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Does anyone have any experience using "cancel for any reason" travel insurance (in particular in the UK)?

My girlfriend and I are looking at booking a holiday for later this year, with the catch that if for some reason she were to need to resit her final year university exams, we wouldn't be able to travel during the window we have available.

Our key questions are:

  • What costs are typically recoverable using these insurance policies?
  • How much do they typically cost?
  • Are there reputable brokers to buy these products from?
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    A quick search seems to indicate that this type of service is not available in the UK, though I haven't searched extensively. Also, where it exists (in the US), the cost is high, you only get 50-75% back, and there are all sorts of conditions (cancel only in the first few weeks after buying, etc). Not sure it would be worth it. You may want to check for refundable fares and hotels instead. Even with the added cost and possible penalties, semi-flexibles fares are probably a better deal. – jcaron Jan 11 at 16:22
  • Looks like it will be better not to book yet and wait till she knows whether she needs to retake the exams. You will then still be able to book a holiday, as a last minute, or travel with only the minimum of booking ahead. Many options to have holidays without booking months in advance. – Willeke Jan 11 at 18:03
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It is usually possible to book hotels with the possibility to cancel although this may incur an extra charge. In my experience this is usually a premium of 10-20%.

For the air fare (assuming you are flying) cancellable fares are usually much more expensive. You could always book a fully refundable fare now to guarantee your flight and then when she passes her exams cancel it and re-book a non-refundable fare which will probably be more expensive by then but you cannot win them all.

(This mostly expands on what @jcaron suggests in comment but I have given more detail)

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"Cancel for any reason" policies are rare and even if you find one, they tend to be very expensive and only refund a portion (usually half) of the trip cost.

Rough estimate: You can expect to pay around 10%-20% of the total trip price as a premium and to cover half of the trip price as "cancel for any reason".

So unless, there is a high chance of you having to cancel, this does not make financial sense.

  • There is too much moral hazard for insurers to want to provide full coverage in these situations. The solution is booking cancellable or refundable arrangements, or taking the risk oneself. – Jim MacKenzie Jan 11 at 19:35

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