“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
That’s what Mark Twain said, and its core concept has been inspiring generations to venture out of their comfort zones and into the unforgiving but ever alluring world. More than ever before, travelling has become safer and more welcoming. But sometimes, you need a bit of reassurance. That’s where travel insurances handily come in.
Admittedly, it isn’t the most exciting part of a journey, but it’s an essential one, as it will cover you when things like cancellation, injury, or baggage loss happen.
The thing is, the insurance industry is extremely lucrative, and many companies want a piece of the cake, resulting in an abundance of holiday insurance available on the market. Moreover, business lords are smart, and they know how to draw money out of your pockets when it really isn’t necessary.
How do you combat this? How do you choose the best and most suitable trip insurance? Keep with us to check out our comprehensive guide for travel insurance.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is essentially a safety net you never knew you needed.
It’s there to back up when things go awry, as it’s designed to provide you with financial and logistic cover when unexpected events happen, and its buyers get the short end of the stick.
There are many types of insurances, and they cover and not cover certain aspects. Generally, the basic coverages of an insurance will include medical expenses while travelling overseas, trip cancellation, lost luggage, flight delays or cancellation, etc.
Why is travel insurance important?
Insurance is an integral part of all trips. Image from Unsplash.
Albeit unlike, there’s always the possibility where things don’t go as planned. In such unfortunate events, without insurance, you are liable for emergency expenses. If you aren’t familiar, these could cost up to thousands of pounds. Insurances are indeed costly but nowhere so exorbitant. It’s ultimately a smart and economical choice to go for insurance. Let us explain a bit further:
Emergency cancellation reimbursement
Imagine splurging a hefty sum of money on a one-off luxury trip, but doing so a few months in advance to shave off just a bit of money, only to have to cancel it last minute because of a truly urgent family business, or because of situations like force majeure?
Of course, tour providers may be sympathetic, but their policies can only allow them to go so far, most oftentimes the only support you get is emotional. Even in the event where you do get partial reimbursement, losing 10-20% of your original expense would already be a massive loss.
In situations like these, insurances would be of great help, because they would provide reimbursement where otherwise impossible.
Traffic accidents can happen. They just do. In the unlikely event that you get caught in one, and end up injured, you must receive medical treatment immediately. As soon as you come round, the first thing that you have to face isn’t the fact, but the bill.
Medical expenses will vary wildly depending on the country, especially abroad. Prices can ramp up to a few hundred thousand in a blink of an eye.
Yet, if you’re travelling with insurance that covers medical expenses, you don’t have to be worried at all.
Limited help from the Embassy
Some travellers think that they would be fine should something happen when they’re travelling abroad, because in such cases their country’s embassy therein will step in and provide necessary support.
That’s true, but that’s not the full picture. Yes, they will get you a new passport. Yes, they will provide temporary shelter and basic amenities. Yes, they will contact your family at home. But that’s as far as they’ll go, as there is a limit to their authority. They can’t, in fact, pay for your medical care or emergency transportation, whose immense costs are the reason why people resort to insurance in the first place.
What does travel insurance cover?
Insurance helps make your trips worry-free. Image from Unsplash
They can cover a range of things, depending on what you pay for. Generally, an insurance will cover the following categories:
If you suffer from small injuries, then medical expenses such as consulting practitioners, medicine, ambulance fees, and some dentistry will be covered. If you’re hospitalised, generally, emergency services, doctor fees, transfer and transport fees will be covered. Sometimes, the travelling fees of a family member coming over to look after you may also be covered. In the unfortunate event of passing overseas, obsequy services and mortal remains delivered to your home country will be covered as well.
If your planned trips are cancelled, and you have your insurance, then it will cover you for any cancellation fees or deposits. The reasons for cancellation that are usually covered include: illness, injury, force majeure, extreme weather, political wranglings, hijacking, and family emergencies.
There are some other policies that will cover other uncommon reasons such as jury service, job sack, dismissal from occupation, army services.
Insurance will typically cover your baggage in the event of damage, loss, or theft. In these cases, insurance firms will cover operational, transport, and retrieval fees.
