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Best travel insurance UK 2024 guide

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We all deserve a break now and then. And the last thing you want to think of when booking your holiday is something going wrong. But it’s better to be prepared than caught off guard. That’s why you should always consider travel insurance when going on a trip.

But how can you find the best travel insurance policy for your needs? Read our guide below to find out more.

Why do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance protects you financially if your trip away doesn’t go as planned and you incur unexpected expenses for delays, losses or medical treatment.

All travellers can benefit from travel insurance. But travel insurance is particularly important if you are going on an independent trip without a tour operator, because if something goes wrong, you will have no other help.

There are three main types of travel insurance:

  • Single-trip cover: this is the most typical form of travel insurance, covering you for a one-off trip or holiday. There will be a time limit on the cover that can range anywhere between one month and 365 days
  • Annual multi-trip cover: this allows you to make multiple trips, or have multiple holidays, in a 12-month period, all under the same travel insurance policy. There may be a cap on how long each individual trip can be
  • Long stay, or backpacker, cover: this is normally used for around the world trips, gap years, and longer cruises, and can last for up to 18 months

To find the best UK travel insurance, compare policies before you go to ensure you get the right coverage for you and the specific trip you’re planning.

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When comparing policies to find the best travel insurance for your trip, you should consider: 

 

  • Type of cover you need
  • Cost
  • Excess (how much you’ll be expected to pay out yourself before the policy will cover you)
  • Amount of medical coverage, and why pre-existing conditions aren’t included
  • Limit on baggage claims
  • Exclusions
  • Coverage for specific sports and activities
  • Any potential rewards and discounts
  • Add-ons, such as gadget insurance

Best travel insurance deals and discounts

Looking for the best travel insurance deals from the best travel insurance companies? In most cases, the easiest way to find the best travel insurance deals is to use a comparison website. Travel insurance comparison websites let you compare costs and coverage side by side to find the best UK travel insurance.

The four main comparison websites – Moneysupermarket, Comparethemarket, Confused.com and GoCompare – also often have certain deals and discounts when you buy travel insurance from them, offering some of the best travel insurance deals on the market.

Moneysupermarket: Find the same deal for less, and it will price match and give you a choice of a £20 gift card. Only on annual travel insurance.

Comparethemarket: Two for one cinema tickets with Meerkat Movies and savings at restaurants when you dine out or order pizza in with Meerkat Meals, as well as 25 per cent off coffee and pastries at Caffè Nero every day of the week through the Meerkat app.

(In November 2023, Confused.com and GoCompare had no deals or discounts for travel insurance).

Price is obviously a big consideration when you are looking for the best travel insurance – you’ve probably already spent a lot on your holiday. But you may be able to get much better coverage for just a few pounds extra, so it’s worth scrolling down the comparison site’s list of providers before buying.

Medical costs abroad will undoubtedly be the biggest expense you face if you fall ill abroad, so don’t scrimp on those.

Then think about your next biggest expense (probably cancellation/interruption of your trip) and make sure that you have high-value coverage for that.

If you find you can get much higher coverage (the maximum amount you can claim per type of claim, such as medical or baggage) for not very much more money, go for the slightly more expensive option.

Going direct

Comparison sites won’t always find you the cheapest deals, however. For example, Direct Line offers some of the best travel insurance with Covid cover and is not on comparison websites.

Some of the best travel insurance companies also offer discounts for buying directly from them, as follows:

Provider Discount
AA 10 per cent off when buying direct online. Plus, AA members pay no excess
Admiral Existing Admiral customers can get 10 per cent off a travel insurance policy
Co-op 10 per cent online discount for Co-op members
Direct Line Get 20 per cent off annual European travel insurance for your first policy, and 10 per cent off if you have another insurance policy with the provider
LV 15 per cent discount when you buy travel insurance online
M&S Bank 10 per cent discount for new policies purchased online
RAC Existing RAC breakdown cover and car insurance customers can save 10 per cent on single, annual multi-trip or family travel insurance
Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar members can save up to 20 per cent on all travel insurance policies
Tesco Bank Clubcard members get a 10 per cent discount when buying direct. There’s also 10 per cent off travel insurance when you buy Tesco travel money
TripSure 20 per cent off platinum multi-trip cover bought directly from the provider

Bundled coverage options

When looking for the best travel insurance for your holiday, it can make sense to buy a bundle of coverage under one policy.

