Slash the cost of family travel insurance

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THE MOST expensive travel insurance comes from high street travel agents. Banks and building societies are better value, but the cheapest deals come from the small specialist operators.

Some companies, such as Club Direct, Columbus and Lloyds Bank, do family deals for two adults and two children at two and a half times the adult premium - effectively, one child is covered free.

Others, such as Abbey National and Leeds, simply add on each accompanying child at 50 per cent of the adult tariff.

Prices vary widely. For 17 days' cover in Europe for two adults and two children, the lowest rates are pounds 36 from Marcus Hearn, pounds 40 from Columbus and pounds 36.50 from Whiteley's Kingfisher Travel Insurance.

Whiteley's price includes cover for any number of children. In general, children have to be under 16 to qualify for family rates, although Club Direct's age limit is 18. Going Places' children's rate only applies to the under-12s. Most policies offer free cover for the under-twos. The annual travel policies do not have any child concessions but are good value for two adults and two children.

One of the worst-value policies comes from Thomas Cook, at pounds 114.80 for two adults and two children for 17 days in Europe, and Lunn Poly at pounds 111.80. Neither company offers discounts for children.

Some companies are adapting better than others to the changing shape of today's families. Lloyds offers its family European rate of pounds 54.15 to two adults and two children where the adults are not necessarily the children's parents. Whiteley's Kingfisher, on the other hand, insists that the two adults are the legal parents of the children.

One parent travelling alone with children does not usually qualify for special family rates. Club Elite is the exception, with one adult and one child costing exactly half the special nuclear family premium. However, Barclays ups the rate for children travelling with single parents from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the adult tariff.

If you are travelling beyond Europe, higher premiums apply. Those journeying worldwide and planning to take more than one holiday this year should look at the all-year multi-trip cover available.

Particularly good family value is available from Columbus at pounds 111, American Express at pounds 120, and Bradford & Bingley and Halifax, both at pounds 125.

If you are taking more than one family holiday within Europe, the Independent annual family cover costs pounds 88.

----------------------------------------------------------------- HOW PRICES CAN ROAM ----------------------------------------------------------------- Cost of 17-day travel cover in Europe, pounds Provider Individual Parent Parents & cover & child 2 children Abbey National 18.90 28.35 56.70 Barclays Bank 19.70 34.13 58.50 Club Direct 16.50 20.65 41.30 Columbus 16.00 24.00 40.00 Going Places 27.95 48.91 97.86 Leeds 20.89 31.34 62.68 Lloyds Bank 21.65 32.50 54.15 Lunn Poly 28.70 57.40 114.80 Marcus Hearn 12.00 18.00 36.00 NatWest Bank 22.80 34.20 68.40 Whiteley's 14.60 21.90 36.50 Thomas Cook 28.70 57.40 114.80 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Whiteley's 0422 348411

Columbus 071-375 0011

Club Direct 0730 817533

Marcus Hearn 071-739 3444

the Independent-General Accident annual cover 041-772 8825.