By Kate Saines
Whether you are planning a romantic long-weekend in Paris, a family package holiday to Spain or an intrepid backpacking gap-year around the world you will need travel insurance.
But while many people are tempted to take out the cheapest policy, with so many things that can potentially go wrong choosing a deal tailor-made for you and your trip could be the more sensible option.
This is because many of the basic insurance policies come with only minimal cover. If you are planning a holiday with activities, are over 65 or pregnant, for example, you may find your average policy simply does not provide the cover you need.
And this where the specialist policies can come in handy. There are plenty available and we've flagged up some of the most common to provide you with a guide to ensuring your holiday is fully covered.
Backpackers and gap year travellers
Anyone taking an extended holiday, or travelling to various destinations for more than just a few weeks, will need to ensure they have a more comprehensive insurance policy.
This is particularly prevalent if you plan to work while you are away or if you plan to carry out any high adrenaline sports or adventurous activities.
You can buy specialist backpacker policies which cover the basics of a travel insurance policy such as baggage cover and flight cancellations. But you can also tailor them to meet other needs – for example if you plan to do sky diving or bridge climbing.
Grant Bather of Virgin Money suggests ensuring you are covered for bills, medical treatment and the journey home, in case you need to return to the UK due to illness or injury.
A policy which provides access to a free 24 hour travel advice line and emergency helpline is also a good idea.
Virgin Money's Backpacker Travel Insurance is one of the policies which covers all the above.
Mr Bather added: "Anyone of any age whether they are on a gap year or taking a backpacking trip needs to think carefully about insurance.
"Travellers need insurance that covers them for all activities and eventualities."
Skiers and snowboarders
Likewise, if you are going on a winter sports holiday the basic insurance policies are unlikely to provide you with full cover.
So for ultimate peace of mind most insurers offer comprehensive policies for people planning to spend their vacation skiing or snowboarding.
The reason for this specialist policy is obvious – the chances of you having an accident and needing medical attention are increased when you take part in a potentially risky pursuit.
Research shows the average cost of winter sports-related travel claims has doubled in two years.
And the cost of these claims has soared between 2008 and 2010, according to the figures unveiled by Sainsbury's Finance.
They show the value of winter sports injury claims from Italy alone have soared 106 per cent from £679 to £1,400.
Knees seem to be the most commonly injured body part, and the average cost of a claim for medical attention for this costs £1,000.
As well as injuries, you'll also need cover for equipment – and winter sports insurance will also provide you with this. If you plan to hire equipment, check your insurer covers this and for how much.
It will also cover for the loss of a ski pass, piste closures as well as other features like flight cancellations and lost luggage.
According to Mike Powell, Defaqto's insight analyst for general insurance, because the cost of hiring equipment and the types and levels of cover differ so widely, it's essential you choose a cover which suits your needs.
He added: "We would urge people to focus on policy features and not just focus on paying the lowest price for cover – the cheapest option can often prove costly if something does go wrong."
Other adventure sports holidaymakers
Rock climbers, bungee jumpers and white water rafters are also urged to make sure their insurance policies cover any daring pursuits they might take part in on holiday.
Even people who intend to do more mainstream activities like horse riding and scuba diving are advised to be thorough when taking out a travel policy.
Maxine Baker, travel insurance manager at Moneysupermarket.com, said: "If there's any chance you might take part in extreme sporting activities while you are away, it's essential you speak to your insurer ahead of your trip.
"Daredevil activities may not be covered by some standard policies so scour the small print before you 'jump'."
According to charity Age UK, the over-55s are travelling more and travelling further.
The proof came from sales of annual worldwide insurance for this age group which increased by 21 per cent between 2009 and 2010.
Gordon Morris, managing director of Age UK, said: "Travelling is no longer the preserve of the young, with over 55s increasingly holidaying in far flung corners of the world."
The problem is, traditionally, the older generations among us have found it difficult to find appropriate travel insurance to cover their needs on holidays – particularly long haul vacations.
Once you get to 65, the premiums start rising – and at 75 and 85 they soar even further – because insurers see travellers of this age as a greater risk.
What's more many insurers might refuse to cover you if you are travelling further afield than Europe. So if you are planning to visit family in Australia or go on a long cruise you could face an impossible battle to get insurance.
Luckily organisations like Age UK and Saga provide tailored travel insurance for older travellers. But whatever policy you choose, it's essential you check the small print to ensure it covers everything you need.
Many policies, according to research by Saga, include upper age limits – and this is especially true of many of the travel insurance products provided through high street banks' packaged accounts.
It's also essential to ensure you declare any pre-existing medical conditions. If you fall ill on holiday and have not told your insurer about a condition you have, you might not be able to make a claim.
Roger Ramsden, chief executive of Saga Services, said: "In addition to the upper age limits, many banks' travel insurance policies do not offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions or may charge an additional premium to do so.
"It's safe to assume if you're not asked for details of any medical conditions, you're not going to be covered.
"If travellers do have any medical conditions our advice would be to contact your insurer and inform them as failure to do so could have catastrophic effects."
Saga said its policy provides medical screening at the point of application – either on the phone or online, depending on how you have applied.
It also promised to make clear exactly what you will be covered for during your trip.
If you are travelling with the kids it could be cheaper to buy a family travel insurance policy instead of individual ones.
You can obtain policies for families travelling worldwide and going on sports holidays such as skiing trips.
You can even buy add-ons such as additional baggage cover – which can come in extremely handy with all the paraphernalia required for a trip with kids.
You can also choose between annual multi-trip policies or single trip insurance. If you tend to book a trip abroad and also a couple of shorter breaks each year, the annual policy might work out as the better value option.
However, if your budget limits you to just one family holiday a year – the single trip option might be more suitable.
Many family policies will also cover you if decide to go on a kid-free break. So even if you are planning two trips – one without the children – the annual policy might be a wise move.
Make sure you check the details of your policy, however, if you are separated from your partner and taking the kids away.
Often, insurers only consider children to be 'family' if they live permanently at your address.
Defaqto, the independent financial research company, found in an investigation last year that 28 per cent of family travel insurance policies do not cover children who live with an ex partner.
Brian Brown, head of research at Defaqto, said: "Many travel insurers will insure your children and step children as long as they live with you.
"But if you take children on holiday with you and they normally live with an ex partner, they might not be covered."
You will also need to check the details of your travel insurance policy if you are pregnant during your holiday. Many airlines will refuse to let you fly if you are at the latter stages of your pregnancy and insurers are just as reluctant to provide policies.
Again, you may need to take out a specialist policy if you wish to travel beyond the 28th week.
Make sure, if you are going on a long-haul holiday, you take out an insurance policy which covers worldwide travel.
Worldwide travel insurance can be purchased either as a single trip or annual policy. Insurers suggest if you are planning two or more long haul trips in a year you take out the annual multi-trip option as this usually works out as better value.
Long haul or worldwide trips usually cover destinations outside Europe. And you will also need to purchase a worldwide policy if you are planning a trip around the world.
Use the Myfinances.co.uk comparison tools to find the right type of travel insurance policy.