Comparison websites will often offer add-on gadget cover, winter sports cover or cruise cover all under the one policy. If you need that extra cover, it is typically cheaper to buy your travel insurance this way rather than as separate policies.

What is covered by travel insurance?

The best travel insurance companies will offer you comprehensive coverage across all types of claims. It’s easy to compare the best travel insurance deals using a comparison website.

Medical coverage

This covers you for medical expenses you incur if you become ill or have an accident while away. The best UK travel insurance will have a high level of medical coverage.

For example, medical coverage will pay for any necessary treatment if you come down with severe food poisoning or you fall through a window and have to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.

Benefits:

  • Avoid hefty bills or debt for medical assistance outside the UK
  • Access better treatment – for example, at private vs public hospitals
  • Often, as long as you declare existing conditions or pending treatment or tests, you are covered if you fall ill during your trip (check policy exclusions)

Limits:

  • Even the best travel insurance companies will likely charge you more if you have a pre-existing medical condition
  • You might have to pay part or all your medical expenses first, then claim on the policy afterwards
  • Even the best travel insurance companies do not cover events that happen after you have consumed alcohol excessively or taken recreational drugs or other substances

Trip cancellation/interruption

This insurance pays out the cost of your missed trip if you have to cancel or cut your holiday short due to unforeseen circumstances.

Young woman in international airport looking at the flight information board, holding passport in her hand, checking her flight
Interruption insurance covers you if you need to cut your holiday short (Adobe)

For example, cancellation insurance would normally pay out if you broke your leg just before you were due to travel and had to cancel your trip.

Interruption insurance would cover you if you had to come home early for certain reasons beyond your control – for example, if the area you were staying in was engulfed in wildfires.

Benefits:

  • Money you would have lost on pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses is paid to you under the policy
  • It can be especially valuable if the trip you are planning is very expensive, as this is money you would lose if you couldn’t go

Limits:

  • You’ll usually only be covered if your trip is cancelled or cut short for specific reasons listed in your policy
  • You usually won’t be covered if you miss your flight because you are held by customs or cancel because of a work issue or a pre-existing medical condition that is not covered

Baggage cover

This insurance covers the cost of replacing your luggage if it is lost or stolen.

For example, if an airline loses your luggage in transit or your suitcase is stolen from your hostel while you’re away, you can make a claim for the cost of replacing its contents.

You may also be able to claim for costs related to baggage delay if the airline temporarily misplaced your baggage.

Benefits:

  • You can claim for the actual cash value of your belongings or the cost of replacing them (whichever is less)
  • High-value items, such as jewellery or sports equipment, can be very expensive to replace without travel insurance

Limits:

  • Standard policies usually place per item and total limits on claims.
  • If you are taking very expensive items away, check your policy carefully to ensure that you’re covered (and potentially get a separate policy)
  • Some items could be covered by your home insurance policy, so check your policy carefully to see what is any isn’t. It’s also important to note that, should a lost item be covered by both policies, you can only claim once; an attempt to claim twice would be considered fraud

Personal liability

This insurance covers you if you are held responsible for harming another person or damaging their property.

For example, it covers you in situations where you cause serious damage to your holiday accommodation or accidentally stumble into someone else, causing them to need medical treatment.

