How to Find the Best Travel Insurance

Here's what you need to know to get started when shopping for travel insurance.
How to Find the Best Travel Insurance

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Note: The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted existing and future travel plans, and turned greater attention to trip insurance. Read our take on specific information concerning , or see our to managing your finances during COVID-19.

Booking travel always carries some degree of uncertainty. Travel insurance provides a safety net so you can step out with confidence. Insurance is designed to cover the big financial risks you don’t want to bear alone. You may not need travel insurance for inexpensive trips, but it can provide a sense of security when you prepay for pricey reservations, a big international trip or travel during the COVID-era, which can be unpredictable.

According to insurance comparison site SquareMouth, for the 12-months ended April 2021, travelers spent an average of $234 on travel insurance for trips ranging from two to three weeks, representing just over 6% of the average trip cost.

There are many different policies available, and selecting the right plan depends on your particular circumstances. Follow along as we take a look at the most common travel insurance needs, determine what factors affect the cost, present different travel insurance products, show you how to get covered.

Depending on the type of coverage you’re looking for, the chart below will help you determine what to look for when selecting a policy:

Depending on the policy, travel insurance reimburses you or offers services when something goes awry. There’s even coverage for the worst-case scenario: if you die in an accident while traveling. Accidental death coverage pays your beneficiary a lump sum in that case.

Before you buy, take a little time to get familiar with different types of travel insurance products, how it’s priced, and what it covers and excludes. If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, you’ll want to make sure that the policy you select covers coronavirus-related emergencies. Usually, the more thorough the coverage, the more it will cost.

As part of our annual Best-Of Awards, we evaluated many different travel insurance plans and providers to help you pick the coverage that works best for your trip. Check out our findings here: .

According to SquareMouth, for the 12-month period ending April 2021, a comprehensive travel insurance plan averaged 5.9% (domestic trip) and 6.6% (international trip) of the cost of a trip. Generally, the price will vary depending on:

Keep these factors in mind when considering different travel insurance options.

You’ll find a wide selection of travel protection plans when you shop for a policy. Typically, travel insurance is sold as a package, known as a comprehensive plan, which includes a variety of coverage. Some insurers and comparison sites let you customize a policy by choosing types of coverage a la carte. For example, is a comparison site that provides quotes from different providers.

Here are seven of the most common types of coverage:

These plans provide health insurance while you’re away from home. Although in some ways these policies work like traditional health plans, generally you cannot use travel health insurance for routine medical events. For example, a routine medical checkup is usually not covered. In addition, these policies often include limitations on coverage and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Although most travel insurance plans cover many recreational activities, such as skiing and horseback riding, they often exclude adventure sports, such as skydiving or parasailing, or competition in organized sporting events. You may need to buy a special travel policy designed for adventure or competitive sports.

Most likely, your U.S.-based will not work while you’re traveling internationally, and Medicare does not provide any coverage once you leave the United States outside of a few very specific exemptions. If you plan on traveling abroad, purchasing travel medical insurance could make a lot of sense.

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reimburses you for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses if the tour operator goes out of business or you have to cancel the trip for one of the covered reasons outlined in the policy, such as:

covers the nonrefundable cost of the unused portion of the trip if it is interrupted due to a reason outlined in the policy.

reimburses you for expenses such as lodging and meals if you’re delayed during a trip (e.g., your ).

Many package policies cover all three. These policies are different from the cancellation waivers that cruise lines and tour operators offer, the Insurance Information Institute says. Waivers are cheap, ranging from $40 to $60, and often include restrictions. For example, according to the institute, waivers might not refund your money if you cancel immediately before departure. Waivers are technically not insurance policies.

Some companies offer additional layers of coverage at extra cost. will reimburse a large part of the trip cost, no matter why you back out. And some companies let you pay extra to cover pre-existing conditions if you cancel for medical reasons.

