How to get the best travel insurance

Picking the best travel insurance policy is vital for holidaymakers to avoid getting stung by unexpected costs. We look at how to choose the right cover and keep your holiday stress-free

Preparing with the best travel insurance for a holiday
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s crucial to secure the best travel insurance policy well ahead of time, whether you’re exploring the UK or jetting off to sunnier spots abroad.

While you might be visiting one of the cheapest countries to travel to or have your hands on the best travel debit or credit cards, travel insurance is just as important. Heading off without putting the right cover in place could come back to bite you as you may be stuck without medical cover or have to replace your lost luggage. 

And the last thing you’d want to do is turn your dream holiday into a nightmare, or put your finances in danger. 

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So how do you pick the best travel insurance for your trip?  

How to get the best travel insurance 

Check if you’re already covered 

It’s important to check whether you already have travel insurance cover so you don’t end up overpaying for it. This can be the case with packaged bank accounts that charge a monthly fee and in return provide you with travel insurance as a perk.

For example, the FlexPlus account from Nationwide Building Society comes with worldwide family travel insurance inclusive of some winter sports and costs £13 per month. 

If you have one of these accounts, make sure you check whether it comes with travel insurance, if it’s enough for your trip and if it covers the whole family. 

Don’t leave travel insurance to the last minute 

If you’ve booked a holiday, sorting out travel insurance should be at the top of your to-do list, not something you do just before you travel. 

Data from Go.Compare reveals almost a third of holidaymakers leave their travel insurance policy until the day of travel. But if someone falls ill before the trip, your holiday is cancelled or your flights get delayed, you may be unable to claim compensation.

Rhys Jones, travel insurance spokesperson for Go.Compare, said: “You may find that a policy bought last minute won’t include cancellation cover - and cancellation is one of the main reasons people claim on a travel insurance policy. So in those instances, purchasing insurance right after you start paying for your trip could save you considerable money and stress.”

Cheapest isn’t always the best 

When looking for the best travel insurance policy, it’s a good idea to use price comparison sites to find the right choice. You can quickly get quotes from a host of different travel insurance providers and make an informed decision about the best policy for you.

But blindly picking the cheapest of the bunch could end up working against you. It may not include the right cover for your needs or may differ based on age, medical cover and duration of the trip. 

That’s why it’s really important that once you have a handful of quotes to choose from, you then go through the terms of each to establish which is the best travel insurance policy for you. 

Make sure you’re covered for the country you’re travelling to 

Make sure your travel insurance covers the locations you’re planning to visit. Usually, policies come with ‘European’ or ‘Worldwide’ cover, but that may not include the countries you’re travelling to, especially if you’re going off the beaten track. Some policies may not cover the US, Canada, Caribbean and Mexico.

On the other hand, some countries aren’t European but could potentially be included in European cover. For example, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

Consider getting travel insurance for a UK trip 

If you’ve booked a UK trip, things might be a little different. You won’t need to fork out a chunk of money for medical emergencies as the NHS is free – or you could use your private healthcare plan if you have one. 

But depending on the nature of your trip, it could still be useful to have travel insurance in place as it will cover you for lost baggage, last-minute cancellations or if you become unwell and can’t go.

Note that most travel insurance policies only cover UK holidays if it involves spending at least two consecutive nights in booked accommodation. Camping trips often don’t count. So, check the terms and conditions carefully.

Consider getting annual cover if you travel frequently  

Travel insurance policies are available for single-trip and annual-trip cover, but what's best for you will depend on how often you travel, where and for how long. 

If you’re going on more than one trip in the next 12 months, consider getting an annual travel insurance policy instead of a single-trip cover. It can work out cheaper and give you peace of mind for your next holiday as you won’t have to worry about getting another policy.

But it’s worth remembering that travel insurance policies cap the number of days you can be on holiday per trip, so be sure to check that limit before you jet off. 

Be open about your medical conditions 

It’s important to be honest about what medical conditions you have, even if that means slightly higher insurance costs. 

For those with high blood pressure or diabetes, there is a higher chance of requiring hospital treatment and ultimately needing to make a claim on the policy. Therefore it can be tempting to omit certain information about your condition to keep costs low. 

But there’s no point in hiding your medical conditions because if you do end up needing to make a claim and your pre-existing condition is revealed, your claim could be rejected. This would leave you to cover the costs of your treatment entirely on your own, making it an expensive affair. 

Do you need extra cover?  

If you’re looking to be adventurous during your holidays, check beforehand if your insurance policy has your back. 

Insurance providers do not usually cover activities like winter sports or cruises on regular policies, so you’d have to fork out an extra sum for them. It’s the same if you’re travelling abroad to get married or to play golf – there are different cover options which could be more suitable for you.

So when picking the best travel insurance, choose the package that ticks all your boxes, or else you may be left footing the bill should things go wrong.  

Do your research on claims  

In an ideal scenario, you won’t have to make a claim in your travel insurance policy. However, if you do need to, then you want to be confident that you are in safe hands. 

As such, it’s important to do some research on the travel insurance provider’s claims record, how reliable they are when it comes to paying up, and their customer service. That way, you’ll know if it’s worth paying a bit extra for cover with an insurer that’s more reliable. 

What about the GHIC?  

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) has replaced the European Health Insurance Card post-Brexit. The card is free to apply for and entitles you to receive state healthcare across most European countries either for free or at least at a reduced cost.

While it’s a good idea to have a GHIC, it is not a replacement for travel insurance ‒ really you should have both. Find out how you can apply for healthcare cover using the GHIC on the NHS website

What is not covered by travel insurance? 

While your travel insurance will cover most unexpected circumstances, don’t always count on your insurer footing the bill. 

In some cases of negligence such as sleeping through your alarm and missing your flight, or being under the influence of alcohol and having an accident or losing your belongings, your insurance policy won’t have your back and you would be forced to pay up. 

Another such case would be if you stash your valuables in your checked luggage and they end up damaged. However, it’s worth remembering that every insurance policy has its own set of exclusions, so give the fine print a once-over to save yourself some major headaches down the line.  

How to make a claim on your travel insurance  

If things go astray, you should know how to claim on your insurance policy. Here are a few things to remember:

  • If you make a claim while travelling: Remember to have your travel insurance policy number and emergency contact in hand. Also, make sure to keep all receipts and paperwork in hand so the claim is easily dealt with. 
  • If your belongings are stolen: Report to the local police within 24 hours of them going missing. If you’re unable to contact the police, let your tour guide or hotel manager know, and get a written statement. This includes clothing which you have to replace; make sure to keep all the receipts. 
  • If you make a claim after getting home: Check that you’re within the time limits of making a claim, how much you’re covered for versus how much you’re claiming and how much the excess is. Once you’ve got all the information, contact your insurer and ask them to send you a claim form. 
  • If you make a medical claim: If you need medical treatment during your holiday, contact your insurer and get them to agree to any treatment in advance. If it’s a medical emergency and that’s not possible, call your insurer’s helpline as soon as you can. You may have to pay any medical expenses upfront, up to a certain amount. If you do, keep all the receipts so you can claim back the costs on your insurance.
Oojal Dhanjal
Staff writer

Oojal has a background in consumer journalism and is interested in helping people make the most of their money. Before joining MoneyWeek, she worked for Look After My Bills, a personal finance website where she covered guides on household bills and money-saving deals. Her bylines can be found on Newsquest, Voice Wales, DIVA and Sony Music and she has explored subjects ranging from luxury real estate to the cost of living, politics and LGBTQIA+ issues. Outside of work, Oojal enjoys travelling, going to the movies and learning Spanish with a little green owl.