There are special insurances that are designed to cater to some specific needs of a certain group of audiences. Sometimes, those insurance will cover for niches, namely pre-existing conditions, high-risk sports, rental car damage, cruising, etc.
It seems as though insurances cover anything in the world, but in fact they don’t. They are a business after all, and they are smart. Insurance is essentially an industry that revolves around risk management, and insurance companies won’t ever cover something they can’t manage. As such, they will frequently exclude covering certain events, for example on-going events, war, or terrorism. Sometimes, certain countries will be excluded from insurance coverage as they are deemed to be more risky destinations by the insurance company’s respective official governmental organisations.
There are also other common situations that are excluded in travel insurance policies, namely:
- elective surgery or treatment;
- injury or illness caused by reckless activity (careless driving, abuse of alcoholic substances or drugs);
- leaving belongings unattended;
- participating in extreme sports and activities;
- travelling against government advice and recommendations;
- travelling to receive medical treatment;
- undeclared pre-existing medical conditions;
- unlicensed operation of a motorcycle, or other vehicles.
What other types of travel insurance?
Insurance comes in a range of types that cater to the specific needs of those who buy it. Below are some of the most prominent travel insurances:
Annual travel insurance
Annual travel insurance will cover any of your trips in the span of 365 days. Still, this depends on the insurer. Some of them impose an upper limit on the number of trips that will be covered or on the number of days of each trip. This type of travel insurance will typically cover trips to any destination around the world, so it’s very convenient for frequent travellers.
Single trip travel insurance
As the name implies, single travel insurance is a one-off insurance in only one trip for which you buy the insurance. It usually comes with a day limit, typically 30 days, so do check carefully before you go for it. Unlike annual travel insurance, this type of insurance is often destination-based, which means it tends to one destination only, but it also means that it will be a lot cheaper.
Backpacker travel insurance
If you’re travelling for longer trips, or over multiple countries. Often referred to as long-stay, extended trip, or gap-year insurance, this type of insurance will cover continuous trips that last between 2 and 28 months.
Family travel insurance
This one will work best if you’re travelling with your family, as it will turn out to be a lot cheaper than buying individual insurance for every member of your family. Generally, this type of insurance will cover a family of two parents and their children, but there are also those that will cover single-parent families, larger families, and grandchildren too.
Regional / European / Worldwide travel insurance
Not technically a separate type of insurance, but more of a quirky little detail you need to be paying attention to when considering different insurances. Whether you’re travelling to Europe, or any regions, even worldwide for that matter, you need to check with the insurer to see their definition of each.
For example, while Russia is typically included in Asian travel insurance, some policies have it as a separate country with slightly altered policies. Another example is Turkey, sometimes it isn’t included in European travel insurances. If you’re travelling to provinces or territories.
We’re getting to the nitty-gritty now. Some of the upcoming insurances you’re about to see are very niche as it caters to very specific needs of very specific groups of audiences.
Insurance will cover you if extreme activities go wrong. Image from Unsplash
Winter sports travel insurance
If you’re planning to travel to ice-covered mountain peaks for some exciting winter sports like snowboarding or ice skating, you’d need a specialised winter sports travel insurance in the off chance where you are injured, or your equipment is lost. Do check with your insurer to see which sport is and isn’t covered.
Adventure sports travel insurance
Most standard travel insurance will be excluding any extreme activities or sports such as bungee jumping or rock climbing. This type of insurance caters to these adventurers who indulge in such extreme activities.
Senior Travel Insurance
Insurers deem travellers from the age of 65 (sometimes lower) as being more likely to issue medical-related claims, as statistically, people in this age bracket are more likely to fall ill, hence why this type of travel insurance exists. Insurance for people at this age is going to be expensive, so you need to carefully look around for the best option.
Best cheapest travel insurance
Average insurance costs
The figure below illustrates the average cost of annual travel insurance and single trip travel insurance in Europe and Worldwide (including USA).
This serves as a great reference point for us to compare some of the upcoming insurance. Most of the time the general coverage is the same, and the differences are really insignificant. Therefore, the price point comes into play as one of the most important factors when it comes to deciding which policy to buy.
