Travel insurance for UK holidays

Do I need travel insurance for my UK staycation?

Whether you're craving cobbled streets, wild moors or sea air for your holiday, the UK has it all... except, perhaps, the weather. But if you're considering a UK holiday, or you've booked one already, you may be wondering whether it's worth buying insurance to cover your staycation. Here's what you need to know.

Other travel help guides... See UK hotel bargains and Cheap train tickets for cost-cutting tips. And do tell us your experiences in the UK travel insurance discussion.

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What is UK holiday insurance?

UK holiday insurance is travel insurance for trips that you make in, you've guessed it, the UK. However, you may think that travel insurance for a UK holiday is a tad unnecessary. After all, the NHS provides free medical treatment to all. But medical emergencies aren't the only thing a travel insurance policy is useful for.

Travel insurance for a UK holiday would also cover you for incidents such as theft of your personal possessions while you're away, for delays, cancellations and, of course, for illness or injury.

Yet UK travel insurance is not a special type of policy – it's just normal travel insurance that happens to apply to domestic trips. When buying a single-trip policy, you can usually specify that you'll be travelling within the UK. With annual multi-trip policies, the UK is normally included whether you say you'll be travelling in Europe or worldwide (though check as policies can differ) – so you may already have cover if you have an existing annual policy.

Either way, the idea's the same: UK travel insurance is supposed to provide extra protection for your staycation. However, while it covers many of the same things as overseas travel insurance, not everything's the same...

The BIGGEST difference between travel insurance for UK holidays and overseas trips is medical cover.

Abroad, the costs of a medical emergency, whether illness or injury, can quickly add up. Accordingly, most policies cover you for treatment in a state-run hospital and come with big claim limits to pay for those bills (even if those limits aren't always necessary).

But in the UK, the NHS provides hospital treatment that's free at the point of use – and you're expected to use it, or your own private healthcare plan, instead of claiming on your insurance. And since medical cover is one of the main components of all travel insurance policies, that raises the question – should you bother with travel insurance for UK holidays? Read on to find out more...

What does UK travel insurance cover?

To be covered at all, your trip must first fit your insurer's definition of what a UK holiday is – and this is not as straightforward as it sounds.

Generally, you'll only be covered if your trip involves spending at least two consecutive nights in booked accommodation.

This means that very short breaks, road trips and some camping holidays won't usually be covered (as when camping you generally book a pitch, rather than accommodation). A few insurers also stipulate you must be more than 25 miles away from home. Some include the Channel Islands, while others don't. 

Each insurer has its own definition and exclusions, so check the policy wording carefully to make sure your trip is covered. If you're not sure, it's best to ask the insurer directly before buying the policy.

Yet as medical expenses are largely covered by the NHS, why bother with insurance for UK travel only? Well, it could still cover you for other things you might want to protect yourself against, including:

  • Cancellation – but only for specific, serious reasons. Cancellation cover usually includes being made redundant, having to do jury service, falling seriously ill or suffering a bereavement. Home emergencies, such as fire, flood or break-in, are also usually covered.

  • Curtailment. This is where you go on the trip, but need to cut your holiday short due to an emergency. As with cancellation, there's usually a list of (similar) accepted reasons you can claim for, as well as some exclusions, so check the policy wording carefully.

  • Baggage and personal belongings. If your stuff is lost, stolen or damaged while you're away, you should be able to claim, as almost everything you take with you is included – think phone, camera, wallet, expensive clothing and so on. Yet be aware policies can vary greatly both in the amount covered (including single-item payout limits) and in the excess – the amount you have to pay towards the claim yourself.

    And you may already be covered under your home contents policy, as these often cover belongings outside the home, so check.
  • Sports, excursions and other activities. Whether you've booked surfing lessons in Polzeath, a via ferrata climb in Kinlochleven or a ride on the forest coaster in Betws-y-Coed, the cost of tickets and reservations can soon add up. Some policies will reimburse you if you can't make use of your booking. However, some stipulate you can only claim for these costs if the reason you missed out is that the provider of the activity went bust.

