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You’ve purchased your flights and booked your hotel. Now, what about travel insurance? These days, it’s easy to add coverage to your trip, but what’s the best travel insurance policy to buy? And is the extra cost always necessary?

When planning a trip, nobody loves imagining worst-case scenarios and everyone has a different risk tolerance. For a weekend road trip, you may be willing to cross your fingers and suck up your losses should something go awry. But what if you’re shelling out for a longer, more complex and more expensive trip? You’ll likely want peace of mind when your risk and financial investment are greater.

When do you need travel insurance?

There’s nothing like bad luck to turn you into an insurance evangelist. My checked bags didn’t make it to Italy for more than five days, and my travel insurance covered all the costs for replacement items as well as the alternative transportation I had to rebook because of the delay. I’ll never live without it now.

In general, the older you are and the more remote your destination, the more crucial it is to buy travel insurance. Imagine becoming ill during a cruise, and doctors recommended that you return home immediately. Having travel insurance covered the lion’s share of the money you would subsequently racked up in medical costs, ground transportation, flights, hotel, and meals. You may wonder if the cost of insurance is worth it. In this instance, it will be absolutely worth it.

Not all domestic health and medical insurance plans will follow you outside your home country. Something as simple as twisting your ankle in a foreign country may not be covered and could result in expensive medical bills. And it happens more often than you think.

Simply having travel insurance can have side benefits, too. One of the best hidden perks is the 24/7 global travel assistance provided by the plan. The hotline can be helpful in dealing with a multitude of unexpected issues, from currency conversion or cash transfers to replacing passports or IDs to finding a local physician.

Where can you find a good policy?

Travel agencies, airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators often offer an optional insurance add-on, but these plans tend to have been run through the company’s legal team and contain more exclusions. Travel rewards credit cards also offer some built-in insurance benefits to their cardholders, like trip cancellation coverage, delayed baggage coverage, and trip interruption and delay coverage. But you’ll often be better served by a plan from a third-party insurer, which tend to offer more holistic plans.

The good news is that it has never been easier to buy exactly the type of travel insurance you need at a reasonable price. Most people buy comprehensive insurance for a single trip, but annual travel insurance plans that cover multiple trips in a one-year period are becoming more popular.

You can find some of the best travel insurance policies by visiting an insurance comparison site like, or Plug in your trip details and you’ll get instant quotes for multiple insurance plans that you can compare on price, coverage limitations, and other parameters. Be sure to read the policy details, as inclusions can vary from plan to plan but will end up making all the difference to your particular needs.

What’s it going to cost?

The cost of travel insurance depends on a variety of factors, including the price and length of the trip, your age, destination, and any optional add-ons. For your average domestic or international trip with flights and hotels, expect to pay anywhere from 3 to 7 percent of your trip’s cost, depending on inclusions.

So for a $2,000 trip, you might expect a typical comprehensive plan with trip cancellation, interruption, and delay, along with baggage loss and delay, and emergency medical coverage and evacuation to cost in the $100 ballpark. Some upgrades, like a “cancel for any reason” provision, will cost more.

When should you buy travel insurance?

Don’t procrastinate. Some benefits and coverages are available only if you’ve purchased your policy within a short window, typically seven to 21 days from when you make the first payment towards your trip. Buy early and you may qualify for a pre-existing condition waiver or a ‘cancel for any reason’ upgrade.

It’s especially important not to delay buying travel insurance if you’re traveling to, say, the Caribbean during hurricane season. Once a major storm has been named, the window of opportunity slams shut, and you can no longer buy insurance for that hurricane. If you purchase a policy after a storm is named, trip cancellation and trip interruption are excluded from coverage.

What’s not covered?

Some people believe that a travel insurance plan is designed to give you the flexibility to cancel your trip for any reason whatsoever. But the standard plan is not going to provide cancellation coverage for a change of heart or a relationship break-up or a virus outbreak in your destination. If you need that flexibility, opt for the ‘cancel for any reason’ upgrade.

As far as medical coverage, people often believe a travel insurance plan will cover preventative services such as immunizations and annual check-ups. But travel insurance is intended to cover illnesses and injuries that originate during a trip, and that’s why it’s relatively inexpensive. Be careful about overindulging, too. If you injure yourself as a result of being intoxicated beyond a legal limit, your travel insurance policy will not likely cover you say. Ditto for drug use.

How easy is it to file a claim?

Documentation is key. If luggage is lost or items are stolen, file a report with the airline or police. You may need to provide original receipts for the stolen items in order to receive reimbursement up to the policy limits. Also, be aware that baggage coverage only offers coverage up to a set amount. So, if you are carrying, say, a fancy $3,000 Nikon or Canon camera, you’ll likely need to buy additional insurance elsewhere or cover it under a homeowner’s policy. Note, also, that many plans specifically exclude computers and electronics.

What about car rental insurance?

It’s often possible to add car rental insurance, also known as the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), to a comprehensive travel insurance plan, which can save you from a serious headache should you get into an accident while driving. But the biggest mistake people make when renting a car is to waste money on duplicate coverage. The reality is that if you own your own vehicle and have car insurance, you are likely already covered when renting in the U.S.