Best Annual travel insurance
At only £48.85, TravelTime’s policy is quite a great insurance. It offers up to £2,000 to cover for cancellation, which also covers those caused by COVID-related issues. It offers its buyer £1,000 in baggage and belongings cover.
With this policy, you can travel worry-free up to 45 days at a time. You can pay an excess of £125 on eligible claims but can be waived by paying an additional premium.
Admiral is a great cheap choice. Although it offers only half of the cancellation cover compared to that of TravelTime (£1,000 compared to £2,000), it’s cheaper, only £31.44. It only allows trips of up to 31 days, however. Baggage and belongings cover are also £1,000.
Excess is £150 for eligible claim but can be waived by paying an additional premium.
Post Office Money
Similar to Admiral’s policies, Post Office Money’s policy offers coverage for cancellation of up to £1,000. The cover for lost baggage and belongings are also £1,000.
The reason why this insurer isn’t higher is because, with its cost of £43.90, it doesn’t offer as much coverage as Admiral, specifically it doesn’t cover travel delay or missed departure.
Coverwise’s Silver Plan
Coverwise’s Silver Plan offers great coverage if you’re willing to spend a bit extra or insurance.
At a price of £102.92, it’s expected that the policy would provide better coverage overall. It provides £2,000 per policyholder in cancellation cover, which extends to any incidents caused by COVID. It also offers £1,500 in baggage and belongings cover.
The policy’s excess is only £50 on eligible claims, but it can’t be waived by paying an additional premium.
Another great option for annual insurance. Sainsbury’s Bank covers cancellation of up to £1,500 per policyholder and baggage and belongings cover of up to £1,000.
However, it only allows for trips lasting up to 22 days. Additionally, unlike most other insurance, it doesn’t cover personal accidental, which makes its not-so-competitive price point of £67.65 questionable.
Best Single travel insurance
TravelTime is one of the best cheap insurance providers. At a price of £18.69, TravelTime’s single trip insurance offers up to £2,000 in cancellation cover that also applies to COVID-related issues. Buyers are offered £1,000 in baggage and belongings cover.
A slightly cheaper option than the standard one, TravelTime’s Economy policy is a decent pick up at £17.76. Its cancellation coverage per policyholder is only at £1,000; its baggage and belongings cover is only at £500, but it will be sufficient if you’re not travelling with lots of expensive stuff.
Admiral’s a familiar policy provider, and its single trip insurance is top-notch. It offers £1,000 coverage in both cancellation cover and baggage and belongings cover per policyholder. However, at a very competitive price point of £13.53, Admiral’s policy stands out as one of the best options on the market.
Post Office Money
Post Office Money’s policy is also great value. At £18.34, it offers £1,000 worth of coverage in both cancellation cover and baggage and belongings cover for every buyer. However, it doesn’t offer travel delay cover or missed departure cover.
Best Winter sports insurance
At the cost of £19.13, Switched On’s policy provides coverage of up to £500 in ski equipment cover, £200 in ski hire cover, £250 in avalanche cover and £250 in piste closure cover. It also provides limited coverage to cancellation due to COVID, provided that you have received vaccinations. Still, it doesn’t offer personal accident cover.
Holiday Extras’ policy comes in at £29.75 premium, covering £500 cover for ski equipment, £300 for ski hire. Avalanche and piste closure is included. Its policy has also been updated to cover some Covid-related emergencies. Unfortunately, there’s no personal accident cover.
Post Office Money’s Prime
This policy is great for family trips. Each member can benefit from £500 in ski equipment cover, £250 in ski hire cover, £250 in avalanche cover and £200 in piste closure cover, as well as COVID-related emergencies. It loses some point, however, because of a rather uncompetitive price point of £39.93.
Post Office Money’s Lite
If you’re travelling alone in the winter, consider this Lite version of only £25,26. It offers coverage of £500 in ski equipment cover, £250 in ski hire cover, £200 in piste closure cover, and £150 in avalanche cover.
