What does travel insurance cover?

5 minute read

Couple on a beach

Travel insurance can provide invaluable cover for those who are planning a trip, whether closer to home or further afield to another country. However, many people have questions concerning how much protection certain policies can provide – especially regarding medical conditions and being an older traveller

When travelling abroad, it is important to be aware of the types of coverage that travel insurance can provide and how this varies from other types of insurance. In this article, we look at the different elements of travel insurance and what it does or doesn’t cover, as well as answering the following questions:

  • What does travel insurance typically cover?
  • What does the UK Global Health Insurance Card cover?
  • What does travel insurance not cover?
  • What should travel insurance for over 70s cover?


What Does Travel Insurance Typically Cover?

Travel insurance policies typically cover a variety of eventualities to help protect you during your travels. To understand what this protection involves, we’ll be looking at some of the most popular and common features, which are:

  • Medical emergencies
  • Trip cancellation or interruption
  • Lost luggage
  • Personal liability

All these features have their uses so it’s worth checking to see which ones are included as part of any insurance package you might be considering. You should also double-check to see if there is any excess involved, as this will mean you’ll be liable to pay for at least part of the costs, should a claim be made. Also check the level of cover offered, if the cover amount is less than your holiday cost or the value of your luggage then you may be left out of pocket.  


Medical Emergencies

As the name suggests, if your policy includes ‘Medical Emergencies’, you’ll receive financial protection against costs incurred by overseas medical services. This can include hospital accommodation, medication and, if required, swift transportation to a suitable medical facility. However, policies do vary so it is worth double-checking what is covered, if there are any limits and if any excess is applicable.


Trip Cancellation or Interruption

Trip Cancellation cover doesn’t always come as standard with travel insurance policies, but many people choose to include this, to cover the run-up to their holiday.

Should a sudden illness, a family emergency or a change in employment circumstances mean you have to postpone or cancel your trip, cancellation cover ensures you're not left out of pocket due to any non-refundable expenses, such as flights or hotel reservations that you've already paid.

Luggage by a wall

Lost Luggage

Baggage/Luggage insurance offers compensation if your bag is lost, stolen or damaged. This protection is usually included as standard but it is always worth double checking your policy to see if what’s included meets your needs. Policies can range from £500 - £5,000, so make sure you get the cover that’s right for you and the possessions you plan on taking.

Watch out for single-item limits - this is the maximum amount a provider will pay out for a single item. If you’re taking an expensive item, such as jewellery or sports equipment, you may need to opt for a higher level of protection.


Personal Liability

Should you accidentally cause harm to another person or their property during your travels, personal liability cover can step in to provide financial assistance – either covering some or all costs you have been deemed liable for.


What Does the UK Global Health Insurance Card Cover?

The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) can be a useful resource for UK residents visiting the European Union (EU), as it allows travellers access to free or discounted emergency medical care. It won’t cover the cost of any private medical treatment or bills associated with coming home. This is why it’s beneficial to supplement the GHIC with travel insurance as a more comprehensive safety net, which can include services such as repatriation or non-emergency treatment. Travel insurance also gives coverage for non-medical related expenses, such as personal possessions and cancellation.

Remember: the GHIC is intended to be used within the EU, so alternative medical cover options may be needed for travels beyond these countries.

You can apply for a GHIC on the UK government website here.


What Does Travel Insurance Not Cover?

While travel insurance can provide cover for a wide range of eventualities, it is equally important to understand what it might not cover. Among these are:


Pre-existing Medical Conditions (unless specified and agreed) 

Travel insurance is often designed to primarily cover unforeseen medical emergencies and not pre-existing medical conditions unless you have specialised medical travel insurance.

When applying for travel insurance, you will be required to disclose any pre-existing conditions while securing your policy. This step ensures transparency and helps you get a clear understanding of the extent of coverage available for them, if any.


High-Risk Activities

While travel insurance typically includes a wide range of protections, certain adrenaline-fuelled activities like skiing or water sports may not be covered as standard. These adventurous pastimes are exhilarating, but they do come with increased risk.

If your holiday plans include such activities, you may want to look into additional coverage or a specialised policy. This isn't a limitation, but rather a way to ensure you're thoroughly protected if you choose more thrilling escapades.