    Again, watch out for the excess – a high one could mean it's only worth claiming for pricier outings.

  • Personal liability. This protects others and their property from accidents you may cause while you're on holiday. For example, the personal liability element of your insurance would cover you if, while staying at a plush hotel, you spill some hot coffee and stain an expensive upholstered chair.

While you can expect an insurer to pay out for most of the above, the exact level of cover will vary by policy – so check the terms carefully before you buy.

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Should I get UK travel insurance?

So now to the big question: is travel insurance for UK holidays worthwhile? You'll need to weigh up whether the cover you get is worth shelling out for, so ultimately, it's a balance between cost and peace of mind. The more you'd struggle if there was an emergency that your travel insurance would cover, the more you should hedge towards getting some insurance.

Here's the view of founder Martin Lewis...

For a cheap weekend away, travelling without any valuables, and with easy cancellation I probably wouldn't bother. Yet if I'd booked a week away, as a full holiday especially with excursions, and could get some cheap peace of mind, I likely would.

In other words, when deciding if you should get domestic travel insurance, consider how much money you'd stand to lose if you had to cancel, what you're taking, and what you'll be doing while you're there. If you're taking a flight, any expensive equipment, or planning any risky excursions, it's definitely worth considering staycation travel insurance. 

Before you buy, it's also worth checking whether you're covered already:

  • If you've already got annual travel insurance, it likely includes the UK too. Annual multi-trip policies, and packaged bank accounts, normally cover UK trips (provided you're staying in booked accommodation for more than two nights).

  • The stuff you take with you could be covered by your home contents insurance. Many protect your personal belongings outside the home (for example, your phone, bicycle, any expensive clothes).

And if you decide UK travel insurance is right for you, remember our golden rule...

That way, you're covered straightaway for cancellation, pre-trip illness or other things that might go wrong.

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What type of travel insurance do I need for my UK holiday?

As with travel insurance for holidays abroad, travel insurance for UK holidays is broadly split into two types: 

  • Single-trip travel insurance. This covers you from the date you buy the policy to the date your trip ends. If you know you're only taking one holiday within a 12-month period, single-trip cover is likely to be your best bet.

  • Annual multi-trip insurance. This covers all holidays taken during the period of time the policy covers. If you go away at least twice a year, it's worth looking at an annual policy, which can often work out cheaper than buying separate cover for each trip – UK or abroad.

UK-only annual multi-trip policies aren't common, but usually European or worldwide cover will include UK staycations as well as foreign travel. 

If you're travelling as a family or a couple, it might be worth checking out family travel insurance, which generally covers parents and children who live with them, or couples' travel insurance, which covers the two named policyholders.

Once you've decided whether single-trip or multi-trip travel insurance is more suitable for your needs, you should consider whether that policy needs to be specialised – for example, if you're going on a cruise or your holiday is for more than two weeks. Also, if you or someone in your party is over 65, check out our guide to over-65s' travel insurance

As with any other type of insurance, be sure to compare prices – for travel cover you can ensure you're getting the best deal by using our Cheap Travel Insurance Finder tool. And for the full lowdown on finding cover, see our main Cheap travel insurance guide.

For holidays that include activities such as golf or winter sports, you'll need to consider adding optional extras to your policy. More on this in our optional extras section below.

UK travel insurance if you've a pre-existing medical condition

If you've had a serious medical condition, or have had ongoing medical treatment, you're likely to be quoted ludicrously high prices for your travel insurance. (As an aside, you still always need to declare pre-existing conditions, as they can increase the risk of other claims.) Here's how you can cut the cost...

Step 1: Try standard policies

It's worth trying a standard policy first – for some with conditions deemed less serious by the insurers, such as mild asthma, you may find you can get a standard policy, or only have the price marginally increased. If that's the case, you may not need to go any further.

