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Comprehensive travel insurance policies package together a number of valuable benefits. You can also buy policies that cover only trip cancellation or only medical expenses. With the wide variety of plans available, you can find coverage levels that will fit your budget and trip needs.
Look for these top coverage options in a comprehensive plan.
You don’t book a trip with the intention of canceling it, but unexpected illness, injury, family member sickness, jury duty and more could derail plans. Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you 100% for money you lose in pre-paid, non-refundable deposits if you have to cancel for a reason listed in the policy.
If Covid is a concern, you can find travel insurance policies that cover Covid-related trip cancellation if you contract the virus right before the trip.
A good strategy is to insure the total amount you have put into non-refundable and pre-paid deposits. Don’t insure refundable amounts, like refundable plane tickets, because you can’t make an insurance claim for that.
This is important coverage for travelers going abroad, where your U.S. health plan may have limited glocal coverage or no coverage. Travel medical insurance pays for ambulance service, doctor and hospital bills and other medical expenses during your trip. You can find generous coverage limits of up to $500,000 per person, but depending on your trip you may not need that level of coverage..
Because Medicare does not pay for health care outside the U.S., except in very limited circumstances, travel medical insurance is essential for senior travelers.
If Covid is a concern, you can find travel insurance policies that cover Covid-related medical expenses if you contract the virus during your trip.
This is also important coverage for those traveling abroad, especially if you’re going to a remote area where quality medical care might be hard to find. Emergency medical evacuation insurance pays to get you to the nearest adequate medical facility. You can find ample coverage of $1 million per person.
You may be able to upgrade your trip cancellation insurance to “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage. Not all providers offer this add-on. Having it allows you to cancel your trip for any reason that’s not listed in your base policy. For example, you could cancel the trip because you simply don’t feel like going anymore. Reimbursement under a CFAR claim is often 75% of your trip costs, not the 100% that’s available under the base trip cancellation coverage.
CFAR adds an average of about 50% to an insurance plan’s cost.
Travel delay insurance reimburses you for expenses if you’re stuck somewhere and have to buy necessities to tide you over. For example, if you’re stuck in an airport all day because of a weather delay, this coverage can reimburse you for essential purchases like snacks and toiletries. If you’re stuck for a long time, it could pay for a taxi, a night in a hotel and meals.
If you have to cut your trip short because of a reason listed in the policy, this is valuable coverage to have. It can reimburse you for the non-refundable parts of your trip that you miss, such as a resort stay or pre-paid scuba diving lesson. It can also pay for a last-minute one-way ticket home if you have an emergency.
Losing your bags can really ruin a trip. Baggage coverage can at least ease the financial pain a little. It can reimburse you for the bags and clothes and shoes that never arrive, although note that reimbursement is for the depreciated value of the items, not the cost to buy new ones. It also pays out for items lost to theft.
Your bags may be on their own detour, but what do you do while you’re waiting? This coverage reimburses you for necessities while you wait for your luggage. For example, if you’re in Canada you may need a coat, hat and essential toiletries. Policies usually require a certain time delay before baggage delay coverage kicks in, such as six hours.
Here are some reasons you may need travel insurance:
You stand to lose a lot of money in non-refundable deposits if you cancel the trip. Trip cancellation is the coverage you want. It will cover 100% of the pre-paid money you’ll lose, as long as you cancel for a reason listed in the policy,
You’re traveling overseas and your health plan doesn’t have global coverage. Many health plans lack robust global coverage, or impose high out-of-network deductibles for care outside the U.S. Check your health plan details to see what it provides. Travel medical insurance fills the gap.
You’re going to a remote area. If you won’t be near any quality medical facilities, even a small injury could turn into a major medical event. Medical evacuation coverage will pay to medevac you to an adequate facility.
You want emergency backup. The 24/7 travel assistance lines that are included with travel insurance can assist you with finding a pharmacy, language translation, replacing a lost passport and much more.
Here are key considerations for choosing the travel insurance plan that will match your needs.
Where you’re going. If you’re traveling outside of the U.S., a plan with travel medical insurance is important because you may have little to no coverage under your U.S. health plan. If you’re taking a domestic trip, you likely don’t need it, or you may want to buy low coverage amounts as a back-up.
If you’re taking an international trip, emergency medical evacuation coverage is important to have, especially if you’re visiting a remote area that doesn’t have top-quality medical facilities.
How you’re getting there. Travel plans can be derailed by weather, airplane mechanical issues or any number of other unexpected circumstances. If you’re worried about paying extra money for costs due to a delay, you may want to look for a plan that has a generous amount of travel delay insurance.
What you’re doing. If you have lots of prepaid, non-refundable deposits for activities, lodging and tours, it is especially important to have trip cancellation coverage. This holds true for trip interruption insurance as well.
Travelers who plan to participate in extreme sports or adventure excursions should consider buying a plan that covers these activities, as they’re often excluded.
Concerns about Covid and variants. If Covid is a travel concern for you, look for a travel insurance plan that covers Covid-related cancellations and medical costs. The best Covid travel insurance plans will also include “cancel for any reason” coverage.
How much flexibility you want. If you want the freedom to cancel a trip no matter what, opt for a “cancel for any reason” upgrade. You generally have to buy it within the first few weeks of making your first deposit. Similarly, you can also buy an “interruption for any reason” upgrade that allows you to cut a trip short and return home for any reason.
These upgrades are especially good for the traveler who has put down substantial prepaid, non-refundable deposits.
Travelers on cruises can potentially lose substantial money, just as much as a traveler on land. Cruise insurance can cover problems such as bad weather that causes a trip delay, or an illness that prevents you from traveling.
While standard travel insurance plans are meant to cover one-time trips, frequent travelers should consider an annual travel insurance plan. These plans cover the same issues as a single-trip plan, such as trip cancellation and emergency medical situations. But they also offer the convenience of a one-time purchase for multiple trips.