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Travel insurance: why it's important

Here are some (of many) of the benefits of getting it:


When should you buy travel insurance?

Getting travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you've Booked) means you'll be protected BEFORE and DURING your holiday.

This is because travel insurance doesn't just cover you while you're away, it  covers you for cancellation if anything goes wrong BEFORE you go that means you can't travel.

So don't leave it too late, make it the first thing you sort after booking a trip. 

  Read our guide to cheap travel insurance 

What does travel insurance cover?

The aim of travel insurance is to cover the cost of the unforeseen, such as illness or stolen personal belongings while you're away, or if you need to cancel your trip before you go. It's not designed to cover every eventuality.

What's generally covered:
Cancellation if can't travel I Medical costs I Repatriation I Baggage & personal belongings I Personal liability | Trip curtailment.

What's generally not covered:
Missing your flight/ferry I Dangerous sports | Alcohol-related injury | Undeclared pre-existing medical conditions | Unattended possessions.

Read more on what travel insurance covers

What type of travel insurance do I need?

There are different types of insurance, depending on how often you're going, who with, and where. We've full help in our Cheap travel insurance guide, but here's a brief summary. Firstly, you can choose between:

  • Single-trip travel insurance. You're covered from the day you buy to the day you come home (for that specific holiday).
  • Annual multi-trip travel insurance. This covers all trips taken during the period the policy covers. If you'll go away at least twice, this usually works out cheaper.

Then consider if you need:

  • Family or individual/couple's travel insurance. Generally, family covers parents, and children who live with them.

Where you're going also impacts the type of holiday insurance you need:

  • European travel insurance. Insurers' definitions of 'Europe' vary, so check.
  • Worldwide travel insurance. Again, check what it calls 'Worldwide'. 

Cheap travel insurance for those aged over 65

While travel insurance works in the same way no matter how old you are, the price you pay can vary wildly. As you get older, insurers can see it as an excuse to charge you more. That's because statistically you're more likely to develop medical issues while on a trip.

But don't be ripped off. Our top tips can help you get cheaper travel insurance if you're aged over 65.

   Over-65s' travel insurance 


Travelling with pre-existing medical conditions?

It's really important you always give honest and up-to-date information about your medical history to avoid invalidating your cover. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may not necessarily need a specialist policy, it all depends on the issue.

The cover works the same way as insurance for typical travellers. The only difference is that it also covers the cost of treatment for any medical condition you currently suffer from, or may have had in the past.

This is likely to make the cost of cover more expensive, but there are ways to cut costs. We've all you need to know and how to save in our guide.

Travel insurance for pre-existing conditions

Other travel essentials

Insurance isn't the only money-related travel consideration. Check out some of our other holiday MoneySaving resources below.

Martin Lewis explains why you should get travel insurance ASAB 

Martin Lewis: "Each year, heartbreakingly, without fail, in the run-up to summer, someone who's been diagnosed with cancer or another serious condition that needs long-term treatment tells me they won't be able to go on their holiday, but the airline/hotel won't refund them (within their rights as the ticket is not faulty). I say 'that's what travel insurance is for', yet they then tell me they haven't got round to getting it yet. My heart sinks.

"Half the point of the cover is to protect you if things happen before then that stop you going, so please get it ASAB (As Soon As you've Booked)."

MoneySaving successes

Below we've featured some successes from MSE users who've used our tips to save money on their holiday insurance. If our tools or guides have helped you, let us know via email.

"I saved £600+ as Saga quoted me a huge uplift in my annual travel insurance because of my pre-existing condition of SVT. Thanks to following the link on your website, I've halved that price!"

Rose, Mar 2024

"I received a renewal quote today for £363 for annual travel insurance for myself and my husband. Spurred on by MSE and by car insurance renewal successes, I rang the insurer and got it reduced to £313!"

Pauline, May 2024

"Since I was diagnosed with cancer, I was quoted £1,273 for travel insurance for a single trip. I then used a comparison tool after using your app and got insurance for £77. So thanks very much, Martin."

Terence, Feb 2024

Travel insurance FAQs

  • What does excess mean in travel insurance?

    The excess is the amount you must contribute to a claim for the insurance company to pay out. So say you have a travel insurance policy with a £100 excess and you incur £500 of medical expenses, you'd need to pay the first £100 on a claim yourself. Your insurer would then cover the remaining £400. This is designed to prevent small or minor claims and keep the policy cost lower.

