Best Travel Insurance 2017

David Woodfield By David Woodfield

We’ve combined expert reviews from independent sources to come up with our Top Ten Travel Insurance for 2017:

Read on to learn more about:

How did you create this top 10 travel insurance companies list?

Our research combined the scores from Which?, the consumer magazine, Fairer Finance, an organisation aiming to inform consumers about the quality of the companies they can buy from, and an independent financial review service. Put together, these sources provide a wealth of information on how well the insurers treat their customers.

We assigned extra points to the four companies awarded "Recommended Provider" status by Which? - LV=, Post Office, M&S and InsureandGo. We also considered customer reviews on sites such as Trustpilot and Reviewcentre, and whether the insurer has won any awards.

Finally, we excluded travel insurance provided by banks, as these are often only available through a current account package. You can read more about travel insurance from banks below.

There were a few providers that were close to being included in the top 10 or received high scores from some of our sources but had not been featured by others. They are Churchill, AA and Direct Line.

"Best Travel Insurance" versus "Cheapest Travel Insurance"

Our research does not include price. And although price is an important factor for many people, your choice of travel insurance company should never be on price alone.

Price comparison websites (such as confused.com) have made it easy to find the best price for travel insurance and select the level of baggage, cancellation and medical cover you want. The trouble is that it can be hard to tell how these insurers will behave once they have your cash up front. So, the list in this article goes beyond that by including opinions and ratings on how well these firms have served their customers to date.

How to spot the best travel insurance

It’s important to understand what’s really included in your purchase. The headline limits of medical, cancellation and baggage are helpful starting points, but there might be variations in other terms that are harder to spot. It's also worth checking the quality of the company and its customer services; if an extra £5 means you get better service in the event of a medical emergency abroad, then it is money well spent.

The best annual travel insurance policies include:

  • Higher limits on your individual items of baggage such as valuables, cash or your passport
  • Lower excesses or even a zero excess
  • A longer number of days abroad per trip with annual policies
  • Cover for activities such as golf, cruises or extreme sports included
  • Cover for business travel as well as personal travel
  • Cover for car hire incidents
  • A 24-hour line that you can ring for assistance in the case of an emergency abroad (and remember 24 hours can be important when you’re across time zones!)

The best-rated travel insurance companies in our top 10 offer many of these features.

If you're thinking about travelling to an unstable country, you might want to read our guide to travel insurance with terrorism cover and for dangerous areas.

People are increasingly worried about terror attacks while on holiday so our guide also reveals which standard travel insurance offers cover for terrorism.

Best travel insurance for the USA

  1. Puffin - Gold
  2. Holiday Safe - Premier
  3. Bell - Premier
  4. LeisureGuard Lite - Premier
  5. InsuraTrip - Premier
  6. ProtectYourBubble - Premier Plus
  7. Aviva
  8. Coverwise - Gold
  9. AA - Single Trip
  10. Columbus Direct - Gold

The USA is one of the most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers. There’s a huge range of options for tourists, from quick trips to New York to surfing in California, and it helps that Americans speak the same language as us.

However, travel insurance costs much more than to other countries, partly because the price of medical treatment is so high in the USA. For example, it costs in the region of £100,000 to be treated for an infection in a Californian hospital with return flights.

That means for single and annual trips you usually have to choose worldwide cover including the USA and Canada, rather than choosing them as separate countries.

Prices can vary massively between providers for this option so we’ve listed our top 10 providers to cover you for a trip to the States. This list is based on the price of the premium for each policy. This is because we tried to get similar levels of cover across the providers, meaning they are all good quality, but not the most expensive.

The quotes we got were for a 35-year-old travelling to the USA for two weeks. All the policies in our top 10 have at least £10m of medical cover, at least £3,000 for cancellation or curtailment, at least £1,500 for luggage, at least £200 for the single item limit, an excess of no more than £80 – ProtectYourBubble even has £0 excess, and LeisureGuard Lite's policy included the £0 excess add-on - and prices range from £29.06 (Puffin) to £50.62 (Columbus Direct).

If you’re over 50 or 65 it’s worth looking at Saga or Age UK because they may have more competitive prices for those age ranges.

