Does travel insurance mystify you? Not sure how to choose the best travel insurance for your trip?
You’re not alone.
In fact, we’ve never had so many first-time buyers come to us with questions about coverage. Our website data shows a 50% increase in travel insurance buyers compared to last year alone. The highest search being travel insurance for Covid-19.
Travel insurance is more valuable than ever. We now know that a global pandemic can turn the world upside down. And you want to be prepared for the next round of unknowns––as much as anyone can be.
In a perfect world, you’d buy travel insurance and feel at ease immediately. But the world isn’t perfect, and travel insurance has about as many options as a shoe store. Buying any insurance is a big decision, and many first-time buyers often don’t know what isn’t covered until it’s too late.
You need to cut through the messy insurance jargon and get key details on the inner workings of travel protection, visitors, and travel medical insurance. In this article, we’re going to break down the elements of travel insurance: what it is, how it works, the different kinds, and how you can find the best travel insurance for your next trip.
That way, when you book a trip you can look forward to, you know that the unthinkable won’t be a blow to your travel investment.
Know What Type of Travel Insurance Plan You’re Looking For
There are many different kinds of travel protection plans. From comprehensive to travel medical only, there is something out there for every traveler. Before you buy, you’ll want to know what type of travel protection is best suited for you.
Here, we’ll mainly discuss comprehensive travel insurance plans, also known as trip cancellation insurance. We’ll break down the different travel insurance types below and include resources where you can learn about those as well.
Trip Cancellation or Travel Protection Plans
Travel protection plans are all-encompassing in risk mitigation. Travelers can cover themselves against the cost of medical care and emergency evacuations while also insuring their travel investment against cancellations, interruptions, and delays. These plans come with emergency assistance that helps arrange things like medical transportation, emergency evacuation, and children’s return when their parents become medically ill and unfit to travel.
Travel protection plans aim to cover the traveler for the following:
- Medical emergencies
- Trip cancellations & interruptions
- Cancel for any reason (optional benefit available in select plans)
- Travel delays
- Missed connections
- Emergency evacuations
- Lost, stolen, or delayed baggage and personal items.
These plans can come in the form of single-trip or multi-trip and have a variety of coverages available. Some may have all of the benefits mentioned above, while others may exclude a few to lower the plan’s cost. Trip protection is one of those things where value comes into play. In other words, you get what you pay for. If you’re looking to save money on your premium, you’ll be minimizing your coverage.
To maximize coverage, we recommend that domestic and international travelers cover the total trip cost and purchase as soon as they make their first trip payment.
You’ll want at least $25,000 in emergency medical coverage for domestic trips if you have primary health insurance. However, if your primary health insurance plan is more expensive for out-of-network charges, we recommend going higher. Additionally, you’ll want at least $50,000 in emergency evacuation coverage if you need emergency medical transportation to a medical facility.
We recommend much higher benefit limits for international trips for things like emergency medical expenses and evacuation coverage. We recommend a minimum of $100,000 in emergency medical expense coverage and no less than $100,000 for emergency evacuations. We’ll go more into detail on that in a few moments.
Travel Medical Insurance
These plans focus on covering the traveler for medical purposes, covering emergency medical care and evacuation costs. These plans are great for expatriates, international students living abroad, and individuals booking a one-way flight without a definitive return date. They are for travelers who aren’t worried about insuring their trip against cancellations and would like to keep their premium on the lower side.
You may be thinking, “My health insurance provides international coverage!” That might be true, but your out-of-network charges and deductibles will be significantly more expensive. In addition to that, you won’t have valuable benefits like emergency medical evacuation, travel delay, trip interruptions, missed connections, and baggage loss or delay.
These plans aren’t trip cancellation plans, but they offer coverage for trip delays, interruptions, and missed connections. They are strictly for emergency medical care costs and through direct billing or reimbursement. However, suppose you are facing a severe medical emergency. In that case, they often offer what is known as a promise to pay, which guarantees your admittance to a foreign hospital that might require payment upfront.
