How to avoid the over-65s travel insurance trap and get the best cover at the right cost
For many retirement is the opportunity they've been waiting for to take that trip-of-a-lifetime - and without the responsibility of work they could even jet off to sunnier climes on a whim.
But, unfortunately, hunting down insurance for holidays can prove complicated and expensive, despite the fact that many over-65s enjoy healthy and active lifestyles.
Trip of a lifetime: Finding the right insurance policy could save you thousands of pounds of the worst happens
For example, a 50-year-old could find basic insurance for a two-week trip to the US for as little as £17.28, whereas the best price for the same trip if you're 80 would cost £81, according to Travel Supermarket.
On top of inflated prices, those over 65 often have to contend with blanket age caps, which can mean they are turned away by standard providers, regardless of their lifestyle profile.
Specialist insurance cover tends to be tailored to the individual, and takes into account health and other circumstances, which can result in the price creeping up.
However, there are several ways to make sure you find a policy that suits you without blowing the budget.
Quick links to find cover
> Compare policies at Travel Supermarket.
> Check Club Direct
> Check Saga
First things first - does your current account cover you?
There are several paid-for current accounts which offer travel insurance as part of a 'free' package.
So, before embarking on a search for cover, make sure you check to see if you already have protection.
Secure: Make sure you are covered for your trip
Don't forget to read the small print, though, as most specify age caps or require you to inform them once you reach a certain age.
TSB and Lloyds Bank's packaged Silver accounts, for example, do not cover anyone over the age of 65, while Natwest Advantage Gold account cuts off at 70 and Nationwide FlexPlus charges an extra £50 to cover anyone over 75 years old.
Plus, there is likely to be small print excluding certain countries, activities or types of holidays - for example winter sports or cruises.
Bob Atkinson of Travel Supermarket, says: 'Don’t assume that if you have travel insurance with a bank product or other such deal that it is adequate for your needs, check the cover levels and top up as necessary.'
If your bank account travel insurance does not cover you adequately, there might be a way to avoid taking out an entirely new policy.
Bob explains: 'If you've got an account which comes with 'free travel insurance', it will come with limitations.
'The best course of action is to contact your freebie provider - so if it's NatWest, call them - ask what they can do about increasing your cover, and if they're able to they will give you a quote.
'If they say no, the only answer to buy another standalone policy.'
DO YOU HAVE AN EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITION?
Insurance policies for the over-50s, and particularly for the over-65s, often include some cover for some medical conditions. So it's worth checking out the small print on ordinary policies.
Unfortunately it can be more difficult to get hold of reasonable-priced cover as you get older if you are in poor health.
You can use online travel insurance comparison services designed specifically for those with a medical condition, such as this one.
But your best bet is probably to speak to specialist providers, such as Saga or Holiday Safe, to find cover that is tailored to you. While this might end up more expensive, this won't necessarily be the case. And even if you do end up paying more, it WILL end up cheaper if something does happen to go wrong.
Next, choose the right cover
Multi-trip vs single trip policies
Only a handful of standard insurers offer multi-trip policies - ie covering more than one holiday - for older holidaymakers.
Even those that offer cover to travellers on a single-trip basis may not give you a quote for an annual policy.
But there are a number of specialist insurers out there that offer multi-trip to older customers.
For those lucky enough to be making several trips in one year it could be worth doing the extra legwork to try to hunt down a multi-trip policy.
They also offer a simpler option, as jetsetters need only book cover once, rather than take out a new policy before each individual trip.
Remember to check the limits on the maximum length of your trips combined, usually set at around 31 days, before you pay.
To give you an idea, basic cover for a 65 to 69 year old from Club Direct for worldwide trips costs £166 for a year, with a maximum trip duration of 31 days.
A two week worldwide trip from the same provider would cost £161.43 - only a few pounds less.
Saga has no upper age limit and single-trip policies can cover travellers up to 90 days. Multi-trip options can include up to 120 days.
Holiday Safe offer single trips and cruise travel policies with no upper age limit, but its multi-trip travel insurance covers 'most people' up to the age of 79.
Of course costs will depend on individual circumstances, and not everyone will be able to secure an annual policy for health or other reasons. But it could be a good way to cut the price if you're in good health and plan to travel more than once during the course of a year.
Don't forget to ask about couples discounts, if you're buying insurance with a partner.
Sports and activities cover
If you are the kind of holiday-maker that seeks thrills through outdoor adventure, you'll need to make sure the activities you're taking part in are covered by your insurer.
The consequences could be expensive if you don't.
