Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

5 min read

New research has shown that 44% of Brits already experienced a degree of travel anxiety prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. This figure has since escalated to 69%. It’s no surprise that many intrepid travellers had to postpone their travel plans this year, but with borders opening up in the new year, many British tourists are looking forward to a much-needed holiday break abroad. 

This is why Medical Travel Compared was keen to get to the bottom of the country’s travel attitudes and took the opportunity to survey 2,000 Brits in order to find out what their biggest travel anxieties are. From specific travel fears to what we’re all missing most about holidays, find out what Brits think of travel right now.

Brits top 5 COVID-19 travel fears

Unsurprisingly, many Britons’ single biggest COVID-19-related fear is becoming unwell with the condition while they’re abroad. Interestingly, almost one in two respondents believe they won’t be able to travel as often as they would like because of COVID-19 restrictions and up to 80% of Brits expect travel to become more expensive in the future.

Rank COVID-19 travel fear % of Brits
1. I’ll catch COVID-19 abroad and become unwell 57.9%
2. Having to quarantine when I arrive at my destination 52.7%
3. Being stranded in another country because of a local lockdown (my holiday country won’t allow me to leave) 52.3%
4. Someone in the aeroplane having COVID-19 52.1%
5. Being stranded in another country because of a UK lockdown (the UK won’t let me back in) 51.4%

Brits top 3 travel fears in general

While going on holiday is a wonderful adventure, it’s certainly not without its worries. As it turns out, the most common travel anxiety experienced by those surveyed is related to travel insurance, with more than a quarter of Brits being concerned about having inadequate health insurance while they’re on holiday and 86% of Brits confirming that having the right travel insurance definitely lessens their worries about travelling abroad, post-COVID.

Rank General travel fear % of Brits
1. Not being insured if I become unwell on my holiday 37.7%
2. Being late for and missing my flight 32.5%
3. Losing my passport whilst on holiday 29.1%

The 5 things Brits are missing about travel and holidays abroad

From missing out on glorious, sunny beach weather to having to forgo the precious experience of making memories with friends and family, Brits are very clear about what travel favourites they’ve been missing out on in 2020.

Find medical travel insurance for worldwide holidays abroad.

Rank What we’re missing about travel % of Brits
1. The weather 62.5%
2. Exploring new places 61.5%
3. Downtime away from the day-to-day. A chance to relax and unwind 54.1%
4. Making memories 53.3%
5. Quality time with family and friends 46.6%

The number 1 COVID-19 travel fear for each age group in the UK

Almost all the age groups who participated in the survey listed their number one COVID-19 fear as catching the virus while on holiday, with the exception of the age group 25-34 who are more concerned with having to quarantine when they arrive at their destination, and age groups 45-54 who are worried about becoming stranded in another country.

Age group Biggest travel fear for the demographic
18 - 24 I’ll catch COVID-19 abroad and become unwell
25 - 34 Having to quarantine when I arrive at my destination
35 - 44 I’ll catch COVID-19 abroad and become unwell
45 - 54 Being stranded in another country because of a UK lockdown/I’ll catch COVID-19 and become unwell
55 - 64 I’ll catch COVID-19 abroad and become unwell
65+ I’ll catch COVID-19 abroad and become unwell

Which UK cities feel the most and least anxious about COVID-19 and travel?

Our research reveals there is a clear north and south divide when it comes to COVID-19 worries with those in the north showing far more concerns about the pandemic than their neighbours in the south. Overall, Aberdeen is the most anxious city in the UK with 88% of residents believing that their travel anxiety has increased since the outbreak. Coventry, Plymouth and Sheffield follow closely with 84%, 83%, and 80% of residents suffering from more travel anxiety, respectively.

The top 20 most travel anxious UK cities, post-COVID
Rank City % who feel that their travel anxiety has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic
1. Aberdeen 88.2%
2. Coventry 83.8%
3. Plymouth 82.7%
4. Sheffield 79.6%
5. Exeter 76.4%

Derby ranks as having the least COVID-19 anxiety at 44% with Lancaster, Birmingham and Leeds following at 48%, 59% and 60% respectively.

Rank City % who feel that their travel anxiety has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic
30. Derby 44%
29. Lancaster 48.7%
28. Birmingham 58.9%
27. Leeds 60.2%
26. Kingston Upon Hull 61.1%

How Brits feel about travel insurance

Travelling without medical insurance can mean not just huge costs but also enormous anxiety if there are problems accessing healthcare because you’re not insured. 

Medical Travel Compared’s survey revealed that almost a quarter of Brits don’t have any concerns about travel insurance, while 18% are worried about the ‘fine print’ catching them out, leading them to pay a medical hefty bill out of pocket. One in five Brits worry that their pre-existing medical conditions won’t be covered by their travel insurer. 

Encouragingly, more than two-thirds of the Brits surveyed believe that having travel insurance is directly related to reducing travel anxiety as it’s one less thing to worry about. Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE and consultant to Medical Travel Compared, explains that “Nobody wants to become unwell while they’re abroad – but the prospect is less scary if you have the correct cover.” 

Jarvis, who is also a mental health advocate, strongly advises taking a holiday break to rejuvenate your senses, both physically and mentally, and strongly advocates the benefits of travel. “Taking out the right travel insurance, especially if you have a pre-existing condition, is one of the sensible steps to take when planning your next holiday. The costs of uninsured healthcare abroad can be astronomical, even before the cost of medical repatriation is taken into account and, by not declaring your pre-existing medical condition, you can invalidate your insurance. With Brexit just around the corner and no clear plans on what will replace the current EHIC cover, it has never been more important to have the correct travel insurance.”

Methodology & research

The survey of 1,903 British respondents was collected during a week period (Thursday 22nd Oct 2020 - Thursday 29th) in October 2020. Dr Sarah Jarvis MBE’s comments are a direct reflection of this data as part of her consultancy with Medical Travel Compared. Full data and research available on request.

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