We recommend that travelers headed abroad always insure themselves for a minimum of $100,000 in emergency medical expense coverage and don’t skimp on evacuation care. Foreign emergency evacuations can cost upward of $250,000.
Okay, so hear us out. Visitors insurance is travel medical insurance, but visitors to the USA face different financial risks than U.S. residents traveling abroad. So, we call this version of travel medical insurance visitors insurance.
U.S. healthcare prices are some of the highest around the globe. Additionally, new health insurance guidelines for visitors to the USA were put into place at the end of 2019 by the Trump administration, making it even more necessary for these travelers to have a well-suited visitors insurance plan.
It costs a patient $3,968 a day to be treated in the intensive care unit. These are some of the highest costs for this type of care in the world. The average visit to the emergency room will run patients an average of $1,389 in medical expenses. It’s crucial visitors to the U.S. are aware of these unique risks and buy the best visitors insurance plan for their trip.
We recommend that travelers purchase at least $500,000 in coverage for a stay of more than 90 days. If the premium seems too high, it is always possible to take a higher deductible to lower your premium amount. However, we recommend choosing what you can afford to pay out of pocket.
Annual Memberships for Emergency Evacuation & Assistance
Evacuation membership programs offer travel security, crisis response, and medical transportation. These memberships bring travelers home when they get sick or hurt while traveling. They also help during a crisis like ransom, a natural disaster, and other violent crimes.
The main benefit? Freedom to choose where and when they will be transported, unlike the evacuation benefits provided by travel insurance plans. These are not insurance products, so there are no claims or direct billing.
While many may mistake these annual memberships for travel insurance, they are not the same.
These evacuation memberships do not cover emergency medical care costs, trip cancellations, interruptions, or baggage delays. That’s one reason why these memberships alone are not enough for an international traveler. Still, they work great in tandem with travel insurance, whether it be a trip cancellation or a medical-only plan.
Be Honest With Yourself: What travel insurance do I need?
Sometimes, we aren’t completely honest with ourselves in regards to what we need. Social scientists call this self-deception. In some cases, these motivated self-beliefs can satisfy psychological needs.
But that’s not what you want to do with travel insurance. This is not an area where denial and self-deception will serve you well. What you want is a robust trip protection plan that’s going to work for you. And you’ll only get it if you’re honest with yourself about your personal needs.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions, Changes in Medication, and Diagnostic Testing or Referrals
It is not uncommon for people to be afraid that their pre-existing medical conditions will leave them without travel insurance coverage. That just isn’t the case. There are several kinds of travel insurance plans where coverage for pre-existing medical conditions exists.
Remember that insurance companies share data globally. You’d be hard-pressed to sneak one by––we’ve seen it attempted, and we’ve seen it fail.
You must be honest about having any pre-existing medical conditions. To do that, you have to know what’s considered a pre-existing medical condition.
The simplest way to think about it is like this –– you have a pre-existing medical condition if:
- You take medication to control a specified medical condition like psychological disorders, heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, dialysis, Crohn’s disease, etc.
- A doctor has requested that you get a diagnostic test or procedure like blood tests, an MRI, a CT scan, a biopsy, eye exams, a colonoscopy, etc. So, pretty much anything else that can determine whether or not you have an illness.
- A doctor has treated you for any illness, sickness, or disease.
Now that you have these three critical points under your belt. We can dive a little deeper. Coverage for pre-existing conditions comes in the form of a waiver. It’s often called the Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Exclusion Waiver –– a mouthful, we know! We’ll call it a pre-ex waiver to keep it short.
Each plan is unique, and there are a few areas that can work to your benefit.
Know When The Best Time To Buy Travel Insurance Is
When it comes to covering pre-existing conditions, the best time to buy travel insurance is between 10-21 days of your first trip payment. It’s an eligibility requirement. If you don’t purchase within this time-sensitive window, you will not be eligible for the pre-ex waiver.
