When’s the Best Time to Buy Travel Insurance?
You freeze. Should you buy it right now? What happens if you wait? Will it be too late?
Relax. You don’t have to buy travel insurance in the middle of the booking process. You can do it, if you understand exactly what you’re buying and you’re insuring something simple, like a flight or a weekend getaway. But if you’re planning a big trip, it’s okay to wait until you’ve nailed down all the details. We’ll help you figure out when to buy travel insurance for your next trip.
The best time to buy travel insurance is immediately after you’ve completed your travel arrangements.
Let’s say you’re planning a Rhine river cruise to see the famous Christmas markets of Germany and France. You’ll need to book the cruise itself, any excursions you plan to take, your airfare and your hotel for two extra days in Zurich, post-cruise. Once you’ve gotten all those arrangements nailed down, you’ll know your total pre-paid trip costs — and that’s the perfect time to purchase travel insurance.
Why? You need to know your total costs to get an accurate quote, if you’re purchasing travel insurance with trip cancellation/trip interruption benefits. That way, your entire travel investment can be protected.
It’s smart to buy travel insurance immediately after booking for two reasons. One: You won’t forget! Far too many travelers postpone buying travel insurance and then realize, too late, that they neglected to buy it at all.
And two: the earlier you buy insurance, the bigger your coverage window. Trip cancellation benefits begin on your plan’s effective date, as long as we receive your premium before you cancel your trip or make a claim. (The effective date is affected by when and how you purchase a plan; if you buy travel insurance online, it’s the day after we receive your order.) The earlier you purchase insurance, the sooner you’ll be protected.
So if you’ve already made all your travel arrangements, don’t delay! Get a quote for travel insurance right now.
The second best time to buy travel insurance is within 14 days of making your first trip payment.
The 14-day mark is significant when you’re buying travel insurance, because it’s the cutoff point for the existing medical condition benefit. Many of our plans include this benefit, which means that you, a traveling companion or family member can have an existing medical condition and still be eligible for all applicable benefits and assistance services. You must, however, meet certain requirements:
• You must purchase your plan within 14 days of making your first trip payment or first trip deposit.
• You must purchase trip cancellation coverage that covers the full cost of all your non-refundable trip arrangements.
• You must be a U.S. resident and medically able to travel on the day you purchase the plan.
• The total cost of your trip does not exceed the maximum cost specified by your plan.
• All other stated terms and conditions are met.
Wait — what if you haven’t figured out your entire trip cost within 14 days of making your first trip deposit? It’s okay! Just don’t delay. Go ahead and purchase travel insurance within that 14-day window, making sure you select a plan with the existing medical condition benefit. (Those plans are listed here.) As soon as your travel arrangements are finalized, you can update your plan with your final trip costs, either online (click Manage a Policy) or by calling us. Increases in trip cost may increase the overall cost of your travel insurance plan.
The third best time to buy travel insurance is any time before you depart.
With all the stress and excitement of planning your trip, you completely forgot to insure it. Now it’s 10 p.m. the night before departure, and you’re wondering, “How late can I buy travel insurance? Is it even worth doing now?”
You know that old saying: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” It applies to travel insurance too. Even if you’re about to leave for your trip, it’s better to buy insurance late than not have it at all. Go ahead and get a quote to see your options for protecting your trip. While trip cancellation/interruption benefits may not be useful to you now, benefits such as baggage loss/damage, baggage delay, travel delay and emergency medical can give you crucial protection for your trip.
The worst time to buy travel insurance is after something bad has already happened.
You’re happily gallivanting around Portugal when you stumble in a vineyard and fracture your ankle. Uh-oh. If you’d purchased travel insurance with emergency medical benefits, you could have avoided paying the Portuguese hospital bills out of pocket. If you’d purchased travel insurance with trip interruption benefits, it could have reimbursed you for the unused portion of your trip, as well as for the cost of the plane ticket to return home early. But you didn’t. Is it too late to buy travel insurance now?
