Travellers are bracing for another summer of stress. But this year it’s not just Covid causing complications, but also staff shortages, flight cancellations and strike action threatening to ruin holidays.
In such an uncertain climate, robust travel insurance is a must. Unfortunately, new research from Which? has found that around 40 per cent of policies do not cover cancellations due to industrial action. The investigation analysed 200 different policies and found that 78 did not pay out if your holiday was ruined by strikes.
Commenting on the findings, Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “With many airlines warning of widespread disruption this summer, and Covid cases on the rise, travellers should ensure they’ve taken out adequate insurance to cover any losses or unexpected costs they might face.”
Many insurance companies have also quietly scaled back their Covid cover and automatic inclusions. And in general there are a variety of other things you may be surprised to find out that most policies do not cover.
Here we run through what to look out for when booking travel insurance this summer and highlight the most reliable providers.
What to look out for when booking insurance policies this summer
The first rule of booking travel insurance is to read the small print on your chosen policy as many have an alarming number of exclusions such as strike action or fairly standard sporting activities.
Since the end of March, most large companies have significantly reduced their Covid cover and often only reimburse you if you are declared too ill to travel by a doctor.
In general, most do not cover passport issues such as delays in a new document arriving, or problems with proving your vaccination status. Lost baggage cover usually requires an add-on, as does a trip being cancelled due to airspace closure. Having to cancel for the likes of jury service or a sudden change in circumstances (such as redundancy) may also be excluded.
In terms of activities on the ground, all policies should include a list of sports and activities that are automatically covered, and those which need an extra premium to be added. While it would be expected that extreme sports would cost extra, often straightforward activities such as simple trekking are not automatically included.
It is important to declare any existing health issues. If you are taken ill because of a condition that you did not declare when you bought the insurance, your claim will not be paid.
You should also check for age limits as insurance for travellers over 65 is becoming considerably more expensive.
How can I save money on my travel insurance?
To save money on insurance, frequent travellers should consider booking a multi-trip or annual policy, which will usually work out cheaper if they take more than three or four holidays a year. Buying a family policy is also usually more cost effective than individual cover.
How can I complain about my travel insurer if they refuse to pay out?
If you feel you have been treated unfairly by your insurer you can make a complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
Note that before making a claim to your insurer, you should check what cover is provided from your tour operator as you may need to seek compensation from them first.
Five of the best insurance policies to book for this summer
Recently rated as the top travel insurance policy by Which?, Barclays’ Travel Pack Worldwide Travel Insurance package is one of the few that still offers comprehensive Covid cover. It also includes extensive cover for unexpected events, including the likes of industrial strikes, volcanic ash clouds, terrorism, civil unrest and airline collapse. Comprehensive RAC breakdown cover across the UK and Europe is also included. One minor note is that it has a relatively low pay out for lost baggage/personal belongings, at £1,500.
Cover is offered for those aged up to 79 and is available from £12.50 a month if you open a current account with the bank.
The Post Office’s Premier insurance policy covers delays caused by industrial action or a shortage of staff, something that is becoming increasingly relevant to UK travellers. Other key selling points include the bankruptcy of a holiday supplier or airline, plus missed departure cover of up to £1,500. The policy has an upper age limit of 75 for annual cover and a generous 110 for single trips.
StaySure Comprehensive is another policy which covers delays caused by strike action. It also offers unlimited medical expenses, decent Covid cover, and has no upper age limit. Single trip coverage costs from £12.99.
Insured to Travel
With the ongoing UK transport chaos, Insured to Travel’s missed departure coverage of £1,500 is a key selling point, as is the fact that it’s available for outbound, connecting or return travel. However, its Covid cover is fairly limited. The silver and gold options have an upper age limit of 89 for a single trip and are the best policies to buy. Policies can be booked through certain tour operators or travel agents.
Another highly recommended product by Which?, HSBC travel insurance offers a high level of Covid cover and insures against events such as civil unrest and airline bankruptcy. The upper age limit is 69 and the policy is available for existing HSBC current account, savings account, mortgage and credit card customers.