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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone