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Read our guide to learn about the best travel insurance company for you. Travel insurance can cover flight cancellations, lost or stolen luggage, trip extension or interruptions and medical emergencies while you’re away from home. We compared different types of travel insurance plans, policies and coverage options.

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What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of insurance that protects individuals and families from specific financial losses that occur before, during or after a trip. The exact coverages you get from a travel insurance plan can vary greatly, as can coverage levels, limits and deductible requirements.

Still, it's possible to set up a travel insurance plan that reimburses you when a trip has to be canceled for reasons beyond your control, or to secure coverage that will pay for medical bills and emergency transportation if you become ill or injured during your vacation. Some travel insurance plans can also reimburse you for lost, damaged or delayed baggage or other expenses that occur as a result.

What are the types of travel insurance?

As you shop around for travel insurance, you will quickly notice that different types of coverage and limits are included in different plans. That's due to the fact that some travel insurance plans are more comprehensive than others and some travel insurance providers include more types of protection in their policies overall.

Trip cancellation insurance

Trip cancellation coverage reimburses you for prepaid travel expenses when your trip is canceled for a reason beyond your control. Examples of this include canceling due to illness of someone who planned to go on the trip or the death of an immediate family member.

Trip interruption insurance

This kind of coverage applies when your trip is interrupted after you depart but a covered situation is preventing you from moving forward. You might be able to use a trip interruption benefit if you become injured or ill after your trip begins and you need to return home or if a natural disaster prevents you from reaching your destination.

Emergency medical expense coverage

This kind of coverage pays for emergency medical (and potentially dental) expenses that occur when you're away from home and your own health insurance does not apply.

Daniel Durazo of Allianz Partners USA says this may be the most important coverage for consumers to purchase, particularly if someone on the policy ends up in a situation requiring medical care that needs immediate out-of-pocket payment. This is common overseas, where it’s common to have to pay for services before leaving the hospital.

“That’s why choosing a travel insurance policy with appropriate medical benefits is a smart move,” he advised.

Emergency evacuation and transportation coverage

According to Durazo, medical evacuation and transportation costs can easily range from $15,000 to $200,000 (or more) depending on the traveler’s health condition and where they are in the world. This is why another important type of coverage is emergency evacuation, which could be required if you become sick or injured in a remote area and need an ambulance, helicopter or plane to get you to the nearest medical facility.

Also note that emergency medical evacuation coverage may pay for transportation back to your home country if it’s deemed medically necessary.

Trip delay coverage

Trip delay coverage can pay for unexpected expenses that pop up when your trip is delayed for a specific length of time — usually six or 12 hours. This kind of coverage can reimburse you for meals, accommodations, communication and transportation costs you may pay while waiting for your trip to depart.

Insurance for lost, stolen or delayed baggage

Many travel insurance plans also cover financial losses due to baggage that is lost, stolen or delayed while in the care of a common carrier like an airline. Insurance for lost or stolen baggage can reimburse you (up to limits) for your baggage and personal effects, whereas delayed baggage insurance can reimburse you for incidental expenses that arise while you wait for your bags to show up.

What does travel insurance cover?

What travel insurance plans cover can vary from plan to plan, which is why you'll want to read over your policy details and the fine print so you know for sure. That said, it's important to remember that travel insurance is for unforeseeable events or situations beyond your control that you can’t predict.

This means you can't use travel insurance to pay for costs resulting from routine health care, or wait to buy travel insurance for a beach trip after a named hurricane is already in the area. However, there are a number of instances where it does apply.

Sometimes, situations beyond your control impact your travel plans. Weather, family tragedies, illness, work and other issues can cause you to cancel, postpone or interrupt your trip.
  • Weather or worker delays: Some travel insurance policies offer reimbursement for trips interrupted by worker strikes or the weather, which are both issues beyond your control.
  • Sickness, injury or death: An illness, injury or death of a loved one might require a trip cancellation. With the right coverage, however, you can get reimbursed for prepaid travel expenses like airfare, hotels and tours.
  • Work-related interruptions: If work interferes with your ability to travel, you may be able to cancel and get your money back with the right coverage. The same is true if you become unemployed and can no longer afford to take your planned trip.
Many health insurance policies will not pay for services incurred outside of the coverage network and definitely not outside the U.S. This can leave travelers facing huge medical bills in the event of an issue during a trip, particularly when traveling overseas.