    Your excess should be outlined in your policy as different cover levels, and sections of the policy, have different excess amounts – though not all claims come with one. Some insurers let you choose your excess when purchasing your policy.

    It is important to always check the excess before purchasing a policy, as it can hugely impact the total cost of any claims.

  • Do I need travel insurance if I have an EHIC or GHIC?

    EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) and GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) are free cards that give holders medical coverage when travelling abroad – within the EU and certain other countries respectively. Do note that the EHIC is being phased out and replaced with a GHIC (same card, new name). To learn more, including how to apply for a GHIC, see our Free GHIC and EHIC page.

    That said, having an EHIC or GHIC doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, for several reasons:

    • Limited coverage. EHIC and GHIC only cover necessary medical treatment at state-run hospitals and clinics, and only at the same cost as local residents. Also, they do not cover additional costs you could run up, such as mountain rescue from ski resorts.

    • No repatriation coverage. If you need to be flown back to the UK because of a medical emergency, EHIC and GHIC do not cover this. Travel insurance typically DOES cover repatriation, which can be very expensive.

    • No non-medical coverage. Travel insurance covers a range of other potential issues that EHIC and GHIC don't, such as trip cancellations or interruptions, lost or stolen luggage, flight delays, and personal liability.

    • Not usable worldwide. EHIC and GHIC are primarily intended for use within the EU and certain other European countries. If you're travelling outside these regions, such as to the USA or Asia for instance, you won't have any cover at all without travel insurance.

    • No additional services. Travel insurance often includes additional services such as 24/7 emergency assistance hotlines, support for lost or stolen passports, and assistance finding medical care.

  • Can I get travel insurance for the UK?

    This varies from insurer to insurer, but the general rule of thumb is if your trip involves spending at least two consecutive nights in booked accommodation, you can get travel insurance to cover you for your UK trip.

    Very few insurers also stipulate you must be more than 25 miles away from home, or cross water with a ferry, to be covered.

    As we explain in our UK travel insurance guide, although emergency medical costs won't be a factor seeing as the NHS is free at the point of use, holiday insurance doesn't just cover medical treatment. A travel insurance policy for the UK should cover theft of your baggage or damage to your personal belongings, to cancellations and holiday curtailment (where it's cut short because of an emergency).

    That said, for a cheap weekend away in which you're not bringing many valuables, UK travel insurance probably isn't worth it. But for a longer trip, it certainly could be worth considering.

  • Does travel insurance cover lost passports?

    Yes, most travel insurance policies cover lost and stolen passports.

    As well as covering the cost of replacements, travel insurance may also reimburse you for travel and accommodation costs if you need to go to a consulate or embassy to replace your passport. You will also likely get 24/7 emergency assistance services to guide you through reporting the loss and finding the nearest consulate or embassy. They can also help you arrange appointments and gather necessary documents.

    Again though, check your policy to see the full extent of your coverage before assuming lost and stolen passports are covered – and factor in the excess.

  • Can I get travel insurance if I'm pregnant?

    Pregnant travellers can buy travel insurance in the same way as anyone else. Pregnancy isn't considered a pre-existing medical condition, meaning you won't have to pay extra like you might if you did have some kind of ongoing health issue.

    However, you should still let your insurance provider know that you're pregnant and check the details of your agreement/your insurer's policy on pregnancy. For instance, some offer cover for childbirth-related costs, while others don't. Some providers may not offer coverage for pregnancy-related medical emergencies past a certain point either, such as after the 28th or 32nd week of pregnancy.

  • Can I get travel insurance when I am already abroad?

    Called post-departure insurance – or 'already travelling insurance' – you can buy a type of travel insurance specifically tailored towards those already on holiday, but it is not always easily available.

    This is extremely useful if you've either forgotten to get cover or your annual policy has expired.

    However, do note that post-departure insurance WON'T cover you for anything that's already gone wrong – it's only for unforeseen events yet to occur.

    Overall, this type of insurance is not as comprehensive as buying a travel insurance policy ASAB (As Soon As you've Booked), as it does not usually come with cancellation protection. This is why you should always get travel insurance before you go, and as soon as you have booked the holiday.