Benefits:

  • The cost of defending yourself in a legal case or repairing/replacing damage could be extremely costly without travel insurance
  • Your travel insurance company will take over dealing with a foreign legal system
  • You’re covered for the cost of any compensation (up to certain limits)

Limits: 

  • Not all travel insurance provides personal liability as standard
  • Policies may exclude personal liability while you partake in adventure activities
  • Claims related to you committing a crime or damage by wilful negligence won’t be covered
  • You likely will not be covered if you admit liability or make an offer to pay before talking to your insurer

Finding the best travel insurance with Covid cover

Looking for the best travel insurance with Covid cover? Many travel insurance policies now include cancellation cover for reasons related to Covid. This often applies within two weeks of being due to travel, according to the Association of British Insurers, but individual policies can vary.

To make a claim, insurers often require proof in the form of a medically approved positive Covid test. A lateral flow test or self-diagnosis is usually not accepted.

What Covid-related cover to look for

The best travel insurance with Covid cover should include the following:

  • Cover if you can’t start your trip because you tested positive for Covid before travelling
  • Cover if you or family members cannot return home because you/they test positive for Covid during the holiday
  • Cover for additional costs, such as alternative flights, accommodation and Covid tests
  • Cover if you cannot reach your final destination during transit due to Covid-19

Travel insurance providers with comprehensive Covid cover

Looking for the best travel insurance providers with Covid cover? Most travel insurance policies now offer some kind of Covid cover, but Churchill, Direct Line, M&S and Aviva have some of the most comprehensive offerings, with cover for cancellations and expenses related to Covid.

Churchill

  • Covid covered as standard on travel insurance policies
  • Cover for trip cancellations if you, a close relative or a travelling companion is diagnosed with Covid-19 or another pandemic disease
  • Cover if you or a person you’re planning to stay with must quarantine (abroad or in the UK)
  • Cover if you can’t use pre-booked and pre-paid accommodation affected by Covid-19
  • Cover for quarantine or where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel within 28 days of departure
  • Cover for emergency medical expenses abroad due to Covid-19

Direct Line

  • Cover for travel to a destination where the FCDO is advising against all but essential travel 
  • Cover for medical expenses if you catch Covid-19 while you’re away 
  • Cover for additional accommodation and transport if you have to quarantine due to Covid
  • Cover for cancellation costs if you or a close relative get Covid-19 before you go
  • Cover for quarantine or if the FCDO changes its advice after you book your trip
  • Cover if you have to cut your trip short if the FCDO changes its country advice unexpectedly

M&S

  • Cover for emergency medical expenses if you catch Covid-19 during your trip
  • Cover for unrecoverable costs up to £6,000 if you must cancel your trip or return early, including if you have to self-isolate or quarantine before you travel due to Covid-19
  • Cover for if you need to cancel your trip due to a positive Covid-19 test or if the FCDO advise against travel to your destination in the 31 days leading up to your trip
  • Providing you haven’t travelled against FCDO advice, you’ll also be covered if you catch Covid-19 while abroad

Aviva

  • Coverage of up to £5,000 per person if you must cancel your trip due to getting Covid (you’ll need to provide confirmation and evidence of a positive test result)
  • Cover for Covid-related emergency medical treatment and expenses while away
  • Cover if you unexpectedly need to quarantine, including extra travel and accommodation costs to get home (provided a return trip was booked) 
  • Cover for costs for any accommodation and excursions unused due to getting Covid where the costs can’t be recovered elsewhere
  • No cover you if you travel against FCDO advice*
  • No cover if you can’t travel because you don’t meet the entry requirements of a country (such as having had Covid vaccinations)*

* It’s worth noting that these clauses are not unusual and the majority of providers will have something similar

Tips for selecting the best UK travel insurance packages

Need some help picking the best UK travel insurance packages to make sure that you get the best travel insurance deals? Here are some tips for picking the best policy features for you.

Coverage limits

When looking for the best travel insurance companies to go with, check coverage limits. These are the maximum amounts your travel insurer will pay if you need to claim. You’ll see when you compare travel insurance policies that coverage limits vary for each type of claim and between policies.

