Lifestyle Guides

Last-minute travel insurance

If you've left buying travel insurance to the last minute, there are still a few options open to you


Flights booked? Check! Hotel sorted? Check! How about travel insurance? Uh oh…

If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve previously left buying travel insurance for your holiday or business trip to the last minute. While having the right travel insurance in place is important, people frequently forget to arrange it before going away.

So, what should you do if you’ve left buying travel insurance to the last minute?

When is the best time to buy travel insurance?

Perhaps understandably, travel insurance isn’t usually the first thing that people think about when they book a trip abroad. It’s all too easy to get excited and start making plans for your holiday as soon as the flights and accommodation are booked.

But in order to ensure that you get the longest period of cover for your travel insurance, it’s important to buy your policy at the same time as you book the rest of your trip.

There are a few reasons for this. Most importantly, by buying your insurance as soon as possible, you’ll ensure that you’re covered if your trip needs to be delayed or cancelled. While nobody likes to think about having to abandon a holiday before it begins, having insurance in place means you’re protected if it does happen.

Without cover, you won’t be able to claim compensation for any cancelled accommodation, flights or booked excursions.

By sorting out your travel insurance when you book the rest of the trip, you’ll also be able to spend more time examining the finer details of your policy to make sure that you’re covered for every eventuality.

For example, if one of the travellers on your policy has a pre-existing medical condition that needs to be declared, you’ll be able to discuss this with your insurer without rushing through it at the last minute.

Besides all that, you’ll be able to look forward to your holiday with full peace of mind that you’re covered if something goes wrong. 

But what if sorting out your travel insurance has completely slipped your mind, and you’re going away tomorrow? Providing you’ve not passed through customs, many insurers will still be able to offer you a policy that includes essential cover such as medical care, repatriation and lost baggage.

Bear in mind that last-minute policies don’t usually include cancellation cover, and that if you need to make a claim shortly after buying last-minute travel insurance, your circumstances may be scrutinised particularly closely to make sure that the reason for the claim occurred after you purchased the cover.

When is it too late to buy travel insurance?

If you only remember that you were supposed to buy travel insurance after you’ve passed through customs, when you’re on your flight or upon arriving at your destination, a large percentage of insurance companies will not be able to offer you cover for your trip.

At Admiral, we can only insure travellers who have purchased their travel insurance policy before they have passed through customs.

You may still be able to find cover for your trip via a specialist provider – this is known as post-departure travel insurance, and can be purchased as a last resort if you forgot to organise your insurance before you hopped on the plane.

These policies often have higher premiums, meaning you’ll pay more for your insurance than if you’d bought it earlier. Missed flights aren’t usually covered for policies like this, so it’s no use frantically buying last-minute travel insurance on your phone if you’re running late for the airport.

The sooner you buy your travel insurance, the sooner you’ll be covered against any unfortunate eventualities that could negatively affect your trip.

Can’t I just use my GHIC?

Global Health Insurance Cards (GHICs) are a must for any traveller visiting Europe.

By having one, you will be able benefit from the same level of healthcare as the residents of the European country you’re visiting. But contrary to the assumptions of many travellers, GHICs do not always guarantee that you will be able to access free healthcare – some countries in Europe require you to pay towards the cost of your care.

Medical care costs for the destination you’re visiting can be checked online via the NHS’s country-by-country guide

To make sure that you don’t end up with unexpectedly high medical bills while travelling, it’s smart to have a suitable travel insurance in place alongside your EHIC. The right policy will also benefit you with cover for cancelled trips, lost luggage and delayed or missed departures, none of which is available through your EHIC.

Check whether you’re already covered

Even if you’ve left your travel insurance to the last minute, it’s best to do your research before rushing into a potentially unsuitable policy. The first thing to check before buying last-minute travel insurance is whether you’re already covered. For example, you may have previously purchased an annual or multi-trip policy, which means you don’t need to organise insurance every time you go away.

Some banks offer family travel insurance policies as perks for their customers. Likewise, companies sometimes provide travel insurance as a perk for their employees. If this is the case, you might not need to buy insurance before going away. However, it’s worth reading the policy documents of any insurance package that you already have in place, as there might be exclusions that make it unsuitable for the trip you plan on undertaking.