AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Travel insurance



Things can go wrong on holiday. You could fall ill or have an accident; you could have money or luggage stolen; your visit might be cancelled or cut short through injury or illness; your family may need to fly out to be with you if there is a serious incident. All these risks and more can be covered by taking out travel insurance.

However, you should check the small print of your insurance policy very carefully to see if any exclusions might apply. Exclusions are situations/conditions which, if they exist, will allow your insurer to refuse your claim. They are always set out in your policy. We discuss exclusions and conditions in more detail later in this section. If your trip involves particular sports or activities that are considered a risk, check that your insurer offers extra cover or you may need to call a specialist insurer. Get several quotations before you choose your travel insurance and check carefully what each offers.

Buying travel insurance

Many people don't take out travel insurance, in the belief that their credit card accident cover, home insurance, or private health cover is sufficient. However, it is unlikely that these will give adequate cover. You should be aware that the costs of an emergency abroad are high; a medical evacuation to the United Kingdom, for example, will cost you tens of thousands of pounds, so getting proper insurance is vital.

For more information on holiday claims against credit card companies, see our 'Paying for your holiday: cash or credit?' section.

Shop around to find a good price and the right product, rather than opting to travel without cover. Bear in mind that a cheaper policy may have less cover. If you make several trips each year, consider taking out annual multi-trip insurance to save time, money and effort. There are a number of sites on the internet which provide comparative services for travel insurance or you could use the Yellow Pages or search for insurance companies individually.

If travelling to Europe, make sure you complete a European Health Insurance Card Form in addition to travel insurance. An EHIC gives the holder rights to healthcare that may become necessary during a temporary visit to EEA (European Economic Area) countries or Switzerland.

Always book through an agent that's with ABTA, ATOL or other relevant Financial Protection Organisations. Decent travel agents and tour operators will give you security by holding:

  • An Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL)
  • Membership with an approved body such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA); the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT); the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO); Bonded Coach Holidays (BCH); or the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO)
  • A suitable insurance policy
  • Consumer pre-payments in a trust account such as a Travel Trust Association account
Many of the travel arrangements provided by these types of companies are protected in case of the financial failure of the travel company. You should, however, always ask your travel company if protection applies to your travel arrangements. If it doesn't, the company may be able to offer suitable insurance to cover you.

You should know what your policy covers and ensure that the cover is adequate. If in doubt, ask your insurer.

You should ensure your policy covers:

  • The whole time that you are away
  • Any activities and sports you might do
  • The refund of the full cost of your holiday
  • Any need to cancel or cut short a trip, for example, because you fall ill
  • Pre-paid expenses such as excursions
  • Extra costs incurred to get home
Some activities, such as jet skiing, are excluded from many policies. If requested, many insurers will extend cover, otherwise you should shop around for a specialist policy.

Personal liability

Travel insurance should also cover personal liability. So, if you accidentally cause injury or damage to others or their property, and they sue you, the policy will meet the cost of a claim.

Cancellation or cutting a trip short

Your policy should pay out if you need to cancel or cut short a trip (this is often referred to as 'curtailment') because, for example, you fall ill. It should cover pre-paid expenses, such as excursions, and any extra costs incurred in getting home. Check your policy documents to see what would be covered – accident, illness, pregnancy unknown when you buy the policy, jury service or witness summons, etc.

Cover may also be provided if you are needed at home because of fire, storm or flood, or if you are required by the police to come home following a burglary.

Some policies also cover cancellation arising from you being made redundant or if a strike or bad weather affects the departure of a flight or ship.

You need a policy with sufficient cover to refund the full cost of your holiday. Check your policy for details.

Lost or damaged possessions

Travel insurance can cover stolen, lost or damaged possessions. You can normally set the limit of the cover, but the limit should be adequate and realistic for your own circumstances. The higher the limit of the cover, the more expensive the policy will be.

Policies will generally limit claims for single items – the limit can vary from as low as £250 up to £1000 or more. There is likely to be a similar limit on the total paid to replace valuables, such as cameras or jewellery. Check that these limits are sufficient.

You should not rely on compensation from the airline if it loses your luggage. By law, airlines need only pay a specified minimum value per kilo of lost luggage – this will probably be inadequate to cover the full value of your belongings.

All insurance policies will almost always say that you must take care of your belongings at all times. If you don't, the policy may not pay out, so as a general rule, treat your property as if it were uninsured.

Remember that losses should be reported to the local police within 24 hours, and proof of notification will be required when you make your claim.

Your policy may also cover:

  • Personal accident
  • Travel insurance can cover personal accident, with payment made for permanent disability or death

Many holiday insurance policies have a provision relating to emergency repatriation. This is returning you to your country of residence. Insurance companies require that you adhere strictly to their terms and conditions, so it is important that you have read and understood the terms, before starting the process of emergency repatriation.

If you are relying on them to reimburse you for emergency flights, please contact your insurance company directly before making travel arrangements, as they usually have specific procedures and providers that they want you to use.

Legal expenses

You may also want to check if your policy covers you for legal expenses to help you pursue compensation or damages following personal injury whilst abroad. This could be of particular use if there is no legal aid system in place in the country to which you are travelling.

Financial protection

Some travel insurance policies cover you if your airline goes bust before you travel or whilst you are abroad. If you have no other form of financial protection, you may want to ensure you buy a policy that includes this cover.

For more information on financial protection for air travel, see our 'Financial protection' section

Check the conditions and exclusions

If you are in any doubt, contact your insurer to find out exactly what cover you have. Bear in mind that:

  • Most policies will not cover drink-related incidents
  • Most policies do not cover drug-related incidents
  • You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you
  • You must declare anything that you think might affect the cover, such as current or past medical conditions
Tips for when you travel

  • Make sure you take a copy of your policy and the 24-hour emergency phone number, if relevant, with you
  • Make sure you know what to do in the event of a problem Some insurance companies insist that you call their assistance company as soon as possible after a problem arises
  • If anything does happen, make sure you keep as much paperwork as possible - tickets, receipts, medical bills, police reports etc. - to help prove that what you're claiming for actually happened