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This coverage reimburses you for baggage and personal belongings that are lost, stolen or damaged during the trip. Some plans also reimburse you for extra expenses if you experience a baggage delay for more than a certain period, such as 12 hours.

Your renters or may cover personal belongings while you are traveling. It’s best to review your homeowners insurance policy to determine the level of coverage it provides so you do not end up paying for a benefit you already have.

This coverage pays medical expenses if you get . Medical evacuation coverage pays for transporting you to the nearest hospital, and medical repatriation pays for flying you to your home country.

This service is included with many package plans. The insurer provides a 24-hour hotline that you can call when you need help, such as booking a flight after a missed connection, finding lost luggage, or locating a doctor or lawyer.

Most travel insurers cover a wide array of services, but the specific options vary. Some plans include concierge services, providing help with restaurant referrals, tee time reservations and more. Many services also offer information before the trip, such as required vaccinations. The only way to know what’s included is to read the policy.

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This coverage pays a lump sum to your beneficiary, such as a family member, if you die in an accident while on the trip. policies also pay a portion of the sum to you if you lose a hand, foot, limb, eyesight, speech or hearing. Some plans apply only to accidental death in a plane.

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This pays for repairing your rental car if it’s damaged in a wreck, by vandals or in a natural disaster. The coverage doesn't include liability insurance, which pays for damage to other vehicles or for the medical treatment of others if you cause an accident and are held responsible.

Ask your car insurance company whether your policy will cover you when renting cars on the trip. U.S. car insurance policies generally don’t cover you when driving in other countries, except Canada.

Car insurance requirements are complex because they vary among countries. You can usually purchase liability insurance from the rental car company. Learn about car insurance requirements by searching for auto insurance by country on the .

When you’re considering travel insurance for an upcoming trip, you’ll be happy to know that some components of your trip may already be covered. For example, when you book a trip with , depending on the card you use, you may already receive .

So when deciding on what level of coverage you need, check to see what you already get with your credit card. Then, decide what additional coverage you would like. Commonly, travel medical protection is not included with your credit card, so if you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage, it makes sense to purchase a general trip insurance policy.

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Below, we include four ways to obtain travel insurance, along with the pros and cons of each option.

Some credit cards offer trip cancellation and rental car insurance if you use the card to book the trip or car.

Pros: Coverage is free.

Cons: You can’t customize the insurance to meet your needs. Most credit cards offer secondary car rental insurance, which pays for the costs not covered by your regular car insurance plan.

You can buy travel insurance when you book your flight, hotel and car rental.

Pros: Buying is as quick and easy as clicking “yes” when you book reservations. Coverage is inexpensive.

Cons: You can’t customize the coverage.

You can purchase travel insurance directly from an insurance provider.

Pros: You can choose a policy that fits your needs. Many travel insurer websites also offer information to help you understand the coverage.

Cons: You’ll need to go to multiple websites to compare coverage and pricing.

You can compare different policies and review quotes at once based on the trip search criteria you’ve input into the search form.

Pros: You can choose a policy that fits your needs and compare policies and pricing in one place.

Cons: Comparing multiple policies takes time.

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Comparing travel insurance policies from different providers is your best bet for finding a policy customized to your needs and at the price you want. We’ve compiled a list of travel insurance providers and comparison sites to help you shop for the best quote.

If you don’t know which provider to go with, it makes sense to browse a list of plans on a comparison site. These sites will often include plans from the best travel insurance companies along with customer reviews. Below, we’ve included five popular insurance comparison sites:

If you already have an insurer in mind or just want to learn more about some of the best travel insurance companies, take a look at our top 10 list below. Whether you’re looking for an international travel insurance plan, emergency medical care, or a policy that includes extreme sports, these providers have you covered.

Keep these four important tips in mind when you’re considering a trip insurance policy.

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Unpredictability is one of the mind-opening joys of travel, but travel insurance should contain no surprises. The time you spend to understand your options will be well worth the peace of mind as you embark on your next adventure.

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