Tony and Rebecca | Edited by Johanna
Updated June 2017
Travel insurance is more expensive and more difficult to buy as you get older – especially if you are over the age of 65, with the average annual cost standing at more than £80.
This guide explains how travel insurance works, how to find cover if you're over 65 and what you should watch out for before you buy.
Travel insurance best buys
In this guide
Over-65s' travel insurance: Your 12 need-to-knows
Getting the right holiday cover is a much more arduous task as you age, as insurers consider you to be more at risk of injury and illness.
However, besides the extra cost, over-65s' travel insurance is just like cover for younger travellers, insuring against unforeseeable mishaps which may occur both before your holiday starts and while you are away.
Before you buy cover here are 12 things you should know.
Insurance is about covering unpredictable events
"Why should I get travel insurance, I might not use it?" you may ask. But the whole point of travel insurance is to cover you for the unforeseen – ie, unpredictable events that may occur either before or during your holiday. You need to accept that, and as it's impossible to predict the future, all you can do is to give it your best shot. To sum up...
Insurance is about making unpredictable events predictable in case the unpredictable happens.
Buy as soon as you've booked to cover cancellation and pre-trip illness
As the chances of you falling ill or having to cancel your trip are statistically higher as you get older, it's important you buy it as soon as you've booked. Leaving it on the 'things to do' list, is taking an unnecessary risk.
Never assume all policies are the same
While choosing a travel insurance policy isn't rocket science, you can't buy cover without first giving it considerable thought. Policies vary greatly with their own inclusions and exclusions.
Before you decide which policy to buy assess your risk. Do you have expensive personal belongings? Will you be carrying a large amounts of foreign currency? Are you taking part in winter sports? When you know exactly what you need you can make a more informed buying decision.
Our best buy annual policies below meet our minimum cover levels for various things, including cancellation and medical care.
What's typically covered under a travel insurance policy?
Every travel insurance policy covers different things but all would offer a varying degree of cover on the below:
Unforeseen illnesses, injuries or accidents will be covered under the medical section of your policy. This covers the cost of receiving treatment overseas – including dental emergencies in most cases – and repatriation, the cost of having to fly you back to the UK.
On a slightly more morbid note, most policies cover cremation costs or the repatriation of a body should someone die during your holiday.
Travel policies also cover cancellation if you can no longer go on your holiday or you need to come back early. However, there needs to be a valid reason for you to abandon your trip. Being made redundant, having to do jury service, or having to take care of a seriously ill family member are among valid reasons.
But if you decide you no longer fancy a trip to the Canary Islands because you would rather go to the Maldives, or you want to return to the UK because you forgot to put EastEnders on series record, your claim will probably be rejected.
Baggage and personal belongings
Your travel policy will also cover you if your stuff is lost, stolen or damaged while you are on holiday. Almost everything you take overseas, including computers, phones and cameras as well as expensive clothing is included – but always check the policy limits. Many providers will also cover you for the loss of a passport, cash or a driving licence.
However, policies can vary greatly both in the amount covered and in the excesses – the amount you have to pay towards the claim yourself. For example, items such as cash or expensive goods can be subject to their own high excess.
Personal liability protects others and their property from accidents you may cause while on holiday. For example, the personal liability element of your insurance would cover you if, during a skiing trip, you crashed into another skiier and injured them. Insurers will usually cover you for up to £2m, which is generally more than enough.
Travel schedules are often the victim of adverse weather, so delay cover is one of the more important aspects of travel insurance. Most policies cover against more than just storms, with many including events such as industrial action and mechanical breakdown.
If your flight's been delayed for more than three hours or it's been cancelled you may be able to claim compensation of up to £470 directly from the airline but the reason for the delay or cancellation must be the airline's fault, so bad weather for example, won't count.
This compensation is only for EU-regulated flights. An EU flight is where the flight departed from an EU airport, regardless of the airline OR where an EU airline landed at an EU airport. Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. See our Flight Delay Compensation guide for more info.