Every travel insurance plan that offers a pre-ex waiver has a look-back period. It’s the timeframe in which the provider will look back at your health records for any of the above scenarios. It’s usually between 60-180 days from the day before you bought your plan.
If you’ve had a change in your medication 62 days before you bought your plan and purchased a plan with a 60 day look-back period, your shift in medicine won’t be considered a pre-existing medical condition. Of course, this is so long as you are stable.
You Must Be Medically Able to Travel at the Time of Purchase
To qualify for the pre-ex waiver, you must be medically able to travel when you buy your plan. If your doctor recommends (or would recommend) that you don’t travel, then you are not eligible for the waiver at that time. Wait to book your travel plans and insurance until a time that you are medically able to travel.
Some Plans Require that You Cover the Full Cost of Your Trip
As we said before, every plan is different. Some companies require you to cover the full cost of your trip. Some don’t. If you are buying a trip protection plan but don’t want Trip Cancellation coverage, you should find a plan that does not have a full trip-cost requirement.
Travelers with Disabilities, Including Psychiatric Conditions
One thing we’ve noticed is that travelers with disabilities are incredibly well-prepared. They’re used to a world that doesn’t always consider their needs and must always plan accordingly. However, some disabilities are not visible to the human eye. They could be psychiatric or nervous conditions, Crohn’s disease, or epilepsy, for example.
For many of these hidden disabilities, a pre-ex waiver will be enough. For psychiatric disabilities, this is often an exclusion. Because of this and the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, many travelers hide this disability when purchasing a plan. If you are looking for coverage and want to ensure that your psychiatric or nervous disorder is covered, you’ll have to be specific when looking for a plan.
Some plans exclude mental health conditions from medical, trip cancellation, and interruption benefits. Others may exclude it but have a clause that says something like, “Events as a result of psychiatric or nervous conditions are excluded unless the traveler has been hospitalized for said condition.” In that case, you qualify for coverage only if you have been previously hospitalized.
Like many others, we hope to see a shift from the stigma and a change in this exclusion by travel insurance brands. However, if you are concerned about trip cancellation for any mental or nervous condition, be sure to purchase a plan with Cancel for Any Reason.
Do a Quick Financial & Travel Risk Assessment
Many times travelers will look at the premium for comprehensive travel insurance and think, “I can’t afford that!” Even though travel insurance is anywhere between 8%-15% of your overall trip costs, it’s often an undervalued product. To remedy this, we recommend doing what we call a Quick Financial Risk Assessment.
So, what exactly is that? It’s taking an honest, hard look at the amount of financial risk you can afford to take by considering your income, debt, and daily living costs. Then you consider how much you could afford in medical bills or to lose from trip cancellations and interruptions. Think about it like this; you wouldn’t insure your car for collision damage of $1,000 if your car were worth $25,000. The same goes for emergency medical costs, evacuations, or even trip cancellation and interruption. You don’t want to be underinsured.
Here’s how you do it. Consider your annual income. Now, add up your yearly expenses, including your mortgage, car payments, savings, and bills. What do you have leftover for free-spending? Consider that number on an annual basis.
Now, let’s look at the average cost of Emergency Medical Evacuations. We rounded these numbers to the nearest hundred thousand.
|Location||Average Cost of Emergency Evacuation|
|Within the U.S.A.||$20,000 to $50,000|
|South American to Maine, U.S.A.||$270,000|
|Africa to Maine, U.S.A.||$430,000|
|Antarctica to Maine, U.S.A.||$510,000|
|Europe to Maine, U.S.A.||$245,200|
|Australia to Maine, U.S.A.||$471,500|
|Asia to Maine, U.S.A.||$370,000|
|Worldwide Average for Medical Evacuation||$500,000 to $600,000|
For emergency evacuations outside of the United States, you are looking to pay well above $250,000. That is about the average cost of a 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom house in the United States. That’s $1,000 a month (assuming 0% interest) paid off in 30 years.