However, each insurer will have its own list of conditions it deems as more serious, which means you might have to pay a premium or get specialist cover. If so, or you know you have a severe condition, move on to step 2.

Step 2: If you have a serious condition, try specialist medical sites 

To cover more serious conditions, such as heart conditions, certain joint conditions or cancer, you'll likely need to try specialist medical insurers' sites (often you won't see these on normal comparison sites).

A good starting point – to benchmark a price – would be to get a quote from Medical Travel Compared. It's a comparison site, and has a wide range of insurers on its panel.

Then try AllClear*Avanti*Staysure* and MIA Online.

Step 3: If you still can't get cover or are not happy with the price, contact a broker 

If you're still unable to find cover or the quote is still too expensive, speak to a specialist broker. They will be able to help you find insurers that will cover your condition.

To find a broker who can help, see the British Insurance Brokers' Association website.

Always double-check the level of cover offered before taking out a policy, and for more help, see our guide to travel insurance for pre-existing conditions

What optional extras can I add to my UK holiday insurance?

There are a number of optional extras or 'add-ons' you may want to consider when going on a UK break, which will depend on what you're taking on your trip, and what you're going to be doing while you're away:

  • Gadgets. If you're travelling with expensive tech, such as a smartphone, camera equipment or laptop, you can usually add gadget cover to protect these items, if your home insurance doesn't do so already.

  • Jewellery. Personal possessions, such as jewellery, might be covered under your home insurance, but only up to the single-article limit (the most an insurer will pay out for it). If you own a piece of jewellery, such as an engagement ring, that's worth over that limit, it's worth looking into jewellery, watch and ring insurance as an add-on to either your home or travel insurance policy.

Standard travel insurance policies also don't tend to cover you for higher-risk activities, which means you may need to consider an add-on if you're planning any. These could include, but aren't limited to:

  • Winter sports, such as skiing or snowboarding. This add-on protects you if you have an accident while taking part in winter sports activities (although any medical treatment could be provided for free by the NHS). It also covers loss of, or damage to, your ski equipment, for example, and will compensate you if piste closures and avalanches mean you can't use your ski pass.

  • Extreme sports, such as canyoning or quad biking. Few insurers will include these kinds of high-risk sports and activities as standard, and some might not insure for them at all. If your chosen activity isn't covered, you'll need to check out specialist adventure travel insurance.
  • Higher-risk activities, such as horse riding or hot-air ballooning. Plenty of policies will include these kinds of activities, but do check for your chosen activity specifically, as lists will vary from insurer to insurer.

  • Water sports, such as jet-skiing or white-water rafting. Most travel insurance policies will cover standard water-based activities, such as swimming (without sharks), but the level of coverage will vary, and some riskier activities are likely to be excluded from standard policies.

  • Golfing. If this is the main purpose of your trip, you should consider an add-on to cover any non-refundable green fees you've paid in advance if you're unable to play for any reason, and the cost of replacing your clubs if they're damaged, lost or stolen. Some policies even include money towards a celebratory round at the bar if you get a hole in one...

In general, the riskier the activity, the less likely an insurer will be to cover it. But all insurers will calculate risk differently so be sure to check for any specific activities or sports you might want to take part in on your holiday.

It's worth noting that some insurers stipulate an age limit on certain activities. This means they won't insure you for adventurous activities if you're over a certain age.

Other ways to protect yourself

It's not all about insurance – there are other things you can do to minimise the risk of losing money on a UK trip...

  • Check for easily cancellable accommodation. Hedge towards offers with no/low deposits or accommodation that gives refunds or lets you rebook for free if you can't go. Check out our UK hotels guide for more info.

  • Pay on plastic. Credit cards offer the strongest protection as Section 75 refund rules mean, for items costing more than £100, the card provider is jointly liable – though this doesn't usually work if you're booking via a travel agent. Debit cards also have some protection under the 'chargeback' refund rules (but these aren't legal requirements, and firms sometimes challenge them).

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