If you’re one of the many individuals who was forced to cancel travel plans this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then you likely already know the value of travel insurance. When airlines, cruise lines, hotels and the like don’t refund you for canceled travel (as many did not during the coronavirus pandemic), travel insurance can be a welcomed resource for covering your costs.
However, travel insurance isn’t exactly cut and dry.
It’s not as if you just pay someone a small fee and then they cover the total cost of your hotel room or airfare if you decide you don’t want to go on that trip all of a sudden. There’s much more to it than that.
If you think you might want to purchase some travel insurance for your next trip, here’s everything you need to know about picking the right travel insurance for you.
The Different Types of Travel Insurance
As mentioned, not all travel insurance is the same. You can purchase different insurance types and get different types of coverage (just the same as when you’re shopping for car or homeowner’s insurance).
But, you say, I already have health insurance! Won’t that just cover me while I travel? No.
In general, your normal health insurance will not work out of the country. So, if you have a sudden illness or an injury while traveling abroad, you’ll often have to pay out of pocket for whatever treatment you seek. Purchasing travel medical insurance can alleviate some of these costs.
Most travelers won’t necessarily need travel medical insurance unless they have a history of illness, or they expect to be doing some high-risk activities while traveling — bungee jumping, skydiving, parachuting, rock climbing or something similar. But if you fall into these two categories, you’ll want to consider it.
Keep in mind that travel medical insurance usually does not cover routine treatment. You’ll want to read a travel medical insurance plan before purchasing thoroughly, so you know exactly what is and isn’t covered.
A heightened version of medical insurance is also available that covers more serious emergencies, such as evacuations.
Trip Cancellation or Interruption Insurance
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance are likely the most popular type of travel insurance. You might even find that it’s offered as a standard option with your booking agent (especially if you book with a travel aggregator like Hotwire). Some travel, co-branded credit cards also come with trip cancellation and interruption insurance as one of the cardholder perks.
Generally, this insurance covers any trip cancellations or delays due to natural disasters, illness or illness or a close family member's death. The trip insurance covers whatever the airline, hotel, etc., won’t refund you.
Additionally, this insurance will often cover hotel or food costs if your travel is delayed due to a natural disaster or even weather.
This insurance is often on the affordable side, but do note that it doesn’t cover cancellations for just any reason. You’ll need to pay extra for no-questions-asked cancellations and, even then, sometimes there are outlying conditions wherein cancellations are not covered (some travelers found this to be an issue with their travel insurance when they attempted to cancel travel due to the pandemic).
Depending on your policy, this type of insurance may come with 24-hour assistance, so that you can contact customer service anywhere, any time.
Personal Belonging Insurance
This is another type of travel insurance that, in many instances, comes with a travel credit card, especially if you have a co-branded airline travel credit card.
This insurance covers you if your baggage is lost or stolen. Sometimes it will even give you cash to buy clothes and toiletries if your baggage is delayed for a long period of time (usually 12 hours or longer).
Sometimes, you might even find that your homeowner’s insurance includes some sort of personal belonging insurance that covers you when you travel. Still, you’ll want to check your individual policy to be sure.
Do I Already Have Travel Insurance?
Before you begin shopping around for travel insurance, you’ll want to make sure you actually need it, and you’re not buying something you already have. You may already have travel insurance and just not know it.
Check to see if you might have travel insurance via:
- Your employer (if you’re traveling for work)
- Your credit cards (even the non-travel credit cards!)
- Your current insurance policies
- Your car rental provider
- Your travel loyalty program
But Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?
Yes, to a certain degree, everyone can benefit from travel insurance. Ask yourself.
- Have I ever been unexpectedly sick?
- Do I have family members who are at risk of becoming unexpectedly ill?
- Have I ever missed a flight or cruise (or even come close)?
- Am I willing to lose my checked baggage?
These are all questions to consider before you decide to turn down travel insurance, especially when you can purchase travel insurance for a very small fraction of the cost of your trip.
Now, without further ado, here are some of the best travel insurance options currently available.
1. World Nomads
Many frequent travelers like World Nomads for the company’s comprehensive travel insurance coverage options.
World Nomads is highly rated and backed by reputable brands and publications. It has a long history in the field, ensuring familiarity with global travel's most common risks.
Policies are available for just single trips, but also for multiple trips. Annual insurance packages are available for the avid frequent traveler.