Unfortunately, it is. Travel insurance is designed to protect a traveler from certain unforeseeable events — not things that are easily foreseeable, or things that have already happened at the time you purchase your plan. That’s why it’s smart to buy insurance as early as possible in the booking process. If you’re taking more than one trip this year, you can make life easier by purchasing an AllTrips multi-trip plan. Find the best plan for your next trip!
Should You Buy Travel Insurance And Is It Worth It?
Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.
Travel insurance makes sense if you want to protect the amount of money you’ve laid out for your vacation. But no one can blame you if you’re hesitant to add another expense to your travel budget after paying for airfare, hotels, meals and activities. Still, if you can’t afford to lose that money if something unexpected happens, travel insurance can be a smart investment.
The average insured trip cost is about $5,453, according to Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison website. The cost for travel insurance was $252, on average. You may be planning to spend much more than that for your dream vacation, or you may be going on a long weekend get-away that costs much less.Typically, the cost of travel insurance is 5% to 6% of your trip cost.
Here are some scenarios where travel insurance can pay off.
What Travel Insurance Covers
Travel insurance compensates you for trip costs and money you spend due to unforeseen events before and during your trip.
Trip cancellation travel insurance
Before you’re even able to finish packing your sunscreen and swimsuits, an unforeseen circumstance could force cancellation of your trip—for instance, if a tour operator goes out of business, you become ill or a family member dies. Travel insurance that includes trip cancellation coverage will reimburse the pre-paid, non-refundable costs of your trip in these kinds of situations.
Furthermore, if you, a family member or a travel companion becomes sick or is injured while traveling, the policy’s trip cancellation feature typically would reimburse you for the unused part of the trip. The trip cancellation benefit could even kick in if you, a family member or a travel companion dies while traveling.
Compare & Buy Travel Insurance
“Cancel for any reason” travel insurance
Note that you can make a claim using trip cancellation coverage only if your reason for canceling is listed in the policy as an acceptable reason. To broaden cancellation coverage, there’s an add-on known as “cancel for any reason” travel insurance (CFAR).
CFAR coverage lets you cancel a trip for any reason and receive partial reimbursement, as long as you cancel at least 48 hours before your scheduled departure. For instance, maybe you’ve opted to stay home so you can attend your high school reunion after all. CFAR coverage typically adds 50% to your standard travel insurance policy cost. Reimbursement is generally 75% of the trip money you lose.
Travel medical insurance for emergencies
Whether you’re canoeing in Argentina or taking a safari trip in Zambia, a medical emergency can certainly put a big dent in your travel mojo. It also can put a big dent in your budget.
Many U.S. health plans offer no coverage outside the country. That means you have to pay for your medical care if you get injured or become ill during your trip—and if you think it’s not likely, think again. Allianz, a travel insurance company, says it receives more than 4,000 calls a year from customers who are experiencing a medical emergency during a trip.
Travel medical insurance covers costs for doctor and hospital bills, ambulance service, medicine, X-rays and lab work, up to the limits in your policy.
Medical evacuation travel insurance
Imagine needing to be airlifted off a mountainside in Switzerland after a hiking mishap, spending a few weeks in a Colombian hospital recovering from a heart attack or requiring a flight back home from Jamaica to treat a broken hip.
It can cost an estimated $15,000 to $200,000 to be transported by helicopter or ambulance to a nearby health care facility for treatment of an injury or illness somewhere in the world, according to Allianz. That does not include the cost of the treatment itself.
Medical evacuation travel insurance covers the expense of being taken to the closest health care facility overseas that’s equipped to treat you, and it also may pay for someone to be flown back to the U.S. for advanced medical attention. Along with medical evacuation, a policy can cover the repatriation, or transfer, of a traveler’s remains to the U.S.
For example, the TripProtector Preferred plan from HTH Worldwide is one of the most generous in the industry, providing $500,000 for emergency medical expenses and $1 million for emergency medical evacuation.
Travel insurance for missed connections
Missing a connection while you’re traveling can be a costly hassle. Missed connection travel insurance reimburses you if you miss a departure for a reason listed in the policy.