Unattended Belongings

While travel insurance can provide some protection to your belongings, it’s important to still exercise reasonable care. For instance, it's a good practice to keep an eye on your suitcase while in public places to prevent any chance of it being misplaced. If your luggage were to go missing in such situations, your insurer may challenge your claim and suggest you are at fault for the loss.


Alcohol or Drug-Related Incidents

Maintaining a responsible approach towards your health and safety is always encouraged. This includes moderation in alcohol consumption and abstaining from drug use, which comes under your duty of exercising reasonable care while abroad. Should any health concerns or accidents occur as a result of overindulging or misuse, your travel insurance may not extend support for the related costs.


Failure to Declare Information

Being transparent about any pre-existing medical conditions or adventurous activities you'll be undertaking during your trip ensures that your policy offers the protection you require. It’s worth bearing in mind that failure to disclose these matters can result in your policy being made void by your provider – meaning you might be denied any claims made.


Ignoring Travel Advice

Remember, your travel insurance is designed to offer you the best protection possible. This means that it's important to stay informed about the guidance provided by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). If you choose to travel against their advice, your travel insurance might not be able to extend its full coverage. The FCDO's travel guidance becomes especially crucial during periods of political uncertainty or natural disasters.


What Should Travel Insurance for Over 70s Cover?

Finding travel insurance that’s suited for those aged 70 may mean searching the market a little bit harder. Some providers won’t offer coverage to those in this age group, while others may accept older travellers but lack policy features that could be useful. If you’re reaching retirement age, before you travel, it's worth taking the time to find a policy that includes the below benefits.

An ambulance

Enhanced Medical Coverage

Travel insurance suitable for those aged  70 should provide an increased level of medical coverage, so you feel better protected from unexpected medical treatments, medication prescriptions, and hospital stays. While every provider will offer something different, we recommend selecting one that has higher cost limits in place and cover options for any medical equipment or prescriptions that might need to be taken abroad.


Coverage for Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Alongside more robust emergency cover, travel insurance for older travellers should also be more accommodating for pre-existing medical conditions. Whereas standard policies may reject applications from those with ongoing conditions, insurance suited to those over 70 is more likely to offer cover for a range of health issues including:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Heart Conditions
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Atrial Fibrillation


Coverage for Companions

Companion cover means that should a medical emergency take place, someone in your travelling party will be able to stay with you and the cost of their accommodation/transport will be covered.  This could be particularly useful if you need the assistance of a family member or carer to navigate daily tasks. If companions aren’t covered as standard, you might be able to include this benefit as an optional extra. Some providers will also allow you to add more than one person as a companion – though each person added may incur additional costs.


Bonus tip: don’t forget your home insurance

Many people like to use their retirement to spend longer periods away from home. If you plan to get away for an extended period of time, don’t forget to factor in home insurance. Many providers will state how long coverage applies for when a property is left unoccupied. On average, this tends to be 60 days, but it can vary. Should something happen to your property after this allotted time, the provider might reject any claims made.

To be on the safe side, we recommend getting in touch with your home insurance provider to see if you can extend your coverage to include the length of your planned trip.


In summary

When considering your travel insurance options, it can be helpful to remember these important points:

  • Generally, travel insurance takes care of unexpected medical emergencies, unforeseen trip alterations, and lost luggage while also providing personal liability protection.
  • The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) extends necessary healthcare services in the EU but works best when complemented with comprehensive travel insurance.
  • While standard travel insurance does not typically cover pre-existing medical conditions or high-risk activities, there are specialist providers out there who will accommodate pre-existing conditions, when declared.
  • Transparency is key - ensuring you divulge all relevant information avoids the risk of a claim being declined.
  • To really get the most out of your travel insurance, take some time to read through your policy document and gain a full understanding of what's covered. This way, you can focus purely on the joy of your journey, knowing your travel insurance has you well protected.


By keeping these points in mind when purchasing your travel insurance policy, you can ensure you have the right level of coverage for your needs and enjoy your travels.

For more advice on getting the most out of your next holiday and later life, try visiting Age Co’s Useful Article section. You can also learn more about Age Co Travel Insurance here.