/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Money matters: how to get the best value travel insurance

Older person throwing paper aeroplane

Travel insurance is often the last thing you think about when you’re planning a getaway. But leaving it last minute, especially if you’re an older traveller, can cost you dearly.

Our research has found that once you hit the age of 65, your insurance premiums can almost double. And it doesn’t stop there – the older you get, the pricier your premium becomes. At age 80, you could see your premiums doubling once again.

To complicate things further, standard travel insurance policies will ramp up your premiums even further if you have a serious medical condition – a factor we all have to consider as we approach our later years.

Travel insurance medical cover

Our members often tell us that one of their most essential travel insurance features is the medical cover it offers. Our Best Rate travel insurance policies have to include a minimum £5m of medical expenses (for a worldwide policy) so that you’re fully covered if you find yourself falling ill in a far off place where hospital costs can spiral.

My best advice would be to – as the old adage goes – shop around. Make sure you’ve done your homework before picking a policy and do it in plenty of time. This will ensure that you have all the cover you need without breaking the bank.

Help with a travel insurance query

One of our members recently wrote to us saying that they’d been stung by leaving their travel insurance to the last minute. But they had a further question – is it possible to strip out the non-essential features of a travel insurance policy to keep what’s most important to them – the medial cover?

‘My wife and I are 83 and regularly holiday in France. Hurriedly arranged insurance recently cost us £213, including £80 for declared and accepted medical conditions. But we found we were also paying to insure against non-medical hazards (such as loss of luggage) we’re prepared to forego. Can we get EHIC top-up insurance to give medical cover?’

So, what could our member do to cut down their travel insurance costs in the future? Tell us your thoughts below and we’ll come back with the Which? verdict in a couple of weeks’ time.

Abee says:
28 June 2013

Are there any providers who provide home insurance cover for absences longer than 60 or 90 days? As a retiree, I would like to be able to take extended holidays overseas. Will having someone pop in to my house regularly get around the “continuous period of absence” obstacle with conventional home insurance policies?

Barbara Lowe says:
4 July 2013

In answer to your query about leaving your home for more than 60/90 days, we are insured with Camping and Caravan Club and their house and buildings insurance will allow you away from home for 180 days. I think that is great. You can come home for a couple of days after that and then go for another 180 days if you wish, Hope this helps.

Abee says:
5 July 2013

Many thanks for sharing your experience. That is most helpful.

The trouble with Travel Insurance is it’s marketed by Price not extent of Cover.
You really have to decide what you want covered and then read the small print, especially with things like missed departures: eg own car breaks down or has an accident okay, car in front has an accident and blocks motorway “no cover” !

EHIC alone is not enough for going abroad. It only covers state-funded hospitals, and I don’t know about you but I would not want to be queuing for treatment in a tin pot hospital in Croatia. I find that a good annual policy will do the job – if you shop around you’ll get a decent price, and all the extras as an added bonus!

I don’t want the cheapest. I want the best value for money. It isn’t the same thing.

You’re right lessismore, it is about value and not just the cheapest. I’ve tweaked the title.

I have a medical condition – diagnosed in 2008 – and am nearing 60 so travel insurance is difficult to find at a reasonable price. I have tried specialist medical travel insurance companies companies but they are extortionate. They would probaby offer better cover in the event of a medical problem but the price is offputting. My condition is controlled by medication and I have not had a problem in almost five years, but the insurance companies do not take that into account when setting their rates.

I hope the Which? verdict covers this area of travel insurance as well as basic travel insurance.

Abee says:
3 July 2013

I got a policy through Staysure where pre-existing illnesses are covered.

I got an annual insurance policy (Europe) with coverforyou.com via Money Supermarket for my husband and myself (64 and 62). Cost was £130 for both of us for the year (taken out in Jan 2013). My husband declared his heart attack 2 years ago, plus a triple by-pass and I declared a medical condition of work-related stress. I thought this was an excellent price. Good luck in your search and happy travels!

I got two quotes from coverforyou.com. for covering my medical condition for a two week holiday in Portugal. In the first quote I declared my condition and stated that I took regular medication for it and the policy cost £39. For the second quote I declared the condition again and omitted the regular medication and the policy was £24. This is very puzzling as the condition is controlled by medication.

The £39 policy is the best yet, so I shall keep it in mind.

Mezza says:
3 July 2013

Most people over 50 have a medical condition or three. For example: cholesterol, blood pressure, asthma, diabetes.

