Travel insurance appeared on the UK leisure scene in the 1960s, hand in hand with affordable package holidays. Over the last 50 years or so, travel policies have been evolving to cope with unexpected events and to meet the ever-changing requirements of the modern traveller.
In response to the air traffic controllers’ strike of 1977, “delay caused by strike action” became a feature of travel policies. “Natural catastrophe cover” was introduced following the travel disruptions caused by volcanic ash clouds in 2010 and 2011. COVID-19 cover has come about since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The need for travel insurance, when we take a vacation abroad, is a generally (although not unanimously) accepted truth. A truth supported by the number of claims made. In 2018, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), 498,000 claims were made on UK travel insurance policies, at an average value of £800.
But do you really need travel insurance for a staycation?
Let’s have a look at how travel insurance provides protection for a UK holiday, especially in the light of COVID-19 and associated legal restrictions.
What does UK travel insurance cover?
One major aspect of travel insurance that we don’t need for a UK holiday is medical cover. We’re fortunate to have one of the best national health services in the world, and wherever we are in the UK, we can be sure of medical treatment. However, we can’t choose where we receive treatment.
If you have an accident or become seriously ill whilst on holiday, you’ll be treated at a local hospital. A lengthy stay in hospital is inconvenient at the best of times, but if the hospital is a long way from home, the problems increase. Travel insurance covers the transfer to a hospital closer to your home, as well as travel costs for family and friends in your party.
Travel insurance covers curtailment – specifically, the cost of travelling home earlier than planned. The UK isn’t a large country, but that doesn’t mean that getting from place to place is easily executed or affordable. For example:
One resident of Norwich on holiday in Penzance and another on holiday in Paris would be in similar positions. The distance from Norwich to Paris is 395 miles (636km); a train ticket home would cost approximately £138. Norwich to Penzance is 427 miles (687km), and the train ticket would cost between £150 and £210.
Cancellation is a major player in travel insurance. Cancelling a holiday potentially incurs the entire cost of travel and accommodation. A huge loss.
Most aspects of the policy, such as curtailment, lost luggage, and transport delays, will come into effect on the date you give for the start of your holiday. The cancellation element, though, should kick in as soon as you take out the policy. Its value is greatly reduced once your holiday begins!
We advise you to check that the cancellation clause comes into effect from the moment you take out your travel insurance policy.
Loss, damage, or theft of property
Some home contents insurance policies will include away-from-home cover. However, not all policies will cover all possessions. If you’re taking high-value items on holiday – for example, a musical instrument, set of golf clubs, or laptop – it’s advisable to insure them for loss, theft, and damage (if they’re not already covered by your home contents policy).
End supplier failure
Sometimes a hotel or guesthouse can’t supply what you’ve paid for. It might have become structurally unsafe or been double booked. Or the company might have gone into administration.
What if your train, coach, ferry, or plane is cancelled? What if the service provider goes bust?
Alternative accommodation or transport is a really important element of a travel insurance policy. A word of warning: many staycation policies exclude air travel.
If you’re travelling to your destination by public transport, travel delay can have a detrimental effect on your holiday.
Trains, coaches, ferries, and aircraft can be delayed for reasons such as poor weather conditions, industrial action, and mechanical breakdown. A policy might specify reasons for delay, or it might provide blanket cover. In the event of a claim, an insurance company usually pays a fixed sum for every hour you’re delayed.
After a certain period of delay, you can abandon your holiday and make a cancellation claim.
Some travel policies include missed departure as standard, but others treat it as an add-on. If you fail to arrive on time for your connection, you might be able to make a claim for missed departure. Permitted reasons include heavy traffic, road closure, or vehicle breakdown, but be sure to check the terms of your policy.
Personal public liability covers you in cases where legal action is taken against you for damage you might have caused to a person or property.
Legal expenses also cover a claim for damages that you make against another person whilst on holiday.
What doesn’t UK travel insurance cover?
It’s usual for a UK travel insurance policy to impose a minimum length of stay. This is normally two or three consecutive nights. Your policy will not be valid if your holiday is shorter than the stated minimum.
Accommodation at a commercial establishment is also a requirement in most cases. Your policy probably won’t cover travel that includes accommodation with friends or family – even if you’re paying for it.
Does UK travel insurance cover COVID-19?
A survey carried out by the consumer watchdog, Which?, between December 2020 and February 2021, revealed that more than 50% of insurance companies will provide cancellation cover for a COVID-19 diagnosis, and around 20% also offer cover for self-isolation without a positive test result. There was no provision for cancellation cover due to government advice. However, if it’s illegal to travel, your accommodation provider should offer a refund or an opportunity to rebook.
A message from the Association of British Insurers:
“If you travel against government advice, then you could be putting your travel insurance cover at risk. This is because policies expect you to take reasonable care and not expose yourself to unnecessary and avoidable risk.”
Talk to us
For more information about UK travel insurance, COVID-19 cover, or annual cover, give us a call. We look forward to hearing from you.