Travel insurance: why and when to buy it
Whether you’re taking a short break, travelling for work, planning a two-week getaway or taking a year out to see the world, travel insurance can give you the reassurance you’re protected against different events and disruptions, however unlikely they may seem.
Holidays are usually a big investment you work hard for and look forward to all year, so why wouldn’t you want to safeguard them in case unforeseen events put your trip at risk?
Travel insurance is a way to protect against cancellation and disruption. It covers you for the possibility of damage to or loss or theft of your belongings, from passports to suitcases. It can also help you recover certain costs you incur from incidents while you’re away, or if you need medical assistance and even transport home (known as ‘repatriation’) in an emergency.
When to buy travel insurance can depend on the trip or trips you're taking and the kind of policy you choose to suit them. Usually, though, it's best to get cover in place for your holiday as soon as you've booked or made a financial commitment to it.
That’s especially important if you’ve paid, in full or with a deposit, for flights, accommodation or a package deal, and if you’ve pre-booked any activities or excursions for while you’re there.
Buying travel insurance when you book your break means you’re covered straight away for certain events that could mean having to cancel before your planned departure date and the knock-on effects that might have.
When should I buy single-trip travel insurance?
Single-trip travel insurance usually suits people who only travel infrequently. With it, you’re protected in the event of cancellation from the moment you buy your policy. The policy start date needs to be that of your actual trip, but the cover starts right away.
The same usually applies to specialist types of travel insurance like cruise cover and winter sports cover for activities like skiing and snowboarding. Cover usually starts on these policies the moment you buy them, too.
This means, however far in advance you buy your travel insurance, you’ll be able to recover the costs of your holiday (minus any excess) if it’s cancelled for certain reasons outside of your control. Just check the policy terms.
When should I buy annual multi-trip travel insurance?
Annual multi-trip travel insurance policies are a little different. They’re worth considering if you’re thinking of taking more than one trip in the course of 12 months. An annual policy may work out cheaper than buying individual single-trip policies for each of the trips you plan to take.
Another important difference is that cancellation cover on multi-trip policies typically begins on the policy start date you choose, rather than when you buy the insurance – unless they’re the same date, that is.
If in doubt or you’ve already paid out for or booked parts of your trip, it’s worth choosing a start date that ensures your cancellation cover starts right away. And make sure you always read the policy details closely before you buy to make sure you’ll be covered for what you need when you need it.
When should I buy family travel insurance?
If you're travelling abroad as a family, it makes sense to take out insurance that covers you all from the moment you book your trip. Especially if you have children, as the potential risks and reasons to make a claim either before or during your trip can increase.
Often, it’s not necessarily a case of looking for and buying a dedicated family travel insurance policy. Instead, standard travel insurance policies will give a quote for the number of people travelling. That could be an individual, a couple, or two adults plus typically 1-8 children aged 18 or under. They must all be living permanently at the same address. You just list them in the policy.
Always read the policy details to make sure your specific family requirements will be covered, especially if any of your group will be travelling separately.