If this doesn't apply – perhaps because you flew both from and to an airport outside the EU – you can also try making a claim on your travel insurance policy. Insurers typically pay out for each 12-hour period you've been delayed, but the payouts are often tiny compared to what you can get from your airline so always go down that route if you can.
What is typically left out of travel insurance cover?
Like all insurance policies, there are a number of things that providers will not pay out for. Here are the most common...
You may be on holiday to unwind but if you are injured while you are more than just a little tipsy, your insurer is likely to reject your claim. The same goes for drugs. Insurers have different classifications of 'drunk', with some using blood alcohol limits, so check your policy carefully before you buy.
Insurers will often cover you if you have pre-existing medical conditions (if they've already been declared to the insurer), but if you fail to tell your insurer and then need treatment for that condition, or a related condition, you won't be covered.
You may also struggle to get a claim paid if you ignore advised medication or jabs needed to enter a country. So, if you go to Kenya and decide against getting jabs for Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Poliomyelitis, Tetanus and Typhoid do not expect your insurer to foot the bill if the worst happens.
If you are going on an adventure holiday, or you are planning to take a winter sports break, you must get extra cover or a specialist policy. Taking to the Alps for a spot of snowboarding with just a basic travel insurance policy in your bag is a risk not worth taking, if you get injured you could end up paying £10,000s in medical bills – especially if you're over 65.
Travel insurance will cover your personal possessions when you are abroad but it doesn't mean you can be gung ho with your stuff. If you leave your items unattended and they are then stolen, your insurer will not pay for their replacement.
Travel to dangerous countries
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) outlines which countries are unsafe for travel. If you travel to a country on the FCO's list your cover is likely to be invalid. Check out the FCO's current travel advice for more.
Does it matter which country I am going to?
Insurers will classify your trip as either European or worldwide. Worldwide is often further broken down to either include or exclude the US, with cover that includes the latter usually more expensive due to the high cost of medical treatment in the US.
However, some insurers include destinations such as Egypt and Turkey in Europe, while others offer European policies with the option of including or excluding Spain (which can cost more and may increase your premium). As always, check your policy carefully to make sure you are getting the right cover.
Am I covered for trips in the UK?
Annual travel insurance policies will cover you for trips in the UK but there will be restrictions, especially to medical care, so make sure you check your terms and conditions carefully before you buy.
You will be able to claim for cancellation, lost luggage, lost money and the other common travel insurance benefits and the number of days per trip is likely to be the same as any overseas holiday taken under the policy. However, insurers have different definitions of a UK trip.
For instance, LV* covers UK trips but only if you have pre-booked your accommodation or are more than 25 miles from your home or your journey involves a sea crossing, Aviva* will cover you if your trip includes at least two nights in pre-booked accommodation and Holidaysafe* annual policies cover any pre-booked holiday in the UK as long as it as at least three days long.
In addition, because you will typically be entitled to NHS treatment in the UK, the medical expenses limit (which can be as high as £10m for trips abroad) will be greatly reduced for UK trips. For example, Direct Travel's* budget policy has a £2m medical limit if you are outside of the UK but will only offer travel expenses home following treatment and repatriation if you fall ill or die while on holiday in the UK.
Remember to check your T&Cs carefully to see what you and aren't covered for.
What is an excess and how does it work?
An excess is the amount you have to pay towards any claim you make. For example, if you cancel a trip and are entitled to £3,000 back from your insurer but have a £500 excess you will only receive £2,500.
However, many travel insurance products have separate excesses for different sections of the policy. For instance, some providers may make you pay an excess on both stolen cash and luggage. So if your suitcase was nicked and your wallet was inside you would have to pay an excess on both.
If you have a group policy you may also have to pay an excess for each person for any loss that impacts your entire party, such as cancellation. It is important to check all excesses so you know exactly what you will have to pay if you make a claim.
Does it matter what type of holiday I am going on?
