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Annual vs. single trip travel insurance

Planning one big trip for the year or a couple of long weekends away? Or, budget permitting, a combination of the two?

When you’re choosing a travel insurance policy, you’ll be asked if you want to buy annual multi-trip or single trip cover. Here’s how to make sure your pick of the policies covers every day you’re away, without costing more than it needs to. 

Planning one big trip for the year or a couple of long weekends away? Or, budget permitting, a combination of the two?

When you’re choosing a travel insurance policy, you’ll be asked if you want to buy annual multi-trip or single trip cover. Here’s how to make sure your pick of the policies covers every day you’re away, without costing more than it needs to. 

Written by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
Last Updated
15 JULY 2024
6 min read
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What is annual travel insurance?

Annual travel insurance – also called multi-trip insurance – covers you for a full calendar year from the date the policy starts.

You’re covered for as many trips as you like in those 12 months, but you’ll usually be limited to around 31 days per trip. Some insurance providers may have a limit of up to 60 days, so if you’re planning a long holiday check what the policy covers.

Top tip:

If you’re planning a long trip to multiple countries (we’re talking months away here), then backpackers travel insurance – also known as gap year, long-stay or extended trip cover – might be better suited to your needs.

Annual travel cover pros and cons

The advantages of annual travel insurance include:

  • Value for money – it can work out cheaper per trip than single trip cover if you take more than two holidays a year.
  • Convenience – you only need to buy one policy a year to cover your trips.
  • UK trips covered – being insured for a whole year means any domestic holidays you go on are usually covered too.

The disadvantages of annual travel insurance include:

  • Age limits – many annual policies won’t cover travellers over the age of 75.
  • Cover not tailored to each trip – you need to choose UK, Europe, worldwide excluding the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico, or worldwide cover. That could be an issue if you’re a spur-of-the-moment holiday planner and aren’t sure where you might end up.
  • Cost – annual insurance won’t be cost-effective if you don’t travel enough.

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

What is single trip travel insurance?

A single trip policy covers you for a one-off holiday to a destination (or destinations) of your choice and ends when you come home.

It’s worth taking out single trip cover as soon as you book your break, so there’s a policy in place if you need to cancel your trip for one or more reasons covered by your policy.

As a one-off cost, for a one-off holiday, this type of policy is usually cheaper than an annual policy. But if you enjoy a couple of breaks each year and take out a single policy each time, the cost can soon add up.

Find out more about single trip travel insurance.

Single trip cover pros and cons

The advantages of a single trip travel insurance policy include:

  • Price – can be cheaper than annual cover if you’re only going on one holiday in the next 12 months.
  • Tailored cover – you only pay for the number of days you’re away and the area visited.
  • Higher or no age limits – annual travel insurance often has an age limit, so if you’re aged over 75, single trip cover could be the way to go.

The disadvantages of a single trip travel insurance policy include:

  • Cost – if you take more than one holiday a year, a single policy can work out more expensive per trip compared to an annual policy.
  • Shorter-term cover – single trip cover is based on fixed dates, so there’s no flexibility if you want to extend your stay.
  • Time and effort – you’ll need to buy a new policy each time you travel.

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

It depends on how many trips you go on in a year, where you’re going and the level of cover you need.

On the face of it, you only have to go on a couple of holidays a year for annual travel insurance to be more cost-effective, as you can see from the table below.

Destination Single trip policy cost for 1 week[1] Annual policy cost[1] Annual policy cost per trip[1] (based on two trips) Annual policy cost per trip[1] (based on four trips)
Europe only £5.97 £11.50 £6 £3
Worldwide £8.67 £23.77 £14 £7

[1]  Based on Compare the Market Data for a 20-year-old with no pre-existing medical conditions. Prices correct as of December 2023.

But it’s not really that simple, and there are certainly situations when single-trip insurance might be cheaper.

Let’s say you’re off on an action-packed skiing holiday in Canada in the coming year as well as popping over to Paris for a chic city break. The two trips would need very different levels of insurance.

The skiing holiday would need worldwide insurance including USA, Canada and the Caribbean, plus winter sports cover. That could be very expensive if you bought an annual policy, and might not be worth it just to cover your short trip to France as well. Getting two single-trip policies could be the more sensible choice.

The good news is that you don’t have to guess – you can compare travel insurance quotes for your trips, both annual and single trip cover, and see how they compare. 

Annual vs single trip insurance – what else should I consider?

When you’re comparing annual and single trip travel insurance, be sure to check exactly what is and isn’t covered, and consider the following:

Meanwhile, you should also consider how spontaneous your travel plans tend to be. Even if you don’t have multiple trips planned, if you’re the type to jet off for a weekend at short notice, you should factor that into your insurance choice.

With an annual policy, you don’t need to worry about cover every time you book a holiday. But if you’ve bought annual travel insurance that only covers Europe then decide to fly to Bangkok, you’ll need to upgrade your travel insurance before you go.

And if you’ve already forked out for an annual policy, don’t forget about it when you book your next holiday and pay for more – unnecessary – insurance. It does happen…

What do annual and single trip travel insurance policies cover?

Clearly there are significant differences. But be reassured that both types of travel insurance policy will typically cover:

  • Medical expenses – travel insurance usually pays towards the cost of any medical treatment you need while you’re away, which can be very expensive – especially if you end up in a private hospital. You should also look for emergency repatriation cover to get you back home, if needed.
  • Cancellation and curtailment – if you need to cancel or cut short your holiday for an insured reason like a family bereavement, your provider may reimburse you.
  • Missed departures and delays – if you’re delayed because of strikes or bad weather, then you could get some money back.
  • Luggage – don’t underestimate the value of your belongings, especially when you include your phone, tablet, smart watch or any other gadget you can’t live without. Travel insurance should cover the cost of replacing these if your baggage or possessions are lost, damaged or stolen.

There will be limits to the amount your insurance provider will pay for each of the above, so always check the details before you buy a policy.

Top tip:

Don’t begrudge the amount of cover typically outlined for emergency medical expenses and repatriation, in particular. These figures reflect the costs not only of treatment abroad but also the logistical efforts sometimes required to get you back home if you’re seriously ill. Failing to have adequate protection in place could end up costing you hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Annual vs single trip insurance. Which should I choose?

To recap, think about your travel plans for the next 12 months. If you’re sure you’ll only take one holiday, then single trip cover is likely to be your best option. If you’re planning more than one trip, you might be better off getting annual multi-trip insurance.

Consideration number two is it also depends on where you’re going. If you’re travelling to Europe three times but also have a holiday in the USA planned, it could be cheaper to buy an annual European policy, then arrange a separate single trip policy for your visit to the States.

The first step to deciding on annual vs single trip travel insurance is to get quotes for each option. It’s quick and easy with Compare the Market. 

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