All the policies in the list were rated 3, 4 or 5 out of 5 by an independent financial researcher, Defaqto.

Puffin, our top provider, has an average score of 9.3 out of 10 from 583 reviews on TrustPilot and it quoted £29.06 for a two-week policy. It is the only policy on our list with a 3 Star rating on Defaqto; all the others have 4 or 5 Star ratings. However, we included it because it offered all the levels of cover we set. Moreover, it has the highest single item limit of all the companies on our list at £1,000.

Travel Insurance Reviews

We've written in-depth reviews on most of the travel insurance companies mentioned in this article. Follow these links to read them:

Single Trip & Annual Trip Travel Insurance Reviews

Gap Year & Backpacker Travel Insurance Reviews

Over 65s & Medical Conditions Travel Insurance Reviews

The Best Travel Insurance for people with Pre Existing Medical Conditions

The providers in our regular Top 10 made it into our list by being good providers for the whole of the market - they're generalist firms and reviews indicate they should serve the "average person on the street" well.

However, a traveller with pre-existing medical conditions will find that many of these companies refuse to quote, depending on their particular condition and its severity. This is because many firms are not set up to deal with the specialist requirements needed to deal with pre-existing medical conditions.

Price comparison sites like confused.com do allow you to declare medical conditions. However, the number of specialist insurers they work with, particularly for extreme conditions, can be low. So you will get prices back, but only from one or two providers, meaning you might be missing the better deals on the market.

It pays therefore to shop around and go to specialist medical travel insurers, such as Staysure, Flexicover, and Explorer, directly. Their knowledge of pre-existing conditions means they can quote more often and sometimes even offer better prices. Alternatively you can use a specialist comparision site for travel insurance with medical conditions, like Just Travel Cover.

To find out more information and our see our list of the best travel insurance companies for pre-existing conditions, check out our article.

The Best Travel Insurance for Over 65s

As with medical conditions, age has a significant impact on both the cost and availability of travel insurance. Frustratingly, there is no consistency between travel insurance companies on age limits, making it almost impossible to put forward a "Top 10" in the way that we have done above.

However, you can follow these steps to find the best travel insurance option for your circumstances:

  1. Go direct to several specialist insurers to check prices. Saga, Staysure, and Flexicover are good places to start.
  2. Consider Single Trip Travel Insurance. While Annual Multi-trip cover works out cheaper for younger travellers, insurance companies' concerns about medical conditions developing or worsening during the course of a policy year usually make annual cover more costly for the over 65s. Buying single trip policies for each trip could save you a lot.

Read about the maximum ages for different travel insurers here.

The best ski, snowboard and winter sports insurance companies

Skiing and snowboarding are regarded as higher-risk activities by insurance companies because injuries are not uncommon and it can be expensive to get people down from the mountain and give them treatment. This means insurers often offer winter sports cover as an add-on that costs more or a standalone policy, rather than being included as standard.

Most winter sports policies cover skiing and snowboarding and can seem very similar on the surface. But it is important to check they have a high level of medical cover and include all the activities you want to take part in.

One area where policies often differ is their definition of off-piste skiing or snowboarding. It may seem like an advanced activity but any part of a slope outside a marked run can be classed as off-piste, so even if you're taking a well-used shortcut between two green runs that could be considered off-piste.

Not all insurers will cover off-piste, and ones that do may only cover off-piste skiing within certain boundaries or with an instructor.

We believe you should be able to go wherever you want, so our list of the best winter sports policies includes cover for off-piste skiing and snowboarding without an instructor.

For more information on skiing off-piste, check out our article. Or join our group for cheaper insurance for off-piste skiers here.

