Travel insurance is always best bought as soon as you’ve booked your trip to make sure you’re covered should anything go wrong.
But what happens if it slips your mind and once you’re on the way to the airport you realise you’ve forgotten to buy it? Or you need to make a last-minute trip and when you get there you remember you’ve not bought cover?
We contacted 12 UK insurers to find out what you can do if you’re forgotten to buy travel insurance and how to make sure you’re still covered.
If you forget to buy a policy, some insurers will let you buy your travel insurance at the airport
Buying travel insurance is unlikely to be top of the list when you’re planning a holiday, but without it you could end up with a nasty bill when you get back home.
It covers you for worst-case scenarios and will pay out if your belongings are lost, damaged or stolen or you are injured and need to pay for hospital treatment.
The cover also starts from the moment you buy it so if anything goes wrong before you set off, you fall ill for example, it will also pay out if you need to cancel.
If you have an annual travel insurance policy, you generally won’t have this problem as it covers multiple trips made during the year. Although it’s always worth checking the policy you have will cover you for the country you’re visiting.
Mark Shepherd, ABI head of property, commercial and specialist lines, says: ‘Buying travel insurance at the earliest opportunity (e.g. through an annual multi trip policy or when you book your holiday), provides peace of mind from day one that you have cover if the unexpected happens, for example if you or a close family member falls ill and you cannot travel.
Last-minute cover: A few specialist insurers allow consumers to buy cover while on holiday
‘A third of travel insurance claims in 2016 were for travellers who needed to cancel their holiday, with travel insurers paying out more than £130 million alone for these claims.’
Insurers vary depending on the last moment you’re able to buy cover, with some allowing it until you leave home on the day and others letting you buy while you’re in the departure lounge or even on the plane.
The reason the majority of insurers don’t allow you to buy insurance while you’re already away is because of fraud. This is because if someone is already on holiday, and then buys insurance, there is a high risk that the incident they are claiming for will have already happened.
We spoke to 12 UK insurers to see where they stand on last-minute insurance. While it is possible to buy before you set off, all of the insurers said they would always recommend for people to buy cover early as anything that happens before the insurance is bought would not be covered.
The AA told us customers can buy insurance up until they leave – provided their feet are on the ground in the UK. This means you could buy it online while standing in the queue to board but you couldn’t buy it once you get on the plane.
With Allianz you will need to buy the travel insurance before you leave your home and the holiday has started.
It also sells EasyJet Instant Mobile travel insurance, which can be bought after you’ve left home and up until when you are in the airport.
Travel insurance is designed to cover you if anything happens from the moment you buy it
Aviva says it considers a trip to have started when the customer leaves their home and wouldn’t be able to sell travel insurance after this point.
Axa told us its travel insurance policies need to be bought at the start of your holiday, so before you leave home.
Consumers can buy cover up to the point at which they leave the UK, including being sat on the plane and buying it from their phone or tablet.
The insurer also has ‘instant purchase kiosks’ at several UK airports to encourage people to buy insurance if they’ve forgotten.
If you’re buying travel insurance with Direct Line, the last possible moment you can do so is before you start the trip and leave the UK.
At HolidaySafe you can buy travel insurance up until the point you are at the airport, but when you’ve cleared passport control and boarded the plane you would be seen as being ‘in transit’ and would not be able to buy travel insurance.
With LV a trip is generally considered to have started when the customer leaves their home, but it told us it is still possible to buy cover up until the point you leave the UK – so even on the plane.
A few specialist insurers allow consumers to buy travel insurance while already on holiday
With the Post Office travel insurance policies can be bought while you’re in the airport, but not when you’ve boarded the plane.
There are a number of Post Office branches in some UK airports where insurance can also be bought.
Saga told us its policies are designed for people to buy before they leave their home. However, it did say it takes requests on a case by case basis and if someone got to the airport and realised they had forgotten to buy insurance they could call the insurer and ask about buying cover.
Swinton says its travel insurance policies are valid from the moment you buy them and although it strongly advises against it, it says it is possible to buy a policy when you’re on your holiday.
It’s the only one of the mainstream insurers that allows this and a spokesperson told us ‘it is possible in theory to buy insurance while on holiday too, but if you do this, you would only be covered from that day and wouldn’t be covered for any events taking place before that exact point.’
Travel insurance is available to buy from Virgin Money as long as you have not left the UK.
Can you get insurance while you’re on holiday?
Although all the mainstream insurers we spoke to told us you would need to buy insurance before you arrived at your holiday destination, there are a few specialist insurers who can help.
TrueTravellor and Towegate both sell insurance to those who are already on holiday, which is valid as soon as you buy it.
However, you can only claim if nothing has already occurred which is related to the claim, such as if you are already feeling unwell and then buy the insurance and claim for something related to the illness.
TrueTravellor also says you are not able to claim for the first 48 hours after you buy the policy – although it does say it looks at claims on a case by case basis so if something did happen to you within this period, you should call it to find out if you can claim.
HOW TO CUT THE COST OF YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance is essential for your holiday and booking early means if you have to cancel the holiday because someone in the party is too ill to travel, for example, you’ll be able to get your money back.
It’s worth looking into as soon as you have the holiday booked as if you don’t have it and need to cancel you’ll lose the money.
There’s lots of websites around and the quickest way to find a policy is by checking a few comparison websites, plus insurers that do not list on them such as Direct Line and Aviva.
Once you’ve found a policy make sure it has the correct cover amounts for your family and that you’ve told the insurer about anything affecting the policy – such as if someone has a pre-existing health condition.
Watch out for the excess, often the overall price will look like a bargain but if you have to pay a huge excess than it may not be such a good deal.
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