don't leave home without it

PICKPOCKETS in New York or an Awol suitcase could ruin your holiday. Unless you have the right travel cover. A recent Which? report said tour operators and travel agents offer poor value for money on travel insurance but most of us still don't shop around. Remember: you don't have to buy your policy from a tour operator or travel agent unless it's a condition of a holiday discount.

Back to basics

Basic cover for two weeks in Europe costs around pounds 30-pounds 40 with major operators like Thomson, Airtours, Lunn Poly or Thomas Cook. Buy direct from an insurance company and you'll get similar cover from pounds 13 (try Premier Direct and Direct Travel) or from pounds 32 for a family of four ( Family Care, Churchill and Premier Direct). If you're travelling long-haul, particularly to the US, expect to pay more. This is primarily due to expensive medical costs. Lunn Poly charges pounds 245.90 to cover a three-week family holiday (two adults and two children) to the US. Churchill Insurance charges pounds 74.30 - that's a saving of pounds 171.60.

So why are we buying through major operators and paying so much more? Suzanne Moore of the Association of British Insurers says "it's because tour operators are rewarded with commission from insurance companies and the reason they get so much is because people still continue to buy insurance through the tour operator or travel agent instead of looking around." She points out that "sometimes with the tie-in deals that operators and travel agents offer you can end up getting your travel insurance 'free', but from November that arrangement will no longer be legal." Her advice is to "be clear on what you are getting and in most cases it still makes more sense to shop around."

A year in wherever

If you plan to travel on holiday several times a year then you will definitely save money by buying annual travel insurance. Annual policies are now offered by most insurance companies and will normally cover you for unlimited trips, though there may be a restriction on the length of your stay. While cover for a single, two-week trip for an adult to Europe costs at least pounds 13 and three weeks in the United States would cost pounds 32, European annual cover with Travellers Protection Services costs just pounds 39 for an adult, and pounds 55 for a family of four through Travel Protection. Annual cover anywhere in the world (including the US) for adults costs pounds 45 to pounds 49 from Travel Protection and Travellers Protection Service, and a family of four would pay pounds 80 through Willis First Response and pounds 85 through LeisureCare.

Take cover

Look for policies that cover at least pounds 1m medical expenses, pounds 1m public liability (pounds 2m in the US), pounds 1,500 baggage and belongings (with a limit of around pounds 300 for single items) and cancellation and curtailment. This pays out if you need to cancel or abandon a trip for any reason. Also make sure that the insurers you choose are members of either the Personal Insurance Arbitration Service or the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau.

The small print

Most travel insurers will have exclusions. Some of them won't cover you if you buy an emergency flight home, if you're already ill or if you want to take part in a dangerous activity, so make sure you read the small print properly.

Fighting fit

With most policies, as long as you're fit when you set off, you'll be covered despite having a pre-existing condition. The best deals on travel policies which include unlimited medical cover for two weeks in Europe are through Barclays (pounds 22.50) and Halifax (pounds 24.62).

... and remember

If you have "all risks" house contents insurance, you can save money by deleting baggage cover from some travel policies. All-risks house insurance usually covers your belongings abroad for up to 60 days. If you have any valuable items (over pounds 400) it works out cheaper to add these to your house insurance and let the insurer know you plan to take the items overseas.

If you use your card to pay for the holiday, many credit cards offer travel accident insurance which pays out if you have a serious accident or die. But don't rely on this for full travel insurance.

If you carry form E111, available from post offices, you are entitled to free or reduced price emergency medical treatment in most EU countries. The UK also has reciprocal health agreements with other countries such as Australia and New Zealand. You still need full travel insurance for baggage and to cover yourself against cancellation and emergency flights home.

KAREN BANYON

Karen Banyon is a travel writer and broadcaster.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?