Top ski, snowboard and winter sports insurance policies

  • Columbus Direct - Gold Off-piste skiing is allowed within the boundaries of the ski resort. Moreover, they have a varied list of activities you can include for an added premium and they offer £300 cover for your ski equipment.
  • Direct Travel - Premier Off-piste skiing is allowed without a guide so long as the authorities or the resort don't advise against it, which is one of the fairer definitions we've seen. However, if you're planning on backcountry skiing, you may want to double check with Direct Travel that it is covered. Direct Travel includes tobogganing and sledging as standard and you can include snowmobiling at an extra cost. Their policy includes £1,000 cover for loss or damage to your own ski equipment.
  • Staysure - Comprehensive Staysure is aimed at over 50s and allows you to ski off piste as long as you're on recognised off-piste areas. There are some limits to the activities they will cover, but for an additional premium you can extend your policy to cover activities such as snowmobiling.
  • Post Office - Premier Off-piste skiing is allowed within resort boundaries. Cover can be extended to skidooing and snowmobiling but these activities do not include personal accident or liability.
  • LV= Allows off-piste skiing within the boundaries of the ski resort. They have a list of activities for which they offer no cover, which includes heliskiing and bobsleighing. On the other hand, they have a relatively low excess of £50.

Cover for more adventurous skiing and snowboarding activites

If you're looking for insurance that covers more advanced or adventurous activities like heliskiing, you may want to consider a specialist company or policy. Insurers such as Snowcard, Ski Club, ERV and Dogtag offer cover or adventure packs to cover particular sports or activities.

Snowcard allows you to personalise your insurance to fit your needs, which is a useful way of bringing your premium down if, for instance, you don't need baggage cover.

What should good travel insurance for winter sports look like?

Winter sports packages differ both in what they offer and how much they cost. The cover you get will be personal to your needs, but generally, the best policies offer:

  • A high level of medical cover
  • A wide range of sports and activities, such as tobogganing and snowmobiling. Not all insurers will include these as standard, but some offer them for an extra premium
  • Some form of off-piste cover - usually this is within certain boundaries or with an instructor
  • 24 hour claims number so you can contact the insurer from any company
  • Lower excesses
  • High personal liability cover - this meaning the insurance company will pay out if you injure someone and they seek compensation from you (this may be included in your standard travel policy)

As such, our best-rated ski, snowboard and winter sports policies include the following:

  • A minimum of £10,000,000 in medical expenses cover
  • The inclusion of snowboarding as standard
  • Cover for off-piste skiing without an instructor
  • 24 hour helplines in case of an emergency abroad

Bear in mind that insurance companies often need you to pay an extra premium to take part in activities that they think are more dangerous, such as skidooing and snowmobiling. Also, you may not have any personal liability cover for these activities. It’s best to check your policy documents and make sure you’re getting covered for everything you need.

And what if you arrive at the slopes, and there’s no snow? Some insurers will pay out if you end up not being able to ski because of poor conditions, or even pay to relocate you to somewhere where you can ski.

Other policies which we think offer a good level of winter sports cover, but didn't fulfil all of our criteria to be up with the best, are: Churchill, Saga, Aviva, Marks and Spencer and Holiday Safe Premier

These policies don’t offer as wide a range of extra activities and to ski off-piste you must be with an instructor or qualified guide. However, they all offer at least £10,000,000 in medical expenses cover, £2,000,000 in personal liability cover and snowboarding as standard.

The Best Backpacker Travel Insurance

Choosing Travel Insurance for a backpacking trip or a gap year is rather more complicated than finding the best insurance for a conventional two-week holiday. We've listed the best backpacker travel insurance companies in another article, which you can read here.

In summary though, the things to look out for are:

  1. Cancellation Limits. Make sure this is high enough to cover the cost of expensive pre-booked flights or excursions. Some companies with relatively high cancellation limits of £5,000 are American Express Backpacker Insurance and Flexicover's Gap Year Gold.
  2. Detailed Limits. Many backpacker travel insurance policies have baggage limits that appear high enough to cover the theft or loss of a laptop and/or phone and/or camera. However, cheaper policies have more detailed limits (such as single item, valuables or gadget limits) that prevent such a claim. The best policies give you sufficient cover even at this detailed level - for example Flexicover Silver allow you to cover up to £2,000 of gadgets.
  3. The Excess. This is the amount you will have to pay yourself if you need to make a claim. The best policy from Alpha Travel Insurance has a zero excess.
  4. Activities Cover. The best backpacker insurance companies cover a wide range of adventure sports as standard. Top Dog Insurance has a list of over 100 that includes bungee jumps and scuba diving.
  5. Flexibility. Cheap backpacker insurance policies can prevent you from extending your trip, and regard your trip to have finished completely if you pop back home. By contrast, Alpha Travel Insurance allows unlimited extensions up to a total trip duration of 24 months, provided you contact them in advance.

