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Q&A: How Far In Advance Can I Book Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Dear Essential Travel

I'm going on my annual holiday in a couple of months and have booked my flights and accommodation already. I haven't organised my travel insurance yet as I usually get it right before I leave. I read somewhere though that it's better to book travel insurance in advance. How long before I travel should I get travel insurance, and what are the benefits of getting it earlier?

Sarah Keene, Cardiff

Our Answer

Great question, especially since having travel insurance is imperative for any trip. Our simple answer is to get travel insurance as soon as you have booked and paid for your holiday, especially for a non-refundable trip. Although it is tempting to leave booking travel insurance until the last minute, it’s more beneficial to get it in advance as the sooner you buy cover, the sooner you are protected.

How Far In Advance Can I Book?

For those travelling once or twice a year, Single Trip Insurance can be booked up to a year in advance and cover starts on the day you buy it. So for that holiday you’ve been planning for months it's wise to get travel insurance in advance as protection for the time in between booking and actually going. Single Trip Policies expire on the return date that you state when making your booking.

For frequent travellers, Annual Trip Insurance can be booked up to one month (30 days) in advance and cover begins on the dates stipulated when purchasing the policy, so make sure that your policy starts on the day you purchase it or on the day you buy your plane tickets to also be guaranteed pre-departure cover. Annual Trip policies last twelve months from the date you select them to start.

If you are taking a career break or a gap year, Backpacker Insurance can be booked two months (60 days) in advance and offer two years continual protection. Backpacker policies expire on the return date that you state when making your booking.

Book your policy when you book your flightsBook your policy when you book your flights

Benefits Of Booking Travel Insurance In Advance

Cancellation Protection

Cancellations are one of the main reasons why people claim. Having to cancel your holiday means you will lose money spent on the holiday even before you leave. But if you book travel insurance in advance you will be able to take advantage of the policy's cancellation cover. Please note, however, that the insurer will not allow you to claim for an event you knew was imminent - for example you can’t take out insurance after falling ill and then cancel your holiday. But the earlier you book, the more secure your holiday - and the money you spent on it - will be.

Illness Protection

Most people buying insurance do so because it offers them cover if they happen to fall ill or get injured when they are on their holiday. But what happens if you fall ill before you leave and can no longer go on the trip? When you book your travel insurance in advance, you should be covered for any unexpected illness that occurs from the time of booking your insurance. So if you cannot go on your holiday due to an illness, whether yours or a close family member's, your travel insurance should cover the cost of the holiday up to the amount stipulated in your policy document. Any pre-existing medical conditions should to be declared when booking your policy to determine if they will be covered or what the extra cost will be.

Unforeseen Circumstances Protection

When you book insurance in advance, the risk is carried between you and the insurer. Varying unforeseen circumstances should be covered, depending on your policy and provider. Read your policy wording carefully so that you know what you'll be covered for - if the airline goes into liquidation, if you are made redundant at work or if unforeseen weather conditions disrupt your plans, for example. These and a variety of other unexpected events will enable you to claim back for missing out on your holiday. The one exception is travel to a country that the FCO advised against travelling to at the time you purchase your holiday and insurance - this is unfortunately not covered by your travel insurance.

Tailor-Made Cover

Booking travel insurance early means you can make adjustments to your policy to best suit your holiday needs. You can add cruise, sports or tours onto the policy and end up with a policy that works perfectly for you.

Read your policy carefullyRead your policy carefully

Essential Travel’s Top Tips For Travel Insurance

  • Whichever travel insurance policy you're interested in, make sure you read through it thoroughly and fully understand what you are and aren’t covered for - before you buy it.
  • No one likes forking out money unnecessarily so we always aim to get the most competitive quote, but remember that the cheapest travel insurance is not always the best. Be certain that your policy is comprehensive and that you are not under-insured, otherwise you will end up losing money when the insurance does not pay out.
  • When purchasing travel insurance in advance make sure that your policy covers you from when you buy your insurance and not just from the start of your trip.
  • Think about the specific coverage you may need and be aware of things that claim to be of great benefit, but in actual fact add little value to your policy.

by Sipelele Ndungane

Last Updated: August 2013

Guest Travel Writer

Your Essential Travel Experts can't be everywhere all the time, so we often welcome guest travel writers. This article was written by one such visiting travel enthusiast whose experience of different places and advice for travellers makes for an interesting read. Enjoy!