The government-backed MoneyHelper website recommends that the best UK travel insurance should have the following minimum coverage for each type of claim:

  • Medical: £1m or more for travel to Europe and £2m or more for the US
  • Cancellation/interruption: £2,000 or more
  • Missed departure: £500 or more
  • Delay: £200 or more
  • Baggage cover: £1,500 or more
  • Personal liability cover: £2 million or more

Deductibles/excess

Deductibles, also known as the excess, is the amount you have to pay out of your own pocket before your travel insurance will start paying for your claim.

You have to make a trade-off when it comes to choosing the excess and the best travel insurance policy for you.

The lower the excess on a travel insurance policy, the better for you if you have to claim because you will have less to pay from your own pocket (or, more often, deducted from your claim).

But lower excess travel insurance policies are more expensive because the insurer knows it has more to pay out if you claim. Higher excess policies are cheaper, but you’ll have more deducted from your claim.

Exclusions

An exclusion on a travel insurance policy is an event the policy will not cover you for.

Common exclusions on a standard travel insurance policy may not be obvious. According to the ABTA – The Travel Association, these include:

  • Incidents that occur after drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs
  • Theft of unattended possessions
  • Sports, extreme sports and activities such as skiing, white water rafting and bungee jumping
  • Medical treatment resulting from existing medical conditions you have not declared or conditions preventable by vaccine or advisable medication, such as antimalarials
  • Medical costs if you stay abroad after your doctor says you are fit to return to the UK
  • Strikes and industrial action if it was known when you booked your trip
  • Rescheduled flights where the airline has cancelled and then rescheduled your flight
  • Travel to destinations where the FCDO advises against all but essential travel

To get the best travel insurance deals, one way around some of these exclusions is to buy add-ons for adventure activities. In addition, make sure to declare all pre-existing conditions and keep an eye out for any travel disruptions before you book.

Pre-existing conditions

Pre-existing conditions are illnesses or medical conditions you have and are aware of before you travel.

Travel insurance companies will ask you to disclose any pre-existing conditions. If you use a comparison website, it will be among the first questions you’re asked before it shows you quotes. It’s important to be honest.

Some travel insurance companies, but not all, will offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions, while others will offer cover but exclude any claims arising from that medical condition. This will depend on the person being covered and the medical condition.

Most price comparison websites include an option to show insurers who do offer coverage for pre-existing conditions, so that would be a good place to start.

The following are likely to be considered pre-existing conditions you should disclose, according to the government-backed MoneyHelper website:

  • A condition where you are on a list for an operation
  • A condition where you are waiting for test results
  • Anything you have been to the doctor about in the last year, including minor things
  • Any serious conditions you’ve ever had – for example, cancer, heart trouble, respiratory problems or a mental health breakdown

A good tip for everyone, but especially if you have a pre-existing condition, is to buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday. If your condition gets worse and forces you to cancel your plans, you’ll be covered from the day the policy starts.

On family group policies, the cost will be determined based on the riskiest traveller (according to insurers), which could be someone with a pre-existing condition or an older individual. In this case, it is often cheaper for the group for that person to get a separate policy.

Add-on options

Add-ons are extras you can purchase in addition to a standard travel insurance policy. They cost a bit more, but you may find you’re not covered without them. 

Gadget insurance

This covers things that a standard policy may not, such as your mobile phone or laptop. If these items are covered, you may find the claim limits are far less than the cost of replacing them.

Close-up of a person holding a phone taking a picture of a beaut
Gadget insurance costs relatively little but could be worth for peace of mind (Adobe)

Before you add this option to your travel insurance, check your home insurance policy, because you may already be covered.

Winter sports/adventure activities

Riskier activities, such as skiing or white water rafting, often require extra holiday insurance because insurers think that you are more likely to need to make a claim doing these things.

Winter sports/adventure activities cover is worth getting, or you may find you are not covered for medical expenses if something goes wrong.

Cruise

Standard travel insurance is generally meant for land-based holidays so you’ll need to opt for a specialist cruise policy if your holiday is a cruise.

