One way we can help you ensure a carefree holiday

A new scheme offers readers a year's travel insurance at a bargain price you'll find hard to resist, says William Kay. And it gives peace of mind
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The Independent Online

As we enter the peak holiday booking season, millions of people who agree to insurance offered by their holiday company or travel agent are effectively throwing money away, consumer bodies say. Although we hand over £600m for peace of mind on holiday, inflated premiums account for as much as £100m of it, estimates show.

As we enter the peak holiday booking season, millions of people who agree to insurance offered by their holiday company or travel agent are effectively throwing money away, consumer bodies say. Although we hand over £600m for peace of mind on holiday, inflated premiums account for as much as £100m of it, estimates show.

But the message is getting through. One in five travellers now buys what is generally agreed to be the best deal, an annual multi-trip policy. This also fits the growing trend of taking two or more breaks a year. These policies normally allow trips of up to 31 days, although some insist on a ceiling of 180 days in any 12-month period.

The Independent and Travel Clubs International are launching a unique concept called Independent TravelSaver. Spearheaded by a market-leading insurance policy, it also includes foreign exchange, car hire, airport parking, a bookings service and savings on ski-wear and equipment and travel guidebooks.

In support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Know Before You Go campaign, Independent TravelSaver provides a world-wide emergency medical service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Subscribers also have free pre-travel advice with the latest information on passports/visas, health requirements, currency and climate.

At £59.95 for a year's world-wide cover for a family of two adults under 66 and four dependent children, TravelSaver claims the least expensive in the market. The next best, 24Dr Travel Insurance, charges £69.64 which includes £10m per person for medical emergencies, double the amount available on TravelSaver. But £5m is widely reckoned within the insurance industry to be adequate for most purposes, unless a traveller has special requirements.

These prices compare with £220 for an annual world-wide multi-trip policy from Lunn Poly, £250 at Going Places and £270 at Thomas Cook. Tour operators such as Airtours and Thomson also charge more than £200 for such cover.

Under the Package Holiday Act of 1995, a travel firm cannot insist you buy their policy, but many agents make it awkward for clients to refuse. Often, they ask customers to show proof of insurance similar to, or better than, the policy they offer. If you provide an alternative policy, they may charge you an administration fee for comparing the policies. Ask them to waive this, or go elsewhere.

The TravelSaver policy, underwritten by Groupama Insurances, among the 10 biggest UK insurers, has an optional extension for winter sports at an additional £40 a year. That would give a total premium of £99.95. Although the cheapest comparable deal is available from the insurer James Hampden at £72.50, that includes only £3m of medical cover and does not embrace the TravelSaver extras. Many problems can afflict a foreign holiday at any time, from accidents and medical crises to cancellations, delays, lost baggage and the cost of legal expenses. But it is not enough to pick the lowest premium, because insurers cut commitments by trimming the payouts they offer.

The Association of British Insurers says travel policies usually pay up to the following levels:

* Medical expenses £2m;

* Personal liability, £2m;

* Accidental death £15,000;

* Permanent total disable- ment £25,000;

* Loss of personal belong- ings £1,500;

* Legal expenses £25,000;

* Cancellation or delay, £5,000;

Independent TravelSaver pays up to these levels:

* Medical expenses £5m;

* Personal liability £2m;

* Personal accident £25,000;

* Legal expenses £25,000;

* Cancellation/curtailment £3,000.

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