  • Can travel insurance be extended?

    This does depend on the policy, why you need to extend it, for how long and if you are already abroad.

    For an annual multi-trip travel insurance policy, each trip is likely to be capped to as low as 17 days, with others setting the limit at 31 or 45 days, but it can sometimes be as high as 90. If you know you are likely to exceed the limited number of days, do let your insurer know before you go away to see what your options are.

    For a single-trip policy, you can just let the insurer know of the new dates.

    If you are already abroad and your return has been delayed, insurers are usually very flexible to extend the cover, but you must let your insurance provider know ASAP to request an extension. Though do be aware that the extension may also come with a request for an additional fee.

  • How can I make a claim on my travel insurance?

    Claiming on your travel insurance should be fairly straightforward and – if you understand the terms and the excesses on your policy – you likely won't be in for any shocks. Follow the steps below to claim on your holiday insurance:

    • Make your claim ASAP. Get in touch with your provider as soon as possible to get the ball rolling and avoid any issue with your insurer to process the claim.
    • Get your provider to accept a medical claim before getting treatment. If you need medical attention – and it's not an emergency – get your insurer to accept the claim before proceeding. This reduces the possibility of a rejected claim later down the line.
    • Let the police know if it's a theft or loss. If an item goes missing or is stolen while you're abroad, it is very likely you'll need to get a crime reference number (or the overseas equivalent) for your claim to be successful. Report the incident to the local police ASAP – you typically must do so within 24 hours.
    • Keep receipts. For lost or delayed luggage claims, remember to keep receipts of any essentials you bought while waiting, such as essential clothing. Insurers often let you add these expenses to your claim and will likely ask for receipts as proof.
    • Complain if you think your claim was unfairly rejected. If your claim is rejected, and you believe your insurer has done so wrongly, complain to the Financial Ombudsman for free. The independent adjudicator will rule on your claim if you and your provider have reached a stalemate. Learn more on how to make a complaint in our Financial rights guide.
  • What upgrades or optional covers are there?

    Travel insurance typically includes a range of standard covers, optional covers, and potential upgrades:

    Standard covers

    • Medical expenses and emergency repatriation. Covers costs of medical treatment, hospital stays, and emergency repatriation.
    • Trip cancellation/interruption. Reimburses non-refundable travel expenses if your trip is cancelled or cut short due to covered reasons (for instance, illness, injury or death of a family member).
    • Lost, stolen, or damaged baggage. Covers the cost of replacing lost, stolen, or damaged personal belongings.
    • Baggage delay. Offers compensation if your baggage is delayed for a certain period.
    • Travel delay. Covers additional expenses incurred due to travel delays, such as accommodation and meals.
    • Personal liability. Covers legal expenses and damages if you accidentally cause injury or property damage to others.

    Optional covers

    • Winter sports and adventure activities. Provides coverage for injuries or accidents sustained while taking part in high-risk sports or activities.
    • Cruise cover. Covers any missed port departure, cabin confinement, unused excursions and baggage.
    • Golf cover. Would include cover for your golf equipment, green fees, tuition or schools fees.
    • Travel disruption. If you are stranded overseas because of a tsunami, volcanic eruption (or ash), earthquake or your accommodation becomes uninhabitable, this is the section that provides the cover.
    • Gadget cover. The extension generally needed to insure laptops, tablets, mobile phones, cameras and even smartwatches.
    • Excess waiver. This in effect reduces, or removes, the standard policy excess.
    • Car hire excess waiver. Covers the excess/deductible amount if you damage a rental car.

    Upgraded cover

    The usual process of getting 'upgraded cover' is by opting for a mid-range or premium policy, and not selecting a basic or standard policy. Here is what you can get:

    • Higher coverage limits. Increase the coverage limits for standard benefits like medical expenses, baggage loss, and trip cancellation.
    • Pre-existing medical condition cover. Extends coverage to include pre-existing medical conditions – typically if certain conditions are met.
    • Business equipment. Adds coverage for loss or damage to business-related equipment and documents.
    • Extended trip duration. Extends the maximum trip duration covered by the policy – this is useful for long-term travellers.

    When choosing travel insurance, carefully read the policy details and understand what is and isn't covered. Choosing optional or upgraded cover will ensure you get the travel insurance protection based on your exact needs.

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