When purchasing a travel insurance policy you will need to consider the type of policy to buy.
There a basically only two types of travel insurance, the first is a policy that only covers one specified journey, known as a single trip policy, and the other will cover all journeys made within a specified 12 month period, known as an annual multi-trip policy.
There will, however, be a requirement to meet with respect to length of residence and registration with a local GP in order to qualify for cover under either policy. I dont know of any full travel insurance policy available to a UK resident that doesnt require you to be registered with a local GP, although there are some limited policies, limited both in the amount of cover and the scope of the policy that can be bought without having being registered with a local GP. The length of residency criteria can vary from no restriction, through 6 of the last 12 months, to the strictest of them being the last 6 months continuous residence prior to purchase, although short holidays are permitted to have been taken during the 6 months.
Single trip policies are sub-divided into short stay and long stay versions, short stay travel insurance policies have a maximum duration of around 3 or 4 months depending on the insurer and long stay policies have a maximum duration of 18 months usually, although this is often reduced based on age and destination. However, it is the norm that regardless of how long a duration you have paid for, if you return to your home country during the insured period then the policy ends, so if you are a UK resident, you cant book a 3 week policy for a trip within Europe and spend a week in France, then return to the UK en-route to Ireland for 2 weeks, as the policy ends as soon as you set foot back in the UK, you would need two separate travel insurance policies, or travel directly to Ireland from France. Having said that, it is possible to purchase a long stay policy that has the option, at additional cost of course, to return to the UK twice during the insured period.
With single trip policies, both versions, the cancellation coverage within the policy, in most cases, comes into force on the date of purchase, however, there are some policies designed to cover pre-existing medical conditions where there is a delay of around a month before the cancellation cover becomes active.
Long stay policies themselves are sub-divided into two types, there are the ones aimed at gap year students, backpackers and other relatively young travellers with no commitments, and these have a maximum age limit of around 40 or 45 and are generally not intended for families, as there are no discounts for children and may be restricted to a maximum of traveller and partner. The level of cover tends to be on the lower end of the spectrum in order to keep the price down but it is not always the case.
Other long stay policies for older travellers or families are available, with a common age limit being 75, although it is possible to buy a policy for a stay of up to 6 months with no upper age limit.
Annual multi-trip travel insurance policies are intended to cover all trips you make within a 12 month period, beginning on the specified start date. There will be a limit, specified at the time of purchase, on the length of each trip you make, these can range from around 3 weeks up to around 100 days, although the limit will likely decrease as you get older. There may also be a limit on the number of days you can spend abroad during the policy period such as a maximum of 183 days, or in other words, 6 months.
Cancellation cover in an annual multi-trip travel insurance policy works differently than for single trip travel insurance policy in that the cover does not begin until the start date of the policy and only applies to trips starting within the 12 month period of cover.
Another aspect to consider when purchasing an annual multi-trip travel insurance policy is whether you can get continuous cover from one policy to the next, by this I mean, if you renew your annual travel insurance policy with a start date the day after the current policy ends, so that there is no break in cover, are you covered for a trip that spans the two policies such as one that starts a week before the current policy ends but does not finish until a week into the new policy period, another possible expectation is that cancellation cover would come into force immediately for a trip booked to take place wholly within the period of the new annual multi-trip policy if there is no break in cover. Both of these assumptions are not always correct, cheaper annual multi-trip policies may not offer continuous cover and in fact be standalone policies where only trips that start and finish within the policy period are covered. It is quite possible that the policy wording itself does not spell this out, so if in doubt ask the retailer if continuous cover is available.
If you travel regularly or are planning to take a relatively long short stay trip of say around 1 to 3 months, you may find that an annual multi-trip travel insurance policy is the most cost effective solution.
As well as the basic type of policy you will need to consider other aspects such as pre-existing medical conditions, whether you intend to participate in sport or other potentially hazardous activities during your trip, if you are pregnant will you be travelling relatively late in the term, I say relatively late but cover for complications of pregnancy can end at 24 weeks in some travel insurance policies, and few go beyond 28 weeks, but cover is possible up to 36 weeks of pregnancy in certain circumstances.
So when thinking about buying your travel insurance policy you will need to consider the following:
- How often will I be travelling in the coming year?
- What is the maximum length of any one trip?
- If the trip extends beyond 3 months do I need the option to return home?
- Do I have any special requirements, either medical or sporting pursuits?
- If I opt for an annual multi-trip policy do I need the option of continuous cover?
- If you have children, I would suggest you shop around as the rates charged for children on a family policy varies with the insurer and some dont charge at all. Also the maximum age of dependent children allowed on a family policy differs between the insurers.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to selecting your travel insurance policy, I have merely tried to supply you with some pointers on what to consider before parting with your hard earned cash.