What Is Travel Protection?

Trip protection is typically more limited than general travel insurance and isn't subject to the same regulations.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Updated
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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Little things are worse than going through all the work of planning a trip only to have something change on you at the last minute. Whether it’s a broken bone, a canceled flight or a sudden sickness, a lot is on the line when you’re making vacation plans. That’s why many travel companies offer travel protection.

If you’re wondering what travel protection is, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll also talk about how vacation protection works, what it covers and the difference between travel insurance versus travel protection.

What is trip protection?

Trip or travel protection is a limited type of cancellation coverage that you purchase directly from a travel provider. The coverage is typically self-insured by the company through which you buy the protection.

For example, a cruise line may offer its own trip protection option when booking a cruise to allow you to recoup costs if you need to cancel. Likewise, an online travel agency (OTA) might offer protection for a flight and provide you with a voucher in case of cancellation.

Travel protection vs. travel insurance

The terms travel protection and travel insurance are often used interchangeably, and both aim to protect you financially if you have issues during your travel.

Although it can offer some of the same benefits as travel insurance, trip protection is not insurance, and it doesn’t have the same regulatory oversight that insurance policies do. Therefore, it’s important to know what the protection plan covers before you purchase it so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises down the road.

The coverage that trip protection offers is usually quite specific — often, it’s limited only to cancellation. While it may help you out if your trip needs to be canceled, it typically won’t cover medical expenses or reimburse you for lost baggage. For this reason, many travelers opt for more comprehensive coverage in the form of travel insurance.

What does trip protection cover?

The coverage on any trip protection plan you purchase will vary with your individual policy.

For example, Carnival Cruise Line offers Carnival Vacation Protection. This plan provides both insurance and non-insurance coverage at once. The plan includes trip cancellation coverage, provided by Carnival, along with travel insurance underwritten by Nationwide.

If you need to cancel your trip for a covered reason, you’ll receive a full refund in cash. If you cancel for any other reason, you’ll receive 75% of your trip cost in the form of a Carnival voucher.

But what is travel protection for flights? Is there such a thing? While many airlines offer you the option to purchase insurance when you book your flight, some travel providers still offer trip protection instead.

For example, until recently, the OTA company GoToGate offered its own self-funded cancellation protection that reimbursed airfare expenses for covered events. However, it has now switched to a regulated travel insurance provider.

Another common trip protection offering is travel assistance services. These can include referrals to medical services, help with translation, managing travel documentation and aiding with lost or damaged luggage.

How does travel protection work?

The way your travel protection plan works depends on the specific policy. If you need to use it, you’ll likely coordinate directly with the travel provider for a claim.

For example, Carnival’s plan will give you a cash reimbursement or a voucher for future travel, depending on the reason for your cancellation. Either way, you’ll work directly with Carnival to obtain your compensation — not a third-party insurance agency.

Should you buy travel protection?

It can be tempting to purchase travel protection, especially if your vacation includes many moving parts or is expensive. This is especially true if your plans aren’t solid — cancellation protection can provide reimbursement if you need to alter your bookings.

However, travel insurance is a better option if you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage. This is because there tends to be a much broader scope of protection included with travel insurance.

Here are some of the most common travel insurance inclusions that you won’t find in most trip protection plans:

Check your credit cards for complimentary coverage

Before buying either trip protection or travel insurance, check the benefits of your credit cards. Many travel credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance as a perk of being a cardholder.

To be eligible for this insurance, you’ll need to charge the trip to your card. Once done, you’ll be covered automatically. The types of insurance and the policy limits you’ll receive will depend on which card you hold.

The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, provides trip cancellation coverage, trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage insurance, trip interruption insurance, rental car insurance and Premium Global Assist services. Note AmEx will reimburse you for expenses incurred due to a lost bag, it doesn’t cover instances where your luggage is simply delayed.

This contrasts the coverage offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®​, another premium travel credit card. Like AmEx, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® provides reimbursement for a bag that’s lost or damaged, but it’ll also cover delayed luggage by providing up to $100 per day for five days to purchase necessities.

Terms apply.

If you’d like to purchase travel protection

Purchasing trip protection may be tempting if you’ve made a lot of travel plans or you’re worried you’ll need to cancel your trip.

However, because travel protection isn’t actually insurance, it’s not subject to the same regulations as standard travel insurance policies. You’ll want to be sure that any trip protection coverage you purchase is from a legitimate company — read the fine print to be sure.

Otherwise, consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance for your vacation or using your travel credit card’s complimentary travel insurance offerings for coverage.


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 2024, including those best for:

Cards for Travel Insurance from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-10x

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Points

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60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

on Chase's website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
4.2
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-2x

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30,000

Limited-time offer: Earn Companion Pass® good through 2/28/25 plus 30,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

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See more cards
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