Traveling is full of excitement and adventure, but if things go wrong, that adventure can turn into a stressful, expensive headache. Travel insurance can protect you from many unexpected expenses, like the cost of hospitalization in a foreign country, or of having to cancel non-refundable hotels or flights.
Before figuring out what’s the best travel insurance for you, it’s important to get to a good understanding of what travel insurance covers — and what it doesn’t cover. Every policy is different, so it’s essential to read through the fine print. Generally speaking, travel insurance claims will be only paid out in situations that are specifically spelled out in the policy.
Another key point to understand is that travel insurance is not really needed for many kinds of trips. If the biggest expense of your trip is a hotel stay, and that hotel allows you to cancel up to 24 hours of arrival without any financial penalty, then travel insurance is probably not necessary. What’s more, if your flight is cancelled or significantly delayed because of a hurricane or any other reason, many airlines will typically allow you to cancel for a refund or change your itinerary with no fees — even if the flight was nonrefundable.
But if you are traveling outside the country where medical facilities or the necessary medical care may not be available, or the trip is longer, more expensive, and includes fees that are nonrefundable under normal circumstances, the decision to purchase travel insurance makes increasingly more sense. “Anyone traveling outside the United States needs travel insurance” says Bill McGovern, owner of McGovern Associates, a company of travel insurance specialists who create insurance packages for tour operators and cruise lines.
Although most people will tend to view the primary benefit of travel insurance as protecting themselves from non-refundable fees, the biggest benefit and most important reason to buy insurance is the medical coverage these policies provide. As McGovern points out, “Most medical plans people have through their employers may not apply outside the United States. Medicare does not cover you while you travel out of the U.S. either.”
This became very clear to Ellie von Wellsheim, founder and CEO of The MoonCatcher Project, a non-profit organization providing reusable menstrual pads to girls in developing countries, when her brother-in-law who was visiting Nicaragua had an accident. “He had to be medically evacuated,” said von Wellsheim, “and it cost him thousands of dollars because he had no travel insurance.” Since then von Wellsheim, a frequent traveller due to the work of her organization, has always purchased travel insurance.
But travel insurance isn’t all the same, and some insurance companies offer better value and a better experience than others. From customer service to the coverage that policies provide, we’ve evaluated the top travel insurance options to help you find the policy that’s right for your trip.
Travel Insurance: Key Facts
|You may be able to add on travel insurance when you’re buying plane tickets, but this can be expensive. You’ll probably save money by buying travel insurance directly from a company, like the ones below.|
|Trip cancelation is a common travel insurance claim, but many policies won’t pay out for trips canceled for any reason whatsoever. Be sure to review the specifics of the policy you’re considering.|
|Frequent traveler? Consider purchasing annual travel insurance to save money and time.|
|If you have a pre-existing medical condition, verify whether it’s included in a policy’s medical insurance provisions. Most insurance companies require you to purchase additional coverage for pre-existing conditions.|
The 6 Best Travel Insurance Options of 2020
TravelInsurance.com: Best option to get and compare multiple quotes
Generali Global Assistance: Best emergency support services and resources
Travelex Insurance Services: Best for families with children
RoamRight Travel Insurance: Best customer service and support
World Nomads: Best for comprehensive activity and gear coverage
Allianz Travel: Best company history and reputation
Travel Insurance Reviews
TravelInsurance.com: Best for Comparing Multiple Quotes
TravelInsurance.com is one of our top picks because of how it simplifies the process of shopping for and buying travel insurance. This company works with some of the largest, top-rated insurers in the country, and is also a member of the US Travel Insurance Association. To start, you’ll fill out a form highlighting important factors, like the cost and duration of your trip. That information will be sent to multiple insurance companies. You’ll receive quotes from each company, arranged in a format that makes it easy to compare and see the pros and cons of each.
Working with TravelInsurance.com is much faster and easier than it is to request quotes from different companies individually, and you can buy directly through the TravelInsurance.com site, which will save you time. Also, thanks to a price guarantee, you don’t have to worry about missing out on a better deal somewhere else. Once you check out, you’ll receive an email instantly confirming your coverage.
Travelinsurance.com not only makes purchasing a policy easy but also provides a number of articles and blogs related to travel issues, from the most popular vacation spots to travel tips for countries where serious issues, such as the Australian wildfires or the outbreak of Coronavirus in China, can impact your decision to travel. The site provides a glossary of insurance terms and can help you walk through your policy to make sure you understand the differences in coverage.
All in all, Travelinsurance.com offers a complete service and one-stop shopping that makes the task of selecting the right insurance policy as easy as possible.