Most travel insurance policies are designed to cover package holidays, as historically that's how 90% of us booked our holidays, and not all providers have kept up. This leaves them ill-equipped to cover DIY trips, where flights and accommodation are booked separately.
The biggest issue is a lack of cover for knock-on consequences. If a policy covers scheduled airline failure, for example, and the airline goes under, you'll typically be able to claim for the flights and any consequential losses, such as hotel costs. Without this cover, you'll lose the money you paid for it.
To beat this, you need a policy that specifically covers 'indirect loss' or 'scheduled airline failure'. Check the small print as more insurers are including this cover as standard or as an optional extra.
Remember, package holidays feature extra ATOL and ABTA protection, which you don't get on DIY trips. If you're booking a DIY trip, if the additional fee isn't too expensive, book on a credit card (repaid in full to avoid interest) and then you get Section 75 protection for anything costing over £100.
What should I check in my policy before I buy?
As with any insurance product check all the terms, conditions, exclusions and inclusions before you buy. Travelling without the right cover can leave you seriously out of pocket.
Remember to check your excesses too. High excesses may result in a cheaper policy but should only be considered if you can afford to front a large portion of the cost of your claim yourself.
Group policies are based on the oldest traveller so separate cover could be cheaper
Group travel insurance premiums are based on the oldest traveller or the person deemed to be the highest risk, such as someone with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurers become more selective under these circumstances, and hike up premiums.
A separate policy for you, as an older traveller, may be the best option to avoid everyone paying over the odds, but always check.
Here's an example:
A family of four – 66 year old, 40 year old and two children under 18 – want a European annual travel insurance policy. They have two options:
Option 1: Take out an annual group policy – the cheapest we could find was £77.98.
Option 2: Take out one policy for the 40 year old and the two kids at a cost of £26.69, and a separate policy for the 66 year old at a cost of £38. The total cost for both policies would be £65.68 – £12.30 cheaper than the group policy.
However, one thing to be aware of is that if, for example, the 66 year old fell ill and ended up in hospital and couldn't fly back at the end of the holiday, the 40 year old and the kids wouldn't be covered for the cost of having to stay on as they are on a separate policy. If they were all on the same policy they would all be covered.
Single trip cover MAY be your most affordable option
If you're over 65 buying an annual policy may be incredibly expensive. This problem becomes even more acute when you are above 80.
The best thing to do is to check single trip prices too to see if that works out cheaper. However, if it is cheaper to buy an annual policy, and you know you will be making a number of trips, opt for that instead. Of course, this varies depending on where you're travelling to and for how long but if you also have extra trips during the life of the policy, you already have the cover in force.
Going to Europe? Don't forget your FREE EHIC
One of the most common areas of travel cover confusion is the role of the free European Health Insurance Card.
An EHIC entitles you to treatment in state-run hospitals in EU countries and Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. You'll be treated for the same cost as a local person in the same hospital. So if they pay nowt, you pay nowt.
You can only use hospitals and doctors signed up to the EHIC scheme. If you are in any doubt, check with EHIC before starting treatment. The card should not be used instead of insurance. This is because travel insurance covers far more, including the costs incurred if treatment isn't free, cancellations, delays, repatriation and baggage loss or theft.
Check if you are already covered
Many bank accounts which charge a monthly fee have extra benefits such as travel insurance so if you pay for yours you may already be covered. If you think you got insurance as a sweetener with your bank account, check the terms to see if it is appropriate for your trip.
For more info on it, and other accounts that may offer travel insurance, see our Best Premier Current Accounts guide.
Going skiing? Make sure you have winter sports cover
Winter sports can be dangerous, so as soon as you've splashed out on your break, make sure you are insured on the slopes. As well as insuring you for the basics you'd get under a standard travel policy, you'll also be insured for activity-related injury and your winter sports equipment.
However, you pay more for winter sports insurance due to your age and some providers may not offer you cover at all. For example, American Express does not offer winter sports cover to the over-70s, despite offering insurance for travellers up to the age of 79.
