Whatever your views on travel insurance used to be, it would be hard to make a convincing argument that it is not now an absolute essential for every traveller.

Travelling has changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not even that we’re still all having to take COVID tests and run the risk of cancelled holidays and missed flights home if the result comes out positive (although that does still apply in some countries).

But the ‘new normal’ for travel still has its fair share of risk. Flights are being cancelled in droves as the aviation industry battles an unprecedented staffing crisis. Luggage is routinely going missing. Delays and rearrangements mean travellers are regularly having to change plans last minute, which can mean booking new airport transfers, extra nights accommodation, new car hire etc.

If you don’t want any of this to hit you in the pocket – something none of us would welcome in the current economic climate – you need to make travel insurance a priority. What is more, you need to make sure you are getting a level of cover that reflects what your losses could be if you run into problems. Simply picking the cheapest policy available is likely to leave you exposed still.

Here are five things to look for to make sure you are properly covered for any trip abroad.

Will the maximum cancellation payouts cover the full cost of your trip?

If your flight gets cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund if an alternative can’t be found. But the price of the ticket is not the only cost you have to factor in if your travel plans are thrown into disarray last minute. What about your hotel? What about travel to and from the airport? As mentioned above, what about car hire?

A budget travel insurance policy might have a maximum payout limit for cancellations of up to £1000. But you should sit down and work out if this is enough to cover everything you will pay for your holiday. If not, you should choose a more comprehensive policy.

Is COVID included in the cancellation cover?

During the pandemic, it became commonplace for travel insurance companies to provide cover for the dreaded double line – the positive COVID test that ruined many a traveller’s holiday plans. While COVID tests were a mandatory condition of entry to most countries, demand for such protection was obviously very high.

Mandatory testing might have been rolled back in many countries, but COVID could still rear its ugly head to spoil your trip. If you fall ill with the virus before you go away, having insurance which covers you for positive COVID test cancellations means you at least won’t lose out financially.

Does the policy include missed departures and curtailments?

Cancellations are not the only reason you might end up changing your travel plans. You could get stuck in traffic or face delays on the railways which mean you miss your flight. Or when you are on your holiday, you might have a very good reason for needing to cut it short and come home early, like a family bereavement.

In these circumstances, you wouldn’t get offered an alternative flight free of charge. The best you could hope for is paying to change the booking with the same airline. Otherwise you’d have to buy a new ticket. Look out for missed departure and curtailment clauses in an insurance policy to check if you could make a claim.

Have you got enough personal baggage cover?

Arriving at a destination without your luggage is a nightmare for any traveller – but one that an unfortunately high number of people are experiencing at the moment. It’s not only inconvenient, but it’s also expensive when you have to then go out and buy all those holiday essentials you now don’t have with you.

Most travel insurance policies include cover for lost luggage. But again, it’s a case of checking that the payout limits actually cover the cost of your belongings – not forgetting the suitcases themselves.

What excess will you have to pay on a claim?

Finally, just as with your car or home insurance, if you do end up making a claim on your travel insurance, you may be asked to pay an excess – which amounts to making a contribution towards the claim out of your own pocket.

As rule, the cheaper the policy is, the higher the excess charged on any claim is likely to be. It’s worth considering how good a level of protection you are actually getting in that case, especially as maximum payout levels are also lower on budget insurance. You’ll end up out of pocket even if a claim is accepted, and even more so if the payout limit doesn’t cover all your expenses.

By paying a little more for your insurance up front, you can get a policy that has a much lower excess, or even none at all.

Do you have any fab travel tips? I would love to know in the comments below.

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Last Update: Thursday, 22nd September 2022

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