This would compensate for a travel delay of, say, three, six or 12 hours caused by something like a mechanical failure on a plane or a storm that prevents a cruise ship from docking on time. The compensation typically would cover the cost of catching up to a tour or cruise.
For example, the Classic plan by TravelSafe provides $2,500 after three hours of a missed connection.
Travel Insurance for flight cancellations
Flight cancellations caused by bad weather conditions, like storms and blizzards are typically covered by flight insurance. However, with flight cancellations becoming more and more common, for a variety of reasons and complications, it may be worth buying travel insurance for flight cancellations
Travel insurance for flight cancellations can reimburse your forfeited, non-refundable trip costs if the reasons of cancellation is not covered by standard travel insurance.
Travel delay insurance
Travel delays are a headache for many travelers. A policy with travel delay insurance can reimburse restaurant and hotel expenses when a flight is delayed due to a reason listed in your policy, for instance bad weather or a mechanical problem. The daily amount of coverage usually ranges from $150 to $200.
For example, Trawick International’s Safe Travels Voyager plan provides travel delay coverage of $150 a day, up to $2,000 total, after five hours of delay.
The travel delay benefit could also cover costs for you to catch up to a destination or go back home, or even may reimburse you for unused trip expenses that are pre-paid and non-refundable.
If your luggage is lost, stolen or damaged during a trip, a travel insurance policy with baggage insurance can reimburse you. Homeowners insurance or renters insurance policies can also cover theft of your baggage and belongings.
Baggage insurance also extends to your personal possessions, so if your backpack gets stolen, you can file a claim. Be aware that baggage insurance compensates you for the depreciated value of your belongings and not the amount to replace your stuff with new items. Also, there are exclusions and caps on certain items.
In addition, some travel insurance plans cover baggage delays. This coverage can pay for items you need to buy, such as clothing and toiletries, to tide you over while you’re waiting for your luggage to catch up with you. Note that baggage delay benefits come with a specified waiting time before benefits apply.
Here are some examples of baggage delay coverage from some of the best travel insurance companies in Forbes Advisor’s ratings:
- TripProtector Preferred Plan: $400 after a five-hour delay Gold plan: $500 after a five-hour delay RoundTrip Elite plan: $600 after a five-hour delay Safe Travels Voyager plan: $600 after a 10-hour delay Select Elite plan: $500 after a five-hour delay
All in all, travel insurance is a small cost relative to the trip costs you can protect—especially when traveling uncertainties and surprises abound.
What Does Travel Insurance Not Cover?
Travel insurance generally doesn’t cover losses due to reasons and circumstances that are within your control. It’s designed to safeguard your trip investment if unexpected circumstances derail your plans.
For instance, trip cancellation benefits only apply if you cancel due to reasons listed in your policy, which are unforeseen events beyond your control. That means you won’t be eligible to file a standard trip cancellation insurance claim if you simply change your mind about going on your trip. For that, you would need CFAR coverage.
You should review the fine print of your travel insurance policy and familiarize yourself with what your policy doesn’t cover because all travel insurance plans have exclusions.
For example, medical claims exclusions often include things like:
- Elective procedures
- Mental health care
- Participation in adventure or extreme activities
- Physical therapy
- Routine physicals and routine dental exams
- Routine pregnancy
Also be aware that travel insurance policies generally won’t cover your losses for a hurricane unless you purchase travel insurance before the storm is named.
Get Forbes Advisor’s ratings of the best insurance companies and helpful information on how to find the best travel, auto, home, health, life, pet, and small business coverage for your needs.
When is Travel Insurance Worth It?
Generally, travel insurance is worth considering if:
- Your trip cost is much more than you can afford to lose
- You are traveling internationally
- You are traveling to a remote area with limited nearby health care facilities
- You are traveling to a hurricane-prone country
- You have lots of pre-paid, non-refundable tours, day trips and activities planned
- Your trip involves connecting flights or multiple destinations
- You want to be compensated for Covid-related cancellations and medical issues when traveling abroad
- You want to be partially reimbursed if you decide to cancel your trip or return home early for any reason
When Is Travel Insurance Not Necessary?
