Travel insurance is essential for anyone going on holiday.
But once you hit 50, purchasing cover can start to get noticeably more expensive and harder to find.
However, there are a number of specialist over-50s insurers out there offering tailored cover.
So how do costs compare and when is a specialist policy worth going for over one from a general insurer?
Why older people struggle to get travel cover
Securing affordable travel insurance becomes much more difficult as you get older.
That's because over 50s are statistically more likely to fall ill while abroad compared to younger travellers.
This age group is also more likely to suffer from poor health and have one or more pre-existing medical condition like diabetes, heart-related problems or circulatory issues.
These two factors make older travellers look more risky to insurers, which consequently leads to higher premiums.
On top of inflated prices, those over 65 also have to battle with age caps on policies, which can mean they are turned away by standard providers even if they're perfectly fit and healthy.
Specialist travel insurance for over 50s
Specialist cover for over 50s can be found with a number of providers that can be tailored to your age and health.
Saga for example offers policies with no upper age limit and will cover a wide range of pre-existing medical conditions. It also provides automatic cover for over 40 leisure activities with optional protection for winter sports.
Similarly Age UK also has no barrier on age and offers cover for pre-existing conditions wherever possible. It also comes with free cover for children under 18 and provides special discounts for groups of ten or more adults travelling in the UK
Avanti Travel Insurance also provides policies with no upper age limit and will cover for pre-existing conditions including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It claims to insure a large number of conditions free of charge. With a policy from Avanti you can also insure children and grandchildren under 18 years old for free.
AllClear is another place to turn. It claims to cover all ages, medical conditions and destinations. Indeed it says it will cover medical problems like diabetes, angina, arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart conditions, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, epilepsy and stroke.
The site also allows you to compare quotes with other specialist travel insurers like goodtogoinsurance.com, which offers cover for people even with a terminal prognosis and Ok to Travel which offer policies with no age limit for up to three months.
How do costs compare?
When comparing prices, specialist insurance is typically more expensive but still competitive compared to a policy you can get from general insurers if you're in good health and between 50 and 75.
Using the loveMONEY travel insurance comparison engine the cheapest quote for a single trip policy to cover two weeks in the United States for a 65-year-old was £27.67 with Insure and Go. The policy included cover worth £750 for baggage, £1,000 for cancellation and £15 million for medical expenses.
In contrast the cheapest specialist over-50s policy was £33.33 with Top Dog Insurance, only around £6 more. The policy included a smaller £10 million medical cover, but more generous £1,000 for baggage and the same £1,000 for cancellation.
Specialist insurance is much more prevalent when it comes to looking for cover for those over 75, as the number of general insurance providers willing to quote for this age group drops off. In general I found the quotes from specialist providers in this situation tend to be a bit cheaper and more comprehensive.
The best quote for a traveller aged 76 in good health on single trip policy to the United States for two weeks using the loveMONEY travel insurance comparison engine was £83.96 with Cigna, a specialist provider. The policy included cover of £1,000 for baggage, £1,000 for cancellation and unlimited medical expenses.
In contrast the cheapest general insurer for the same trip was the AA which offered a policy for £112.27, just over £28 more expensive. Its policy had more comprehensive baggage and cancellation cover at £1,500 and £5,000 respectively, but capped medical expenses at £10 million.
General insurers were distinctly absent from the online results when looking for cover for an 80-year-old , but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Swinton for example recently launched travel insurance policies with no upper age limit, but you'll need to call to get a quote.
When it comes to pre-existing medical conditions, things get a bit more complex.
Plenty of general insurers may be prepared to offer cover for some pre-existing conditions and consider your case, but this will most likely require an additional premium and calling up to go through medical screening questions.
That's not to say going down this route won't get you a competitive price, but going through a specialist insurer, in my view, is slightly simpler as they can take you through the medical questions online and are set up to deliver quotes very quickly.
In any case it's a good idea to check with both. You can compare specialist providers offering tailored cover for pre-existing medical conditions online on sites like AllClear and use a site like loveMONEY for general quotes.
I found the cheapest quote on a single trip policy for a 66-year old with type 1 diabetes travelling to the USA for two weeks using the AllClear engine was £68.26 with All Clear the provider. The policy comes with cover worth £1,000 for baggage, £3,000 for cancellation and £10 million for medical.
Looking more generally using the loveMONEY travel insurance comparison engine the best quote was £37.44 with multitrip.com. Without mentioning the type 1 diabetes the cover included better cover for baggage at £1,500, the same cover for cancellation at £3,000 and double the cover for medical expenses at £20 million. The provider isn't a specialist but says it is willing to consider pre-existing conditions, though this may attract a higher premium. However, getting this quote requires you jumping through extra hoops as you need to phone up and go through some questions.
Is specialist insurance worth going for?
Specialist insurance won't be for everybody but it's worth comparing to see if you can get a better deal.
The key as with any insurance is to tell the truth and make sure you are not under-insured.
Lying or omitting the truth is known as 'non-disclosure'. If your insurer finds out it may turn down a claim later and invalidate your policy. Likewise if you don't get enough medical protection on your policy, things like your hospital bills, which can be steep in other countries, may not be fully covered.
So it's vital to either check the small print or tailor a policy for your age and health otherwise you might face a huge financial shock.
How to cut the cost of travel insurance
Here are some tips on how to minimise the cost of travel insurance and make sure you're protected.
Shop around for cover: make sure you check what you can get with a comparison site like loveMONEY as well as specialist sites to ensure you are getting the right cover at the best price for your needs.
Check if you are already covered: you should double check your existing policies to avoid paying for things you are already covered for. Your home insurance policy might already have cover for your valuables for example.
Consider an annual multi-trip policy: if you're going away at least twice in a year consider an annual policy instead of single trip cover as it will probably work out cheaper. But if your health changes make sure you consult your insurer before you travel to ensure you're still covered.
Go for a Europe-only policy: if you aren't planning to go any further than Europe you should opt for a Europe-only policy as they're much cheaper than worldwide policies.
Other tips for holidaymakers
No matter your age, it's a good idea to get an EHIC card, which allows you to be treated free or at a discount if you have an accident or suffer a sudden illness in Europe. However, it's not a replacement for travel insurance as things like baggage, cancelled flights and repatriation are not included.
Also it's a good idea to book your travel insurance at the same time you book your flights and accommodation. This way you can get cover for cancellation and other problems that occur before you leave.
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