Generali Global Assistance: Best for Emergency Support Services
With a wide range of benefits and simple three-plan approach, Generali Global Assistance makes shopping for travel insurance easy. This company offers a Standard, Preferred, and Premium plan, each with trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage loss, and medical and dental coverage at different benefit limits.
The Premium plan, their top tier offering, includes up to $1 million in evacuation and $250,000 in medical coverage, generous benefits for travel delays and lost baggage claims (up to $2,000 per person), and benefits for lost sporting equipment. The plan even includes coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and rental car damage (the latter is not available to residents of Texas). With Generali you can get a comprehensive plan with generous coverage that includes even the most expensive emergencies.
All three of Generali’s plans also come with comprehensive support. Generali Global Assistance offers a 24-hour emergency hotline to support you no matter where in the world you happen to be. The Teladoc hotline can also help connect you to a global network of doctors via phone or video. You’ll receive access to ID theft resolution support, as well as concierge services that can help with needs such as pet relocation.
Generali Global Assistance has a 25-year history and prioritizes customer satisfaction. Every plan comes with a “free look” period, allowing you to review your coverage details within a predetermined amount of time (generally 10 days) and cancel if you want for a full refund (assuming you haven’t already left on your trip, of course).
Travelex Insurance Services: Best for Families with Children
Travelex Insurance Services offers two plans for easy comparison, and you can choose whether you want basic protection or premium coverage. Travelex offers coverage for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage, and can help you replace lost essentials like travel documents or prescriptions during your trip. With customizable upgrades, you can add on extra medical coverage, sports coverage, and more to tailor each plan to your needs. Coverage for sports injuries includes mountain climbing, canoeing, swimming and more.
Travelex offers particular benefits for families with children. As long as they are traveling with an adult who is covered under the plan, all children under age 17 are automatically protected at no additional cost — no matter how many kids you have. Just list all of the children on the application, and they’re automatically covered. Compared to other companies, Travelex can offer significant savings for families traveling with kids.
The company also offers other services that can be helpful to travellers. In partnership with Fastport Passport, Travelex provides its customers with Expedited Passport Service and International Driving Permit. With the Expedited Passport Service, customers can obtain a passport in as little as 24 hours, as long as they have confirmed travel dates and have all the right documentation. For those looking to rent a car overseas, the International Driving Permit feature translates a U.S. driver’s license into a permit allowing you to rent a car and drive in over 150 countries.
Travelex Insurance Services has over 55 years in business and is a member of the US Travel Insurance Association.
RoamRight Travel Insurance: Best Customer Service
If you’re looking for a variety of plans and coverage, RoamRight Travel Insurance delivers. Customers can choose from five different plans, each offering a variety of coverage combinations.
The Multi-Trip Annual insurance plan features annual coverage for an unlimited number of trips per year, so it’s ideal for frequent travelers who want coverage without the hassle of signing up for new insurance for each trip. You’ll also have the option of choosing a plan only offering medical emergency and evacuation coverage if you’re not interested in trip cancellation. Additionally, there’s a standalone auto rental insurance plan if you do not require trip cancellation and medical coverage.
RoamRight is also known for offering excellent customer service. Department leaders have an average of 20 years of experience in the travel industry. RoamRight uses the latest technology, including an online claims submission option and a mobile app complete with travel alerts, easy access to 24/7 assistance, translation of over 150 medical terms in seven languages, and information on local equivalents for medications you may be taking, among other services.
World Nomads: Best for Comprehensive Activity and Gear Coverage
“Designed by travelers for travelers,” World Nomads offers flexibility and a wide range of coverage. You can buy additional coverage while you’re traveling and can access World Nomads’ 24-hour multi-lingual assistance team if you need help. This company offers comprehensive benefits that go beyond some of the standard options you’ll find in other plans, including the ability to insure your photography and video equipment or sports gear. Plans also include coverage for elements like trip cancellation, death overseas, stolen passports and credit cards, and assault.
If you’re planning on an adventurous, active vacation, some of your activities might be excluded by other companies. World Nomads covers over 200 adventure activities, including camel riding, motorbiking, skydiving, snowboarding, and more. The company offers multiple plans and sports upgrades so that you can enjoy these activities while knowing that you’re covered in case of an accident.
World Nomads also focuses on responsible, sustainable travel options. The company’s Footprints program has supported global community development projects with micro-donations made by travelers. It also places emphasis on travel as a learning experience, offering scholarships for travelers to visit different destinations and learn to write, photograph or film their experiences under the tutelage of experienced mentors. The website offers a number of travel blogs and podcasts detailing their customers’ experiences throughout the world.
