You’ve remembered to pack your sunscreen, swimsuit and that novel you’ve been meaning to read for ages, so you’re all set for your summer holiday, right? Not quite. You may be forgetting the most essential item of all – your travel insurance.

As the old industry adage goes, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Without it, your dream holiday could fast turn into a financial nightmare.

“Traveling without insurance is like skydiving without a parachute,” warned Hemant Gupta, head of travel, Middle East, for Zurich Insurance. “In most countries medical costs can be prohibitive and falling sick or having an accident whilst on holiday can turn into a financial disaster.”

And yet, in a survey released by Zurich at the end of last year, it was revealed that almost 60% of UAE residents never invest in travel insurance, while one in three only purchase travel insurance occasionally.

Nearly a quarter of respondents in the survey, which was carried out by YouGov, claimed that they just didn’t need travel insurance, while one in ten claimed to be covered by their company’s insurance policy.

Be warned – this can be a costly assumption to make. Your corporate health insurance may provide some medical cover while you are abroad but it is unlikely to be extensive.

In all the excitement of planning your holiday, you probably won’t be sparing much thought for all the things that might go wrong. From delayed flights and lost luggage to major health issues and life-threatening accidents, travel to foreign lands can be fraught with disaster and it is essential to protect yourself with a good travel insurance policy. It’ll only take a few minutes to buy a basic policy online but if you don’t and something happens, you could spend years regretting it.

If there is a medical emergency and you need to be evacuated back to your country of residence, for example, this could cost you tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dirhams if not more.

According to the Zurich survey, the most common travel insurance claims revolve around lost or stolen luggage, medical expenses and missed or delayed flights. But there are plenty of other things that might go wrong – you could be the victim of credit card fraud, you might require legal assistance or you could be caught out by extreme weather. Luggage may be lost, damaged or stolen, or it could just take longer than anticipated to arrive. If you need to buy essential clothing, medication or toiletries while waiting for your luggage to get to you, a good insurance policy will cover these expenses.

Similarly, if you need to re-route your journey, or if you need to cancel or cut your trip short because of an emergency, you’ll be able to recover your flight and accommodation costs.

“Travel insurance was once seen as an unnecessary expense, but now it guarantees your protection wherever you go,” said Gupta.

Make sure to shop around and buy a policy that’s appropriate to your holiday. Will you be doing any extreme sports? If so, make sure to invest in a policy that will cover any possible injuries resulting from your chosen activity. There are over 20 insurance policies that can offer you that, for example, AXA Smart policy offers you Adventure Sport coverage up to USD1 million.

If you are going on a golfing holiday, make sure your policy covers the potential costs of losing or damaging your clubs. And if you’re a skiing fanatic, get a special winter sports extension. So RSA Holiday Travel offers you both so always look for the policy which will cover most if not all your activities.

It may cost a little extra, but it’ll be well worth it if anything goes wrong. It’ll also contribute to your peace of mind – and let’s face it, when it comes to travel essentials, that’s far more important than that new swimsuit and matching sarong.