Is winter sports cover automatically included?
Many holidaymakers wrongly assume they're automatically covered for winter sports as part of their travel insurance. While some providers offer winter sports as standard under certain policies, other travel policies only cover you if you extend your insurance and this will typically cost extra.
All winter sports policies will cover you for skiing and snowboarding and many will also cover other activities, such as husky dog sleigh riding and sledging, as standard. If you are doing something a bit more unusual, such as ski jumping or snowmobiling, check the terms and conditions of your policy first. If you are planning to take part in something even more crazy – such as luging and stunt skiing – specialist providers such as BMC and Snowcard may be able to offer you cover.
If you opt for a specialist travel policy, check your details closely to make sure you know the limits of your cover.
Don't forget to pick your specialist provider like any other travel provider. Make sure you tell your insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions and remember to pack your EHIC if you are going somewhere in Europe.
Is it worth getting a basic policy and hoping for the best?
The cost of medical bills if you get injured on the slope can be extortionate so it is essential to have cover.
Being airlifted from the mountain to hospital can cost £2,500, repatriation from Europe can set you back £10,000 and you will have to fork out £40,000 if you need to be flown home injured from the US or Canada.
As well as covering yourself, winter sports insurance will also cover your ski pack and cancellation of your holiday.
Do I need extra cover if I want to go off-piste?
In most cases, you'll be allowed to ski off-piste but with certain restrictions. You'll have to be within the boundary of the resort, on a marked ski run, with local ski patrol guidelines or supervised by a qualified instructor.
I am skiing twice this year. Should I get a 12-month policy?
Lucky you. It may be cheaper to take out an annual policy with a winter sports add-on. However, check the price against the cost of covering single trips to ensure you're getting a bargain. Your age is likely to play a part here so check the T&Cs of the policy carefully.
Is my equipment covered? What if it is rented?
Most winter sports policies will cover you for accidental damage, theft or the loss of equipment. The onus will be on you to keep your gear safe, so don't leave it at the mercy of crooks.
Your equipment will usually be covered for £300 to £500, but different providers offer different limits. The sum insured is usually in addition to your standard baggage cover. For example, Axa Direct will cover up to £2,000 worth of equipment with some policies, while Admiral will just cover up to £1,000. Think about the value of your stuff and pick your policy accordingly.
If you've hired ski equipment, it may be covered by your insurer if it's lost, stolen or damaged. Some providers insure any rented kit as part of your baggage up to the limit of the coverage. Other insurers only pay up to 50% of the sum insured for hired equipment. Some ski equipment providers may also cover the gear for you so it is worth checking with the resort before you buy your cover.
In most cases, your ski pack – which includes ski school fees, a lift pass and hired ski equipment – is covered. The amount can range from £150 to £500, but can be as high as £5,000. As always, check your policy closely for any potential exclusions.
Can I claim for piste closure?
If your piste closes (usually due to lack of snow or an avalanche) and you're unable to hit the slopes, your insurer may give you back a set amount per day, this can range from £10 to £30 – up to a limit of £200 or £300.
What happens if I have an accident while I am a little tipsy?
As long as your claim is valid and you're within the terms of your policy, you should be covered should you have a mishap on the slopes. But if you've had a drop of sherry and then injure yourself, your claim is likely to be rejected. This is a standard exclusion on most travel insurance policies, including ones with winter sports cover. Insurers have different classifications of 'drunk', with some using blood alcohol limits so check your policy carefully before you buy. The same goes for skiing despite weather warnings and – with some providers – skiing without a helmet.
Going on a cruise? You’re likely to need an add-on to the policy
Cruise ship holidays are growing in popularity but don’t expect to be automatically covered for cruise specific issues. Carefully check your policy to make sure you are covered should you need to cancel a cruise holiday or require medical treatment once on board.
Don't overpay on your insurance. Costlier cover is rarely worth it
Insurance providers go all out to scare us into upping cover levels. Don't be duped into upgrading for no reason. Platinum policies with £10m medical cover are bunkum, even if you are over 65.
