Senior citizens are travelling more than ever. But despite an increasing number of people finding they are able to retire in relative financial comfort; money concerns still stand out as the top reason putting off over 65s from taking holidays abroad.

A recent study by Avanti, a specialist in travel insurance policies for older people, found that the number of UK citizens aged 65 and over travelling abroad at least once a year had increased by 35% in the past 20 years – faster than the population in that age demographic has grown.

But it also found that, amongst British pensioners who had not been abroad in the past 12 months, 40% said it was because of financial pressures – by far the most common reason given.

The survey also confirmed just how heavily one particular financial concern weighs on the minds of older travellers – the cost of travel insurance. 85% of over-65s who took part in the study said the price of travel insurance was their number one concern about travelling abroad.


It is well documented that travellers often face rapid increases in insurance premiums as they get older, with many reporting that policies eventually become unaffordable, therefore meaning they can no longer travel. As an illustration of this, a recent report by Which highlighted the case of an 82-year-old woman who saw her quote for a premium rise from £774 to £2806 in just 18 months. The £774 was already 14 times what someone in their 30s would pay for the same policy.

The issue is that insurance companies judge that older travellers are much more likely to need medical assistance while they are abroad, so are more likely to make a claim against their medical cover. Insurers raise their premiums to counter this increased risk.

But while figures from UK insurance trade body the ABI show that the average value of claims from people in their 80s is roughly three times what it is for travellers in their 50s, many insurance companies raise their premiums many times more than that. It is this that leaves a significant number of older people reaching the point where they can no longer justify the costs.

Finding a better deal

So, what can older people do to try to keep the cost of travel manageable, especially around travel insurance? The first piece of advice senior citizens are given is to shop around and not be put off by the first quote they get for a policy, even if it is from a company they have used and trusted for a number of years. There are reasonable deals available out there whatever your age is, usually from niche providers who specialise in policies for older age groups and for specific medical conditions.

Even though the reason for raising premium prices is because of the perceived increase in risk of a medical claim being made, mainstream high street insurance companies often don’t take actual medical history into account when they calculate quotes for older people. Instead, they simply apply an automatic rise based on age alone. This means over-65s who are in good health and have no long-term conditions are effectively getting punished for the risks posed by their entire age group. Insurance providers who are prepared to offer bespoke policies based on personal medical history are therefore much more likely to offer an affordable deal.

The other option for older travellers facing spiralling insurance costs is to try to offset this added expense by paying less for other aspects of their holiday. Avanti’s study also noted an increase in the numbers of over 65s booking their trips independently, rather than purchasing package holidays through travel agents. 60% of older travellers from the UK now prefer to book their own flights and accommodation directly, with around two thirds (64%) saying they believe this gives better value.

Another noticeable trend perhaps connected to the increase in independent travel is that more and more senior citizens are looking for alternatives to the most established mainstream destinations, perhaps in the search for cheaper deals elsewhere. Places like Spain and Greece first announced themselves as major holiday destinations on the back of excellent weather and affordable prices. Nowadays, more and more people are looking to countries in Eastern Europe for the same reasons – Avanti found that the numbers of over-65s from the UK travelling to Romania have shot up by 2120% in 20 years, and Bulgaria 1398%.

For more information and to read the full Avanti report, click here.