Millions of us leave sorting out travel insurance until the very last minute. Some even buy it using their mobile while they're at the airport.
But this is a dangerous strategy – one of the most valuable elements of travel insurance is cancellation cover.
Whether you are jetting off to a Spanish beach resort, going on a New York city break or simply heading to the UK coast for your holiday, it is vital to buy travel insurance as soon as you book your trip.
That way, you will not lose the money spent on your booking if something unexpected happens and you have to cancel – such as your Mother falling seriously ill or your son breaking his leg.
Don't delay: buy travel insurance today
Most of the benefits that come with a good travel insurance policy kick in when you set off on your holiday.
But cancellation cover starts protecting you the day you buy your insurance.
Designed to cover the cost of having to abandon your plans, it can prove a financial lifesaver should something go wrong in the run-up to your departure date.
Not everything is covered: you can't make a claim just because you have changed your mind about where you want to go, for example.
But if you or a member of your family is unable to travel due to illness or injury, or you have to stay at home due to a bereavement or being called up for jury service, having cancellation cover could save you thousands of pounds.
Consider an annual policy
Taking out annual, multi-trip travel insurance is one way to ensure you are always covered in case you have to cancel a trip or go away unexpectedly.
Policies of this kind generally work out cheaper if you take more than one holiday or overseas break a year.
If, on the other hand, you know you will only be going away once in the next 12 months, a single-trip policy that is tailored to plans will be the better option.
Either way, make sure your policy covers you for any destinations you are visiting.
If you are heading to Los Angeles, for example, you will need worldwide cover including the US.
Get an EHIC
A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which you can get free online, gives you access to the same level of state medical care as people living in the European Economic Area (EEA) country you're visiting.
It is not an alternative to travel insurance, as it will not cover you for problems such as cancelled flights or lost luggage – or for medical bills including the cost of repatriation, which can be more than £20,000.
It is a good idea to get one if you are travelling in Europe, however, especially as many insurers will waive the excess you have to pay towards medical claims if you do.
Go to this site to apply for a free card for you and any family members you are travelling with. You should never pay for an EHIC card, so avoid sites that seek to levy any kind of admin charge.
Don't forget about add-ons
Don't forget to ensure your travel policy includes cover for any dangerous or hazardous activities (such as scuba diving or horse-riding) and winter sports that you might take part in.
The cost of paying for medical care overseas or repatriation to the UK if you are not covered by insurance could be ruinous.
The cost of bringing someone with a serious injury back to the UK by air ambulance could be in the region of £20,000 from Europe, or £80,000 from the United States.
So double check you have the cover you require before you go, and add it to your policy to avoid any accidents turning into financial crises.