When I first started traveling, I was at odds with myself. I would ask myself the same question: “Is travel insurance worth it? Nothing is going to happen…right?”
It’s especially hard because, when I’ve just spent so much money on my travels themselves, it can feel like a waste to part with yet another chunk of cash for something I might not even need.
Years ago, I didn’t bother buying traveling insurance. Now, after a decade of traveling, I won’t travel without it. While it might seem like an annoying expense, trust me—travel insurance is worth it.
My $8,000 surgery in Singapore? Covered.
Another $7,000 worth of hospital visits in Bangkok? Covered.
I’ve heard stories of broken legs, broken backs, helicopter evacuations, near-death drownings…you name it, it’s happened. Not to mention all the flight delays, lost luggage and stolen smartphones.
And, at the risk of sounding far-fetched and cliché, these things do happen to people like you and me.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
You should always do your due diligence when choosing the best travel insurance.
It’s also worth noting that travel insurance is not only health insurance. What is travel insurance? Travel insurance covers your trip itself and it also covers medical expenses, should you be unfortunate enough to have them.
So is buying travel insurance worth it? Let’s take a look at exactly what you will be paying for if you decide to buy travel insurance.
Trip Cancellation and Interruption
The only thing worse than your travel plans getting ruined is losing all the money you spent on it!
Should your journey be canceled or delayed because you get sick, or if there’s a hurricane or any type of personal or worldly catastrophe, your travel insurance company will reimburse you for everything. But remember—you have to purchase coverage before the trip gets canceled.
One thing to note is that most trip cancellation insurance plans will only pay out if your trip is canceled for an approved reason (things like a serious illness to yourself or a family member, canceled flights, or other “legitimate” reasons). You usually can’t just decide you don’t want to go to Jamaica anymore and expect to get your money back.
If you want the most peace of mind, you can opt to buy cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage. This usually doesn’t cost a ton more and means trip cancellation is covered no matter what.
Lost or Damaged Baggage and Belongings
If your bags get lost or stolen, your travel insurance will pay to replace your items. Typically this only covers up to a set dollar amount, so make sure your policy has a high enough limit to protect all your belongings.
Whenever I am checking luggage, I stress about whether it will get lost in transit and end up in Antarctica, get chewed up by an angry conveyor machine, or be tossed off a building by a negligent baggage handler (those guys seem to have way too much fun throwing things around violently). Having baggage insurance at least gives me some assurance that if anything bad happens to my stuff, I’ll get some reimbursement for it.
Travel Medical Insurance
The ideal scenario is that you don’t get hurt or sick while you are traveling, but if you do, your normal health insurance probably won’t cover emergency medical care in another country. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have good travel insurance with medical coverage when you travel.
Trust me, even if you don’t think anything will happen to you on your trip, I’ve experienced unexpected overseas hospital trips first-hand, and all I can say is, I’m glad I had insurance.
Of course, it’s not likely or ideal that you get hurt on your trip, but if you do and you aren’t covered by a decent insurance policy, you could face medical or repatriation costs that run up into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars (seriously).
Emergency Medical Evacuation
In some cases, rather than undergoing medical treatment in a foreign country, it’s better to return home. Unfortunately emergency evacuation can be incredibly expensive.
An air ambulance from the United States to the UK will cost you around $50,000 if you don’t have insurance.
Suddenly those couple hundred dollars you spent on travel insurance seems a lot more attractive, doesn’t it?
Nobody wants to be “that guy” who makes a panicked phone call to their parents telling them they need $50,000 for hospital bills and an air ambulance across the ocean.
Most travel insurance plans will not just cover medical expenses abroad, but they’ll also pay for medical evacuation. That can save you some hefty bills.
Trip cancellation and interruption, lost/damaged items, and medical emergency coverage are the basics of travel insurance, but many policies include a lot more (or have options you can add on).
Here are some common travel insurance benefits you may want to watch for as you’re shopping around. You probably won’t need everything, so look for a plan that fits your needs.
- Pre-existing medical conditions: If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, look for travel insurance that will still cover you. Sometimes you may have to pay a little more, but it’s definitely worth having.
- Adventure sports: Some travel insurance policies won’t cover medical costs if you’re injured while doing a “risky” activity like skydiving, skiing, or mountaineering. If you like to live on the wild side, look for a plan that offers adventure sports coverage.
- Rental car insurance: You know when you go to rent a car and they ask if you want to pay for insurance? Well many travel insurance plans come with rental car insurance included!
- Missed connection coverage: If you miss a flight connection, many plans will help cover the costs to rejoin your scheduled trip. This could include unexpected hotel stays or additional transportation costs.
- Vacation rental damage: So you accidentally spilled wine all over the white couch at your AirBnB (shit happens). Vacation rental coverage will help pay for any damage during your stay.
- Pet care: If you are delayed on your return travels, some insurance will cover costs for pet kenneling until you get home.
When you cover yourself with travel insurance, you could save yourself from losing thousands of dollars if your trip is unexpectedly canceled, if you become ill or get injured, or if anything else happens. The whole point of travel insurance is to protect you in case of unforeseen events.
What Doesn’t Travel Insurance Cover?
To be clear, travel insurance isn’t a fool-proof unlimited guarantee that you’ll get your trip funds reimbursed. Most trip cancellation insurance will only pay out claims for events that happen outside your control (unless you buy cancel for any reason coverage).
Many plans also don’t cover expenses related to pre-existing medical conditions or if you’re injured while participating in an activity that’s not approved on the policy. Of course, you can always find plans or add-ons that offer more coverage for medical conditions or adventure activities.