At only £13.49, this is perhaps the best cheap option available. Its policy includes coverage of £500 in ski equipment cover, £250 in ski hire cover, £200 in avalanche cover and £200 in piste closure cover. The price may be low however, but the excess on eligible claims is quite high at £150 but can be levied should you opt for an additional premium.
Buying guide travel insurance
There would be no one-size-fit-all guide for everyone. As detailed above, insurance comes in all shapes and sizes, with each type fine-tuned for any customers’ needs. Therefore, the best way to go about buying insurance is researching the lines of insurance that cater to your needs and then choosing the most appropriate and affordable option.
Below, we listed some of the factors you should be considering upon choosing an insurance:
- A high number of days abroad per trip: You won't be covered should you extend your stay beyond the period stated in the insurance policy. Getting one that covers you for more days means you'd be covered in some unlikely events. Most decent policies will cover you for at least a month worth of days per trip, with some offering as many as 90 days;
- 24/7 hotline: Some insurer's customer service hotline only works office hours, but no trips are limited to such hours. An assistance hotline and a customer support team that is available to offer support and advice is greatly appreciated especially if you're lacking in experience dealing with unexpected circumstances;
- Check everything: that means, all activities you may be doing, such as sports or adventure tourism. Also consider all the places on your itinerary, even transmit countries (if there are any);
- ATOL: Acronym for Air Travel Organiser's Licence, this is a consumer protection scheme for air holidays and flights, managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Many insurers will not cover airline failure, so choose an ATOL-protected holiday or a travel insurance policy that includes airline or supplier failure cover;
- Business coverage: Insurers may not accept any business-related claims you make if you’re on a business trip but with normal travel insurance. Check with your insurance to see if they do offer such coverage just in case;
- Car hire cover — Car rental companies offer their own insurances but buying another insurance on top of your travel insurance isn’t always the most economical choice. It may be a smarter idea to get car hire included in your travel insurance policy instead;
- Exotic / sports activities cover: Sports and activities such as golf, cruises or extreme sports are often excluded from normal travel insurances — so if any of those activities, or any along that line of activities, is part of your plan, having such cover will offer you peace of mind;
- COVID-19 cover: this is very important now considering the recently reopened travelling industry. Ensure that your insurer offers coverage for COVID-related costs such as alternative flights, accommodation, COVID tests, and quarantine fees. You should also check your insurer if they offer coverage when you cannot reach your final destination during transit due to COVID-related issues;
- Cruises coverage: Because you're on the sea, it generally requires an additional level of cover because it is more difficult to get to hospital on a fixed itinerary of a cruise ship. Check carefully with your service provider to see if they do offer such coverage and how they deal with such situations;
- emergency transport, such as an ambulance, is often charged separately to other medical expenses, and emergency travel home on medical grounds can also be expensive;
- Private / Public medical establishments: In emergency situations, your safety and survival are of utmost importance, so you'll be taken to the nearest hospital. The problem is, some insurances won't cover bills from private hospitals, and oftentimes it is those bills that are the worst. So do check carefully to see how medical expenses are covered by your insurance provider;
- Repatriation coverage: If you must extend your stay due to medical treatment, or whatever treatment for that matter, then usually insurers will be covering the expenses. But do check several factors, like what reason for stay extension, how much money, from which countries will be covered;
- Pre-existing medical conditions: declare any and all existing conditions or pending treatment or tests so that you are covered if anyone gets ill during your trip. Companies will deny paying for your insurance should they learn that you've withhold any existing conditions;
- Reasonable costs for a family member or friend to stay with you, or to accompany you home, just in case;
- Terrorism cover: If you’re planning to visit a country where there are reported to be civil unrest or terrorist activities, you may not be covered should anything go wrong.
Travel insurance that covers Coronavirus (Covid-19)? What is the best?
If you’re planning to travel in the year of 2022, be ready to go through layers of security checks. Many of these procedures are time-consuming, and any of them could easily mess up your entire carefully planned trip.
Insurance will come in extra helpful, as it’ll cover for you when things go wrong. Insurance providers are smart too. They understand the necessity as well as the peace of mind that the customers seek when travelling during the pandemic; therefore, many of them have incorporated lots of perks that will cover your trip should COVID-related issues happen.