You can easily see that a premium ranging from 8%-15% of your trip cost isn’t so bad by doing a financial risk assessment. Let’s give you another visual.
|Trip Cost: $10,000|
|Age of Traveler: 35|
|Emergency Medical Evac Coverage: $1,000,000|
|Accident & Sickness Medical Expense: $100,000|
|Cancel For Any Reason: Included|
|Length of Trip: 14 Days|
If traveling within the U.S.A., this amount of coverage may not be necessary. But it’s definitely worth the cost of traveling to another country. Again, it comes down to weighing travel risks and what you can afford should the worst happen.
Consider Your Travel Style
Think about it: why do you travel? You might travel for adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion. No matter the reason, this is an essential aspect of choosing a travel protection plan.
There is no one-size-fits-all travel insurance plan. The type of coverage an adventure traveler needs is different than the needs of a retiree. You want to think about the activities, costs, and risks unique to you. Here’s some food for thought about a few different kinds of travelers.
This adrenaline-seeking traveler tends to like off-the-beaten-path experiences. They aren’t afraid of adventurous activities like mountain climbing, backcountry skiing, or deep-water diving –– maybe even with sharks. Their activities typically come with a moderate-to-high level of risk.
For that reason, adventure travelers need to consider the following:
Medical Expense Coverage
Consider high benefit limits for Emergency Medical Evacuation and Medical Expense coverage. Hospitalization due to a severe injury can be costly in any country.
Extreme Sports Coverage
Coverage for adventure/extreme sports is often excluded from many basic trip protection plans, so you’ll want to consider a specific plan specific to these activities.
Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation
This is for natural disasters or civil unrest. The earthquakes in Nepal were a perfect example of when travelers needed this type of coverage. Many were stranded for days without this coverage, even a few weeks.
Annual Emergency Assistance & Evacuation Membership
Possibly purchase an annual Emergency Assistance membership for evacuations and emergency support. The coverage is often extensive and has higher benefit limits than a single-trip plan.
Sports Equipment Coverage
The cost of equipment for adventure seekers can be pretty high. This specific benefit usually has higher benefit limits and can include equipment rentals where possible.
Cruisers are a fun bunch that loves being on the water while taking a few beautiful pit-stops. They typically love to eat great food, see fantastic shows, and participate in fun activities like snorkeling or jet-skiing. From the European river to Caribbean cruisers, there are unique risks that need to be considered.
Emergency Medical Evacuations
Emergency medical evacuations should be one of a cruiser’s top concerns. From heart attacks to severe injuries, travelers must be stabilized and then air-lifted to the nearest hospital to provide care. Consider a moderate to high benefit limit to cover these costs.
Emergency Medical Expense Coverage
When you’re on a cruise, maritime laws apply. That means your health insurance coverage is often null and void, especially if you have Medicare. Be sure coverage is adequate. We recommend moderate to high-level coverage with a minimum of $50,000.
Adventure Sports & Activities
General coverage usually applies to activities like jet-skiing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Cruisers don’t typically need adventure sports coverage unless they plan to scale a mountain, dive deeper than 150 meters, or bungee jump.
Trip Cancellation Coverage for Hurricane Warnings
Hurricanes are a risk to any cruise. Purchasing a Trip Cancellation plan with coverage for hurricane warnings is a must. We recommend every cruiser insures the full cost of their trip.
Trip Cancellation/Interruption for Bankruptcy
This particular coverage should be on every cruiser’s travel insurance checklist. In the event the cruise line files for bankruptcy, it’ll be important to have this benefit. Often, cruise lines and tour operators won’t provide reimbursement during insolvency. Many cruisers have also been stranded on their vacation due to these bankruptcies.
