How to buy travel insurance and make sure I get the cover I need for the trip I am planning? This is a question many of us face when buying travel insurance. With so many different types of travel insurance offering varying levels of cover the information below will guide you in how to buy travel insurance online.
Whenever you travel to another country or in some cases within your own country, it is definitely recommended you purchase travel insurance beforehand. It is advisable to purchase it the same day as booking your holiday travel so that you are covered in case of unforeseen circumstances forcing you to cancel your holiday. However, that does not mean you need to purchase your travel insurance from the same company that you booked your holiday travel with as shopping around will get you a better deal.
When you have decided on the type of travel insurance policy you want see the post Where do you buy travel insurance . This has reviews of companies that sell various different types of travel insurance with companies listed in the UK, US and global companies and Memberships schemes for medical assistance, travel insurance and other travel benefits.
For those travelling within the European Union carry a European Health Insurance Card. The card is free and for UK residents you can apply for one here. It enables you to access free or reduced-cost state-provided health care during your trip, due to either illness or an accident in the European Economic Area countries and Switzerland. It also covers you for pre-existing conditions. The European Health Insurance Card is not intended to replace travel insurance but to supplement it, so it is recommended you still purchase travel insurance for all the additional things that are covered by your policy.
What types of travel insurance?
There are a few important questions to ask yourself when purchasing travel insurance:
- Do I need cover for one trip OR more than two trips in the next year?
- Do I need any extra cover for my current situation or activities I am planning on my trip?
- What is covered by the policy such as emergency medical and accident, delays and cancellations, personal property and what will the insurance company payout?
The type of policy you go for depends on if you travel once or more than two trips per year and whether you need any special cover for things like pre-existing medical conditions, you are aged over 65, higher risk activities such as winter sports, longer term travel such as backpacking or travel in groups, families or couples.
How much cover you get for your money and what the insurance company will pay out in the event of a claim varies with each policy so this is definitely something you should check. How much you pay for your travel insurance also depends on how much excess you are prepared to pay for each claim - usually the bigger the excess the cheaper the policy will be. Having said that there are Excess Waiver policies available, which also have a cost, but mean you won’t need to pay any excess if you make a claim.
Single trip travel insurance is for those that perhaps go on one annual trip a year for a week or two and only need cover for the time they are away. Purchasing anything more than this would be a waste of money as some of the cover would go unused. Often single trip insurance can be purchased with a basic level of cover and extra items can be added to enhance the cover levels.
Annual multi trip
If you expect to make two or more trips in one year it may be worth buying annual multi trip insurance. For frequent travellers this can be a cheaper alternative to buying single trip cover for each trip. Annual multi trip policies have a length of stay limit for each trip, which can vary with each provider, but as long as your trips are within these limits you will be covered for all the trips you make for the year. As with single trip insurance, annual multi trip insurance can be purchased with a basic level of cover and extra items added.
Bank accounts with travel insurance cover included
Some types of bank account have annual multi trip travel insurance included, so it is worth checking whether your account includes this and if the policy covers everything you need for your trip. If it has everything you need it could save you money.
Policies with extra cover
Pre-existing medical conditions
Many insurance companies offer travel insurance cover for those with pre-existing medical conditions. However, it is very important that you declare ALL your pre-existing medical conditions, even if you have any that are deemed to be cured. If you don’t declare all your conditions and something happens to you on your trip, your insurance may be invalidated and you could end up with large medical costs to pay. Some insurance companies put age limits on those they will cover with pre-existing medical conditions.
Aged over 65
Insurance providers will state a maximum age limit that their policy will allow and if your are older than that limit they will charge a higher premium. This varies and some will start charging higher premiums once you are over 50, while others allow up to 85 on their standard policy. Generally those aged 65 and over are seen as a higher risk group because they may become ill more often or suffer injuries more often than younger age groups.
Cruises are a very different type of holiday and can last anything from a week or two up to months at sea for an around the world cruise. The amount of time you will be away may fall outside the time limits covered under single trip or annual multi trip policies. Plus if you are visiting a range of countries the cover may need to be worldwide, but check with the insurance company that all countries you are visiting will be covered. As is the case with other types of travel insurance, If you are over 65 or have pre-existing medical conditions the price can go up. Plus cruises can be more expensive than land based holidays so cancellation cover needs to be higher.
Backpacking and long term travel
Unlike an annual multi trip policy, which covers you for the whole year but has time limits on the length of each trip, backpackers travel insurance covers you for the extended time you are away. Policies are typically from 90 days up to 18 months maximum. If you tell the insurance company your destination and where you are going some offer cheaper rates if you are not planning to go to the USA. Check what is covered such as working abroad or higher risk activities, plus any and all exclusions that come with the policy and make sure you are comfortable with what is covered. If you are planning an extended holiday or travelling for an extended period of time you may need a long term travel insurance policy which is not the same as backpackers insurance. Make sure all the countries you plan to visit and the activities you want to do are covered.
Groups, families and couples
If you are travelling in a group, as a family or a couple it is likely to be cheaper to purchase one travel insurance policy to cover all of you. A group of people travelling together on holiday will probably need a single trip policy, while a family or couple could have reason to buy either a single trip or annual multi trip policy depending on their travel requirements. Age restrictions apply for groups policies, so it may be more difficult to get cover or cost more. Policies for groups, families or couples should generally have the same level of cover as individual policies but check the exclusions when purchasing the insurance.
Going on a winter holidays that involve activities such as skiing, snowboarding or other winter sports means you will need to buy travel insurance that specifically covers you for these activities as they are not covered in standard travel insurance policies. Purchasing one of these policies means you will get all the standard travel insurance cover plus you will be covered for various winter sport activities, loss of equipment or lift pass and reimbursement of fees paid for instruction and equipment hire should you suffer an injury. Check the policy for which activities may be excluded.