Generally, all of those insurances will offer coverage for cancellation or delay due to COVID-19, COVID-related treatment, and repatriation expenses.
But which one is the best? Below, we’ve compiled some of the best options available on the market.
The great thing of this insurance is, besides covering for emergency medical treatment for COVID-related issues, this one offers to pay up to £5,000 in cancellation cover should you be infected with the virus and must self-isolate or go into quarantine. This policy will also cover your family members in case they need medical treatment.
It won’t cover you, however, if you’re travelling to countries advised against by the FCDO. The excess is also one of the cheapest out there, at only £50.
This policy makes it mark buy offering great coverage at a very competitive price, only £29.70. It’ll pay out if you must cancel your trip due to COVID-19 within 14 days of the planned departure date. With an affordable excess of £99, it’ll pay out up to £4,000 in cancellation fees.
It’s also covered for any COVID medical treatment should you contract the virus, but only if you adhere to all safety protocols. It’ll also cover early returns, should those be results of COVID.
The special thing about this policy is the fact that this policy will still cover you even if you’re going against the FCDO advice. But be weary, it only applies to certain countries in Europe. Check their full terms and conditions for further details.
Cover For You
At a low cost of £34.96 and a low excess of only £50, this policy covers everything COVID-related nicely.
It provides cover for virus contraction, self-isolation fees, trip cancellation, medical treatment. Unlike many other travel insurances, this one will cover you if you are denied boarding your plan due to COVID symptoms.
While the insurance doesn’t offer any coverage if you decide to travel against FDCO advice, if such advice changes during the course of your travelling, you’d then be fully insured.
Southdowns’ Bronze policy is also a nice choice if you don’t want to worry about COVID-19, with the typical coverage such as virus contraction, self-isolation fees, trip cancellation, medical treatment.
The cancellation cover for Bronze is £1,500. Silver, Gold, and Platinum’s cap would be £2,000, £3,000, and £6,000 respectively. The excess of this policy ranges from £100 to £200 depending on the bracket that you choose.
Southdowns’ policies are great, but they can’t rank higher on our list as their payable excess is higher while the cancellation costs offered are generally lower.
FAQs about Travel Insurance
How do we calculate our travel insurance ratings?
In order to come up with the recommendations, we consulted insurance websites of various different popular policy providers and then compared some key factors of an insurance. Those are:
Baggage and belongings cover: A very common incident to happen during trips. The more the coverage the better the policy, by and large.
Cancellation cover: the most important aspect of an insurance, as this is the most common incident to happen during any trip.
Cancellation due to COVID-19: a recently emerged category, but a crucial one. Due to COVID-19, safety protocols, and FDCO’s travel advice (or any governmental organisation’s advice), many people must change their itinerary or cancel their trip. Therefore, COVID-related issues cover is high on the priority list.
Excess and excess waiver: an important category not to be taken lightly. When you make a claim, you have to pay the excess, which, in many cases, is higher or almost as much as the money you get back. This is also why excess waiver, provided by premium upgrade, is also quite important.
Price: easily the decisive factor. In general, various policies on the market aren’t dissimilar enough for the differences in price to matter, hence why the cheaper the insurance the better.
How to claim your travel insurance?
Claiming insurance is a lengthy and convoluted process, but there are fundamental steps that you should follow to oil the wheels:
Make the calls: it’s imperative that you report your incident as early as possible to your insurer, and to the local police. Most policies require the notification to be made within the first 24 hours, but you should do it as soon as possible in order to obtain assistance.
Demand the medical claims to be accepted: medical bills will often be the most expensive of the bunch, and it’ll generally be harder to reclaim the money if you decide to prepay for it before the insurer. So, unless it’s absolutely urgent, do demand your insurer to accept the medical claims before you do anything else.
Keep your evidence: Some of the insurance claims could go up to the millions of dollars, so it’s understandable that insurers wouldn’t easily accept any claims. Therefore, should something happen, it’s best that you hold on tight to whatever evidence you have, be it medical bills, receipts, etc.