From booking airport parking, to buying foreign currency, renewing your passport and even getting vaccines, sorting everything for a holiday can be time-consuming and stressful.

So, do you really need to add buying travel insurance to that to-do list?

Well, more than one in five (22%) Brits travelled without travel insurance in last year, according to research by ABTA, the association of travel agents and tour operators. In doing so, they went without the peace of mind and broad range of support that comes with travel insurance.

What travel insurance covers

There are several important reasons for taking out travel insurance. Most policies include cover for:

  • Lost or stolen luggage or possessions
  • Delayed, cancelled or missed flights or travel arrangements
  • Legal costs in case you’re sued for damaging property or causing injury.
  • Emergency medical costs

Medical costs on holiday can be sky-high. Check out these real examples of expensive medical care that holidaymakers faced in 2017:

  • £233,000 for a 15-day stay in a US hospital on a ventilator recovering from a stroke  
  • £187,000 to cover a 33-day stay in a Las Vegas hospital, several outpatient appointments and a flight back to the UK following a heart attack.
  • £118,000 to pay for surgery and hospitalisation in East Africa following treatment for a blocked windpipe caused by food.
  • £95,000 to treat serious injuries caused by a road traffic accident in Central America.

Thankfully, in the examples above – provided by the ABI – all of the patients were covered by travel insurance.

They were among 159,000 travellers last year who received travel insurance pay-outs to cover medical expenses. The average pay-out was nearly £1,300.

In some cases, hospitals refuse to treat patients if they don’t have travel insurance or can’t afford to foot the bill themselves.

Of course, not all travel insurance is made equal. Cover levels can vary, especially when it comes to medical treatment. You’ll need to shop around to find a policy that suits your individual needs. It is important to remember to tell your insurer about any medical conditions you have.

Doesn’t my European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) cover me?

An EHIC is a free card that covers medical treatment in all European Economic Area countries and Switzerland until your planned return journey. That includes medical emergencies and pre-existing conditions.

Even with an EHIC though, you’ll still need travel insurance, even in Europe. In some countries, patients are expected to pay a percentage towards the cost of their state-provided treatment. Also, the local level of care might not be the same as what you’d get in the UK.

And an EHIC won’t cover the costs of getting you back home, which can be very expensive. According to the ABI, typical costs of an air ambulance back to the UK include £35,000 from the US, £12,000 from Majorca, and £25,000 from the Canary Islands.

Do I need travel insurance for UK trips?

Staycations are booming and 59% of people are planning a domestic break in 2019, according to research by Abta.

But if you’re taking your holiday in the UK, do you need travel insurance? While any medical care you might need will still be covered by the NHS, you'll want protection for any travel disruption, lost luggage or if you're too ill to take the trip at all.

Plan ahead

Finally, make sure you organise your travel insurance as early as you can. Travel insurance can cover you if you must cancel your holiday, so it’s a good idea to get your travel insurance arranged when you book your holiday, rather than leaving it to the last minute.