A lot is covered under each policy, including many adventure activities that come with added risks. In fact, World Nomads covers more than 200 different adventure activities (many, many more than the typical provider), as well as offer special insurance for items like camera equipment.
Policies start at under $100 and can be extended for further coverage while you’re on your trip.
AIG offers simple, straight-forward coverage, making it easy for you to book a plan that’s exactly what you need, no more and no less.
Policies start at under $100 and include Silver, Gold and Platinum policies. Benefits include coverage for children at no additional cost, coverage for cancellation due to sickness or death, coverage for cancellation for any reason, coverage for trip interruption, coverage for medical and dental expenses up to $50,000 and coverage for trip delays, in some cases giving you up to $200 to spend per day that your trip is delayed.
AIG does offer more options if you’re seeking specialized coverage for adventure sports or multiple trips, but those aren’t available online. You have to call and get an individualized quote. But, if you know you don’t need that kind of coverage and you just want to purchase something simple to get the job done, AIG can help you online.
If you’re someone who likes to see as many options as you can right in front of you, the type of person who always prefers to use a travel aggregator like Hotwire or Priceline to book your trip, then you may prefer TravelInsurance.com.
This travel insurance marketplace simplifies the shopping process for you and lays out some of the top travel insurance options in the marketplace. All you have to do is fill out some forms detailing what your trip will entail, and then you’ll see the resulting quotes side by side.
The process is fast and easy and you can purchase your insurance right there on the website versus going to an individual provider. Then, if you do happen to find a cheaper, comparable option elsewhere, you can take advantage of the website’s price guarantee, which allows you to always get the best deal possible.
This is one-stop insurance shopping at its finest.
Allianz Travel Insurance is pretty well known and highly regarded in the travel community and offers individual plans for individual trips, as well as an annual travel insurance package.
Allianz’s most popular plan is OneTrip Prime, which covers all your bases for one fee. You get $100,000 of trip cancellation coverage; $150,000 of trip interruption coverage; $25,000 of emergency medical coverage; $500,000 of emergency medical transportation coverage; baggage delay and baggage loss coverage; and more.
Unlike some other travel insurance providers, Allianz does cover some travelers with pre-existing conditions, depending on the specifics.
Seven Corners is on the more affordable side and it offers a range of travel insurance options for travelers with unique needs, such as students traveling abroad for an international exchange program or expatriates traveling for work.
The basic plans are available for less than $100, but you get what you pay for, so if you upgrade to some of Seven Corners’ more robust policies, you’ll enjoy perks such as $150,000 of coverage for medical emergencies and up to $2,500 for lost or stolen baggage or belongings.
Expedia Package Protection is a very popular travel insurance option simply because so many people book travel via Expedia, and the insurance comes up as an add-on at the time of travel purchase. For this reason, it could be on your list of considered providers — but is it the best choice?
It turns out it’s definitely not a bad one. Purchasing is quick, simple and convenient. Pricing starts at under $50 for coverage. Trip cancellation and interruption coverage apply to special situations such as airline strikes or aircraft mechanical failure. And, of course, you’ll receive the standard coverage for things such as medical emergencies and transportation, as well as lost or stolen belongings.
There’s no need to be an American Express cardholder to take advantage of American Express Travel Insurance and Amex Assurance. Some travelers prefer this option thanks to its build-your-own coverage packages, as well as its standard coverage that applies to any destination in the world (some providers will change their pricing depending on where you plan to travel — that’s not the case with American Express Travel Insurance). This option is also attractive because the price does not increase when you travel for a longer period of time; the cost is the same no matter how long you’re on the road.
Standard, pre-packaged plans include trip cancellation coverage, trip interruption coverage, global medical protection, travel accident protection, global baggage protection, global trip delay coverage and 24-hour travel assistance. The build-your-own coverage plans give you the option to add or deny any of the above.
Generali Global Assistance offers three plans with basic coverage to make your choice easy. Each offers trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage loss, medical coverage and dental coverage.
However, where this travel insurance provider shines is in the extra services and perks it offers. For example, every policyholder can access comprehensive, 24-hour support, including an emergency hotline to help you no matter where you’re traveling. If you have a sudden medical emergency, you can access their Teladoc hotline to speak with a doctor right when you need to, via phone or video chat.
