MILLIONS of Britons are taking a financial gamble by failing to invest in insurance before they go on holiday, and many are suffering the consequences when illness, accident, baggage loss or other unforeseen circumstances strike.

A fifth of those going abroad do so without cover, but it is those taking a break on home soil who are most likely to put themselves at risk, often because they wrongly think insurance is not necessary.

According to Co-op Insurance, stay-at-home holidaymakers are three times more likely to leave travel insurance off their shopping list than those heading to Europe.

Six out of ten staycationers go without, with a quarter saying they do not see the point of cover. The next most common reasons are that they cannot afford it, even though policies can cost under £10, or they forgot.

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Colin Butler, head of travel insurance at Co-op, said: “It’s concerning that so many people holidaying in the UK are doing so without having travel insurance in place.

“Cancellations, accidents or illnesses on holiday within the UK can cost just as much as, if not more than, say, a trip to Spain.

“For that reason, it’s really important that, despite not jetting off on holiday, people consider what insurance cover they might need.”

According to Direct Line, luggage worth more than £33,000 was lost, damaged, delayed or stolen every day last year, adding up to an annual bill of more than £12 million.

One in seven travel claims lodged in 2017 were baggage related, making it the third most common issue after cancellation or curtailment and medical expenses.

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A third of British holidaymakers have had luggage lost, damaged, delayed or stolen in the past five years. However, many were unable to claim as they had no cover.

More than a third had to wear the same clothes or pay for new ones, almost as many said they wasted time waiting for their belongings to be returned, and a fifth had to spend time on the phone trying to track down the missing items.

Others said their holiday was ruined because they lost items of sentimental value that could not be replaced, or that missing documents left them struggling to continue their break.

Tom Bishop, Direct Line’s head of travel insurance, said: “While having comprehensive insurance in place may not prevent travellers losing their luggage in the first place, it can ensure that if the worst happens, they can replace their belongings without being left out of pocket.”

Do not simply take the policy offered by your travel agent or bank, though, as you could end up overpaying massively. The easiest way to find a range of options is via price-comparison sites.

Single-trip insurance for a couple spending a week in the UK can cost just £7.50, while cover for two for a fortnight in Spain starts at £9.50 and two weeks in Florida at £21.50.

Shop around as soon as your holiday is booked, so you are covered if something goes wrong before you leave, but do not choose the cheapest policy without checking the small print.

If you travel regularly, an annual policy may be better value than paying for individual trips, but ensure baggage is included, as this is often an optional extra with annual cover.

MoneySupermarket recommends having at least £2m of medical cover – £3-4m for the US – and £1m of personal liability protection, in case you are sued after an accident.

You should have cancellation protection for at least the total cost of each person’s holiday plus any pre-paid activities and excursions; enough baggage cover to replace everything you are taking; and a minimum of £250 for theft of cash.

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Compensation for scheduled airline and end-supplier failure is desirable, as is payment for delays. And, to ensure claiming is not too expensive, aim for an excesses of £100 or less.

Most single trip policies do not include sports cover as standard. So if you plan to try anything while you are away, add this or buy a dedicated sports policy.

In case something does happen to your luggage, to ensure you are not left without essentials, pack spare clothes and any vital medication in hand luggage.

Do not put valuables in the hold, as these will not normally be covered, never keep all your money in one place and split cash and credit cards.