It's that time of year again: holidaymakers are planning their summer break in the hopes of saving a bit of cash by booking early, and as an added bonus it'll give them something to look forward to, beating the January Blues in the process. While this organised approach should be celebrated, it's equally as important to make sure you have the right kind of travel cover in place.
According to our latest research, an encouraging number of consumers (80%) currently hold the free EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), yet only 53% of respondents have a travel insurance policy. Many of those may not be prioritising the right things, either: 49% stated that the total cost of their insurance was the number one priority when deciding, with only 10% picking a low excess as their top concern.
While the total cost of insurance is important, consumers also need to make sure that the plan offers a comprehensive range of benefits, as well as a reasonable amount of cover. The recently released Moneyfacts Travel Insurance Star Ratings highlight some of the best plans around, which can make the work of picking a policy a little bit easier.
It's also important to not assume that the EHIC will provide enough cover for your trip abroad. While it could cover you if you needed basic medical treatment on the continent, it won't provide any other form of financial recourse should something go wrong – if you had to unexpectedly cancel your plans, for example, or if you lost your luggage or travel money – so having a separate travel insurance policy is essential.
Rachel Springall, spokesperson at Moneyfacts, explains:
"It's encouraging to see that most consumers in our survey are aware of the necessity to have cover in place in the event of a claim, but holding an EHIC only goes so far in protecting them in the event of a holiday disaster.
"Consumers might assume that the EHIC provides enough cover, but it's actually very basic, as it only gives access to clinics or hospitals that have state-provided healthcare, so travellers could easily get caught out if they seek private medical attention. In addition, they would need to manage any arrangements directly, and in some countries pay the costs upfront and claim a refund after the event.
"A travel insurance policy can cover so much more than just medical expenses - it can cover cancelling a trip altogether due to ill health, transport costs such as flights back home, a telephone bill for consecutive calls abroad, which can cost an absolute fortune, and accommodation which could include a relative staying nearby. The loss of valuables and luggage, as well as any disruption or delay to a trip, are also generally covered under a travel insurance plan.
"Simply going for the cheapest plan isn't necessarily the best policy, as consumers could be overlooking certain benefits for a lower premium, which could result in less cover and a much higher excess. So, with all that in mind, travellers would be wise to think very carefully about choosing a comprehensive package, and how much they are prepared to pay for protection in the event of a crisis."
Compare travel insurance policies to make sure you're getting the cover you need (look out for the Moneyfacts Star Ratings logo to be sure it's a policy you can rely on, or take a look at the four and five-star ratings winners to get an idea of where to start).
Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.