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Broadly speaking, this breaks down into three categories: single trip, annual multi-trip, and backpacking or extended period travel insurance. Annual travel insurance covers you for a full year, so you only pay once to be insured for multiple trips - as long as you go to the destinations declared. Backpacking insurance is for travelers that are more likely to go with the flow, because it covers you for an extended period across multiple destinations. Perfect for those last minute plans you make at a yoga retreat in Bali, man.
This varies from provider to provider - so always make sure to read the small print before you buy. Here’s what it generally covers:
Possessions - some policies will cover the loss or theft of important items like luggage, passports and even cash.
Medical treatment - travel insurance usually covers emergency medical treatment (eg if you break your leg on holiday) It’s EXTRA important to bear in mind that once the UK leaves Europe, your European Health Insurance Card won’t give you the same access to free or reduced medical treatment across the member countries - especially if we leave without a deal. But either way, the EHIC card wouldn’t cover you for private medical treatment or specialist services like mountain rescue or repatriation. If you’ve got a pre-existing medical condition, you might have to pay more for your policy - but it’s always best to declare it before you buy, to make sure you’re covered.
Travel disruptions - travel insurance usually includes reimbursement for disruptions to your holiday like missed departures and delayed or cancelled flights and accommodation.
Legal fees - if you have to pay out for an incident that wasn’t your fault (sorry to sound all PPI here) or if you have to pay personal liability for an incident that was your fault, then your insurance might also cover the costs
Standard travel insurance policies don’t cover everything, so always make sure you read the policy document before you pay up. You’ll need to re-up your coverage if you want to be insured for adventurous activities like skiing or bungee jumping (you nutters) or if you need it to cover expensive items like cameras or laptops.
This depends on various factors, like where you’re going, how long you’re away for, and if you need any extra cover - eg for that shark swimming trip. BRB did some fiddling about on price comparison sites and found policies that start from under a fiver for a two day trip to France - but chances are, you might need a bit more coverage than that, and it’ll cost you. If you’re planning more than one holiday this year, annual travel insurance will probably be cheaper in the long run. Typically, annual travel insurance policies are cheaper if you’re under 25 and go on more than two holidays to the same region - or if you’re over 25, it’s cheaper if you’re planning three or more trips.
This is the bit that usually confuses us - how do we know what our insurance pays out? That’s what’s known as the excess, and it’s an amount which will be stated in your policy. The excess is taken off any claim which your insurer pays out, so if you have an excess of £500 and you make a claim on missed flights which ends up costing you £600, you’ll receive £100 from your insurer. Your travel insurance excess varies by policy and insurer - so once again, make sure you read that small print.
Remember the drone drama at Gatwick airport back in December? Hundreds of flights were delayed, and although Christmas wasn’t ruined (eyeroll at the Daily Mail headlines) it was a good lesson in knowing your rights as a traveller. If your flight is cancelled, all airlines are required to offer a refund or an alternative flight. But because the drone situation was out of the airlines’ control, passengers won’t have been eligible for a refund. If you’re experiencing delays over two hours, you’ll usually qualify for meals, refreshments and free accommodation if an overnight stay is required. Good travel insurance policies should pay out if you have to change your plans due to cancelled flights but yet again, it depends on the details of your policy.
So keep an eye on that small print, and make the most of an annual insurance policy to save money in the long run. May all your flights be on time - and here’s hoping the sharks ate before your diving trip. Happy travels in 2019!