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When you’re planning a trip away from home, travel insurance provides peace of mind, especially for pricey vacations. Maybe you’ve already started booking a trip and only now realized travel insurance might be a good idea. You may be wondering, “Can I buy travel insurance after booking my trip or purchasing plane tickets?”
The short answer is: Yes, you can.
However, timing is everything when it comes to buying travel insurance — and some options won’t be available if you wait too long. Here's a look at buying travel insurance, the best times to purchase it and when it’s too late to get it.
When can you buy travel insurance?
Depending on what you’re doing, travel insurance can provide coverage for a variety of situations, including medical care, trip delays, lost luggage and even trip cancellation.
If travel insurance is something you’re considering, you’ll want to purchase it sooner rather than later — but not before booking your travel.
You won’t want to buy insurance before you book any travel, especially if you aren’t firm on your plans. Policies such as trip cancellation insurance are meant to protect you against nonrefundable losses that you have incurred. If you haven’t booked your travel yet, you won’t know your out-of-pocket costs or how much coverage you’ll need.
While it’s not recommended to purchase travel insurance before booking travel, you’ll want to do so as soon as your reservations are made. At this point, you can expect to see the greatest number of options to choose from, including Cancel For Any Reason insurance.
It is possible to purchase travel insurance up until the very last minute — most insurance companies will allow you to buy a policy until the day before departure. Keep in mind that your options will be limited if you wait, however, and some benefits such as trip cancellation and interruption may no longer be available.
» Learn more: How to find the best travel insurance
When is the best time to buy travel insurance?
The best time to purchase travel insurance is as soon as your reservations have been made. Waiting a long period of time after booking your trip can make you ineligible for certain types of insurance. Examples of this include:
Pre-existing medical condition insurance. This is time-sensitive insurance and allows for treatment for existing medical conditions if they’re aggravated by travel. You’ll need to be medically fit to travel at the time you purchase this coverage. You must also insure 100% of your trip. Finally, the time period you have to buy the insurance will vary according to the provider; generally, you’ll be expected to purchase this 10 to 21 days after first putting down a deposit.
Cancel For Any Reason insurance. As the name suggests, this insurance allows you to cancel your trip and receive a portion of your nonrefundable costs back, no matter the reason why you’re canceling. Typically, you’ll need to purchase CFAR insurance 10 to 21 days after putting down your initial deposit. Providers may also require you to cancel your trip earlier than 48 to 72 hours before your scheduled departure.
Finally, your ability to buy travel insurance evaporates if you aren’t already covered when an event arises. Just like you are unable to buy cell phone insurance when you’ve already cracked your screen, you can’t buy most types of travel insurance if your trip has already been affected.
Let’s say that you booked a trip to France last June. You’ve been intending to buy trip cancellation insurance but have been putting it off. However, just two weeks before you’re set to leave, you slip down a set of stairs and break your leg. Now you’re rocking a set of crutches and there’s no way you’re fitting in that economy class seat you’d booked.
Trip cancellation insurance would have covered you for any nonrefundable purchases you’d made due to your unforeseen injury. But now that your leg is already broken, it’s no longer an option. Because trip cancellation insurance isn’t retroactive, you’ll just have to absorb the cost.
» Learn more: Trip cancellation insurance explained
When is it too late to buy travel insurance?
How close to a trip can you buy insurance? We’ve outlined some specific situations above in which you’re no longer able to buy travel insurance, including time-sensitive policies that must be purchased soon after you make your reservations.
Otherwise, you’re able to buy most types of travel insurance all the way until the day before you begin traveling. Any time after that — even 12:01 a.m. on your departure date — and it’s too late to insure your trip.
Can you buy travel insurance at the airport?
No, you can’t buy travel insurance at the airport. You also can’t buy it when you’ve already boarded your cruise, you’ve chosen not to attend a tour or your flight is so late it causes you to miss your connection.
» Learn more: What does travel insurance cover?
If you want to buy travel insurance after booking
Travel insurance can be a good idea for many reasons, especially if you’re worried about anything going wrong during your trip or if you’ve invested a lot of money into a vacation. Happily, for procrastinators, most types of travel insurance are available after you’ve already booked your travel. You’ll simply need to make the purchase at least one day before travel.
However, there are some types of coverage that you’ll need to buy soon after booking or they won’t be available. These include Cancel for Any Reason insurance as well as pre-existing medical condition insurance. So if you are interested in buying travel insurance, purchasing a policy soon after booking your trip is the best way to go.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card