Tourists are urged to purchase travel insurance before any major trip, especially to the United States, where medical claims average £15,000 and can easily become a monstrous £90,000.
Peak holiday booking season is December to February, according to ATOL’s traveler protection scheme.
However, if a tourist is unlucky enough to need medical help abroad, some destinations are much more expensive than others.
Travel insurance broker Multitrip.com said the average claim for medical treatment made by visitors to the US last year was £14,690, more than twelve times the average European medical claim of £1,201.
Snow joke: One in nine Brits who go on a winter sports holiday never buy travel cover
The highest US claim Multitrip.com saw in 2022 was a femur fracture, which cost £87,629.
But settling even a broken toe claim cost £8,000, as did treating a bout of dizziness.
Christian Bennett, head of travel and mobility at Multitrip, said: “Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when people are away from home, and travel insurance is incredibly important.”
He adds: “Some people don’t think they need travel insurance when they travel, but they really do, especially as we have seen a significant increase in the cost of medical expenses abroad in recent years.”
“A trip to a hospital in the US, for example, can cost thousands of dollars per day, even before additional treatment or surgery is added.”
Meanwhile, 1.5 million Britons will have taken a winter sports trip this season, according to insurer Aviva.
Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling carry a higher risk of injury than typical vacation activity.
When looking at the most common winter sports claims, Aviva said a broken leg ranks first among the most expensive injuries, with an average cost of £7,500.
This is almost double that of other common winter sports-related claims, including dislocations, clavicle fractures or broken wrists, each of which costs an average of £4,000 per treatment.
|Average cost of treatment.
|Source: Aviva data
Costs also vary widely from country to country, with Aviva data revealing that the US is the most expensive country for winter sports injury treatment, with an average claim of £6,877.
Although the average claim during the winter sports season is £2,200, Aviva research shows that one in nine holidaymakers never buy travel insurance.
Typically, this type of insurance not only covers medical expenses abroad, but also the risk of trip cancellation.
With the average expected spend on a winter sports holiday this year being £1,837, travelers could risk losing hundreds of pounds out of pocket if they need to cancel their holiday.
Travel insurance is sold through several channels. It can be purchased directly from insurers or through brokers and price comparison websites.
Some customers have difficulty purchasing travel insurance at a decent price, such as older people or those with certain medical conditions.
People in that situation may still be able to get good coverage using the find a broker tool run by the trade body the British Association of Insurance Brokers.
Kelly Whittington, travel claims director at Aviva, said: “Snow sports holidays (and après ski) can be great fun, but they can also be a little more dangerous than the usual beach holiday.
‘That’s why it’s very important to check your policy documents and make sure you have the right level of cover for where you’re going and the types of activities you’ve scheduled. In some cases, you may need to take out ‘winter sports cover’, which provides additional protection against theft, slope closures and avalanche delays, in addition to medical treatment.’
What coverage do I need for a trip to the United States?
First, make sure the travel insurance you purchase specifically covers the US.
AllClear Travel Insurance head of corporate affairs Garry Nelson said: ‘Many providers, including us, have two variations for our annual multi-trip policies around the world, with the United States being a possible destination.
‘They are; Worldwide, including the US (also Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico) and worldwide, excluding the US (also Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico).’
The reason insurers have two versions is because of the high medical bills charged in the United States.
Nelson added: ‘For UK residents who are used to the open-access NHS, it is essential that when traveling to the United States they take out a full level of travel insurance cover.
‘While an overnight stay in a private establishment is likely to cost around $10,000 a night, longer stays can result in bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds and sometimes over £1 million.
“We encourage people visiting North America to ensure they have a generous emergency medical expense limit if their trip takes them to the US, Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico.”
Travelers to the US must also declare all medical conditions.
This is because if you don’t declare something that you will later need to claim on your trip, the insurer may reject part or all of the claim, leaving you responsible for the bill.
Nelson added: ‘People visiting the US should also ensure that their policy provides adequate levels of cancellation and reduction costs, especially if they are taking a high-value trip, such as a cruise.
‘These benefit levels can vary from less than £1,000 up to £25,000 per passenger and some policies even exclude cancellation cover entirely. So be sure to check the cancellation cover levels to ensure your trip can, if the worst happens, still be covered.’
Helen Phipps, director of Compare the Market, said: ‘When traveling to the US you will need to take out global travel cover.
‘A standard policy will normally cover emergency treatment, tests, hospital stays, as well as the cost of repatriation if you need to return to the UK for further medical care.
‘A standard policy will also generally not cover injuries caused by winter or extreme sports such as skiing or surfing. Additionally, holders of a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will not have coverage for their visit, so it is advisable to take out travel insurance.’
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