Don’t ruin your holiday

When taking out travel insurance, it can be tempting to opt for the cheapest possible level of cover.

But beware: You could be left with a huge bill if your policy does not cover a claim that you need to make.

A skier who has an accident on the Austrian pistes, for example, could face costs of £25,000 once mountain rescue, hospital bills and an air ambulance home are taken into account, while those in America and Canada could be left with a bill for more than £100,000.

Bob Atkinson, travel insurance expert at moneysupermarket.com said: "Price should not be the only motivating factor when you buy travel cover.

“It is vital that you understand the levels of cover on offer and what you are getting for your money.”

Before heading off on a winter getaway of any kind, taking the time to ensure that you are covered for the country or countries you will be visiting, as well as any activities you plan to take part in once there, could therefore save you a lot in the long term.

Should I take single trip or annual cover?

For families who are frequent travellers – for example, two or more overseas trips a year – moneysupermarket.com research shows that it often makes financial sense to take out an annual policy rather than single trip.

A family heading to the USA for a skiing break on an annual worldwide multi-trip policy with winter sports insurance, for example, can find comprehensive cover for £65.21 with Debenhams Essential Cover.

This includes cover for £10 million of medical expenses, £3,000 cancellation and £1,500 of protection for baggage, on both winter and summer holidays.

And you can pay as little as £50.80 through Protectyourbubble.com if you are prepared to accept lower levels of cover, including a medical expenses threshold of £5 million.

By comparison, single trip cover for a two-week trip to the USA costs from £42 and does not offer anything like the same level of protection as the Debenhams policy.

Atkinson added: “Generally, if you are taking two or more trips abroad, with one of those being long haul, then annual is better value by far.

“Plus it means you always have cover for any last minute trips, from city breaks to family weekends away.”

Conversely however, if you tend to stay within Europe, an annual policy may not offer the best value for money.

You can, for example, buy family insurance for a single, two week European trip with winter sports insurance for as little as £11 with Ignite.

But the best value annual European cover with winter sports added on comes in at £35.55 through Spectrum Travel Insurance.

While it offers a higher level of medical expenses cover, it is also much less generous when it comes to cancellation or baggage claims.

What about skiing and snowboarding cover?

Winter is the time of year when many British families jet off to the mountains for a ski holiday, with some 17% of the population enjoying trips of this kind each year.

Unfortunately, figures from AXA Insurance indicate that a significant 30% of these thrill seekers will have cause to make an insurance claim as a result of their trip.

But winter sports cover is not included as standard on the huge majority of travel insurance policies.

And up to one million Brits will hit the slopes without the necessary cover in place this ski season as a result.

This includes about 10% of winter sports enthusiasts who will fail to take out any travel insurance at all, and a further 25% who will rely on annual travel cover without necessarily upgrading it to include skiing and snowboarding.

Amanda Edwards from AXA said: "Obviously money is tight for many people at the moment and holidays are expensive.  But to cut insurance out is a false economy. 

"Dealing with an injury is stressful enough but having no insurance could mean the damage lasts until long after the plaster cast has been removed.

"Around £50 to cover a family of four for a week's skiing in France is not much more than the price of lunch on the slopes."
Failing to take out winter sports cover is not the only way you could leave yourself vulnerable to massive medical and mountain rescue bills on a ski trip, however.

Many policies do not cover you if you go off piste, for example, while the majority of insurers will also reject claims for accidents under the influence of alcohol.

Atkinson said: “Check the small print on your policy for all winter sports you intend to do; especially if you plan to go off piste.

“Medical treatment can be extremely costly whilst abroad and so medical expenses cover and air ambulance and helicopter rescue costs are a vital part of your policy.”

Given the high cost of ski trips to far-flung destinations in America and Canada, it is also a good idea to check how much you can claim should you need to cancel.

This is more likely with a winter sports holiday as any minor injuries in the run up to your departure date could scupper the whole trip.

And the £1,500 per person of cancellation cover offered by many policies may not even be enough to cover your basic flights and accommodation if you are flying further afield for a snowy adventure.

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What else should I check?

Other checks to make before taking out a travel insurance policy include how much cover you get for loss or damage to your possessions. This is especially important if you are taking expensive equipment or jewellery, for example, away with you.

Make sure, too, that you understand your excess levels and can afford them as these vary widely from insurer to insurer and can be the first several hundred pounds of a claim.

If you take out annual European cover, but then decide to travel further afield, it is also vital to upgrade your policy to a worldwide one to avoid any nasty surprises.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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