Types of travel insurance policy

Published 08 June 2018   |   Updated 18 May 2021

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Single trip

If the only holiday you're planning this year is some fun in the sun for a week or two, then this is the policy for you. It will cover you for one trip and usually includes cover for, medical expenses if you become ill or get injured, if your holiday gets cancelled or if you lose or suffer damage to your luggage or belongings. Although, you'll need to check each policy to see exactly what is covered.

Cover levels

It can be tempting to buy the cheapest policy and hope that nothing unexpected happens. But you should make sure you choose a policy that pays out enough to cover what you paid for your holiday. For example, if your trip to the Bahamas is going to cost you £5000, don't buy a policy that will only pay you £3000 if you have to cancel it.

There may also be limits on the amount you can claim for individual items, so if you're thinking about doing some work by the poolside, choose a policy with a single item limit big enough to pay for that laptop or tablet, just in case it ends up taking a dip in the shallow end.

If you're travelling with a group, or with your family, it may be more cost effective to get group cover or a family policy rather than individual single policies.

Annual cover

If you're a seasoned traveller, a world map up on your wall with red pins stuck in all the places you've been to, or you have a number of trips planned for the year, an annual policy could be the cheapest option for you. You will usually be covered for unlimited multiple trips but there may be some restrictions on the duration of each trip.

An annual policy will also cover you for trips you take in the UK as well as your visits abroad. If your luggage goes astray at some motorway services on the M25, your policy could cover the cost of replacing your belongings.

Things to check

As well as confirming the policy has adequate cover levels for your needs, you should also look at:

  • Limits on the number of days you can be away for during any one trip – some providers offer a maximum trip duration of 31 days for annual policies.
  • What activities are included in the policy (do you need winter or adventure sports coverinstead?)
  • Whether the insurer will allow you to take out additional cover should you need it

Backpacker insurance

Taking a gap year and travelling the world? Or maybe you've finally saved up enough to go on your dream trip visiting surfing meccas of the South Pacific. If you're off on a multi-country trip for an extended time period, backpacker insurance could be the best option for you.

Not only does it offer the usual travel insurance protection such as personal liability and medical expenses, many policies also include sports and adventure activities and cover for working abroad. You still need to check the small print to make sure the activity or work you are undertaking is covered.

Top tip: before you go, don't forget to get your visas for the countries you will be visiting. It won't be much fun watching your mates go trotting off to sample the delights of another magical country after you've been turned away at the border!

European cover

Taking a quick city break in a European city like Paris or Amsterdam? Don't make the mistake of thinking because you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you don't need to buy travel insurance.

While the EHIC could give you access to reduced costs for state-provided medical treatment in countries in the European Union, these countries may not provide the same level of free care as the NHS does.

It won't cover you if you need to be repatriated, or for any of the other non-medical protection a travel insurance policy provides, such as loss or damage to baggage and belongings.

Can I use my EHIC now the UK has left the EU?

On the 1st January 2021, the UK completed its formal separation from the European Union. There are now some changes you should consider before you travel to the EU.

Before the UK’s departure from the EU, British citizens could use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to gain access to state-provided healthcare in EU member countries, as well as some non-EU countries such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Your EHIC remains valid for travel in the EU until it expires. You can find the expiry date on the front of your card.

Once your EHIC expiry date has passed, you’ll be able to replace it with a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).

Just like the EHIC, the new GHIC is free and gives you the right to access state-provided medical care during a temporary stay in the EU. You do not need to apply for a GHIC if you already have a valid EHIC.

While the old EHIC provided cover for travel to EU countries, extending to non-EU countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, sadly neither the EHIC nor the new GHIC are valid for travel outside the EU from 1st January 2021.

To find out more about visiting Europe from this date, the government has published a range of guidance and notes.

Worldwide cover

Some travel insurance policies will only cover you for travel in the UK and Europe, so if you're planning to go further afield to swim with dolphins in Mexico or ride the latest rollercoaster in Disney World in Florida, then worldwide cover is the one for you.

Worldwide travel insurance is split into two categories:

  • Worldwide cover
  • Worldwide cover excluding the US, Canada and the Caribbean

Always make sure your destinations are included in your policy, as definitions of worldwide cover can vary by provider. For example, some providers consider Turkey to be part of Europe for travel insurance purposes, whereas other providers consider it a ‘worldwide’ destination, so be sure to check before you travel.

It's also a good idea to check if there are any limitations on the length of time you can be away for, the further you travel, the more likely you are to stay away longer, and some policies may not cover the amount of time you are planning to travel for.

Pre-existing medical conditions

Travel insurance is designed to provide protection for unexpected or unforeseen events. If you have a medical condition and don't declare it to your insurance company, you may find yourself without cover should you fall ill while you are away, as travel insurance policies will only cover declared pre-existing medical conditions.

The simplest way to avoid this happening is to buy a policy which covers pre-existing medical conditions. You need to tell the insurer about any illness, disease or injury you have now, or have previously had. This can include things such as asthma, diabetes or heart conditions. This kind of policy could cover your medical expenses and the costs of having to fly home (if necessary) should you become ill during your trip.

Cover for the over 65s

Even though we are generally living longer and healthier lives, travel insurance costs increase as we get older. This is because older travellers are seen as higher risk, as statistically they’re more at risk of injury and illness.

Age is no barrier to travel however, as many insurance companies offer policies exclusively for the over 65s. They may cost more, but they are also more likely to have higher levels of medical and emergency cover.

Group and Family cover

Family cover

A cost-effective way of insuring a family travelling together is to buy a family policy. A standard family policy will usually cover one or two adults living at the same address, plus at least one child and includes the usual cancellation, lost luggage and medical expenses cover.

Some policies may have restrictions relating to age and whether the family lives together at the same address, so it's important to read the policy details to make sure the cover is suitable for your family.

Group cover

Going away with a group of mates to Benidorm on a stag do? Off to Holland on a cycling holiday with your cycling club? Why not consider a group travel insurance policy to keep costs down? Group cover is one policy that covers between two and ten individuals as a group, rather than everyone having to buy their own cover individually.

Remember to take a good look at the benefits and features offered for each insurance policy and pick the one that suits the overall needs of your group. For example, if you're taking sporting equipment with you, make sure the policy will cover the cost of replacing it should it get lost or damaged.

Whichever type of policy is right for your trip, at Compare Cover we’ve made finding and comparing travel insurance quotes quick and easy.

Our online quote form is simple to use, and our travel guides are full of helpful facts and information to answer questions you may have about purchasing the right travel insurance policy for your next trip.


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