You generally don’t need travel insurance if you’re not putting down large non-refundable trip deposits, or if your health plan will cover you at your destination.
For example, travel insurance may not be necessary if you’re taking a cheap, domestic trip. If you’re going on a long-weekend getaway and staying with friends with plans to see a show and do some shopping, you likely won’t have a lot of pre-paid, non-refundable expenses. And your U.S. health insurance can cover any medical costs if you get sick or injured during your trip. In that case travel insurance may not be needed.
You also may not need travel insurance if your credit card benefits provide travel insurance coverage. It’s wise to check with your credit card company before planning a trip so you’re aware of any applicable travel coverage.
Also keep in mind that some baggage insurance is secondary, which means you first file a claim with your airline or homeowners insurance. You may want to skip baggage insurance if you have secondary baggage insurance, you’re not packing a lot of expensive items and have a direct flight.
Is Travel Insurance Worth It?
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Travel can be expensive. Insurance protects your vacation investment if the unexpected occurs. But is travel insurance worth it? The answer will depend on whether your trip is refundable, where you’re going, whether you’ll have health coverage at your destination and how much coverage you already get from your credit card. Here are some key topics to understand when deciding if travel insurance is right for you.
What does travel insurance cover?
Travel insurance covers a number of travel-related risks, from flight cancellations to lost bags to medical emergencies. The dollar amount of your coverage depends on the policy you bought and where and when you bought it. Most travel insurance providers offer several different policies to choose from, with higher or lower levels of coverage and higher or lower prices to match.
You can buy policies that cover a single trip, multiple trips or a full year. You can buy an individual policy or one that covers your entire family. There are many companies that offer policies, with Allianz and Travel Guard among the best-known. Here is a chart showing the benefits and coverage levels available on some Allianz policies.
Emergency medical transport
$300 / daily limit $150
$800 / daily limit $200
$600 / daily limit $200
$1,500 / daily limit $300
Rental car damage/ theft
Covered if certain criteria are met
Covered if certain criteria are met
Covered if certain criteria are met
NerdWallet recently analyzed various travel insurance policies to help you choose the plan that best aligns with your travel goals. Check out our results here: Best Travel Insurance Companies Right Now .
What is excluded from travel insurance?
Incidents not covered by your travel insurance vary by policy and provider.
Pre-existing medical conditions are often excluded from coverage, meaning your benefits don’t apply to claims related to that condition. Some policies cover pre-existing medical conditions if you meet certain criteria, for example if you purchased the policy within 14 days of paying for your trip and if you were well enough to travel when you booked your trip.
Plan on mountain-climbing or engaging in other dangerous activities on your trip? Many policies won’t cover you if something goes wrong. Other incidents excluded from your policy may involve war, acts of terrorism and the use of alcohol, which can cause your injuries to be designated as “self-inflicted,” or the use of drugs, which may be illegal.
If you want full flexibility to cancel your trip you’ll need to find a policy that allows you to purchase a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) add-on. This additional benefit does exactly what the name implies and allows you to cancel your trip for any reason. Typically, you’ll get around 75% of your prepaid nonrefundable trip expenses back, although exact timing and percentages vary by policy.
Does travel insurance cover coronavirus-related claims?
In most cases, no. Many travel insurance policies specifically exclude claims related to coronavirus. However, some insurers are making exceptions for policies already in effect. For example, Allianz will cover medical expenses for existing policyholders who get sick with COVID while on a trip. Additionally, they will cover trip cancellation or interruption if you get sick with COVID before or during a trip. But if you haven’t purchased travel insurance yet, the policy you’re considering probably won’t cover you for COVID.
When is travel insurance not necessary?
Travel insurance primarily covers two aspects of your trip — your reservations and your medical expenses while traveling.
