Annual vs. single trip travel insurance

Abbie Laughton-Coles
Abbie Laughton-Coles
Updated 3 October 2022  | 4 mins read

Decide whether an annual or single-trip policy would be just the ticket for your upcoming holidays.

You can easily compare both options to find your perfect pairing.

Key points

  • If you’ve got more than three trips planned in a year, a multi-trip policy will probably work out cheaper
  • Both types of policies provide cover for medical emergencies, cancelled trips, and lost, stolen or damaged belongings
  • Whichever policy you choose, it’s important to declare any pre-existing medical conditions during the application process

What is annual travel insurance?

Annual travel insurance, also called multi-trip travel insurance, covers you for numerous holidays throughout a 12-month period. You don’t have to worry about purchasing a new policy every time you’re packing your suitcase because you’ll already have one in place.

You can take as many trips as you want within the year the policy is active, but there’ll usually be a limit on how many consecutive days you can spend abroad. Generally, this is around a month, after which you must return to the UK.

When you purchase an annual policy, you’ll need to choose which countries you want to be covered for:

  • European
  • Worldwide, excluding the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean
  • Worldwide, including the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean

If you travel to a destination that isn’t included on your policy, you won’t be covered and you’ll be unable to claim.

Pros and cons

The benefits of getting an annual policy are:

  • Not having to arrange travel insurance every time you want to go on a trip
  • It can work out cheaper than single-trip policies if you’re taking more than three holidays a year
  • Provides the same level of cover as you would receive with a single-trip policy
  • If you want to extend your stay abroad, you don’t have to worry about contacting your insurer, you’ll automatically be covered (provided you don’t exceed the consecutive day allowance)

But you should also consider:

  • If you don’t end up taking multiple holidays within a year, it will likely be a more expensive way to get cover
  • It won’t be tailored to your separate trips. For example, if you need golf cover for one specific holiday, you’ll need to add it for the entire policy which can be pricey
  • It’s not the right option if you’re continuously travelling. For that, you’ll need backpackers’ insurance

What is single-trip travel insurance?

As the name might suggest, this type of policy covers one specific trip.

You’ll need to have a start and end date for your holiday when purchasing this type of policy and there’ll be a limit on how long your trip can be, usually around 90 days.

Cover will start from the date you buy the policy and it’s possible to purchase add-ons to ensure you have the right level of cover for your vacation - for example, you may want to take part in winter or adventure sports while you’re away.

Just like with an annual policy, you’ll be required to choose the countries you’ll want to be covered for. Worldwide, including the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean, will usually be the most expensive option.

Pros and cons

You may want to choose a single-trip policy because:

  • It will usually work out cheaper than an annual policy if you’re taking a couple of holidays per year
  • You can adjust the level of cover to match any activities you’ll be doing on your holiday
  • Your policy will start on the day you purchase it, which means you’ll be covered if you need to cancel your trip before the departure date - for instance, if there’s a bereavement in the family
  • It can be possible to find a policy even if you’re older, whereas some annual policies will have an upper age limit

But watch out for:

  • If you’re a spontaneous traveller who likes to jet off at the drop of the hat, it can be a hassle to arrange insurance each time
  • It could be more expensive if you expect to go on holiday a few times throughout the year
  • There’s a chance you might forget to buy insurance, but with an annual policy, you’ll always be covered
  • Buying your single-trip insurance at the last minute will mean you won’t be covered if you need to cancel your holiday prior to the departure

Pre-existing medical conditions

If you have any pre-existing conditions, it’s extremely important to let the insurer know during your application.

If you don’t, you may find you’re not covered for any claims that are a result of your condition.

Also, some insurers may completely exclude medical conditions from their cover. It’s important to know where you stand before deciding on a policy, so if in doubt, contact the insurer.

If you have a serious pre-existing medical condition and are struggling to access cover, you may need to find a specialist insurer. Alternatively, you could take a look at the government’s MoneyHelper travel insurance directory.

Is multi-trip travel insurance cheaper than single-trip cover?

Initially, a multi-trip policy will cost more than a single-trip policy. However, if you’re taking more than three holidays within a 12-month period, multi-trip insurance will usually work out cheaper.

Compare them against each other before taking the plunge to see which will save you the most money overall.

What else to consider when choosing the right cover?

Before picking a policy, you should think about:

  • Are you thinking about taking part in any activities? You may need to think about a sports add-on to your policy
  • Do you need a higher level of medical cover? A more comprehensive policy could be the right choice to give you the medical cover you require
  • Are you going to be travelling with others? If so, a family, couples, or group policy could be more cost-effective

What do annual and single-trip policies cover?

Both types of policies usually include cover for:

  • Emergency medical treatment – If you have an accident or emergency while abroad
  • Repatriation – Returning you to the UK if you need further medical care
  • Personal liability – Legal fees if you accidentally hurt someone or damage their property while you’re away
  • Stolen, lost, or damaged belongings and luggage – Provided they weren’t left unattended
  • Cancellation and curtailment – If you aren’t able to go on your trip or have to cut it short due to a reason listed in your policy
  • Covid-19 – Most policies have a level of cover for Covid-19 related claims, but it will differ between insurers

Typically, you won’t be covered for:

  • Claims that are a result of being intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
  • Taking part in illegal activities
  • Medical treatment relating to a pre-existing condition you failed to mention
  • Travelling to countries against government advice
  • Winter sports and sporting activities that aren’t specifically mentioned in your policy
  • Medical treatment that’s required because you didn’t get recommended vaccinations for the country you’re visiting

Always check policies to see what is covered and what isn’t.

Remember there will be limits on how much you can claim for each situation and more comprehensive policies will offer a higher limit. Although it will likely mean that you pay a higher premium, it can prove invaluable if you have to claim for a large amount.

Which should I choose?

It completely depends on whether you’re certain you’ll take more than three trips within a year. If so, explore multi-trip options. However, it’s always worth comparing against single-trip policies to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.