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1 May 2022

Annual travel insurance vs single-trip: which will save you money?

We compare more than 250 quotes to find out whether single-trip or multi-trip is cheapest

Some holidaymakers will find annual travel insurance cheaper than the single-trip alternative, even if they’re going on just one holiday per year, new Which? research reveals. 

Infrequent flyers might be surprised to learn that they could benefit from annual travel insurance policies. Depending on the destination and duration, it can actually be cheaper in some cases to buy an annual policy for just one trip. 

So how do you know which will be cheaper for you? To help you find out, we’ve gathered more than 250 quotes for over a dozen different holidays, from weekend jaunts to France to two-week breaks in Barbados. 

Read on to find out whether you could save with an annual policy, or if sticking with single-trip will be cheaper. 

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Which type of travel insurance do you need?

After two years of on and off lockdowns, you might be planning to fill the rest of 2022 with holidays. Based on annual multi-trip travel insurance’s recent rise in popularity, you wouldn’t be alone. 

According to comparison site Money Supermarket, 33% of policies chosen in January 2022 were for annual cover, up from 28% in 2021 and 24% in 2020. There’s also been a ‘small increase’ in annual policy customers so far this year, compared with pre-pandemic levels, Comparethemarket.com says. 

Since travel insurance pricing is based partly on who you are, we gathered quotes for three different traveller profiles, each with different needs: a ‘low-risk’ 40-year-old traveller with no health conditions, an older traveller aged 70, also without health conditions, and a 60-year-old traveller with a pre-existing medical condition (high blood pressure). 

We wanted to find out how much you could save by buying an annual or single-trip policy, so we took averages of quotes from the five cheapest insurers for each holiday we checked, according to a comparison site. 

Our search parameters made sure all the policies we looked at met our minimum cover requirements, but as we were looking primarily for savings, policies weren't always from the best travel insurers

However, several insurers from our Top 20, including Cedartree, Cover For You and Tesco Bank, did appear in our searches. What we found are some general rules that will help you make your decision, including a few surprises that could impact your choice unexpectedly. 

How many trips will make annual cover worthwhile?

Travel insurance quotes are bespoke, so the prices you’re offered won’t necessarily match ours. That said, there are some trends we’ve pinpointed that could be mirrored in your search. 

First, there’s the number of trips you take per year. 

Three holidays

If you’re going on three holidays, each of one week or more, an annual policy will be cheaper every time, based on our findings. No combination of three trips of a week or more cost less than the corresponding annual policy across all three of our traveller profiles. 

Two holidays

Annual multi-trip cover is more hit and miss when you’re taking two holidays. It’s still likely to be cheaper, but we did find some two-trip combos that cost less to insure as single trips.

Insuring a two-week trip to Spain and a two-week trip to France with two single-trip policies was £22 cheaper than a Europe-only annual policy for our 70-year-old traveller. Conversely, our 40-year-old would save £2 by buying an annual policy for these same two trips. 

So if you’re planning two journeys, it’s definitely worth comparing single-trip and annual insurance quotes yourself, especially if you’re an older traveller. 

Weekend breaks

The differences between quotes for older and younger travellers were even wider when we compared weekend breaks. 

Our 40-year-old traveller would have to take three European weekend holidays before the annual policy was worth it (at £23 for all three single-trip policies and £22 for the annual policy). But our 70-year-old would need to take six weekend breaks to Europe to cross the annual insurance threshold (£89 for all six single trips versus £78 for annual).

So again, checking for quotes carefully is the best way to save money if your holidays tend to be on the shorter side. 

Find out more: best city breaks in Europe

Annual travel insurance can be cheaper for single trips

Due to the quirks of travel insurance pricing, you may actually find a cheaper quote for an annual policy than for a single-trip policy, especially if you’re going on a longer holiday quite far afield. 

Let’s say you’re planning a two-week trip to the US. Our 70-year-old could insure it with a single-trip policy for £208. That’s £45 more expensive than the equivalent annual policy (£163). 

Younger travellers could be better off with annual policies here too, although the difference might not be as stark: our 40-year-old would save £1. 

The same happened when we tested three-week 'trip of a lifetime' holidays to South Africa and China, and a three-week US road trip. 

For two of our three traveller profiles, it was always cheaper to insure these individual getaways with an annual policy. The only exception was the 60-year-old with a pre-existing medical condition. We’ll explain why later. 

For the older traveller in particular, some of the savings here appeared very significant. The China trip was £241 cheaper to insure with an annual policy. The South Africa trip was £120 cheaper. 

It’s worth noting, though, that we found fewer insurers wanted to provide single-trip cover for our 70-year-old for these three-week trips, which meant more expensive options found their way into our ‘cheapest five’ and could have bumped up our averages. 

Why is annual insurance cheaper for these trips?

Annual insurance wasn’t just cheaper on average for trips like these. It was also sometimes cheaper from the same insurer. 

We found one insurer’s single-trip policy for the three-week South Africa trip for £205. That same insurer’s annual cover for the same customer was £163 – more than £40 cheaper. 

According to the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA), this could be due to the way insurers calculate risk. Statistically, annual policies might be less likely to result in claims than policies for certain specific trips, so they’re priced lower accordingly.