But, contrary to what many might think, there are plenty of providers that positively embrace older travellers taking part in activity holidays - known in the industry as 'grey gappers'.
As Columbus Direct highlights: 'Having noticed that the number of young gap year travellers has dropped significantly - only 12 per cent of students plan to travel after graduating, according to Gap 360 - the industry has had no option but to turn its attention to their older travelling replacements.
'And why wouldn't they? The grey gapper typically has more money to spend and is happy to splash it on accommodation that costs more than £3 per night. In fact, the average grey gapper spends over £4,000 on their trip.'
Some providers, like Saga, cover ordinary activities - ie. football, golf and marathon running, and even abseiling if it's professionally monitored - but not the likes of base jumping or big game hunting.
Columbus's over-65 cover also includes a range of activities at no extra cost.
Others sell sports and activities add-ons.
Again its worth comparing a few different policies. If you've had a history of health problems, the best way to find cover for activity holidays is to go to a number of specialist insurers direct, and speak to them about your individual circumstances.
According to Travel Supermarket's Bob Atkinson, if you're planning a specific activity, for example sky diving, it could be worth hunting out a sky diving association to see if it offers specialist cover.
Will you need winter sports cover?
Adding extra cover for winter sports is key for anyone taking to the mountains this winter. If the worst happens and you need rescuing from the slopes or repatriation, the costs can mount up in their thousands.
Even if you do not plan on skiing or snowboarding you might also be surprised by what is included in the winter sports bracket - most standard policies will not cover you for apres-ski activites like ice-skating or tobogganing.
Your best option is to go to a specialist provider if you have any concerns at all about your medial profile.
You can find out more about ski insurance in This is Money's guide here.
Are you heading off on a cruise?
As with winter sports cover, cruise cover is not generally included in standard travel policies.
APPLY FOR AN EHIC CARD
The European Health Insurance Card, previously called your E111 will cover some, if not all, of your medical costs when you are traveling withing the European Union, plus Switzerland.
You will be treated as normal, but the country you are staying in, are repaid for your treatment by the NHS.
It can be useful tool, but it will not cover the costs of getting you home in an emergency (repatriation) or mountain rescue if you have an accident. Read more on what EHIC covers.
Find out more about how to apply for your EHIC card here
This is because the average age of customers tends to be higher, and it costs a lot more to be evacuated from a cruise in an emergency, compared to a land-based holiday.
If you are going on a cruise it could be worth getting a quote from a specialist insurer rather than opting for a standard policy.
But check quotes from an online comparison service first.
If you don't have a history of poor health, this could be a good way to get a decent price.
Otherwise your research will give you a starting point when you go to the specialists.
If you want to play with the comparison service filters to find a more personalised insurance, hunt down a copy of your cruise company's insurance offering.
It will probably be more expensive but can give you the guidance you need to pick the right policy.
As an added bonus, not only do tailored cruise policies protect you for as much as 365 days of travel, they often come with higher age limits and are better value.
The first step to finding the best deal is to shop around.
Putting in your details to an online price comparison service allows you to compare the best deals for your circumstances.
Don't buy on price alone - it could end up being false economy. Instead, carefully check the smallprint to ensure you are properly covered.
While general insurers can offer cheap policies, you may also want to get quotes from those that specialise in older travellers - this doesn't always mean a huge price difference.
Comparison sites like TravelSupermarket.com allow you to compare travel insurance from both general insurers and specialists, and you can choose to search specifically for over-65s policies if you want.
Atkinson says: 'Ensure you shop around using both online and offline resources before settling on a product
'Price comparison can only give you so much due to limitations on how insurance providers can give us their date for comparison so ensure you also look for quotes from:
- Age Concern now called Age UK
- Over-50s specialist Saga
- And also if you have suffered from cancer try Cancer Research UK
'Then buy your policy ensuring you have the cover you need for the trip you are doing, especially for cruise and for medical conditions that would require transport back to the UK in an air ambulance and any costs for repatriating your body in case of your demise overseas.'
Make sure to include any underlying health issues
It is vital that you declare all existing medical conditions to be sure you do not invalidate a policy if needing to claim for medical
Bob explains: 'When doing a pre-existing medical quote, have to hand a list of everything you have been treated for including medicines, dates etc. to be able to answer the questions honestly – any subsequent check up on the facts could result in a claim being rejected.'
And finally - take out insurance the day you book your trip
To make sure you are covered for cancellations for medical problems or if a member of you family falls ill, preventing you from travelling, it is important to book your insurance the day you book your flights and accommodation.