One in four people are paying for holiday cancellation insurance they cannot use

Digby Bodenham By Digby Bodenham

Passports – check, boarding pass – check, you haven’t left the kids at home – check, INSURANCE!

Travel insurance is easy to forget, and according to our Twitter poll many of you have either left it until the last minute or forgotten about it until you got to the airport.

More than 300 people voted and 23% of you bought it on the day you were travelling, with 15% getting it while you were on the plane!

Luckily these days it’s not a problem to whip out your phone and buy a policy while you’re in the airport. Phew, now you’re covered for the holiday. You are, but you’ve also just wasted money paying for a useful part of the policy that you will not be able to use.

Holiday cancellation is included in most travel insurance policies as standard and is designed to cover the money you’ve paid towards a holiday if you suddenly have to cancel. But it’s only active from the start date of your policy, so if you pay for insurance on the day you travel or set it as the policy start date you won’t be able to claim unless you have to cancel on that day.

You might think that’s not a problem. If you’re already on the plane when you buy insurance, you won’t have any need for the cancellation clause. True, but you’ve still paid for it so why not get it earlier and benefit from the cover?

Cancellation cover will vary between providers but it’s a useful clause that is designed to pay out if cancelling your trip is necessary and unavoidable. Insurers also provide curtailment cover if you need to cut the trip short while on it to return in the event of an emergency.

That could be because you fall ill, the unexpected death of a close relative or if you are made redundant. All of those would be harrowing experiences and losing the money you’d paid towards a cancelled holiday would add insult to injury.

John Lewis’s Premier travel insurance covers up to £8,000 for cancellation and includes many of the standard clauses, including being called for jury duty.

M&S’s policy covers you if you’re in the armed forces or police and you have to cancel because you’re called up for operations.

Have a look at our guide to the best travel insurance policies to see which firms made it into our top 10.

Another tip is to buy an annual travel insurance policy if you’re likely to make multiple trips in a year. That way you’re covered for cancellation for the whole year.

It’s important to read your policy document to find out what’s not covered by your cancellation policy.

Here’s an example of a case that ended up going to Financial Ombudsman Service that will sound familiar to parents with disorganised children.

Mr G had booked a holiday to Moscow but five days before his trip he realised he had forgotten to arrange his visa. He then asked his mum to sort it out but she did not use the fast track service. The visa still had not arrived the day before his holiday was due to start and he was really panicking. He called his travel agent and decided to cancel because he could get a 50% refund. Half an hour later he went home to find the visa had actually arrived.

He tried to claim back the money he had paid for the holiday because the mix-up had been outside of his control. Unsurprisingly, his insurer and the ombudsman disagreed and his claim was rejected.

Next time you’re booking a holiday don’t get your mum to sort out your visa. And get your insurance before you travel so that you can benefit from the full policy you’re paying for.

Useful travel insurance reviews and guides

The 10 best travel insurance providers

John Lewis travel insurance review – they’re running a competition to win £500 of foreign currency in January

Our guide to off-piste skiing and snowboarding insurance

Getting travel insurance for pre-existing medial conditions

The best backpacker insurance

Join our travel insurance groups to receive our members’ only discounts

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Best Travel Insurance 2016

Check out our list of the 10 best travel insurance companies and learn more about holiday cover

  • by David Woodfield