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The same travel cover can cost £60 more

A suitcase on the beachThousands of holidaymakers every year are persuaded to buy insurance by travel agents, holiday firms and airlines. But many end up paying over the odds.

When you are booking a trip – be it in person, on the phone or online – you are likely to be given the opportunity to buy travel cover at some point in the process.

You will have to actively opt out of signing up for travel insurance in some cases.

A recent investigation by consumer body Which? found that certain companies required customers to turn down cover twice before they could complete their booking.

It is of course important to buy travel cover before you depart, and it is a good idea to buy it as soon after you have booked your holiday as possible.

This is because you are then protected if you need to cancel your trip, say for medical reasons, in advance.

Importance of buying travel insurance early

But that doesn't mean you should accept whatever your travel company is offering, says Mhairi Edwards, head of travel insurance at

"We'd always recommend buying travel insurance as soon as you've booked your holiday," says Edwards.

"In that sense it's good that holiday providers and airlines are offering cover at the point of purchase and reminding people of the importance of having cover in place.

"Unfortunately these polices may offer inadequate levels of cover or be very overpriced so we'd suggest people shop around to get a better deal on a comprehensive policy that fully meets their needs.”

How the same travel cover can cost £60 more's research into the prices charged and levels of cover offered by holiday firms shows just how travellers could lose out.

For a family of four heading off for a week in Spain, Thomson and First Choice would both charge £80.

This includes £3,000 of cancellation cover and £1,500 for baggage, as well as £5 million medical expenses insurance.

But the same deal could be obtained through for just £18.70 – and that would also include insurance to protect you in case of your airline going bust.

Why it pays to shop around

Airlines fare slightly better in the comparison, Edwards says, but shopping around is still the best move.

Family cover from British Airways, including £4,000 cancellation insurance, £750 baggage cover and up to £15 million medical expenses would cost £40.

But the cheapest quote for a similar policy through came to £26.80.

Another issue is that policies sold as add-ons by travel firms often do not cover pre-existing medical conditions.

Check medical cover

So someone who had a history or heart problems, for example, would not be able to claim for related treatment while abroad and could face huge medical bills as a result.

Edwards says: "The policies we looked at didn't cover pre-existing conditions, which could be a very costly omission if anything were to happen to you on holiday.

"Using a comparison site means you can enter any medical issues up front and only receive quotes from those providers who will cover you for those conditions."

Finally, Edwards says that when considering a policy, you should seek the following minimum levels of cover.

Travel insurance: Minimum levels of cover

  • £2 million for medical expenses (or £5 million if travelling to the USA)
  • £1 million for personal liability
  • Cancellation cover to the full value of your holiday
  • £1,500 for lost or stolen baggage
  • £250 for cash

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris