Almost half of Northern Ireland people who travelled in the last five years did so without insurance, it has emerged.
Research by the Consumer Council found that those who opted not to buy cover didn't see the point in bothering with it or felt it was only necessary when going on certain trips.
The fact that so many of us – 44% according to the survey – are choosing to disregard travel insurance is staggering, especially when you consider the huge number of problems that can be encountered.
The Consumer Council's Scott Kennerly warned against complacency given potential scenarios that can arise, such as cancelled flights, lost bags, theft, illness and tour operators going out of business.
"When travel plans are disrupted it can have a significant financial and emotional impact on consumers," said Mr Kennerly. "Our research has revealed that although many consumers recognise the importance of having appropriate travel insurance, almost half of those surveyed who had travelled in the last five years did not take it out.
"Ensuring consumers have access to affordable and appropriate travel insurance products is a key focus for the Consumer Council.
"However, a particular issue of concern is the lack of clarity available for Northern Ireland consumers travelling from airports in the Republic of Ireland."
Although most holidaymakers may be able to afford losing their bag, having a flight delayed, or even a holiday cancelled, the price of falling ill abroad can be exorbitant.
And if you don't have travel insurance, the cost of being unwell could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds – and could even leave you bankrupt.
Experts have suggested that a person who suffers acute appendicitis in America will have to fork out over £22,000, while a minor heart attack will cost at least £28,000.
Meanwhile, breaking a leg on a Swiss skiing trip will set you back around £8,000, whereas you can rack up as much as £19,000 on a fractured hip in Spain, depending on the severity of the break.
Overall, the Consumer Council found that 56% of respondents had bought either single trip or annual travel insurance, while 35% reported purchasing single trip insurance, and 23% said they had bought an annual premium.
But, according to its research, entitled Insured To Travel (2013), a whopping 44% of people who took a trip in the last five years did not buy travel insurance.
The driving factors for not purchasing it were that they travelled within the UK and Ireland (34%), or because they didn't think it was necessary (28%).
The main reason cited by those who did buy insurance was to provide cover for medical expenses when travelling (63%).
If you are travelling within Europe, it's important to remember to get – and bring with you – a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). These are free, and should allow you access to public hospitals across the EU at no cost (even if you're due to leave tomorrow, apply online now at ehic.ie – if you don't yet have the card, but have applied, the details can be faxed to your hospital of choice).
An EHIC will not cover lost baggage, cancelled flights or transportation home in an air ambulance, however, so while it is good to have, it should not be considered a replacement for insurance.
The Consumer Council has produced a Travel Insurance factsheet for consumers which can be downloaded from its website (www.consumercouncil.org.uk) or tel: 0800 121 6022.
Top tips to help you pack up your travel troubles
Heading off on your holidays? Here are consumer correspondent Claire McNeilly’s top tips for making it as pain free as possible.
Most trips and holidays are hassle-free and it's understandable that some people may start to believe that travel insurance is an unnecessary luxury.
But don't be fooled — you will only appreciate the value of having it when something unexpected happens, such as losing a bag or falling ill.
Similarly, there are other ways to prepare yourself for going abroad — and they could also save you a lot of money. Here are my top 10 tips for anyone heading away this year:
1. Divide each person’s belongings amongst all luggage — especially if travelling with a baby. That way no one will be left without everything if one bag is lost.
2. If paying by credit card always pay in the currency of the country you’re in and not sterling. Otherwise retailers use dynamic currency conversion (DCC) to calculate the amount owed according to their own — more favourable to them — currency rates.
3. Get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card for each member of the family. It entitles you to free (or discounted) emergency medical treatment in Europe.
4. Request items such as baby cots and mini-fridges before you arrive at your destination, not when you’re checking into your hotel.
5. Using your mobile phone abroad can result in an unwelcome data roaming bill when you get home. If you want to use the internet wait until you can use the Wi-Fi signal at a hotel or cafe.
6. Minimise airline luggage charges by booking and paying ahead online.
7. Beware of hire car extras such as child safety seats and second driver charges. Read the small print when you book; it’s cheaper and easier than reading it when you arrive.
8. Pay with a credit card as much as possible (as long as you pay your card balance off every month). That way you won’t lose out on the charges and exchange rates for buying cash.
9. Go off-peak. Package holiday prices usually drop by around 20% if you can avoid the summer rush.
10. Buy your currency from high street bureaux or online. Kiosks at airports generally offer poor exchange rates.