While package holidays are still hugely popular, today many travellers are valuing the freedom and flexibility of independent travel. Setting out solo means you can fine-tune your trip, customising it to your exact liking. You can choose which flights work best for your schedule and book whatever accommodation you feel like – whether that means a beach bungalow or a 5-star hotel.

On the flipside, however, when you plan and take a trip alone, you leave yourself especially vulnerable to mishaps – which can have major financial implications. This is why seeking out appropriate travel insurance is so important.

Not sure where to start? Try here with our travel insurance guide for independent travellers.

Who is independent travel insurance designed for?
Independent travel insurance is necessary for anyone booking the components of their holiday or extended trip separately, like flights, transfers, and accommodation. Independent travel insurance may be beneficial for everyone from gap-year and sabbatical travellers, to those heading out on a city break to Paris for the weekend.

Most independent travel insurance policies are flexible, allowing customers to tailor their plan to suit their trip. Independent travel insurance isn’t suitable for everyone, though, or even every trip. But if you book complex solo travel regularly, it could well be your best bet.

What’s usually included in a policy?
A good independent travel insurance policy should cover all trip costs, including:

  • Accommodation
  • Pre-booked transfers
  • Medical expenses
  • Repatriation if you’re injured or fall ill abroad
  • Personal injury
  • Cover for accidents or damage
  • Damaged items
  • Lost or delayed baggage
  • Cover for cancellation or missed departures
  • As an independent traveller, you may also want cover for scheduled airline and end-supplier failure, especially in the era of COVID-19. This protection covers you if an airline, villa company, or ferry firm goes bust after you’ve booked your trip.

Most travel insurance companies don’t typically cover airline failures however – including even five-star policies – so you may have to either do some digging or request it as an add-on. How much you pay for independent travel insurance depends on the amount of cover you’re likely to need. While you should never under-insure yourself to save money, there are ways to keep costs down which we’ll cover in this guide.

What extras might I need?
If you are looking for extra peace of mind, there are additional coverage options you can bolt on to make the policy more comprehensive. These might include – but is not limited to – the following:

  • Life insurance
  • Hazardous sports
  • Rental car collision
  • Identity theft

Other additions, including death or dismemberment insurance and rental car costs, can be offered direct from your credit card company. Always check your card benefits before paying out for them separately.

What might be excluded?
Travelling overseas presents excellent opportunity to try new sports and activities. But, while many standard sports might be covered under an independent travel policy, more hazardous ones, such as winter sports, windsurfing, horse riding, scuba diving and mountain climbing, may require an add-on.

If you expect to engage in any adventurous activities, be sure to check that your policy either includes them, or you are able to bolt them on separately, albeit for an additional fee.

And, while cover against strikes and civil unrest isn’t included in most independent traveller policies, it’s becoming increasingly relevant and essential for travellers, so check this too.

What about COVID-19 cover?
Cover for COVID-19 is available, but policies vary. While many insurers promptly stopped selling travel insurance amid the coronavirus pandemic, many plans are now back on sale.

However, all policies are different. When seeking cover for COVID-19, be clear on what will and won’t be covered due to disruption.

Some insurers will only cover emergency medical treatment abroad and repatriation, while others will protect against flight and accommodation cancellations resulting from the virus.

What can affect the cost of an independent travel policy?
Certain factors will affect the price of your independent travel policy that you should consider. These include:

  • Destinations: for example, if you’re heading to the United States, you’ll need additional medical cover
  • Age: travel insurance often costs more if you’re older than 65. If you’re over 65 and travel frequently, consider looking at specific policies for older travellers as you may get more for your money
  • Activities: as mentioned, you may require additional cover if you’re taking part in hazardous sports.
  • Frequency of travel: if you travel several times a year, it may be worth investing in an annual travel plan instead of various single-trip policies.

Generally, an annual cover policy is recommended if you travel more than three times a year. Or, if one trip is to the United States, a yearly plan is worth it if you travel twice or more in a year.

However, note that annual policies don’t cover backpackers or long-term travellers on extended trips. They typically cover trips up to a maximum of 31 days. Backpackers and long-term travellers will need to look for backpacker insurance which is specifically designed for extended trips.

How can I keep the cost down?
Whilst tempting, the cheapest travel policy may not offer the best value for money. It’s essential to weigh up your needs and check what the policy includes, as well as just its price.

If you are looking for very specialist cover, this might mean contacting several companies direct in your research.

Avoid travel insurance offered by airlines
It may seem like an easy option but avoid purchasing the ‘travel insurance’ offered on most airline checkout pages when you’re buying a flight.

While the policy may be offered by a recognised and reputable brand, you may end up spending the same as you would on a standalone policy, but without the flexibility to customise coverage for your trip.

Airline trip protection often costs more and covers less than a travel insurance policy bought through an external insurer. Plus, airline travel protection typically only covers the flight-related aspect of your travel.

Check your household contents insurance policy
Before you pay for independent travel protection, check if your household contents insurance policy covers for items you carry away from home. This means you already have cover for what you take with you, up to a single item limit.

Consider the excess fees
The excess is the first part of any claim that needs to come from your own pocket, and it typically ranges from between £50 and £100. If you choose a larger excess, your travel insurance is likely to cost less.

Generally, though, it’s a good idea to be sensible about excess fees. If you set the excess high, your insurance policy will be cheaper. But go too high and and you might reach a point where the insurance is not worth having. What’s more, some policies charge an excess ‘per benefit section’. For instance, if you were mugged, you could pay £75 excess on the medical fees as well as an additional £50 excess for loss of personal items.

Other policies, on the other hand, charge just one excess per claim, which can be more affordable. Always read the through policies’ small print to understand you may, or may not, be charged.

(SOURCE: Forbes Advidor)