February 8, 2019

Best Travel Insurance: February 2019

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Shopping for travel insurance means searching through hundreds of policies to find the right one. Check out our guide on some of the best plans and what to look for in a policy.

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Every trip we take is different, but the risks are mostly the same. When you're shopping for travel insurance, be on the lookout for these important benefits.

What's Covered

Trip Cancellation Coverage: This benefit helps cover the cost of canceled flights, cruises, or hotel reservations. Most policies have a specific list of covered reasons for cancellations. Be sure to check the list closely.

The best policies offer a "cancel for any reason" benefit. This benefit allows you to cancel no matter the reason. There are still guidelines though, so read the fine print.

Medical coverage: Your health insurance probably won't cover you outside the US. If you're traveling abroad, select a policy with a high medical limit. A good plan will offer a $100,000 medical maximum, which is adequate for most situations.

Baggage Delay or Loss and Theft of Belongings: Delayed or lost luggage is becoming pretty common. It's a headache. But most travel insurance policies offer some compensation. Choose a policy that reimburses you at least $1,000 for lost bags. A great plan will also help you track down delayed luggage.

Evacuation: If you're really sick or hurt, you might need to be transported to a hospital. An air ambulance can cost $150,000 or more. An evacuation benefit of at least $300,000 is adequate. $500,000 is ideal. Don't be tempted to lower your insurance bill by picking a low evacuation limit.

24-hour assistance: Most travel insurance companies provide 24/7 assistance services. Translation services and directions to hotels or hospitals are helpful. Help arranging a medical evacuation is a must. Go with a company that provides these services. And be sure their 24/7 hotline is staffed with live people.

What's Not Covered

Knowing what your travel policy covers is crucial. Knowing what it doesn't cover is just as important. A denied insurance claim can cost you big time. Watch out for these common travel insurance exclusions.

Pre-existing Conditions: Travel policies generally exclude coverage for any pre-existing medical condition. Keep this in mind if you have any sort of medical issue, even if it's well controlled.

Pregnancy: Most travel insurance excludes any kind of pregnancy-related expense. It doesn't matter if you knew you were pregnant or not. Any medical bill for pregnancy will be declined by the insurance.

Mental Health: Treatment for mental health is almost always excluded from travel insurance. This goes for inpatient and outpatient treatment as well as medication.

Certain Destinations: Travelers should be careful to check for any excluded destinations in their policy. Countries with a history of political unrest are often excluded, especially if the US has prohibited travel to the area.

Best Travel Insurance

The travel insurance industry is big and they're all competing for your business. It's easy to get confused with all the websites and customer reviews. Instead, take a look at some of our favorites.

Best International Travel Insurance

Allianz Global Assistance is our top pick for best international travel insurance. They've been in the business for more than 20 years. Their reputation is excellent, and their customer reviews are great. Allianz has an easy-to-use website that makes insurance jargon easy to understand. Their online client portal makes self-service a breeze.

Why we like it:

  • Allianz has a policy for every type of traveler to almost any destination. They offer four plan groups, and each group includes several policies to choose from. You'll find affordable plans whether you're traveling for work, vacation, or school.

Why you might look elsewhere:

  • The variety of plans might be daunting for some shoppers. You'll be in for a lot of reading to compare the different plans and prices.

Best Travel Insurance for Europe

Europ Assistance is our choice for best travel insurance for Europe. In the industry for more than 50 years, they're an expert in the field of travel insurance. Europ Assistance has one of the best emergency assistance teams in the world.

Why we like it:

  • Europ Assistance offers a plan specific to European travel. Their Schengen plan covers travelers both in and outside the Schengen area in Europe. No other company provides such a specialized plan for European travel.
    Why you might look elsewhere

  • Europ Assistance has grown into a huge company with many partners. It can be challenging to navigate the layers of information and contacts.

Best Travel Insurance for Cruises

Check out Travel Guard for great cruise insurance plans. You're probably familiar with Travel Guard's parent company, AIG. They've been in the insurance world for years, with Travel Guard handling their travel insurance.

Why we like it:

  • Travel Guard cruise plans include a variety of non-insurance assistance. This includes business assistant services, identity theft help, and port-of-call concierge services. These handy benefits will give you piece of mind on your trip.

