As hard-pressed households tighten their financial belts, more and more may be tempted to cut corners on their travel insurance - but this is a false economy.
In fact, a quarter of Brits won’t have any travel insurance, according to new findings from Asda Travel Insurance.
And a third of parents are failing to insure their children or take out a family policy ahead of going abroad.
But lack of cover can lead to much higher costs if something goes wrong.
Those who go without cover are exposing themselves – and their children – to the potential dangers of travelling uninsured.
The cost of medical treatment abroad, for example, can be extortionate, particularly if you have to be repatriated.
"It’s worrying that parents are taking such a big risk," says Kirsty Ward from Asda.
"By simply sacrificing a meal out or a round of ice creams, families can pay for a policy and travel with peace of mind."
How much cover?
Even if you’re only heading to the Continent for a few days, it’s vital to have adequate cover.
As a guide, the recommended levels are £2 million for medical expenses in Europe and £5 million worldwide, £1 million personal liability, £3,000 cancellation and £1,500 for lost luggage.
"The way people travel has changed a great deal over the past few years with more and more people now booking independently," says Selwyn Fernandes from insurer LV=.
"This makes it more important than ever to have the right level of cover in place."
Get an EHIC card
If you’re travelling within the EU, make sure you have an EHIC card. These cards entitle you to free or reduced-cost state medical care when visiting any EU country.
However, you need to be aware that these cards are not a replacement for travel insurance.
"Each country's system is different," says Greg Lawson from insurer Columbus Direct. "This means the EHIC will not cover everything that would be free on the NHS.
"Further, the EHIC will not cover the costs of repatriation to get you home.
"We agree with the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and the Foreign Office that as well as an EHIC for travel in Europe, travellers should also take out comprehensive cover."
Tips on cutting the cost of cover
There are plenty of simple steps you can take to find cheap travel insurance that will provide adequate cover:
- Shop around, comparing the cost and levels of cover from a range of providers – and don’t accept the standard deal from your travel agent
- If you go away more than twice a year, consider buying an annual policy, as this should work out cheaper
- Remove any features that are duplicated on home cover
- Note that if you’re travelling as a couple, you should get a discount for booking a policy together, while families will also qualify for further discounts.
If you are planning to take part in activities such as abseiling, parachuting or horse riding while overseas, make sure you check your policy, as insurers may not automatically cover these.
If they are not covered as standard, you may need to pay an additional premium for a bolt-on package.
Exclusions for drinking
Finally, be aware that most insurance policies have exclusions for consumption of alcohol - if you have been drinking and an accident occurs, this could invalidate any claim you make.
New research among 20 leading travel insurance policies by the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) shows a clampdown on drunken behaviour, with all of the insurers surveyed having some form of alcohol exclusion.
"The exclusions have been strengthened in recent years and vary dramatically been insurers which could cause consumer confusion," warns Graeme Trudgill from BIBA.
For example, exclusions range from "excessive alcohol intake" or "drinking so much your judgment is seriously affected" through to policies which reject "any claims that result from using alcohol".
"Travellers need to understand what level of alcohol could invalidate a claim. If excessive, it almost certainly will," adds Trudgill.