Get the right travel insurance for you
When buying a travel insurance policy, there are a few basic decisions you need to make. Firstly, do you need a single trip or an annual travel insurance policy?
Generally speaking, if you go on holiday more than twice a year, you are likely to be better off with an annual policy. This will offer you cover for all of your trips for a 12-month period - giving you one less thing to worry about. But remember to note down when the policy expires and set a reminder to shop around to renew your cover at that time.
Another decision you need to make is whether to opt for UK-only cover, European cover or worldwide cover.
Opting for worldwide travel insurance may make the most sense if you're considering going beyond the Continent, or planning on taking several different trips overseas.
However, you do need to tread carefully, as some policies exclude the USA and Canada - so make sure you check these countries are covered if your travels are going to take you to these destinations.
Generally speaking, most standard travel insurance policies will only cover you up to a maximum of 30 days...
So if you are heading off on a gap year - or an extended break abroad - you may need to take out separate cover.
Many insurers now offer dedicated “adventurous traveller policies” or “backpacker insurance” which will offer continuous comprehensive cover for a period of between three months and a year - or potentially even longer - so spend time shopping around for the best “long trip” policy for your needs.
When buying a policy you need to be aware of the small print to avoid being caught out should you need to make a claim...
Before setting off, pay close attention to world events, as if there's social or political unrest in your chosen destination, the Foreign Office may be advising against travel to that area. If this is the case, and you press on with your travel plans, you will not be covered by your travel insurance policy, as it will not be valid. To be on the safe side, check the advice posted on the Foreign Office website.
Also check your policy to see what sports you are permitted to take part in, as many adventure sports, such as bungee-jumping and abseiling, may not be covered. Equally, even if you've paid extra to get “winter sports cover” added to your policy, you may not be covered if you decide to ski off-piste or if you decide to go ice-climbing or dog-sledding.
There's also a risk of rendering your travel insurance policy invalid if you fail to declare any pre-existing medical conditions when applying for cover. If in doubt, speak to your insurer before signing up to set your mind at rest over any queries you may have.
Read the T&Cs - When taking out any type of travel policy, including worldwide travel insurance, you must spend time going through the small print with a fine-tooth comb, as policies can often come with a raft of exclusions and conditions.
By scouring the T&Cs at the outset, you can find out exactly what you are and are not covered for, giving you the peace of mind you need to go off and enjoy your travels.
When buying your policy, ensure you know what cover is included and excluded, as well as the claims procedures and excess levels...
Medical cover is the most important feature of any policy, including a worldwide travel insurance policy, as hospital bills alone can run into tens of thousands of pounds - and particularly in the USA.
Other features to look out for include cover for cancellation, personal liability, baggage and cash, and travel delay.
At TravelSupermarket we recommend the following levels of cover as a minimum:
If you're booking flights and accommodation independently, you may want to look for a travel policy offering “end supplier failure” as you will not have ATOL protection as you do with a package deal.
Price should not be your only consideration when choosing travel cover, as if you opt for the cheapest policy, you may find that your cheap cover is limited - meaning you could end up out of pocket should you need to make a claim.
You could also find that the excess - the chunk you have to pay towards any claim - is very high.
The key is to make good use of a comparison service where you can compare a range of different policies with just a few clicks of a button to ensure you get the right policy at the right price.
The best policy for you will be the one which offers the most appropriate levels of cover for your particular needs, along with an excess you can afford.