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Why do you need travel insurance?

Whether it's a cruise, a family break to Europe or the British seaside, a worldwide trip, a student gap year or skiing, holidays are a time to get away from it all.

But travelling without travel cover could give you a costly headache if you're not properly insured.

Travel insurance can protect you if your flight is cancelled or delayed, you need expensive medical treatment abroad, your luggage is stolen or your hotel turns out to be a building site.

Without cover, you might have to pay for any emergency expenses yourself. The British Consulate is unlikely to step in and help.

Despite this, one in four travellers don't have insurance, even though insurers paid out £370 million in claims in 2015.

Unless you're Indiana Jones, travel insurance is a sensible option.

How to choose the right travel insurance policy for you

Before comparing cheap travel insurance, work out which type of policy you need.

The type of holiday insurance cover you need depends on how often you travel, where you're going and what you're doing while away.

If you're skiing, for example, you'll need winter sports insurance, which can cover specialist requirements such as ski equipment and the cost of helicopter mountain rescue.

For a one-off trip, where you don't think you'll be travelling again for at least 12 months, single-trip travel insurance will be fine.

But if you're going on several trips in a year, consider an annual multi-trip policy. While it's likely to be the most cost effective, many policies have a maximum length of stay clause, so when comparing deals online, read the terms and conditions carefully before you buy.

Most policies will cover you for at least 30 days, but it's worth checking – especially if your trip is longer than a week.

Single-trip policies are fine for Europe, but go further afield and you'll want to look at a worldwide policy.

If you're travelling as a couple or a family, you could save money insuring as a group. Some policies will offer free cover to under-18s in the group.

Long-stay travel insurance, designed for trips that exceed the maximum length allowed under single and multi-trip policies, and gap year or student travel insurance, can be tailored to suit the type of trip you're going on.

Travelers in Laos, for example, will have different insurance needs than hikers in the Andes.

Before you choose a policy, make sure you know exactly what is covered.

If your airline loses your bags is that covered? Are you happy with the excess? Does the policy cover medical expenses?

These are all boxes to tick before you jet off.

For more information, read our guide: travel insurance – what you need to know.

Why should you compare travel insurance?

Getting travel insurance for your holiday doesn't have to cost the earth.

Using A Spokesman, you can compare travel insurance quotes and get cheap deals from over 30 of the UK's leading providers, including Admiral, Endsleigh, Columbus Direct, Debenhams and Insurance Republic, to find the right policy for you.

From single-trip policies to worldwide cover, we'll help you choose the right package for your holiday.

Comparing travel insurance takes 5 minutes and could save you money (and hassle).

Different levels of travel insurance cover

The level of cover you receive will vary from provider to provider and depends on how much it costs.

Medical expenses should be covered as standard but there are several extra levels of protection available, such as:

  • Lost or stolen luggage – Make sure you are covered for the value of your items – watches, iPads and phones, for example.
  • Personal liability – If you cause an accident, you are covered up to a set limit for damages. This is especially important for sporty trips, such as ski holidays.
  • Cancellation – If you need to cancel your trip for a satisfactory reason, such as a funeral or jury service, you can get help claiming a refund.
  • Delays – While you can also contact the airline over a delayed flight, your travel insurer can help with additional costs (car hire, transfers, for example).

Other levels of cover include legal expenses, pre-existing medical conditions, missed departure, curtailment – where you've had to cut a trip short – and scheduled airline failure insurance, which protects your money if your airline goes out of business.

Any equipment such as golf clubs or ski gear can also be covered with specialist add-ons.

Buying travel insurance when you're elderly

As your age increases, so does the cost of insuring yourself to go abroad.

Buying travel insurance when you're over-50 gets pricier.

As you reach over age benchmarks, turning over-65, 75 and so on, the price only further increases.

Insurers see you as a higher risk – more likely to have an accident and need medical attention – and so charge more.

But silver-haired globetrotters shouldn't despair, bagging the right policy, for the right price, is still perfectly possible.

Specialist insurers such as Saga, Columbus Direct and World First can help.

It's very important to declare any pre-existing conditions and to see a doctor before you travel.

All you need to know is in our guide: buying travel insurance as an elderly customer.

Travel insurance and pre-existing medical conditions

Most travel insurance only covers you for emergency medical expenses.

That means, if you have a pre-existing medical condition and fall ill as a result of it while abroad, you may not be covered.

So if, for instance, you visit the United States and have a pre-existing heart condition, should you need to be admitted to hospital as a result of it, you could end up paying yourself.

If you don't fancy risking such a hefty bill, you can make sure your travel insurance policy, make sure you have a policy that covers any previously diagnosed conditions.

Foreign Office recommendations

Here's what the Foreign Office thinks your insurance policy should cover you for if you go away on business or a holiday:

  • Get covered for emergency medical expenses
  • Have access to a 24/7 helpline
  • Make sure you have personal liability cover
  • Ensure you are covered for lost and stolen possessions and any cancellations

We can help with your travel complaint

We're not just looking to save you money.

We'll also fight for you when things go wrong.

In fact, it's the whole reason A Spokesman Said was set up in the first place.

We've been winning refunds for victims of delayed flights, hidden charges and sub-standard hotels long before we started saving them money on travel insurance.

You can use our free complaints tool to post about an airline, booking agent, travel insurer or hotel that's let you down to make your voice heard and demand action.

We handpick cases from our community and take them up on behalf of the customer.

If you've had an issue with an insurer, holiday company or airline, you can also read our helpful travel guides.

Whether it's knowing your rights as a flight passenger, how to avoid being scammed by dodgy accommodation to dodging car rental rip offs, we've got you covered.

Bon Voyage!