As with anything, it’s worth reading the fine print before buying a plan. Make sure you get what you need, even if you have to pay a bit more.
How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?
Travel insurance doesn’t cost as much as you probably think it does. Obviously, it depends on who you buy insurance with (and what, exactly, it covers), but it’s a small price to pay for a safe trip abroad.
I bought a comprehensive travel insurance policy for an entire year of traveling in Asia for somewhere around $450.
At first, $450 might seem like an eye-watering price to pay, but in reality, it’s just over a dollar a day. My health (and peace of mind) is well worth that. Travel insurance costs are MUCH lower than the cost (and headache) of having to pay for medical bills, an interrupted trip, or lost baggage while traveling.
The policy I chose covered:
- Up to $10 million in medical expenses.
- $200 towards replacing necessities in delayed baggage.
- $5,000 of cancellation reimbursements.
- $1,500 for trip interruptions – so that you can continue your trip if an emergency happens and you have to go home.
- $25,000 payout for personal accidents.
- $500 for loss or theft of money.
- $600 to replace lost or stolen travel documents and to cover expenses of travel or accommodation you need in the process.
As you can see, I had myself pretty much covered from every angle.
No, handing over a couple hundo isn’t my favorite activity in the world. It is, however, in every way, preferable to spending 10 or 100 times that amount because I got hurt or because my laptop was stolen.
When Can You Skip Buying Travel Insurance?
Hopefully you’re getting the picture that travel insurance coverage is absolutely worth it, but maybe you’re asking yourself if there’s a situation where you don’t really need it?
Well, yes, in some instances, you may be fine without travel insurance. If you are flying domestically within the US, flights are much less expensive, and your normal medical insurance should cover any medical emergency costs. So, for shorter trips in the U.S., you should be fine without having to purchase travel insurance. Plus, depending on the credit card you have, some level of travel insurance may be included with it.
That said, for more expensive trips, even inside the U.S., you can still get a lot of peace of mind with trip cancellation coverage. This covers nonrefundable trip costs like hotel stays in case your trip is canceled or interrupted.
Fortunately, most travel insurance companies offer policies for trip insurance without needing to pay for included travel medical insurance. These plans are usually very affordable and can save you a lot of cash if your trip is canceled or interrupted.
Plus, you can often get other travel insurance benefits like rental car coverage, vacation rental damage protection, pet care if your trip is delayed, and more.
So, for cheap domestic trips, you can usually get away without travel insurance. For anything else, especially international trips, there’s no getting around the fact that YOU NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE!
How Do You Choose Travel Insurance?
There are literally hundreds of insurance companies that will offer you every type of policy under the sun. This can make choosing the right travel insurance quite tough. You want to make sure it’s comprehensive but you also don’t want to pay through the roof for it!
I am a fan of Heymondo because they offer solid coverage at a good price and have a good reputation for paying out claims. I can personally attest to that.
The average traveler primarily wants to look for comprehensive medical coverage. That said, I travel with expensive camera gear and electronics, so I need coverage for my belongings, too.
I normally opt for a policy that will pay for medical expenses up to $5,000,000, including repatriation costs. The more you can get on this front the better. Bear in mind that if you are buying travel insurance for high-risk destinations or activities, your premium is likely to be a bit higher.
With Heymondo, I’ve found the price difference to be negligible.
How Do You Purchase Travel Insurance?
Finally ready to cough up the cash to purchase travel insurance? Lucky for you, buying a policy is super simple. You typically have two options: either buy directly from a travel insurance company, or shop and compare policies through a comparison site like SquareMouth.
With SquareMouth, you just enter your trip details, and they’ll search through dozens of different providers to give you several plan quotes to choose from. I like using SquareMouth to quickly compare many different plans to find the best options and prices.
However, using a comparison site like this, you don’t get plans from every provider, and you can’t always see all the customization options that you might get from an individual company. If I know specifically what I need, I prefer going through individual company websites to generate custom quotes. I love options, and the best companies have a lot to choose from.
So, Is Travel Insurance Worth It?
This will be the least exciting part of your travel plans and you may even shed a tear when you buy that policy. But trust me when I say that travel insurance is definitely worth it.
When you travel, the unexpected happens. That’s the whole point of travel! Unexpected things can’t be expected (obviously), and there’s a reason they call it an accident. From medical emergencies to canceled flights, it’s always better to be prepared.
Though it may sound obnoxious to say, I honestly believe that if you can’t afford travel insurance then you can’t afford to travel.
Travel Insurance FAQs
What are the disadvantages of travel insurance?
The only downside of travel insurance is the cost. But the protection is well worth what you pay.
Will travel insurance cover cancellation?
Yes, almost all travel insurance plans cover trip cancellation, though only for approved reasons.
What is a good rate for travel insurance?
As a general guide, travel insurance will cost between 5% and 10% of your total trip expenses.
Why should I consider travel insurance?
Travel insurance is really quite affordable and could save you thousands if something goes wrong.
How many days before a trip should you buy travel insurance?
You can buy travel insurance at any time before your trip. Prices don’t go up as you get closer.
Is theft covered under travel insurance?
If your plan has lost baggage protection, then you are covered up to the specified maximum amount.
Can you fly without travel insurance?
You’re free to travel anywhere in the world without travel insurance, but it’s still worth getting.
How long do travel insurance claims take?
Depending on your company, getting reimbursed can take from 5 business days to several weeks.