We generally love travel insurance: It gives you peace of mind, reduces hassles, and makes a crisis while abroad much easier and less expensive to deal with. Though you won’t necessarily need it for every trip you take, it’s a good option that you should always consider– especially when heading to a foreign country where your usual healthcare coverage won’t likely be valid. If you’re wondering how to choose the right travel insurance amid seemingly endless options, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll find that most providers offer the same base options, which can make choosing between policies quite a challenge. Here are our top tips to help you make an informed decision before you click “buy”.
Decide whether you really need it
Some travel insurance companies present insurance as a one-stop option for all travel plans, but that’s really not the case. Travel insurance is best for longer trips that involves a lot of movement from point “A” to point “B”. We suggest insuring any trip that takes you more than 100 miles from home, and if it involves many pre-paid, non-refundable expenses or cancellation penalties. Essentially, travel insurance protects the investment you make into your trip, so if you’re only flying home for the holidays, you probably don’t need to go through the expense of insuring it. But if you’re taking a vacation across the world? It’s definitely a worthwhile investment in that case.
How much of your trip is pre-paid and non-refundable?
If you’ve decided that travel insurance is right for you, the next step is to carefully consider your coverage options. Before you leave home, we recommend you do the following: Add up all your non-refundable costs to determine your insurable amount. Usually, this takes into account the cost of your hotel, rental car, flight, and attraction tickets. Don’t bother insuring any refundable tickets, as your package will almost never cover any losses from those. In brief, if you’ve pre-paid for anything on your trip (meaning it can’t be refunded if something goes sideways), you need to insure those items. If you don’t do so, it may invalidate some of the coverage of your chosen plan.
Read related: Our Top Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling
Identify your most important areas of coverage
Though your pre-paid, non-refundable expenses are where you start, you also need to consider the other types of coverage that are most important to you. For example, heading to Disney World or another park? You’re definitely going to want a weather policy in case of a hurricane.
Wondering what typical policies cover? Most insure the basics: Medical emergencies, evacuation, cancellation, lost luggage, and so on, but here are some of the more specific coverage categories that you might want.
- MEDICAL EMERGENCIES: If your medical insurance doesn’t cover overseas emergencies, an accident might cost you a small fortune. Travel insurance bridges the gap so you don’t end up bankrupt over an injury abroad. That said, if you’re staying domestic, medical insurance is probably redundant.
- EMERGENCY EVACUATION: If you’re seriously injured, being flown out of one hospital to a different hospital for specialized treatment can be very expensive. Evacuation insurance covers the cost of a flight on a medical jet.
- TRIP CANCELLATION, INTERRUPTION, AND FLIGHT DELAYS: One of the basics in travel insurance is trip cancellation insurance, because flights, hotel stays, and rentals are often the most expensive part of the trip; they’re also usually non-refundable. Build in some flexibility with a reimbursement package for cancellations or interruptions. Insurance will cover these if you get sick, have a death in the family, or if there’s a natural disaster. Many plans will cover the cost of a rescheduled ticket if your previous flight was delayed.
- LOST LUGGAGE AND THEFT: The only thing worse than an airline losing your luggage or a theft stealing from you is having to pay to replace all the stolen goods. Travel insurance covers the cost of lost luggage or property damage done by airlines or thieves, which can be a real help if you’ve brought valuables with you.
Choose specific policies for high-value items
Though the basic categories of travel insurance make sense for most trips, you should also consider specific supplemental policies for more specific circumstances. Bringing an expensive laptop along with you? Insure that item specifically, because many travel insurance plans only cover the value of up to $500 per individual item. The same goes for expensive photo equipment.
Read related: Essential Travel Photography Gear For Your Next Trip
If you’re bringing a lot of high-value items, you may consider a specific package for your industry. Photographers may want to purchase a travel insurance policy designed specifically for them, for example, especially if they photograph professionally and could lose substantial income from a stolen piece of equipment.
Don’t wait too long to buy
If you’re putting off buying your travel insurance, be aware that most policies require you to purchase your policy before or near the time of your first payment towards the trip- usually when you purchase your flight or tour package payment. This is why it’s crucial that you decide on your insurance plan before you buy your tickets.
Read the fine print
While scouring through a lengthy contract is no fun, travel insurance is no different from any other sort of policy: there’s fine print and loopholes for every package. Know what you’re getting and do your research ahead of time, especially for your specific needs. This will keep you from finding out all too late that your policy doesn’t cover something important during your trip– an unpleasant experience, to say the least.
Check your credit card benefits
Surprisingly, many credit cards offer insurance for items such as rentals, lost luggage, and trip cancellations. Coverage can be iffy, so read through the details carefully. This is always a good step to take, as it ensures you won’t buy a separate policy needlessly or pay for coverage you already have through your credit card.