payments for stolen or lost items.
The price will obviously affect your choice, but also check the details of the cover, particularly any exclusions. Many insurers exclude cash, winter sports and adventurous activities, such as paragliding or potholing unless you pay more to include them (or choose a policy with broader scope).
There are also usually limits on the size of claims. For example, you might be able to claim only up to £1,000 if you cancel your holiday.
Cover your gadgets
Many people these days travel with a range of gadgets such as mobile phones, tablets or laptops.
Some insurers include gadgets as standard, but always read the small print of the policy. If they aren’t covered, check whether your valuable gadgets are included on any personal belongings cover on your home contents policy.
If not, you might want to take out separate gadget insurance. With this, you’ll be covered for a wider range of risks, and for high amounts.
Normal travel insurance would probably only cover a gadget or piece of tech up to £250.
Duty of care
Your claim will almost certainly be turned down if you were negligent, perhaps if you left your camera in an unlocked car.
Some policies specify the conditions of cover – for example, you might only be covered on a hired bicycle or motorbike if you wear a helmet.
Your claim might also be unsuccessful if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident. So, if you trip and hurt yourself after a heavy night out, you might not be able to claim any medical expenses.
Pre-existing medical conditions
Perhaps the most important exclusion (or reason for a higher premium) is a ‘pre-existing’ medical condition.
When you fill in your proposal form, you’ll be asked if you or anyone in your party has a medical condition (such as cancer, high blood pressure, depression or a respiratory complaint), has been prescribed medication in the past two years, has attended hospital in the past two years or is on a waiting list, or has received a terminal prognosis.
If, for example, you have been diagnosed with heart disease and you fall ill with the condition while you are away, your travel insurance will not pay out for any related costs.
If you wanted cover for such costs in case something happened while you were away, you’d need to take out a specialist policy.
Under no circumstances should you ever be tempted to conceal your medical history when you arrange travel cover or you could invalidate the policy.
Policy excess charges
Your travel policy will almost certainly come with an excess, which is the amount you must pay towards each claim.
For instance, if you make a claim for £500 and the policy excess is £200, the insurer will pay out a maximum of £300.
Some policies charge different excesses for different sections of the policy. In other words, a medical claim could have a higher excess than a claim for theft.
Cover for your destination
Most policies either cover ‘Europe’ or ‘worldwide’.
A European policy is usually cheaper so check the list of destinations because some insurers include countries such as Turkey and Egypt as European.
Worldwide can often either include or exclude the US/North America. If you can exclude North America, the premiums will probably be cheaper because the policy does not have to allow for costly US medical bills.
If you were going to North America, you’d need a policy that explicitly included the region.
Pack your EHIC
Don’t forget to pack your European Heath Insurance Card if you are travelling within the EU, or to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The card is free via the NHS and entitles you to treatment in state-run hospitals overseas on the same terms as a local. In other words, if medical treatment is free for the locals, it’s free for you, too.
Just remember that the EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance as it does not provide the full range of medical costs cover (such as repatriation to the UK) or theft, liability and cancellation cover.
Cover for older travellers
Age limits usually apply to travel policies, with 75 a typical maximum age. If you are older than the maximum age, you will have to seek out specialist cover, which is often more expensive.
If you are planning two or more holidays in any 12-month period, it is often more cost effective to take out annual cover than to buy single trip cover each time you go away.
But whether you buy single trip or annual insurance, there is often a limit on the number of days covered for each trip. Most single trip policies cover a holiday of up to 60 consecutive days.
The limit on annual policies is often lower, with cover for up to 31 days for each trip.
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.