Policyholders also receive access to concierge services and even support for travel problems such as pet relocation or ID theft.
Better yet, you receive 10 days to think about your policy before committing, and you can cancel for a full refund at any time before you leave on your trip.
Travelex is a preferred provider for traveling families. All traveling children under the age of 17 will be covered on your plan at no cost.
Travelex offers four plans, but the most comprehensive plan truly covers it all: trip cancellation coverage, trip interruption coverage, trip delay coverage, missed connection coverage, baggage insurance, sporting equipment delay coverage, $50,000 in emergency medical and dental coverage and $500,000 in emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage.
You can add on upgrades to your plan, in case you think you’ll need additional medical coverage, car rental coverage or a range of other options.
IMG is another travel insurance provider that may be well suited to those special, niche travelers, including missionaries and marine crews. There are specialty plans available for eco-friendly travelers who want to travel with the smallest carbon footprint possible, as well as for those who want to enjoy as many adventure activities as possible.
Unfortunately, IMG’s services are a bit difficult to wade through, and this provider isn’t as clear as to what it covers and what it doesn’t with each plan, at least not compared to some of the other providers on this list.
Lastly, Berkshire Hathaway offers general travel insurance, which a lot of frequent travelers like and recommend, but the brand also offers a very unique type of travel insurance that might appeal to you if you’re a frequent cruiser: Berkshire Hathaway WaveCare.
WaveCare is built specifically for cruisers. In addition to standard insurance like trip cancellation and medical coverage, it offers cruise-specific coverage that might help you if you’re stuck on a cruise ship that gets stranded, or if you book a cruise with a line that suddenly decides to close up shop before your cruise takes place.
Best Tips for Buying Travel Insurance
At the end of the day, you could find perfect travel insurance with all of these providers. And, hopefully, you’ll never even need to use the travel insurance at all!
As you shop, just keep these few tips in mind, and you’ll do just fine.
1. Read the Fine Print
Don’t just assume that a travel insurance plan covers everything. Read all the fine print before you sign the (online) dotted line. If you have questions about a plan, ask them!
Don’t be afraid to speak up. That fine print could be all the difference in having the coverage you need when the worst comes to worst while you’re on the road.
2. Consider the Type of Insurance You Need
You may not need the most robust insurance option out there. You might just want to get the most basic plan to keep you covered in the event of an airline delay or some bad weather. If you’re in excellent health, you don’t plan on doing some adventure activities and you don’t have too much money sunk into a trip, to begin with, then you may be able to pass up some of the pricier, all-inclusive travel insurance policies that are available to you.
On the other hand, if you do have those pre-existing conditions or you want extra coverage for your skis or your camera or even your pet (Travelex offers some pet coverage), then you may want to go with not only basic insurance but a policy that comes with all the bells and whistles.
3. Take Your Time
Take your time to actually shop around and see what’s out there. Even if you use a travel insurance aggregator like TravelInsurance.com, you may still find information about various types of available travel insurance elsewhere. Don’t try to sit down in one hour and book your travel insurance.
Shop around. Take your time.
Related: How to Find Last Minute Travel Deals
4. But Then…Don’t Take Too Much Time
However, all things said, you don’t want to take too much time. The earlier in your trip planning that you book your travel insurance, the better off you’ll be, both in terms of getting a policy you want and being covered.
After all, everything could look fine for your trip to the Caribbean today, but what if a hurricane comes into play next week? Then you likely will have a more difficult time getting travel insurance to cover an affected trip.
5. Consider the Factors That May Impact Your Insurance
Of course, not everyone can purchase insurance from every provider. Depending on both you and your trip, some providers simply won’t cover you.
These factors include age (World Nomad will cover travelers up to age 70 and Allianz will cover travelers up to age 99), pre-existing medical conditions or disabilities (including mental health issues) and countries you may be traveling to.
Ask any insurance provider you may be considering about these factors before you purchase anything.
Final Thoughts on Travel Insurance
For most travelers, travel insurance, even just the most basic option, is a good idea. Be smart about your travel insurance, and take the purchase seriously.
Consider all of your options and shop around. Read the fine print about things like medical expenses, medical evacuation, travel delays and any other faqs when it comes to travel insurance. To make sure your total trip is covered before you go anywhere!
Ask questions and make the best choice possible for you and your family — whatever travel insurance provider you go when you buy travel insurance.
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