Holidays in the UK – should you buy travel insurance?

Booking a holiday in the UK? Tread carefully with travel insurance, says Ruth Jackson-Kirby – make sure your policy covers everything you need.

Children walking on a beach
Make sure your trip actually qualifies as a holiday
(Image credit: © Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Since Boris Johnson announced England’s roadmap out of lockdown, holiday bookings have boomed. But many of us are opting for a break in the UK rather than risk borders and foreign climes this year. Interest in holiday cottage rentals has jumped by 300% compared with the last lockdown, according to holiday-home rental site Independent Cottages.

If you are planning a holiday in the UK this year, have you considered insurance? As we worry about lockdowns or falling ill on holiday, many of us are opting to take out an insurance policy to protect what we’ve spent on a trip. Since February 2020 demand for domestic travel-insurance policies has risen by a third, according to Compare the Market.

But before you pay for travel insurance to protect a UK break, make sure you actually need it – and that it will cover you if you need to make a claim. Always read through the policy carefully. You could find there are all sorts of strange exclusions hidden in the small print that could leave you footing the bill when your trip goes wrong.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

First, look at whether your trip actually qualifies as a holiday under the insurer’s rules. “British travel-insurance policies are known to have particularly fiddly clauses, which don’t apply to foreign ones,” says David Byers in The Times. Your trip will usually have to involve at least two nights away from home, be more than 25 miles from your home, or include a sea crossing. You are also likely to be covered if you are staying in commercial premises – that’s a hotel or bed and breakfast – but not privately rented cottages.

Next, take a look at the cancellation cover. Many travel-insurance policies won’t cover you for Covid-19-related cancellations. “Just 1% of... policies will cover you for cancellation of a trip if there is another lockdown,” says Grace Gausden on This Is Money. “If you are unlucky enough to catch Covid-19 before you travel, only 71% of policies will cover your cancellation costs.” If you have to cancel because you are told to self-isolate, then only 34% of policies will pay out.

Axa and LV offer cancellation cover if you catch Covid-19 or have to self-isolate, but not for lockdowns. Make sure your policy doesn’t simply cover the cost of your accommodation, but that it covers anything you’ve spent on travel and activities to do with your trip, otherwise you could still end up out of pocket. Try to book your trip with a travel firm that offers generous cancellation policies due to Covid-19. Many will offer you a refund if you have to cancel or let you move your dates without penalty. Another reason to take out a travel-insurance policy is to protect the valuables you take with you, but they may already be covered.

Many home-insurance policies apply to items taken away from the home. But this won’t cover everything you take on holiday with you; usually it is only valuables. So, a UK travel -insurance policy could prove useful if your luggage is lost, stolen or damaged.

If you already have annual travel insurance don’t assume your trip is protected. “According to the Association of British Insurers, many standard policies don’t include UK cover, which helps insurers to keep prices competitive,” says Byers. So check your policy carefully.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.