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When to arrange travel insurance

Esther Shaw / 23 December 2016

Do you arrange travel insurance at the same time as booking your holiday?

A post-it note reminder to buy travel insurance for a holiday

When it comes to booking a holiday, organising the flights, accommodation and activities can all be good fun.

But while arranging travel insurance may feel like a bit more of a chore – and something you’d rather leave until a later date – it is important to do this at the earliest possible opportunity.

In a changeable world, there is a risk that an unforeseen situation will arise between you booking your trip, and actually going on your trip, such as illness or bereavement, and that’s where cancellation cover comes into play.

Why cancellation cover is so important

Booking your travel insurance at the same time as you book your holiday will cover you for cancellation of the holiday from the moment you start your policy.

This will give you the peace of mind of knowing that you – and your travelling companions – are protected should the unexpected happen.

While this won’t make up for disappointment of having to cancel or abandon your trip, it will at least mean there’s less of a hole in your wallet should things not go to plan.

How does it work?

Cancellation cover allows you to get the cost up your trip refunded up to the cover limit – minus any excess – should unforeseen circumstances prevent you from travelling.

The message is simple: taking out travel insurance should be the first thing you do after booking your holiday.

Airport advice

Read the small print

Generally speaking, you should be able to cancel a holiday or trip should certain unexpected situations arise.

This will usually include the illness, injury or death of the policyholder, or of a closely-connected person, such as a near relative.

Cover for other eventualities varies from policy to policy, but is likely to apply if you are called for jury service, made redundant, need to attend a funeral, or fall victim to a flood or fire at your home.

If you do need to make a claim for one of these, you will need to provide proof to your insurer, such as medical records or an official letter.

Beware of exclusions

When purchasing cover, it is important to read the Ts and Cs, as certain circumstances are likely to be excluded, or could prevent you obtaining cover at all.

With illness, for example, pre-existing medical conditions are not generally covered.

In terms of bereavement, insurers can have different definitions of on what qualifies as “close relatives”, so make sure you double check what this means.

Equally, although policies usually include cover due to missed departures, you will not be covered if you cancel a holiday because you’ve “changed your mind”. This might be the case if, for example, a relationship has broken down and you no longer want to travel.

Travel advice for the over 50s

Be specific about the policy start date

When arranging travel insurance, it’s common to ask for the policy to begin on the start date of your holiday.

But the reality is, sometimes situations change, and trips have to be cancelled.

For this reason, it is advisable to request that the policy commences on the day you actually book your trip, as this means the cover will start straight away.

While this may involve you starting your policy months and months before you’re due to board a plane, it will ensure you are protected should you need to cancel.

By contrast, if you wait until the start of your holiday, you are taking a gamble, as you never know what is going to happen – or when.

Other features

Aside from cancellation cover, the other key features you need to look for when choosing a travel insurance policy include medical treatment and repatriation, baggage and cash.

In addition, you should also consider cover for things such as trip delay, scheduled airline failure and end supplier failure.

Crucially, before purchasing any policy, it is essential that you review the details so you know exactly what you are – and are not – covered for.

Consider an annual policy

One way to ensure you are covered all-year round is by taking out an annual policy – as this will run for 12 months without gaps.

One of the upsides of this is the fact the levels of cover for medical expenses, baggage and cancellation tend to be more generous when you buy a full year’s cover.

What you need to know about insurance comparison websites

Extra protection

When booking your travel, it’s worth doing so through a company registered with the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) scheme. This is the Civil Aviation Authority’s financial protection scheme which guarantees you won’t lose your money or be stranded abroad if the company runs into financial problems.

You should also check that your travel agent is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), as this will give consumer protection from all sorts of eventualities ranging from poor service to natural disasters.

One further way to get a little extra protection when booking a holiday is by paying by credit card, as under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, your issuer is equally liable for any problems.

Booked your holiday? Protect it from the moment you buy Saga's Travel Insurance.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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