Travel insurance can make up the difference in the following situations:

  • Emergency evacuation: If you suffer from a medical emergency during a trip, your travel insurance may cover medical and ambulance (and even evacuation by plane) expenses.
  • Dental coverage: A dental emergency may not be immediately life-threatening, but it can certainly ruin a vacation. Be sure that your dental coverage protects you where you’re visiting, or consider including it in your travel insurance plan.
  • Preexisting condition coverage: A preexisting condition can act up at any time, but many travel insurance policies will not cover them. Ask about preexisting conditions, since premium policies may include this type of coverage if you add it to your plan within a few weeks of your initial trip deposit.
Anything that interrupts a trip, including missing your connecting flight, could leave you struggling to meet your travel group. Travel insurance picks up the bill for transportation services that you need to keep you on schedule.
  • Canceled flight coverage: If your flight is canceled and it causes you to miss a connection, travel insurance can pay for a hotel stay and a new flight as soon as it's available.
  • Easy logistics: When you miss a flight, it can throw your entire itinerary out of whack, but your travel insurance company should be able to do the work to put you back on track.
  • Interruption coverage: If something happens at home and you need to cut your trip short, travel insurance can help cover the cost of the return fare and reimburse the unused portion of your trip.
Lost, delayed or damaged luggage can impair any trip. It can also be expensive to buy an emergency wardrobe. With travel insurance, you might get:
  • Clothing allowance: If your luggage is lost, be sure to ask your insurer about a clothing allowance to help you get through your vacation and replace your missing items.
  • Property replacement: It’s not uncommon for people to travel with valuable items like jewelry or personal care products. Be sure to discuss them with your insurance company before traveling to ensure they're covered for replacement.
  • Luggage delays: If your luggage is permanently lost, your travel insurance would probably replace it, but if it's only delayed, you might need to deal with some interim needs. Insurance could pay for an outfit or two and for toiletries to hold you over until your luggage can be delivered.
Typically, travel insurance covers a specific trip, which is arranged in advance. If you decide to extend your vacation, you might lose your travel insurance. With that in mind, consider the following:
  • Ask about policy extensions: It’s always a good idea to know ahead of time whether you can extend your travel insurance coverage if you decide on the fly to extend your trip.
  • Long-term and short-term policies: Many travel insurance policies only cover a short time frame — sometimes only a week or two. If you plan to travel more extensively, be sure to ask about long-term options.
  • Limited coverage on extensions: Some travel insurance may allow for limited extensions with little to no extra cost. They may not include all premium services, however, so it's important to find out what is and is not covered on an extension.

What is not covered by travel insurance?

Essentially, anything not listed as covered in your policy will not be eligible for reimbursement through travel insurance. However, some items not covered by travel insurance may catch consumers by surprise.

Make sure to read your policy carefully to see if preexisting medical conditions, including pregnancy, are covered.

For example, James Clark of Squaremouth, which helps consumers compare travel quotes, says that preexisting medical conditions typically are not covered unless the traveler chooses a policy that offers coverage for preexisting conditions shortly after booking their trip.

"Preexisting condition policies must be purchased within 14 to 30 days of making your initial trip deposit and don’t typically cost any additional premium," said Clark.

Clark notes that many travelers also have the misconception that travel insurance will cover regular health-related issues that may impact their trip, including hospital costs that result from pregnancy and delivery. However, most policies don't cover pregnancy-related expenses, such as prescription medication, delivery charges and postpartum visits.

Other situations typically not covered through travel insurance include:

  • Participation in high-risk activities and sports (unless explicitly included in coverage within the policy details)
  • Cancellations due to known storms
  • Government-issued travel restrictions
  • Acts of war
  • Losses caused by unlawful acts

How to choose a travel insurance plan

Before you select a travel insurance policy, you need to think over the type of trip you are planning and the risks you're taking on as a result. For example, a road trip adventure that only lasts a few days will typically require a different type of coverage than a luxury cruise or an international trip that lasts several weeks.

Adequate medical coverage is the first factor to consider when selecting a travel insurance policy.

Consider these tips to ensure you wind up with the best travel insurance plan for your needs.