The relatively high cost of insuring these longer trips comes from insurers’ expectation of how risky they are, and therefore how likely they are to result in claims that cost the insurer money. 

Perhaps insurers have found that most 70-year-olds with annual policies take a couple of weekend breaks close to home and rarely need to claim. Meanwhile, claims could be more common with single-trip policyholders on longer trips. But since you don’t usually have to tell insurers exactly where you’re going when you buy annual insurance, you could benefit from these assumptions in some cases. 

What difference do medical conditions make?

You’ll probably have to pay more for your travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But it does depend on what it is, as some illnesses are fairly straightforward to cover. 

When we looked for policies for a traveller with high blood pressure, many of the trends still applied. Annual cover was still cheaper than single-trip cover for three trips of a week or more. And the three-week US holiday was £18 cheaper to insure with annual cover. Single-trip policies were cheaper for the other three-week trips, though. 

Since different health conditions will affect insurance quotes in different ways, your best approach is to look for accurate quotes yourself while sharing your health details with insurers. 

You can still use a comparison site to search for travel insurance if you have a medical condition, but you might want to look into specialist insurers such as AllClear and OK To Travel. Alternatively, find a broker through BIBA, if you’re having trouble finding cover. 

How to compare annual and single-trip cover yourself

Don't just take our word for it. Travel insurance pricing can vary from person to person, so it's important to compare prices yourself if you want to get the best deal. Here's how to do it. 

1. Check you're not already insured

It's possible you've already got annual travel insurance through your packaged bank account, or one held by your partner.

2. Plan your holidays

To get the best and most accurate deal, you’ll need to know all the holidays you’re taking in the next 12 months. We always recommend buying insurance as soon as you book a holiday, so if possible the insurance comparison should come before you’ve actually booked anything. 

3. Find annual quotes 

There are two ways to approach this. You can visit a comparison site such as Compare the Market or Money Supermarket to find quotes from multiple insurers, or you can visit specific insurers’ websites. If you take this second approach it’s still best to check with a few different insurers. 

Whichever site you visit, select ‘annual trip’ and enter your personal details. Set the parameters to the minimum levels of cover you need. 

Our recommended starting points for cover are £5m for medical expenses, £2,000 cancellation cover and £1,500 for personal belongings. You should adjust those last two if your holiday or baggage is worth more or less than that. 

4. Repeat for single-trip quotes 

It’s time to type in all your holidays. Select ‘single trip’ this time on the comparison or insurer sites, and enter all the destinations and dates from your 12-month holiday plan. The quotes you receive will cover all those trips specifically. 

5. Compare prices 

Now you have your annual and single-trip quotes, you can look at them side-by-side and see which is the cheapest for you. Consult Which? travel insurance reviews to find the best insurers. 

What sort of holidaymaker are you?

The insurance you should choose depends on the frequency and duration of your trips. Here’s how different kinds of traveller could fare based on average calculations from our research.

The Europhile 

You travel frequently, but you prefer to keep your trips closer to home. After all, with so much on offer from our closest neighbours, why go long haul? 

Number of trips a year: Three-plus trips to European countries. 

Example itinerary: A week in Spain, a weekend in France and a week in Cyprus. 

Example calculation: £102 single-trip vs £78 Europe-only annual; £24 saving (for our 70-year-old). 

Verdict: It depends. Annual is cheaper in our example, but your best bet will vary based on the number and length of your trips as well as your age. Make sure you check before you buy.

The globetrotter

You live to travel and have visited some of the world’s most fascinating destinations. You’re making fast progress on your bucket list and are ready to spend your air miles after two years semi-grounded by the virus. 

Number of trips a year: Three-plus trips worldwide, each more than a week long. 

Example itinerary: Three two-week trips to Australia, Barbados and Canada. 

Example calculation: £407 singletrip versus £163 worldwide annual; £244 saving (for our 70-year-old). 

Verdict: As noted previously, our single-trip averages could be inflated by a lack of options. But regardless, an annual policy will save you money.

The big-tripper

Go big or stay home. That’s your approach to travel. You save up for one huge holiday a year, really taking the time to explore somewhere you’ve long wished to visit. You might not have the frequent flyer points, but you’ve seen places many people only dream of seeing, going off the beaten track to find the heart of a destination. 

Number of trips a year: One big one. 

Example itinerary: One three-week trip to the US. 

Example calculation: Our 70-year-old would pay £349 single-trip versus £163 worldwide; £186 saving. 

Verdict: Annual cover could still be cheaper. Older travellers in particular could find big savings here.

The mini-breaker

You prefer flying visits. Three days is plenty of time to soak up some sunshine or get a good glimpse of culture. Perhaps you book quick breaks last minute or you prefer to save money. Whatever the case, you probably don’t think annual travel insurance is for you. 

Number of trips a year: A few, but they’re all short. 

Verdict: If you only take one or two trips, single-trip will probably be cheaper. But beyond that, it varies by traveller. We found that annual policies became cheaper for our older traveller if they took six weekend breaks to Europe, but for our youngest traveller it was just three. Once again, you’ll really need to plan ahead and check to get the best deal.