Can Which look into good lower cost Travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions?

I got a quote online from Staysure for two weeks holiday in Portugal @ £10.93 medical condition undeclared. Then for the same holiday declaring my medical condition, I was referred to their telephone line and the quote was just over £150. My condition was diagnosed in 2008 when I was in hospital for being jaundiced due to an infection. I take medication each day to keep it under control and suffer no ill effects.

I saw on the Staysure site that some of the preexisting medical conditions covered are conditions like toothache, HRT, vasectomy, flat feet, and if you want to check if your condition is covered, I have attached the complete list in this link: Unfortunately, mine is not so I pay an extra £140 for very little extra risk. That is why I was keen for Which? to do research again on this subject.


Gareth Shaw

Has Which? ever covered travel insurance for those with psychological or psychiatric conditions? With diagnosed stress, depression and other mental health conditions affecting more of our population, this is an area which is difficult to get affordable travel insurance. You always seem to consider physical conditions for your examples or have I missed those where you included non physical conditions.

It seems to me that insurers bundle up things in travel insurance eg
– cover for health/accident issues that might prevent you travelling or mean you have to be treated abroad or repatriated
– cover for cancellation due to operator’s insolvency, strikes, wars etc
– cover for loss of money, valuables etc
I realise admin costs mean it is sensible to bundle these things but a company that offered flexibility on each would attract a lot of business I think.

David says:
30 July 2013

Perhaps it is just me but I feel that the detail of insurance policies means that they are very hard to understand. We bought a ‘Premium’ single trip policy from ‘Big Blue’ having searched the best policies from ‘Which’ recommendations. Because of the French Air traffic control strike my wife was delayed by over thirty hours. She was charged for the unused pre booked accommodation and cancelled travel arrangements in Austria. It seemed clear to us that this charge could be claimed back under the appropriate section of the Policy but we have been refused payment on the grounds that the travel delay was not a reason for them to compensate us. I have re read the wording several times but still find it difficult to understand, and this is one of the recommended insurers. Luckily it is not a huge sum but it shows that you cannot rely even on a recommended insurer. The other side of the coin is that her travelling companion who just relied on the cover provided by her bank as part of her account benefits was compensated at once without query.

just read a story in the Telegraph. Couple bought travel insurance from the Prudential, missed their flight back to Uk from Austria because the airport bus was held up badly due to a traffic accident. Turns out the policy only covered them for missed departure on the outward journey. Seems incredible that a “reputable” insurer would sell a policy like this!!

The latest issue of Which? contained an update on Travel insurance but yet again did not cover those with pre-existing psychological or psychiatric conditions like diagnosed stress, depression and other mental health conditions When will Which? admit that mental health conditions exist.

I believe those with mental health problems are discriminated against.

Hi all,

First of all, an apology – we never did come back to you with an answer on the member’s query in the blog post above :-s Sorry about that! But, better late than never, here you go…

Premiums rise steeply with age, and even more so when serious medical conditions are involved. Which? analyses the full range of policies to find cheapest deals for a range of ages and common illnesses. See: http://www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/reviews-ns/travel-insurance/cover-for-those-with-medical-conditions/.

You can tailor cover, but it’s rare that insurers let you strip out key parts of a policy. It might also be risky – you would miss a payout if your baggage was lost, for example. As a result, you should speak to a broker if you’re after a bespoke policy. Contact the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) on 0844 801 1888 or log onto http://www.biba.org.uk.

Taking a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you is sensible as it entitles you to the same medical care as a local resident, but this may not be as comprehensive as you’d get from the NHS. The treatment may be free or discounted, but it is usually only at state-funded hospitals. If you need assistance urgently and can only get to a private clinic, the EHIC is of no use. The EHIC won’t cover extra accommodation and repatriation, which can cost up to £25,000. Insurance will cover these, along with other essentials such as cancellation cover.

A few insurers, such as EHIC Plus, offer EHIC top-up insurance. It can include emergency repatriation, hospital benefit and doctor all-out, as well as pre-existing conditions and lost luggage, but make sure the cost and benefits are better than you’d get from a travel insurance policy otherwise it won’t be worth the money.

On a separate note Figgerty raises an interesting point. As far as I am aware we have not covered pre-existing psychological or psychiatric conditions, and certainly not in recent times. It does feel like an under-reported area so I have passed your comments on to the relevant experts in the Money and Travel teams so they can bear this in mind next time we revisit the topic.


Thanks David. I look forward to the next review.