"Why," you ask? Well, you're charged more but the chances of you making a claim that high are slim. According to the Association of British Insurers, the average cost of a medical travel insurance claim in 2013 was £930 – a far cry from £10m!
Insurance from a travel agent could cost £250 moreIf you buy travel insurance from a travel agent or airline, be it for a single trip away or an annual policy, you are likely to massively overpay.
We found a worldwide annual couples policy for a massive £351 from Thomas Cook yet our top pick for similar cover is £101 with Leisure Guard – a saving of £250.
This table compares the price of a selection of holidays with our top picks versus the cheapest options from a selection of travel firms that meet our minimum criteria .
Finding cheap cover depends on your age, as you can see from our best buys below. People who are between 65 and 80 will find it much easier to find cover than those who are older than 80, especially if they are looking for an annual policy, but there are options, Age UK* and All Clear Travel for example don't have upper age limits.
Apart from the cost, the policy will be similar to a policy for a younger person. However, one thing to watch out for is the claim limits for permanent disablement, which are likely to be lower as you get older as the long-term costs of looking after you decrease as you age.
Claims for accidental death may also lead to a lower payout to your relatives if you are older as it is assumed your dependants are less reliant on your income.
Travellers who are over 65 with medical conditions will face the question: Do I look for cover for people with pre-existing medical conditions, or cover for those who are over the age of 65? The simple answer is to go for the insurance which includes medical conditions. This is because insurers usually class medical conditions as more of a risk than the age of the traveller.
Thinking you don't need to arrange cover yet as your holiday's not for another six months is a big mistake. In fact, it's even more of a reason to arrange travel insurance, as anything can happen before your trip. Why? Because travel insurance won't just cover you while you're away, it'll also cover you for cancellation or anything else that might go wrong BEFORE you make your trip.
How many days can I travel for on my annual policy?
Annual cover will insure you for an unlimited number of trips over a 12-month period. However, you may be restricted for the number of days you can be on holiday for per trip – it is often 31 days but can sometimes be as low as 17 or as high as 90.
The card is free so if a copycat site pretending to the the real thing advertises a fee (often about £25), run a mile. For full info and how to get it for free from the legitimate NHS site, read the Free EHIC guide.or by calling 0300 330 1350.
Some websites will try to make you pay up to £25 for an EHIC. These dress up like legitimate sites, using search optimisation tricks to rank prominently on Google. They then get you to fill in forms, charging you for 'administration', even though there's no administration needed. See our 60 Seconds on Copycat Sites guide for more.
Do I need an EHIC if I have travel insurance?
Technically, no – but you'd be ill-advised not to bother as travel insurance covers you for far more, including medical costs, cancellation, delay, repatriation, baggage loss and theft.
An EHIC should be seen as an extra to travel insurance not a replacement. Travel insurance covers far more scenarios, as well as possessions, delays, repatriation and more. Plus even using an EHIC you may need to pay, and travel insurance will cover that (and often using the EHIC means you don’t pay the excess).
Equally many travel insurance exclusions don’t apply with EHICs. So If you’ve been drinking you’ll still be treated (not an excuse to push it); or if you’ve got a pre-existing conditions, it still works. Though medical tourism – going abroad to get treatment – is prohibited.
Are qualifying medical centres allowed to refuse my EHIC?
We've heard reports that some travellers have had their EHICs refused for public health care in some countries. It's only affecting a minority of travellers in a few areas. See which countries have been affected and what you should do.
Do NOT confuse this with a benefit offered with credit cards called travel accident insurance, which only covers accidents on a train, plane or in a hire car paid for on the card. Never think this means you're completely covered.
This insurance should also not be confused with Section 75 legal protection – which covers you if you buy anything that costs between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card (not a debit card). See our Section 75 Protection guide for more on this.