If you’re looking for more than a vacation and are ready to experience the world as a traveler and not a tourist, World Nomads has the right insurance plan for you.
Allianz Travel: Best Reputation
Allianz Travel is uniquely positioned as a company that you can put your confidence in, thanks to its history. This company is owned by Allianz SE, the largest diversified insurance company in the world, which has been in business for over 100 years. Allianz Travel says it has insured more than 35 million travelers, providing travel insurance, corporate assistance, and concierge services.
Allianz Travel has established partnerships with thousands of travel agencies, airlines, event ticket brokers, credit card companies, and more, ensuring they can offer customers competitive service rates and travel assistance. They have ten different insurance plans offering a number of coverage combinations. From the Alltrips Executive plan that has higher trip cancellation/interruption limits and added business rental benefits, to the OneTrip Cancellation Plus for domestic travelers who don’t need a lot of post-departure benefits, Allianz has the coverage and price you’re looking for.
The Allianz 24-hour hotline is staffed by multilingual specialists who can help travelers navigate problems such as replacing lost passports, finding local legal help, and even securing cash from home during an emergency. The TravelSmart app allows the traveler to access their plan information, file and track claims, access customer assistance, locate hospitals and access local emergency numbers, and much more. In all, Allianz Travel offers a combination of plans and benefits that any world traveler will find useful.
How We Found the Best Travel Insurance
In ranking the best travel insurance options, we used the following factors to evaluate and compare each company:
Plans and Coverage
Travel insurance is only valuable if it covers the expenses that matter to you. We looked for insurers that had a variety of plans, as well as the ability to customize the plans with upgrades. Companies offering unique add-ons such as adventure activities, coverage for lost sports gear or other equipment also contributed to our choices.
Ease of Use
Shopping for travel insurance shouldn’t be difficult, so in evaluating these insurance options we considered both how easily you can request a quote and how easy the material is to understand. Most of these companies either offer just a few plans to keep things simple, or provide an easy-to-view comparison page where you can quickly spot differences in each plan. Companies offering an easy online purchase experience were also graded higher than companies requiring more documentation.
Customer Service and Support
We looked for responsive companies dedicated to providing great customer service. Factors like a 24-7 hotline, an established network of international resources, and programs to help with emergency situations, like evacuation or stolen credit cards, are just some of the elements that indicate a company is well-prepared and responsive to customer needs. Companies with mobile apps, multiple ways of accessing customer support, and additional services like help with obtaining passports or driving permits also earned points, as did those with added perks like concierge and translation services.
We factored in a company’s reputation when ranking the best travel insurance options. We considered factors like customer feedback and ratings, years in business, and financial stability as gauged by their ratings on all major credit rating agencies including Moody’s and AM Best.
What You Need To Know About Travel Insurance
You’ve worked hard to be able to go on vacation, and something as small as a two or three-hour delay somewhere along the line can be enough to spoil all your plans. It makes sense to want to ensure that your travel plans, and the investment you made in them, are protected in case of something unforeseen happening. Having a travel insurance policy can help dampen the financial pain of a ruined vacation.
Before buying travel insurance, it helps to know what types of coverages you can purchase and what benefits they offer so you can choose the best plan for you. Below we discuss in more detail the common coverages that all travel insurance plans will provide plus some of the add-ons that can help you customize your insurance to make sure your needs are taken care of.
Trip cancellation insurance will refund up to 100% of the pre-paid, non-refundable travel costs you paid as long as the reason for cancellation is covered under the policy and the cancellation takes place before you start the trip. If you already started your trip and for some reason, you can’t continue and need to return home, trip interruption insurance will reimburse you for the unused portion of your trip and even cover expenses you may incur in order to get back home, such as last-minute flights (again, as long as the reason for the interruption is covered by the policy). Trip interruption insurance can pay as much as 150% of the interrupted trip’s cost.
Some insurance providers will also offer coverage if your trip is delayed, usually providing a daily amount you can use to pay for meals or lodging during the delay, up to a maximum limit. Other companies provide insurance for missed connections between flights, as long the reason for missing your flight is not the airline’s fault. Missed connection insurance will reimburse you for any flight change fees or additional expenses incurred in trying to catch up with your travel plans.
