If you're planning a holiday, travel insurance can be a useful way to ensure you're protected – whether from inconveniences like lost baggage, or more serious issues like illnesses and natural disasters. Choosing the right insurance policy can be tricky though, especially because there are so many competing services to choose from.

While loads of the policies are similar, they're certainly not the same and price isn't the only distinguishing factor.

We've listed what to look out for to get you started before you finalize on a service. We'd also recommend calling up companies you've shortlisted to find out more about your specific circumstances and the coverage you could be entitled to.

Also see our separate guide on choosing car insurance.

So before you sign the dotted lines, take the following into consideration:

1. What are the age limits?

Some policies won't cover people over the age of 65 even if you might be healthy. Other policies may cover higher age limits but under very specific conditions.

The Post Office doesn't have an upper age limit, for instance, but if you're between 71 and 75 years old, coverage lasts for 90 days, and 31 days if you're over 76.

Similarly, Co-op's travel insurance doesn't have any upper age limits either, but if you're over 66 years old trips must be less than 31 days long to qualify for coverage.

2. Do you have any pre-existing conditions?

Insurers can deny you coverage if your existing health conditions put you at a higher risk abroad.

Some insurers will cover specific medical conditions on top of the basic coverage, though you will likely need provide additional details and of course pay more.

Typically, if you have any pre-existing health conditions the cost of insurance is higher, so you will need to budget this into your plans. Speak to the insurer's customer service team to see whether you would qualify.

3. How long is your trip? (And where are you going?)

Medical coverage in some countries are significantly higher than others, such as in the US, the Caribbeans, and even Canada. Coverage on longer trips can be more expensive as well because the longer you're away, the more likely you are to have you're an incident. 

Many insurers offer multi-trip policies, so if you anticipate you'll be returning to the same country multiple times in the year, this might be a better option for you – rather than taking out insurance on a trip-by-trip basis.

But keep in mind, if you are planning to visit different countries and continents on each trip you may need to take out a separate insurance based on the destination country. Some insurers class USA, Canada and the Caribbeans outside "World travel". Similarly, "Europe" can also have different rates to the rest of the world.

How to choose travel insurance

4. What type of activities have you planned on your trip?

Are you hitting the ski slopes in Vancouver? Or going bungee jumping in Yosemite?

Some insurers won't cover extreme sports in standard packages. Look specifically for winter-sport or sports travel insurance if you're planning on anything intense. You may need to pay extra.

5. Is baggage covered? 

Baggage insurance is usually included in standard travel insurance coverage, so make sure you're not having to pay for this separately. Also look for passport coverage.

6. Travel disruptions? Extended stays?

Some policies cover unexpected disruptions and delays to your trip, though you may need to pay separately for added protection in certain cases.

Many insurers cover calamities like natural disasters (and even acts of terrorism!) – this is something to think about if you're going to an area that might be earthquake-prone, for instance, or susceptible to flooding (which doesn't seem too out of the ordinary, these days, given the effects of climate change).

7. What are the exclusions?

Don't ignore the exclusions, even though it might be tedious to go through in length. Most policies will be very specific about what is covered and what isn't, and the conditions of coverage. You don't want to lose out on coverage in the time of need because of a technicality. For instance, a policy might only cover cycling accidents if the cyclist wears a helmet.

How to choose travel insurance family

8. How many people are travelling together? Are you travelling as a family? 

Look for family coverage if applicable, as this might make the total cost cheaper than purchasing policies individually. Some insurers also offer discounts to couples and children.

9. Have you checked customer service reviews?

Before you sign up for insurance, it's a good idea to check what other customers have said about the service.

Also, is assistance available 24/7? The last thing you'd want is to be stuck in a foreign country waiting around for customer service lines to open in your home timezone.

10. Do they cover pets?

This isn't applicable to everyone of course, but if you're traveling with Rover, you might want to check what the policies are around animal coverage. Look out for how many days are covered; some companies may cover 90 days of travel, while other just 30.