There are advantages to being an older traveller, including the free or reduced-price access they get to many sights and attractions in Europe. But there are disadvantages too. In particular, the significantly higher prices they face when arranging travel insurance and steep increases for pre-existing medical conditions.
We aren’t just talking about travellers over 60 or 65 here. Over 40 there’s a steep rise and from then on premiums can go up every 10, or even five years. But once you reach 65, some companies won’t insure you at all. And if they do, premiums commonly double again, and then continue to increase as you pass 70 and up.
So, for example, the cost of Columbus Direct’s Silver Single Trip policy covering a week’s holiday in France goes up as follows: age 65 or under: £22.78; 66-69: £50.56; 70-79: £78.05; 80-85: £119.82.
These rises and cut-off points are despite the fact that older travellers are wiser and more experienced, certainly a lot less likely to end up in hospital after falling off a balcony or diving into the shallow end after imbibing too much sangria. The standard response from insurers is that the higher premiums reflect an increased risk of other types of medical claim, which are also among the most expensive to settle. Older people, they say, fall ill more often, are more prone to different types of accidents, have to stay longer in hospital and are more expensive to treat.
They ignore the fact that some 80-somethings are fitter than many much younger travellers. They will only look at averages, and they like to make sure they win both ways: an insurer won’t offer you a discount for being fit, but if you have a pre-existing illness or a health condition there is a good chance that – if they are prepared to cover you at all – they will charge you even more, and probably include an exclusion for treatment which is related to that illness or condition.
One problem with comparing premiums is that no two travel insurance policies offer exactly the same levels of cover or terms and conditions. The best policy for you may not be the cheapest overall; it will be the one that offers you enough cover at the best price. So there is no shortcut to having a look through the summary of cover and checking that you are happy with the amounts offered.
Here are a few tips for finding more affordable cover for older travellers.
1. Find a specialist insurer
This is a selection of companies that offer cover to over-65s and older people.
All Clear Insurance (0330 173 4544; allcleartravel.co.uk) offers cover to “all ages” and “all conditions”.
Avanti Travel Insurance (0808 168 7255; avantitravelinsurance.co.uk) has no age limit. Restrictions apply to annual policies for 71 years and over.
Flexicover (03330 051 071; flexicover.co.uk) offers single-trip cover to all ages and annual multi-trip insurance up to the age of 85.
Holidaysafe Insurance (0333 005 1062; holidaysafe.co.uk) has no maximum age for single trips and 79 for its annual policy (although this can depend on destination).
Insurancewith (0333 005 1069; insurancewith.com) offers no age limit on single trip policies (85 on its annual policy).
JD Travel Insurance (0344 247 4749; jdtravelinsurance.co.uk) has no upper age limit for single trip policy (74 on its annual policy).
PJ Hayman (02392 419080; freespirittravelinsurance.com) imposes no upper age limit for single or multi trip cover.
Columbus Direct (0800 0680 060; columbusdirect.com) offers single-trip cover up to the age of 85, annual up to 74 years.
Saga (0800 056 9200; saga.co.uk) tailors policies to the over-50s but family and friends who are under 50 can be added. There is no upper age limit.
Staysure (01604 214944; staysure.co.uk) has no upper age limit for single-trip or annual multi-trip policies.
World First (0345 908 0161; world-first.co.uk) covers those up to the age of 100 for a single trip, and up to age 79 on annual cover.
2. Buy a multi-trip policy
If you travel four or five times a year or more, it will probably be cheaper to take out an annual “multi-trip” policy, which will cover you for all the travel you do in that year. Unfortunately, upper age limits for this type of policy are usually significantly lower than for insurance that covers single trips (see above).
3. Cut cover
Many policies are now flexible. You can remove some cover – lost or stolen baggage for example – and reduce premiums as a result.
4. Declare health problems
This is what worries insurers most. If you are taken ill because of a condition that you did not declare when you bought the insurance, your claim will not be paid. Even if you have an annual policy, you must inform the insurer if you develop a condition during the period covered by the insurance. Typical conditions might be high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer, even in remission, but if you are in doubt talk to the company before you buy cover, and have all the details recorded in writing. It may not increase your premium by much and the insurer might not be concerned about it. On the other hand, it might result in a specific exclusion on treatment, or cover might be refused.
If you are having trouble finding such cover however, some of the insurers listed above specialise in this type of problem. Try: Avanti Travel Insurance; All Clear Insurance; Insurancewith; JD Travel Insurance; PJ Hayman; Staysure and World First.
5. Check activities
If you like to keep active on holiday, check through which activities are included/excluded or, again, you might be left with no cover and an expensive hospital bill.
6. Check Covid cover
Covid-19 has brought a whole new dimension to the risks of having to cancel or change your holiday. Check what’s covered. No insurance policy covers your costs if you unilaterally decide to cancel your holiday but most will provide cancellation cover in the event that you test positive in the 14 days leading up to your trip or you need to curtail your trip due to a positive test result abroad as standard. Others offer “superior” Covid-19 cover as standard which might also allow you to cancel or cutting short a trip due to hospitalisation or death of member of your household from Covid-19. For more information, see our guide to Covid cover.