If you need extended cover, which usually includes cover against missed departure, unused cruise excursions, cruise itinerary change and cruise cabin confinement, you can usually select an add-on to get the right protection – which won’t break the bank.
The price of our top picks vs the travel firms
|Single trip, one week to Europe||Annual worldwide|
|Our top pick (no-frills)||Travel firms' cover (1)||Our top pick (no-frills)||Travel firms' cover (2)|
|Couple (3)||£25 – Holidaysafe*||£42-£104||£89 – Leisure Guard*
|Individual, 66||£14 – Holidaysafe*
||£27-£52||£49 – Holidaysafe*
|Note: (1) Prices from BA, Thomas Cook, Thomas & Monarch. Some offer higher cover levels than our top picks, but consider whether you need it. (2) Prices from BA, Thomas Cook & Thomson. (3) Both aged 66. Correct as of June 2016.|
If you can, avoid buying the agent or airline's insurance and instead check our full best buys below for a cheaper price.
Whether you are travelling in Europe or further afield, with your family or on your own, we've listed the cheapest policies for anyone over the age of 65 meeting our minimum cover levels.
However, if you are over 65 AND you have pre-existing conditions, you will need a specialist policy. Check the Pre-existing Conditions guide for full help.
Age 65 to 69
Winter sports cover from £20
Age 70 to 75
Winter sports cover from £51
Age 76 – 79
Winter sports cover from £31
Age 80 – 85
An alternative to consider is EHIC plus* (as long as you have a valid free EHIC card). If medical treatment is required, the EHIC card would allow you to use an EU state run hospital for the same price as a local. And the EHIC plus would cover you for things such as delays, lost baggage and cancellation.
While the EHIC card’s free, the EHIC plus costs £93 and it’s only valid for a year (£153/yr for couples). However, neither EHIC plus or the EHIC would pay for any repatriation costs if you need to be flown back to the UK.
Looking for winter sports cover?
The options are limited but try Insure and Go who will be able to provide a quotation for travellers aged under 90.
For those aged over 65, Holidaysafe* (Europe and worldwide) and Leisure Guard Lite* (Europe only) tend to be the cheapest insurers for both individual and couples policies. Prices range from, £14 for an individual aged 66 in Europe to £106 for a couple, both aged 85, for worldwide cover.
Cashback sites may pay you for signing up
As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up to some financial products. Do check that it's exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it's in your account.
Full help to take advantage of this and pros & cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.
How to claim on your travel insurance
Claiming on your travel insurance shouldn't be daunting and – if you understand the terms and excesses on your policy – you shouldn't be in for any nasty shocks.
Follow the five steps below in the event you need to claim.
Submit your claim as soon as possible
Contact your insurer as soon as you can. Some parts of your policy may have a short window to submit a claim and it may take a while to be processed.
If it's a medical claim get an insurer to accept it first
If you need to make a medical claim – and it is not an emergency – get an insurer to accept the claim over the phone first. For example, thieves make off with medicine kept in a handbag that you need urgently. If the insurer accepts the claim over the phone, you're less likely to be faced with a rejected claim later down the line. For obvious reasons, don't delay treatment if it is an emergency.
If it's a theft or loss claim notify the police
If something goes missing or is stolen when you are abroad you may need to get a crime reference number or the overseas equivalent to make a successful claim. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can – you often have to do it within 24 hours to be able to claim – to make sure your claim doesn't hit the skids.
Keep your receipts
If you are claiming for lost luggage or delay, remember to keep receipts of essential items you have bought in the interim, such as food and drink. Many insurers allow you to add these expenses to a claim and may ask for receipts as proof.
Complain if you feel your claim was unfairly rejected
If your insurance company rejects your claim, and you think it has done so wrongly, do not take it lying down. Complain to the free Financial Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is an independent adjudicator that will make the final decision on a claim if you are locked in a dispute with your insurer. For more on how to make a complaint, read our Financial Rights guide.
How to complain about your insurance provider
The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in the small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…
Free tool if you're having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.
If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org as that's usually quicker.