European FCDO travel advice extension

Most standard travel insurance policies are invalid if you travel when the FCDO advises against “all but essential travel”.

This add-on allows you to travel to Europe with a valid travel insurance policy, even if the FCDO has advised against it.

This can be an expensive add-on, but if you really must travel to a risky area, you will need this extension in order to make sure you have cover.

Best holiday insurance summary

Choosing the right travel insurance is an essential part of enjoying peace of mind while you are on holiday.

When looking for the best travel insurance deals, don’t just pick the cheapest policy. Instead, look for the cover limits that match your requirements. For example, baggage cover of £5,000 isn’t worth having if your baggage is worth £1,000; cancellation cover up to £10,000 isn’t worth having if your holiday cost you £2,000.

The easiest way to compare the best travel insurance is usually by using a travel insurance comparison website.

Think about the sort of activities you’ll be doing while you’re away. You may need extra holiday insurance for things such as winter sports or scuba diving or if you are going on a cruise.

Be honest about any pre-existing conditions when buying your travel insurance, or you won’t be covered if you have to claim.

The best travel insurance is a safety net for you and your family to enjoy your trip away stress-free, knowing that you’re covered for everything from medical expenses to cancellations if things go wrong.

Frequently asked questions about the best travel insurance UK packages

Even where medical costs in the UK are covered by the NHS, a sudden illness could lead to other expenses, forcing you to cancel your trip, the costs of which travel insurance would cover.

Lost or stolen luggage and broken gadgets or other claims for damage can just as easily occur in the UK as abroad.

Annual travel insurance is a policy that covers you for multiple trips away within any 12-month period. It is often cheaper than buying a separate policy for each trip if you are planning to go away multiple times in one year.

Annual travel insurance is also useful if you are planning a long trip visiting several countries, as often insurers require you to buy travel insurance before you leave the UK rather than abroad mid-trip.

Specialist travel insurers cater to specific groups of people. It can make sense to seek out travel insurers that cover your needs.

Adventures Insurance, Sports Cover Direct and Snowcard tailor their travel insurance to those who enjoy activity holidays and extreme sports, for example.

Senior travellers are the focus of policies from All Clear, Avanti, Co-op Insurance Services, Free Spirit Flex, Good 2 Go Extra, Goodtogo Insurance, Saga, Staysure and Total Travel Protection.

Insurers offering business trip cover include Allianz, Direct Line, Coverwise and Insure & Go.

To claim on your travel insurance while you are away, make sure that you take your policy number with you and the emergency number for your insurer. If you are travelling abroad, take any international numbers too.

Call your insurer as soon as you realise you need to make a claim. Keep all receipts and medical expense forms. If you are travelling with other people, make them aware of your policy details and the insurer’s phone number in case they need to call on your behalf.

To make a claim when you return home, check the following:

  • You haven’t left it too late to make a claim
  • What you’re claiming for is covered
  • The excess is not more than the value of your claim (if so, it’s not worth claiming)

Notify your insurer as soon as possible for a claim form, send it back fast and keep a copy of it. You should also include copies of paperwork to support your claim, such as receipts or medical certificates (keep copies of the originals in case your claim is queried or refused).

Laura Miller round image

Laura Miller

Money Writer

Laura Miller is a freelance journalist, editor, and producer. She has a wealth of consumer finance experience, having written about money matters and business for over 15 years.

During her tenure as a freelance writer, she has worked for ITN, Wired, and The Sunday Times, as well as financial institutions such as Aegon, the Chartered Insurance Institute, and Pension Bee, where she’s presenter of the Pension Confident Podcast.

Laura has previously held roles at The Times, where she was the Acting Editor of Times Money Mentor, The Telegraph as a senior finance reporter and was the co-host of the It’s Your Money Podcast, which was renowned for making complex finance issues accessible, and The Financial Times, where she worked as a News Editor. Laura has also worked at CNN, Politics.co.uk, and as a producer at Radio 5 Live.

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.