Cruisers will want coverage with a decently high limit. The cruise ship will set sail at its scheduled time, whether a snowstorm kept flights from departing or not. This coverage will pay to get travelers caught up with their cruise.
It’s incredibly rewarding to give kids new travel experiences. Their curiosity and wonder are truly inspiring. Kids also tend to get into things when they shouldn’t and need extra care and attention when things go wrong –– like flight delays. While traveling with family is a magical experience, it can add another element to travel that is stressful and maybe even a little concerning.
Travel insurance can help alleviate those things, so here’s what you should think about when traveling with kids.
Trip Cancellation & Interruption
They’re mini incubators waiting to spread viruses and bacterial infections to their nearest sibling, parent, or grandparent. Families will want full trip cancellation and interruption coverage in case anyone gets sick.
Have you ever spent 24 hours in an airport with a toddler? It’s enough to exhaust any parent. No family should have to eat airport food solely and sleep on the floor when experiencing delays. Get your family a hotel room. Sleep in beds. Eat a good meal. A travel delay benefit can reimburse you, just be sure to spend within the plan’s limit. Look for a plan that covers 6 hours or less in delays.
Return of Minor
If all adults are hospitalized, coverage for minors’ return can ensure that the children will be returned home to a responsible caregiver at no cost to the parents.
Adequate Medical Coverage
As we said above, children get sick. They can also get hurt. Make sure coverage is adequate in the event you need to seek medical care. Depending on the cost and the trip’s length, you’ll want moderate to high coverage for a family with children.
While we never recommend skimping on travel insurance, we do believe it’s vital that families save money where they can. Many travel insurance companies offer child-pricing. Plans with coverage identical to the parents can cost $0-$30, often coming at less than 3% of the overall trip cost.
In the event of an emergency, having 24-Hour Assistance in any language is imperative. This service is included with most travel protection plans, but it’s always best to double-check.
Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation
In the event of a natural disaster or political unrest, you’ll want to know that you can get your family to safety when recommended that travelers leave the country. Include this benefit in your plan if you are traveling with your family. Not every plan will offer it, so be sure to choose wisely.
Emergency Medical Evacuation
The costs of emergency medical evacuations can be devastating to any family. Depending on where you are going, your coverage should be moderate to high but definitely above $250,000.
You put a lot of time into preparing everyone’s luggage for a family trip. If your luggage gets lost or stolen, you’ll want reimbursement for necessities or replacement of permanently lost items. It can get expensive for a family when their clothes and luggage go missing!
The Leisure Expert
This vacation-goer is all about unplugging from their day-to-day life to recharge. But just because they won’t be scaling any mountains doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen. Slipping and falling, delays and cancellations, or food poisoning are all possibilities for this chill-for-thrills traveler.
Here’s what should be considered:
Trip Cancellation & Interruption
Full Trip Cancellation & Interruption coverage can reimburse you if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip for reasons covered in your plan. Instead of stressing out about what could go wrong, know that you have a back-up plan. You can get full reimbursement for your trip and put that money towards another.
Nothing says leisure like an extended stay at the airport because of bad weather, right? Never. This coverage can help ensure you don’t have any stressful airport overnights that take away from your leisurely experience.
If your luggage is lost, stolen, damaged, or delayed, you’ll want coverage that can reimburse you for replacing the items or for necessities like a toothbrush, clothing, and other necessary beauty products.
Medical emergencies can happen to anyone who is traveling. If your leisure travel is where your health insurance coverage doesn’t go, be sure to have adequate medical cover. The leisure traveler will want moderate to high coverage, depending on the financial risk assessment mentioned above.
This traveler likes the finer things in life, like private infinity pools and high-end safaris. These trips come with a hefty price tag, and they’ll want to ensure everything from their first-class flights to their luxury condo stay is covered.
Trip Cancellation & Interruption
We recommend high-level coverage for this type of traveler. Many travel insurance plans have a limit on the amount of trip cost they’ll cover. Ensure the plan doesn’t limit what you can cover if you can’t afford to lose the remaining balance.