The range of water based activities that you can get involved with on holiday is huge. Some will be covered by your normal travel insurance policy, for example swimming, snorkelling, fishing or rowing. Others may stipulate that a helmet and buoyancy aid must be worn such as jet skiing, water skiing or canoeing in order for you to be covered. There are some that may be deemed hazardous activities and may not be covered or to get cover you need to declare you are planning to participate in these activities when purchasing your insurance. Examples could be rafting on grade 4 or 5, kite surfing or shark diving to name a few. You need to check with your insurance company what is covered.
High risk activities
The same applies to high risk activities as for the hazardous activities mentioned in the water sports section above, you need to check with the insurance company what is covered and what is not and let them know exactly what high risk activities you are planning to participate in. For example if you have told your insurance company beforehand you may be covered for one bungee jump only, abseiling, ballooning, mountain biking, paragliding. There are some activities which are considered too high risk for cover under normal travel insurance policies and which require specialist insurance such as rock climbing, mountaineering above specified altitude or scuba diving below a specified depth and even then you might not get cover.
What is covered
The following list is not exhaustive but is a summary of what can be covered or is optionally covered by travel insurance and also what can be excluded. You need to check your individual policy to see what is included.
In the event of a claim you will need to provide documentation as proof of your claim to your insurance company so keep all receipts, booking invoices, travel itineraries and provide any other documentary proof the insurance company asks for.
Trip cancellation - if you need to cancel before you start your trip and covers items like unused deposit, accommodation and travel costs, car parking charges, pet kennel fees. Reasons for cancelling range from injury, sickness or death of the persons travelling or a close relative to redundancy, quarantine, passport/visa being stolen or government advice to avoid your planned destination, plus others.
Delayed or missed departure - this applies on the day of travel, either outbound or return to missed departure due to no fault of your own, delayed departure where the delay is more than a specified number of hours and abandoned departure if you choose to abandon the trip if the delay is beyond a specified number of hours. Some exclusions apply, for example if the operator cancels the flight or ship, the insurance company will not pay and you must claim travel costs from the operator. Cancellations due to volcanic ash clouds closing airspace are a good example of this.
Trip interruption - applies after your trip has started and you need to cut short your trip and covers unused accommodation and travel costs, additional accommodation costs so you can return home early and additional travel costs if you can’t use your return ticket. Reason for cutting a trip short range from injury, sickness or death of the persons travelling or a close relative to quarantine, call for jury service or witness in a trial, armed service personnel leave cancelled due to national emergency, government advice to avoid your planned destination, plus others
Medical emergency - this is the main reason for buying travel insurance and covers if you fall ill, are injured, die or are quarantined while on holiday. Medical or repatriation expenses can rise to eye watering amounts very quickly. As well as medical, surgical and hospital costs other related costs may be covered, for example additional accommodation if you need to stay in the country after emergency treatment for recuperation or paying for an extra person to remain with you and escort you back home. There are many costs which may be covered in your policy so it’s worth checking. It is important to declare any pre-existing medical conditions and get these accepted in writing by the insurance company so that these are covered too.
Personal accident - this covers you if you have an accident which results in for example, loss of eyesight, loss of limbs, permanent disability or death. Various maximum amounts may be stipulated in your policy that the insurance company will pay out depending on what has happened to you. Various exclusions apply such as undisclosed pre-existing medical conditions or those included under general exclusions.
Personal liability - if you have an accident while on holiday that causes injury or death to another person or loss/damage to another persons property, you may be legally liable to compensate that person. Personal liability will cover you for any such incidents but there will be a maximum amount the insurance company will pay out. Again exclusions will apply and you will need to get permission from the insurance company before incurring any costs.
Legal costs - if cover for legal costs are included these may cover things like personal injury, contract disputes related to your holiday or detention abroad. You will need to keep in contact with your insurance company every step of the way regarding legal matters to make sure nothing is excluded.
Lost, stolen or damaged baggage - this covers your baggage and the contents within it if the baggage is lost, stolen or damaged. Insurance companies set a maximum they will payout for lost or stolen baggage, usually between £1500 - £2000. They also set a limit on single items of £200 - £300. The insurance company will usually require you to report loss or theft to the police within 24 hours so that you can get a police report. Any loss, theft or damage to your baggage while in the care of an airline, transport company or accommodation provider will also mean you need to get a report from them to provide to the insurance company to support your claim.
Delayed baggage - this covers the emergency replacement of essential items if your baggage is delayed or temporarily lost for more than a specified amount of time. Essential items means things like toiletries, medication, items of clothing. The payout is on a sliding scale, so much after the minimum hours upto the maximum payout after whatever the maximum hours stipulated. If the baggage is delayed while in the care of the airline you will need to get a report from them stating how long you were without your baggage to provide to the insurance company.
Personal money - Some policies will include cover for loss of money while on holiday or in the few days immediately prior to travel at the start of your holiday. A maximum amount that is covered will be stated in the policy. The insurance company will usually require you to report loss or theft to the police within 24 hours so that you can get a police report and you will need proof you actually owned the cash.
Travel documents - important travel documents can be covered such as loss, theft or destruction of a passport requiring a temporary travel document or a driving license. There will be a maximum amount payable to cover the cost of items such as the cost of the temporary travel document, extra travel and accommodation. The insurance company will usually require you to report loss or theft to the police within 24 hours so that you can get a police report. It is very advisable to carry copies of important travel documents separately to the actual documents so you have proof they are yours.
Other things that can be covered - It is possible to get extra cover for events like weddings, golfing holidays, sports cover and business travel. All of these have special clauses applicable to those events.
Where do you buy travel insurance?
UK, US and Worldwide companies reviewed
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