How to buy travel insurance

After booking a holiday, make sure you get your travel insurance – and not leave it to the last moment. There are plenty of travel insurances options around and places to get quotes, so shop around for the best cover.

The first step is to make a checklist of activities you are likely to undertake during your trip. If you plan to fly to Spain, offload yourself at the nearest beach and remain there for the entirety you probably don’t need a particularly sophisticated or expensive policy. Work out what your other insurance policies cover you for and then find a travel plan which includes the rest.

If you anticipate doing some water sports or something a bit more daring like sky diving it’s well worth getting a policy which is a bit more robust. It will likely you cost you double the amount but is worth it. Travelling to the USA can also be more expensive than journeying to Europe. And holidays to countries where there is conflict or which suffer from extreme weather conditions require more expensive cover. Winter sports insurance is a must for skiers and snowboarders.

Travel insurance can be bought at your travel agent, online or via a broker.

Travel agents and tour operators are the most convenient place to buy insurance if you have booked your holiday through them. However, because of this convenience, travel agents often charge over the odds. With so many policies on the market it is often much cheaper to arrange your own cover.

Insurance brokers also provide travel insurance and will not only search the market for the best deal but will be able to discuss your own personal circumstances, and how these apply to the cover you need. They might also have good links to specialist insurers. Check how much, if any, extra money you are paying for the broker service.

There are many deals online at price comparison websites which search the market and size up deals or by going director to insurers’ websites. It is estimated that around 50 per cent of policies for travel insurance are taken out this way.

However, make sure you look at the quality of cover from a travel insurance quote, and not just the price.

You can also buy policies from building societies, banks, the post office and even from some supermarkets. Credit card providers also offer deals – but these should be approached with caution (see below).

Annual or single trip insurance?

For a one-off fee you can pay buy a travel insurance policy which lasts for a year. Annual multi-trip travel insurance is often recommended for travellers who go away more than twice a year. It will cover a maximum number of days – usually from 30 to 60 – and is for trips of two nights or more.

You can also buy insurance separately for each holiday you take. Single trip travel insurance is very cheap and can cost as little as £7 for one trip.

Travel insurance dangers: What to look out for

Check your policy and read the small-print to ensure there are no gaps. If you are going skiing, does your policy cover the potential hazards that could occur, or going off-piste? Will your luggage be insured while it is in the aircraft hold?

It is worth making sure it includes £2 million for medical cover and £1 million for personal liability – for example if you damage someone else’s policy. Some insurers try to make you upgrade to an elite policy which includes £20 million of medical cover, for example, but it is unlikely medical expenses will cost more than £2 million so don’t be forced into signing up to anything more.

Don’t assume even the basics are covered. A tiny percentage of policies still don’t cover for a delays or cancellations to journeys. Again, read the small print and shop around.

Credit card providers often claim to provide travel insurance. While a few of the platinum cards might offer free travel insurance as part of the perks the rest only cover for accidents on a plane, train or hire car. The message is – don’t rely on them.

Pregnant women are advised to check their policy if travelling. Many nearing their due date will not be covered.

You should be aware that if you have an accident on holiday while under the influence of alcohol or drugs many policies will not pay up.

Cheap policiescome with high excesses. So claiming for an item that gets lost while on holiday could end up with you forking out a substantial amount before the insurer even gets a look in.

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