Based on all of these factors, the Zero XS Long Stay policy from Alpha Travel Insurance is our top choice in 2017.

See our Top 10 Backpacking Insurance here.

Our research into popular backpacker destinations has revealed surprising insights that may be useful for travellers planning trips.

We looked into the best and worst countries to get injured in, based on the price and quality of medical care. The study found that New Zealand has the best cost of treatment to quality of care ratio and India has the worst.

Unsurprisingly the USA was the most expensive country for medical treatment, but we did not expect India to be second.

We also looked into the most popular budget backpacker destinations and found that Scotland was a shock favourite. Although it's a UK destination travel insurance can still cover you for cancellations or lost luggage.

The Best Travel Insurance for Gadgets, Phones, & Laptops

Many people wrongly assume that if they have £2,000 of baggage cover on their travel insurance, their Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge or Macbook Air is covered. However, in many cases the so-called "single item limit" - which can be as little as £150 with some cheap travel insurance policies - means that isn't true.

Our top choices if you want to make sure your gadgets are covered while you are on holiday are:

  • John Lewis Travel Insurance, who provide £2,500 of cover for gadgets (with a £1,500 single item limit) through an add-on policy feature called "Technology Cover"
  • Alpha Travel Insurance, who offer a £1,000 add-on of cover for phones and laptops

Read the full article on Travel Insurance with High Single Item Limits here.

Travel Insurance from Banks

Many banks now provide travel insurance to their current account customers - either as a feature of a paid-for packaged bank account or as a discounted offer.

In order to have an "apples-to-apples" comparison between the different travel insurance companies, we excluded banks' travel insurance policies from our main Top 10. But many of the policies score well in reviews by Which?, Defaqto, and Fairer Finance, so we have listed the best of them here. If you bank with any of these providers, it is certainly worth comparing the policy details to the those of the other companies we've reviewed in this article to see which is the best value.

Top 10 Bank Travel Insurance

  1. First Direct - Annual Multi Trip
  2. HSBC - Annual Multi Trip
  3. TSB - Platinum Account Annual Travel
  4. Lloyds - Platinum Account Annual Travel
  5. Halifax - Multi Trip Travel Insurance
  6. Tesco Bank - Finest Travel Insurance
  7. Santander - Annual Travel Insurance
  8. Barclays - Travel Plus
  9. Royal Bank of Scotland - Reward Black
  10. Natwest - Reward Black

Pets and Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance won't cover expenses associated with taking your pets abroad - if your dog needs vet treatment while overseas, for example.

However, there are several pet insurance policies that cover pet travel - learn more about them in our article about Travel Insurance for Pets to find out how to get the best deal.

Travel insurance for children or while pregnant

Most insurers will cover pregnant women but they will have some limits on the cover. Some only offer cover up to 28 or 30 weeks of the pregnancy. Finding this in the small print can be difficult, we looked at handful of policy documents from our top 10 providers and could not find any reference to length of pregnancy.

If you are looking for travel insurance when pregnant it’s best to call or email a provider before you buy to make sure you’re covered.

You’ll need to check with the airline if you’re flying because they have their own limits on travel while pregnant. For example, some will not allow you to fly if your pregnancy is considered full term.

For baby travel insurance and children under 16 you’ll also need to double check the insurer’s policy documents.

Most will cover children, especially on family policies. However, there are exceptions you should be aware of. If your child is travelling alone a family policy may not cover them so you might need to look into individual cover.

And if you have a disabled child you will need to declare any medical conditions to your insurer. Some may not offer cover so you’ll need to look into a specialist provider.

It is good to have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for all members of your family, although it should not replace travel insurance because it does not cover costs for things like medical repatriation.

Now that the UK has voted for Brexit it is not known what will happen with EHIC in the future.

What next?

If you want more information about the different travel insurance providers, including a detailed breakdown of their Which? and Fairer Finance ratings, have a look at our list of independent travel insurance reviews.

Check out our travel insurance groups to see if we have managed to negotiate an exclusive deal for your specific need.

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