Why you might look elsewhere:

  • Travel Guard offers several attractive add-on benefits, but they can be pricey. Take a close look at value versus price when reviewing the available add-ons.

Best Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance

Travelex is our pick for best cancel for any reason coverage. Travelex is a solid name in the travel insurance industry. Their website is one of the easiest, with pricing and plans clearly spelled out.

Why we like it:

  • You can purchase Travelex's cancel for any reason coverage within 21 days of your initial trip deposit. Most other plans require purchase within 10 days, so Travelex offers a bit more flexibility. And there's no catch - If you need to cancel your trip, you can cancel no matter the reason.

Why you might look elsewhere:

  • The best coverage with any Travelex plan comes with their add-ons. This means reading various add-on options and deciding if each is right for you. If you're looking for an out-of-the-box plan, you might go with another company.

Best Travel Insurance for Backpackers

World Nomads is our choice for best travel insurance for backpackers. It's recommended by several major travel sites. And it's considered the go-to for round-the-world travelers. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 100 activities that are excluded by other plans. This includes lots of adventure activities and hazardous sports.

Why we like it:

  • Most travel insurance offers a variety of online services. The World Nomads process is completely online, from shopping to purchasing to filing a claim. Everything is handled online. This is essential for backpackers who are on the move.
    Why you might look elsewhere

  • World Nomads is really geared toward international travel. It's best for long-term or multi-destination trips. If you're taking a simple cruise or a short vacation, you might not need everything World Nomads offers.

Other Travel Insurance You Might Consider

Seniors: Travelers over 65 often have trouble finding travel coverage. Many companies will only insure travelers under 65. Others charge a high premium for senior travelers. International Medical Group (known as IMG) offers plans specific for senior travelers. Their policies offer robust benefits at a good price point.

USA: Travel within the US is unique when shopping for travel insurance. Many policies won't cover you inside the US. And some US plans include benefits you don't need. Allianz Global offers a great plan for US travel. Trip cancellation and rental car coverage make their US plan a great policy without a lot of extras.

Mexico: Check out HCC - Atlas Travel for a great plan geared for (but not limited to) travel in Mexico. Atlas works with tour groups and resorts in Mexico, so they know about the area.

Why Get Travel Insurance

  • Traveling isn't cheap. Travel insurance protects your investment in plane tickets, hotels, and cruises.

  • It's not safe to travel without health coverage. Travel insurance provides medical coverage if you get sick or hurt on your trip.

  • Even seasoned travelers need help sometimes. Travel insurance companies help when you need translations or directions. More importantly, they'll help you if you're having a medical emergency.

Still uncertain? Check out this article:
Is Travel Insurance Worth It?

Other Kinds of Coverage You Might Want to Consider

Rental car coverage: This benefit is also called collision damage waiver. If you're going to rent a car, consider the costs if you're in an accident. Check out policies that offer a collision damage waiver as part of their plan.

Hazardous sports: Some vacation activities might not be covered by travel insurance. Even simple things like skiing, surfing, or hiking may not be covered. Many plans offer extra hazardous sports coverage for these activities. Check the policy exclusions to find out if you need to add this benefit.

Electronics and Tech: Nowadays, most of us travel with expensive mobile phones, tablets, or laptops. These are pricey items and aren't always included in travel coverage. Be sure to check your plan's coverage for lost or stolen devices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does travel insurance cover me in my home country?
Generally, no. Travel insurance covers things that happen while you're traveling. If your plan offers home country coverage, be sure to read the fine print.

Does travel insurance work just like my health insurance?
Not exactly. If you see a doctor while you're traveling, you'll have to pay upfront - maybe even before they'll see you. Hint: Be sure to keep all your bills and receipts for filing a claim when you get home.

How soon do I need to buy insurance?
You can buy insurance at any time before your trip. Be careful, though. Some benefits depend on when you bought the insurance. Buying insurance as soon as you've booked your trip is your best bet.

Can I extend my policy if I extend my trip?
For many trips, yes. But be sure to check your policy. Most policies have a maximum coverage period. If you're traveling beyond that point, you won't be able to extend coverage.

Bottom Line

Shopping for travel insurance can be overwhelming. Don't get bogged down by all the options and customer reviews. Focus on a plan that fits your needs and budget. But keep in mind, bad things can happen. Make sure your policy protects your investment and covers your health.

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