Holiday cancellation and curtailment cover

Holiday cancellation cover can help if you can’t make your trip, while curtailment will cover you if you need to end your trip early.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 16 April 2021  | 4 min read

What is travel cancellation insurance?

Cancellation cover is included as part of most travel insurance policies. It’ll compensate you for some or all of the cost of your travel expenses – flights, cruise, hotel, excursions and so on – if you’ve had to cancel your trip because of unexpected circumstances.

You need to check your policy to see exactly what causes of cancellation will be covered, but it’s usually:

  • An injury or illness that stops you travelling
  • A fire or flood
  • It’s not safe to travel to your destination any more
  • Jury duty
  • Bereavement

Key points

  • It’s a good idea to take out insurance as soon as your trip's booked so you’re covered for cancellation immediately
  • You can’t take out insurance for a problem that you’re aware of when you buy cover
  • Make sure you understand how your policy treats cancellations for Covid-related issues

Does travel cancellation insurance cover Covid-19?

Many insurers offer cover for Covid, but what’s included varies. Some insurers will cover cancellation due to a positive coronavirus test before you travel. But only a small proportion will cover you if you’re denied boarding at the airport, or if your holiday is cancelled due to changes in lockdown restrictions.

Most policies will cover your medical expenses if you catch Covid while abroad, but you’ll struggle to find an insurer that’ll cover accommodation costs if you fall ill and need to extend your stay.

You’re unlikely to be covered at all if you need to cancel due to Covid after travelling against Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice.

Do I need cancellation travel insurance?

Most insurers will cover cancellation. Over 98% of 890 policies listed by Defaqto included cancellation cover as standard.[1]

If you didn’t have cancellation cover, you risk losing money if your holiday was cancelled or cut short, so it’s worth having.

The good news is that it’s likely to be included on any standard travel insurance policy you buy.

When does cancellation cover begin?

Whether you buy single trip or annual multi-trip travel insurance, your cancellation cover begins from the policy start date.

That’s why you should get travel insurance as soon as you book your trip - so you’ll be covered for cancellation as soon as you’ve paid for it.

It’s also why annual travel insurance can be a good idea for frequent travellers. You’ll only have to buy travel insurance once to cover all your trips for the whole year, as long as each destination you book is included.

Each trip will be covered for cancellation from the moment you book, because your annual travel insurance policy will already be active.

What does holiday cancellation insurance cover?

Cancellation cover won’t reimburse you if you just change your mind about travelling. But it can cover unavoidable, unforeseen circumstances including:

  • You or a family member becoming ill. This usually includes being diagnosed with Covid-19, but check your policy documents carefully for this
  • Being called up for jury service
  • A bereavement or needing to attend a funeral
  • A natural disaster
  • If you or a travelling companion become pregnant and are told not to travel (but not because you just no longer want to travel)
  • The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice changes since you booked your trip to say it’s no longer safe to travel to your destination
  • A burglary, flood or fire at your home
  • Being involved in an accident

What doesn’t holiday cancellation insurance cover?

  • Being unable to travel because of a pre-existing conditions you’ve not declared
  • Injuries or incidents caused by being under the influence of alcohol or drugs that stop you from being able to go away
  • Any incident that’s already happened or that you know will happen

How much cancellation cover will I have on my policy?

It varies between policies, but cancellation cover is usually quite generous. Over half (67%) of the annual travel insurance policies on Defaqto will cover cancellation costs of at least £3,000 or up to the full holiday amount.

Just 1% of policies offer cover of £1,000 or less.

Can I claim for cancellations after my departure?

As with cancellation cover, almost all travel insurance policies will have curtailment cover as standard.

If you need to cut your trip short, curtailment cover can reimburse you for the unused part of your holiday and for reasonable expenses to return home.

The nearer you are to the end of your holiday, the less you can claim back.

Some reasons for cutting your trip short that are likely to be covered are:

  • You, or someone else named on the policy, falls ill or has an accident
  • A close relative in the UK dies or falls seriously ill
  • Your house is burgled or rendered uninhabitable
  • You or a travelling companion lose their passport, or have it stolen
  • You’re in the armed forces and you’re ordered to return to work

You'll need to check your policy wording for an exact list of what's covered.

Insurers might refuse your claim if you need to come home early because of a pre-existing medical condition, even one they've agreed to cover. Look out for exclusions like this if there's any risk of you having to cancel or cut your trip short.

You can’t claim just because you’re not enjoying your holiday or if it’s not what you expected either. But you could complain to the travel operator instead.

Am I covered if my airline cancels my flight?

If cancellation is caused by your flight not taking off, you might be able to get compensation for anything you’re left out of pocket for from your airline instead of claiming on your insurance.

You won’t get compensation if a flight cancellation is caused by strike action, severe weather, or anything beyond the airline’s control, although your flight should be refunded.

You might be able to claim on your travel insurance for flights if:

  • Your flight is delayed more than 24 hours, or
  • Your flight is cancelled and the airline doesn’t rebook you on an alternative flight within 24 hours.
  • Your airline can’t refund you for any other reason

How do I claim for holiday cancellation?

Usually you’ll need to:

  • Show receipts, invoices and travel documents for bookings and cancellations
  • A signed medical certificate from a doctor if you’ve cancelled because of illness or injury
  • A copy of the death certificate if you had to cancel your trip because of a bereavement
  • Any other kind of evidence that you had to cancel – for example, a letter stating you must attend jury duty

The number you’ll need to call to make a claim should be on your policy documents, and you should have your policy number to hand when you call.

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[1]Last checked 18 August 2022