As reviewed above, these can easily cost over $250,000. The luxury traveler going to private islands, African safaris, or deep in the rain forests will want to make sure they have high emergency medical evacuation coverage. They should also consider an annual membership that includes these services.
Political/Natural Disaster Evacuation
In the event of a natural disaster or political emergency, evacuation coverage will be necessary. Consider an annual membership that includes this coverage as well as medevac coverage.
Emergency Medical Expense Coverage
The type of care you have is not indicative of the healthcare you’ll receive. However, things like Promise to Pay and high medical limits will ensure that your credit card isn’t used for these kinds of medical emergencies. You’ll want moderate to high coverage if your health insurance is not an international plan.
Emergency Medical Coverage
You don’t want to spend your retirement on medical care costs, and Medicare and Medicaid do not go with you outside of the United States, and that includes cruises. High medical coverage should be a top priority for the senior traveler.
Pre-existing Medical Conditions Exclusion Waiver
Purchase your plan as early as possible and make sure you have coverage for any pre-existing medical conditions.
Trip Cancellation & Interruption
There’s a higher risk that a traveling companion or yourself will get sick before your trip. Ensure you cover the full cost of your journey, so you’re eligible for 100% reimbursement if you have to cancel or interrupt. Some plans will cover Trip Interruption up to 150% of the total trip cost. That’s a good investment because the cost of last-minute travel bookings can be a hefty one.
Your retirement should be comfortable. Get a higher benefit limit for Travel Delay with a low amount of required hours, like 6 instead of 12 or 18.
Political/Natural Disaster Evacuation
In the event of political unrest or natural disasters, this coverage can make a difference in how quickly you can get to a stable environment. A great example is when COVID-19 hits. Travelers needed to evacuate, but many did not have evacuation coverage. They had to wait for the government to coordinate their evacuation, and then they were held responsible for the costs of the tickets. This would not be the case if you purchased a plan, including this benefit.
In the event you are injured or sick, and the local hospital is not able to effectively treat you, Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage will cover the costs of emergency medical transportation. As we reviewed above, this type of transport can be incredibly costly. In addition to covering the charges, the company providing this coverage also provides Emergency Assistance Services. These experts will be arranging the evacuation and transportation for you versus the foreign hospital.
Research Best Travel Insurance Companies
It can be hard to sort through all of the noise when it comes to the travel insurance industry. You have a lot of options out there, but you want to make sure your coverage stacks up when you need it.
Often, you can’t rely on internet reviews alone because they’re heavily biased. Typically, people only leave reviews when they’re upset. Insurance companies deny less than 10% of travel insurance claims. But that still doesn’t mean some companies aren’t better than others, especially when considering your unique travel style.
By researching the best travel insurance companies, you’ll gain an understanding of what’s out there and who has a good track record for paying claims.
Compare Travel Insurance Plans: A Minimum of 3
It’s essential to compare at least 3 plans when you’re looking for travel protection. How you compare those plans matters, too. There are several ways people buy travel insurance, but here is the vital thing to remember: you should never purchase it at check-out when purchasing a plane ticket or booking a trip with a tour operator. You will be limited in your options and coverages.
A travel insurance provider is the company who creates and manages the plans. You can often buy directly from them, but then you are only comparing the plans they offer. Additionally, you miss out on important features like claims advocacy.
Like G1G, aggregators offer multiple companies and plans, ultimately helping you find the best fit for your trip faster. Our company provides support 24-7 and offers denied claims advocacy, which will help you navigate the claims process with ease.
A Final Note When Buying Travel Insurance Online
Choosing to buy travel protection is an excellent decision for any trip, whether going domestic or abroad. Finding the best plan for your trip will take a little bit of searching, but it is well worth the small leg work. You won’t regret spending an extra bit of your time comparing plans and understanding travel risks.
Travel insured. Travel responsibly. Travel often.