And if you don’t own a car? Your credit card may also cover you when renting. It’s always important to check to be sure, but why pay again for coverage you already have? Indeed, paying for your rental with the right travel rewards credit card might cover your collision insurance, with some policies covering damage up to the value of the car. Travel outside the U.S. and Canada, though, and it’s a different story. Most personal auto insurance policies will not cover a claim for damage to a rental outside the U.S. or Canada. Likewise, different credit cards have different exclusions when it comes to covering damage to a rental car in a foreign country.

Types of travel insurance

Most travelers opt for a comprehensive plan, but you should know what each type of coverage does, so you’ll know if a package truly fits your needs. Here’s a brief rundown of the main types of coverage.

Trip protection

Often known simply as “travel insurance,” this type of comprehensive package is the most common purchase.

Commonly covers: Reimbursement for money spent on your trip due to cancellations, interruptions, and delays; medical expenses if you become sick or injured and, if necessary, emergency medical evacuation and repatriation; and coverage for your belongings if lost, stolen, damaged, or delayed.

How to get it: Compare plans at Square Mouth, Seven Corners,, and

Trip cancellation

This benefit can reimburse 100 percent of your trip cost—flights, hotels, cruises, and pre-paid activities—if you need to cancel for a covered reason.

Commonly covers: Unforeseen illness or injury; the death of you, a family member, or a traveling companion; terrorism; inclement weather; natural disasters.

Fine print: Some policies also include other covered reasons, such as jury duty or an employment layoff.

Trip interruption

You’ll be reimbursed for your costs if your trip is interrupted for a covered reason. The payout may exceed the total trip cost if you need to incur additional expenses to return home, but some policies limit coverage to a return flight home.

Commonly covers: Unforeseen illness or injury; the death of you, a family member, or a traveling companion; terrorism; inclement weather; natural disasters.

How to get it: Signing up for travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve can automatically give you this coverage for all trips booked on the card.

Cancel for any reason

This upgrade provides reimbursement for 50 to 75 percent of prepaid and non-refundable trip payments if you cancel a trip for any reason not otherwise covered by your policy.

Watch out: You’ll be required to insure your trip’s entire cost, which will typically increase your premium by roughly 40 percent.

Fine print: Typically available for purchase up to seven to 21 days from the date you make your initial trip deposit. You must cancel the entire trip at least two to three days before your departure date.

Travel delay

If your trip is unexpectedly delayed by a designated amount of time (typically three to 12 hours, depending on the policy), this benefit provides a per-diem dollar amount (typically $150 to $200) that can be used for meals, hotels, and other necessary expenses during the delay.

Commonly covers: Inclement weather and mechanical breakdowns of “common carriers,” meaning public transportation such as planes, trains, or buses.

How to get it: Signing up for travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve can automatically give you this coverage for all trips booked on the card that meet the requirements.

Missed connection

You’ll be reimbursed for additional costs for you to catch up to your trip if you miss your departure due to a common carrier delay of a specified amount of time. It’s usually an added feature of larger insurance packages.

Commonly covers: Inclement weather and mechanical breakdowns of common carriers.

Watch out: Some policies only reimburse if you need to catch up to a cruise or tour. Since the wording typically specifies public transportation delays, you would be out of luck if you’re driving and miss your connection because you got caught in traffic.

Baggage and personal items loss

You’ll be covered for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage. Expect limits in both overall coverage and per-item coverage. It’s included with many travel rewards credit card benefits.

Watch out: While most policies cover your personal belongings throughout the entire trip, some will only cover luggage while it is checked with an airline or transportation carrier.

Baggage delay

If your luggage is delayed for a specified period of time—typically 12 or 24 hours—this coverage will reimburse you for any clothing, toiletries, and other essential items you need to purchase. Expect a maximum coverage amount per person, as well as a daily limit. It’s also included as a cardholder benefit with many travel credit cards.

How to get it: Signing up for travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve can automatically give you this coverage for all trips booked on the card that meet the requirements.

Emergency medical coverage

This covers the costs to treat a medical emergency, including treatment, hospitalization, and medication. This type of coverage is highly recommended for international trips and cruises.

Watch out: You would pay for medical care out-of-pocket, and then file a claim for reimbursement when you return home. In certain situations, an insurer might pre-authorize payment of medical bills, but it is not guaranteed.

How to get it: Browse medical coverage plans at Seven Corners.

Emergency evacuation coverage

This coverage is for transportation to the nearest medical facility in the event of a medical emergency during your trip. It’s usually an add-on to larger medical coverage.

Commonly covers: If the treating physician recommends that you should return home for further medical attention, this benefit can also cover those transportation expenses. In the case of a death, repatriation can transport a traveler’s remains back home. It’s usually an add-on to a larger travel insurance policy.

Pre-existing medical conditions waiver

Most policies have built-in exclusions for pre-existing conditions. So if you’ve been seriously ill in the past or need ongoing treatment, consider looking for a plan that offers a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver.

Fine print: You’ll need to purchase the plan within a few weeks from the date you make your initial trip payment.

Hazardous/adventure sports coverage

Are you an adrenaline junkie? Adventure activities such as heli-skiing, off-trail snowboarding, bungee jumping, wakeboarding, Jet Skiing, spelunking, rock climbing, and scuba diving are almost always excluded from coverage in most travel insurance plans.

Fine print: You can buy coverage as an optional upgrade, which is an especially smart bet if you’re planning an adventure trip outside the United States.

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