  • Line up adequate medical coverage first and foremost. Because medical expenses and medical evacuation are often the most important coverages in a travel insurance plan, you'll want to make sure the limits you get are sufficient for your needs. If you have a preexisting medical condition, make sure the plan you're considering lets you get coverage for your condition right off the bat (even if an added cost is required).
  • Weigh potential risks for your specific plans. Also look at your specific trip and make sure you have coverage that makes sense. For example, a vacation with several different flights and connections should have adequate limits for trip delays and lost or delayed baggage. Meanwhile, you may want to have specialized coverage for a cruise, including coverage for travel inconveniences and missed excursions.
  • Consider coverage limits. Keep coverage levels in mind as you compare plans and policies, particularly if you're sensitive to price. As an example, some basic travel insurance plans only offer a few hundred dollars (or even less) in coverage for baggage delays and $500 or less in protection for your luggage and personal belongings.
  • Check whether you get 24/7 travel assistance. Durazo says another major benefit of travel insurance is the assistance services many providers offer, which can apply wherever you are in the world. He adds that this type of coverage can arrange medical treatment in an emergency, monitor customers’ care, provide interpreters, help replace lost passports and more.
  • Consider optional CFAR coverage. Also ask yourself about the likelihood of you being unable to travel, and if you want the chance to cancel and get some of your money back. If you feel there's a chance you won't be able to go, consider buying optional cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) coverage that reimburses you for 50% to 80% of your prepaid travel expenses when you decide not to travel for any reason at all.

How to apply for travel insurance

Applying for travel insurance is relatively easy, and you don't have to submit nearly as much information as you do when you apply for other types of insurance coverage. The steps below can help you line up coverage for your next vacation or even multiple trips you plan to take over several months.

You can do this by getting individual quotes from travel insurance companies or by using a comparison website. Either way, you will want to compare pricing across at least three different companies so you know you're getting a good deal.
Make a list of who is traveling with you and the travelers’ ages. Also be able to share the full cost of your trip, as well as the date you made your initial trip deposit. Each travel insurance company will need this information in order to provide you with a quote.
Decide whether you want a basic travel insurance plan that covers the essentials or a robust travel insurance policy that provides optimal coverage. Also decide whether you want optional protections, like CFAR insurance, rental car coverage, insurance for sporting equipment and more.
If you travel fairly often and you don't want to purchase travel insurance multiple times each year, consider investing in a multitrip or annual plan. These coverage options are offered through a range of top providers, and they can ensure you have continuous insurance that applies to each trip you take.

Travel insurance alternatives

If you’re hesitant to purchase travel insurance, consider some of these alternatives:

  • Credit card travel insurance: Some travel credit cards offer included travel insurance benefits that apply when you use the card to pay for your trip. Coverage you may be able to get with a credit card includes trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary rental car coverage, trip delay benefits, lost luggage reimbursement, emergency evacuation insurance and more.
  • Membership programs: Some membership plans can pay for emergency medical evacuation anywhere in the world, and you can secure coverage on an annual basis if you prefer. These may offer all-expenses-paid medical transport to the medical facility of your choice, language translation services, coverage for the transfer of mortal remains and more.
  • Travel protection: It's also possible to purchase travel protection directly from some travel providers at the point of sale. If you purchase a flight through Delta, for example, you can add on a policy that provides some coverage for trip cancellations and lost baggage. Just remember that travel coverage offered through airlines and cruise lines may be limited, and that coverage for medical expenses may be limited or nonexistent.

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Frequently asked questions

How much does travel insurance cost?

The cost of travel insurance varies based on factors like the length of the trip, the age of travelers, included coverages and limits, and the destinations visited. However, the reported average cost typically works out to around 4% to 12% of your total trip cost, or $200 to $600 for a vacation that costs $5,000.

When should I buy travel insurance?

Many travelers tend to buy travel insurance coverage at the last minute, but this isn't a good idea, since you want to have the longest period of coverage possible. Ultimately, it's best to purchase travel insurance as soon as you make the initial trip deposit for each trip you plan to take.

Do I need medical insurance when I travel?

If you're traveling outside the U.S., your own health plan generally won't apply. With that in mind, you'll want to have travel insurance coverage with adequate limits for emergency medical and dental care and emergency medical evacuation.

Is travel insurance worth it?

While the cost of travel insurance might feel like a waste, this coverage could help you recoup your prepaid trip costs if you become sick or injured away from home. That said, there may be instances where you don't need a plan, such as when you're planning a short road trip where you'll maintain possession of your luggage and belongings and your own health insurance still applies.

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    Travel insurance reviews

    Allianz Global Assistance

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    Trip Mate Insurance

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    Travel Guard

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    TravelSafe Insurance

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    Travel Insured

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    American Express Travel Insurance

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    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. Allianz Travel, "Travel Insurance 101: How Travel Insurance Works." Accessed March 1, 2023.
    2. Insurance Information Institute, "Should you buy travel insurance?" Accessed Feb. 28, 2023.

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