Travelling light on kids' cover

Parents beware: not all holiday policies are family friendly

If you're planning to go on holiday with the children this summer, don't forget to take out an insurance policy while you're buying the sunscreen and changing your currency. Children are more likely to have an accident than an adult, so it is essential that they are adequately covered.

If you're planning to go on holiday with the children this summer, don't forget to take out an insurance policy while you're buying the sunscreen and changing your currency. Children are more likely to have an accident than an adult, so it is essential that they are adequately covered.

Even small incidents can be expensive. According to Boots, one in 10 of us claims on our travel insurance, with the majority of these claims being for small sums. For example, two emergency visits to a doctor in Spain cost one family - whose son was suffering from blistering due to sunburn - £60. They were fully reimbursed as their Boots travel insurance had no excess charges.

Some families have had to claim much larger amounts. CGU Direct received a claim for £1,500 from a family whose 15-year-old son suffered bruises and a laceration to his face after falling over while on holiday in Greece.

In Majorca, a broken leg led to costs of £7,500 for a NatWest travel insurance policy holder whose 11-year-old son was injured while playing football on the beach. Bills mounted as he required hospital treatment and the family needed to be flown home.

These costs are bad enough, but in the United States the bill can be far higher. Direct Travel has just settled a claim for £110,000 from a family whose 11-year-old daughter fell ill with meningitis while she was on holiday in the US. The family's £65 annual multi-trip policy turned out to be a bargain.

It is worth taking out your travel cover at the same time as you book your holiday - although not necessarily from the travel agent - in case of cancellation. Churchill recently refunded a family £400 after they cancelled their holiday because their eight-week-old baby had a chest infection and couldn't travel.

You can easily end up paying over the odds for cover so you should always shop around. Don't automatically take out insurance offered by the travel agent, whose premiums can be much higher than those of other insurers. Look closely at each provider's definition of a family, particularly if you have older children. As the table below illustrates, some insurers charge adult premiums for children over the age of 12, whereas others will count anyone up to the age of 23, and still in full-time education, as a child. Families with more than two children can also find themselves penalised with higher-than-necessary costs.

The worst deals are from travel agents many of which don't even offer family cover - instead, you pay for each adult and child individually. Insurance for a two-week holiday in Spain for a family of two adults and two children would cost a staggering £143.96 with Going Places, £129.46 with Lunn Poly and £90 with Co-op Travelcare. With Direct Travel, it would cost you £26.25.

If you go on holiday more than twice a year you might want to take out an annual policy as savings can be significant. Some companies, such as Direct Line, calculate premiums according to individual circumstances. Therefore, families with fewer children are likely to get a better deal.

However, even a family with one child could get a lower premium elsewhere. With Direct Line, a family of three consisting of a 39-year-old father, 38-year-old mother and eight-year-old child would pay £125.76 for an annual worldwide multi-trip policy. This would cost £92.82 with Worldtraveldirect.com, £83.33 with Primary Direct and £65 with Direct Travel; as these are fixed prices, the more children you have, the more you save.

When taking out a family multi-trip policy, check if your insurer allows independent travel. This is particularly relevant if you have older children who may go away with friends. With many insurers, you'll need to take out extra cover.

Churchill will cover parents who are named on the same policy if they travel separately with one or more of their children, but the children themselves can't travel alone and be covered. CGU Direct allows only the first person named on the policy to travel independently. Primary Direct, Direct Travel and Direct Line, on the other hand, allow children to travel independently.

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