If all of your reservations can be canceled without penalty, then trip cancellation or trip interruption coverage isn’t necessary. But even if your trip isn’t 100% refundable, insurance may not be necessary. For example, a cheap flight and hotel stay may not be worth covering, though you may still want to purchase travel insurance for medical situations.
Medical coverage typically is not necessary if you have a U.S.-based health insurance policy and you’re traveling within the U.S. In those cases, you probably already have adequate coverage for illness or injury.
When is travel insurance worth it?
There are two situations in which travel insurance can be worthwhile: to protect your trip and to protect your health.
If you prepaid for your trip and cannot cancel without penalty, travel insurance is probably a good idea. If your trip is canceled or interrupted for a covered reason, this protection will cover your reservations.
If you’re planning to travel to a destination that could have weather-related issues, like hurricanes in the Caribbean, travel insurance may protect your noncancelable reservations. Some policies also provide emergency evacuation to escape dangerous situations. However, if you try to purchase travel insurance after the storm poses a risk, the insurance probably will not protect you.
U.S.-based health insurance policies generally offer coverage anywhere within the U.S. But if you get sick or hurt when you travel internationally, some policies like Medicare may not cover you.
Even if your health insurance covers you outside the country, doctors at your destination may not accept it. Without travel insurance, you could be stuck paying for these bills out of pocket, then seeking reimbursement from your healthcare provider.
If you already have some travel insurance protections (e.g., trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage delay) from your credit card, consider purchasing a standalone travel medical insurance policy to protect you in case of medical emergencies on your trip.
Where can you buy coverage?
If you booked your trip through a travel agent, you can likely purchase coverage through them. That includes online travel booking engines like Expedia. If you’re taking a cruise , you’re usually offered the chance to purchase coverage during the booking process. Similarly, airlines may offer you certain types of coverage when you book a flight through their website. If you have an award booking , you have travel insurance options too.
Another option: Purchase travel insurance directly through the website of a travel insurance company, like Allianz , AXA or Travel Guard .
How much will it cost?
The cost of travel insurance is based on the specifics of your trip. The best way to get a price is to request a quote through the websites of travel insurance providers. Or you can compare multiple insurers in one place with a consolidator like InsureMyTrip.com or SquareMouth .
Should you rely on credit card travel protections instead?
Many travel credit cards provide certain coverages in case your flight is delayed or canceled, your rental car is damaged, or your luggage is lost or delayed.
Here are a few credit cards offering travel protections that could serve as an alternative to travel insurance.
Up to $1,250 lost baggage.
Secondary rental car protection.
Secondary rental car protection.
$500 trip delay (trips booked after Dec. 31, 2019).
$10,000 trip cancellation (trips booked after Dec. 31, 2019).
$10,000 trip interruption (trips booked after Dec. 31, 2019).
Primary rental car protection.
$10,000 trip cancellation.
$10,000 trip interruption.
Up to $500 baggage delay.
Up to $500 trip delay.
Primary rental car protection.
$10,000 trip cancellation.
$10,000 trip interruption.
Up to $3,000 lost luggage.
Up to $500 trip delay.
$100,000 emergency evacuation.
These are attractive benefits, but the coverage may not be as broad as you would get buying insurance. For example, credit card benefits do not typically protect you in case you are injured or get sick during your trip. Plus, these cards can come with steep annual fees that may be more than you would pay for a travel insurance policy. So don’t sign up for a card just to cover one trip unless you’ve compared costs.
The bottom line
If you’ve paid a considerable sum for a nonrefundable vacation, travel insurance is likely a good idea. International travelers who need coverage in case they get sick or injured should also consider buying a policy. If troubles arise, you’ll be glad that you’re protected.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022 , including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
About the authors: Lee Huffman is a travel writer and podcast host based in Nashville, Tennessee. He loves to travel with his wife and two children using miles and points. Lee has held the Southwest Companion Pass since 2007 and enjoys being spoiled thanks to his Kimpton Inner Circle status. Read more
Elina Geller is a Lead Travel Writer at NerdWallet specializing in airline and hotel loyalty programs. Her work has been featured in AwardWallet. Read more
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