Emergency Medical/Dental Expenses
When you’re on vacation, the last thing on your mind is having a medical emergency. But accidents do happen, and an ankle sprain on the ski slopes or a bad reaction to native cuisine can put a serious crimp in your plans. Your health insurance will generally not cover your medical expenses out of the country, so emergency medical can give you some comfort knowing that if something does happen and you need medical attention, you’ll be covered. Benefits for medical expenses can range from $15,000 to $50,000, and in some cases, additional coverage can be purchased.
For more serious conditions, you can also get Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage. If you have an injury or illness that cannot be properly treated locally, this benefit will pay to have you evacuated to the nearest medical facility which is able to provide the necessary care, or even repatriated to the care facility of your choice back home — all the time escorted by medical personnel to make sure you’re taken care of. Medical evacuation benefits typically range between $100,000 to $500,000 but can be as high as $1,000,000.
Baggage and Personal Effects
There are few things more irritating than getting to your destination and realizing your luggage has not arrived with you. Not only are you missing your clothes but all your toiletries, personal items, and quite possibly medications that you need to take. Having insurance for lost or delayed baggage can help you get back on track.
Coverage for delayed bags will require a period of time to pass before you can make a claim – depending on the policy you purchased this period could be from 2 hours to 6 hours or more – and will reimburse you for replacement items purchased during the delay, up to the policy limit.
If your bag is lost, travel insurance can reimburse you up to the policy limit (anywhere between $500 to $1,000) to replace the lost items. However, you will first have to prove what was in your luggage to begin with, so keep any receipts you may have for the items lost, list what you had in the bag, and make sure to file a claim with the airline and any other pertinent authority. Having the correct documentation will help when you file a claim.
While it’s included in most standard travel insurance policies, you’ll want to make sure the company you choose has service available 24/7 and works in the country you’re traveling to. If you ever do need help with a medical emergency, replacing a lost passport or rebooking a missed flight, your travel insurance customer service agents can help speed up the process.
Most travel insurance companies will allow you to customize the coverage offered, both in benefit limits as well as covering activities that may be originally excluded from the standard policy. The following are some of the more common add-ons you can include in your travel insurance policy.
Cancel for Any Reason
Standard travel insurance policies will reimburse your costs for canceling a trip as long as the reason for cancellation is covered. With Cancel for Any Reason, you can do just that — cancel your travel plans for any reason whatsoever and get reimbursed for your pre-paid travel costs.
Pre-existing Medical Condition Waiver
Most emergency medical policies will not cover you for medical assistance relating to a pre-existing condition. You can get a waiver for this exclusion, basically setting it aside, and receive medical coverage as long as you meet the requirements for the waiver.
Rental Car Insurance
Basically a car insurance add-on to your travel insurance package. Coverage will include damages to the rental car as well as damages to yourself or others should an accident occur while you are traveling.
Most standard travel insurance policies exclude injuries or losses caused by participating in adventure sports like skydiving. Adding adventure sports to your coverage ensures you’ll have coverage in case of injury.
Purchasing Travel Insurance
When buying travel insurance, attention to detail is key. Before you request a quote, you’ll need to know the details about your trip, such as the various travel methods you’ll be using, your destinations, how many people are traveling with you, and the value of the items you’ll be bringing with you. All of these factors can affect a plan’s cost. Also, determine what type of coverage you want. “Think about where you’re going and what you’re doing,” says von Wellsheim, “then make a decision based on the area you’re going to and the activity you’re going to be involved in.”
Keep in mind that there are many ways to save money when buying travel insurance. If you’re traveling in a group, the entire group may be able to purchase a group policy at a lower rate than you’d pay for individual policies. If you’re traveling with kids, look for insurers that offer family policies. Some, like Travelex, insure kids for free when you pay for coverage for an adult. Your home insurance may extend its coverage to your personal belongings if you’re traveling within the country, so you may not need travel insurance that covers luggage and personal effects.
Another way to save is choosing a policy without trip cancellation/interruption/delay benefits if these are covered by other sources, such as certain credit cards. According to McGovern, claims under this benefit comprise 80% to 85% of all claims filed. If you only choose medical and baggage insurance, you can get significant savings on cost. You also don’t have to go for high limits in most cases. “A $50,000 dollar limit for medical care is fine,” says McGovern. “As long as you have medical insurance in the policy, you can’t really make a mistake.”
As you review the different plans available, pay attention to the fine print. Yes, we’re asking you to read the policy before you buy it. This is the only way to ensure you know what is and isn’t covered and whether it offers the type of coverage you need. Basic plans generally cover medical expenses and qualifying trip cancelations, but possibly not much else. More extensive plans might provide things like luggage insurance, passport replacement, and more. Most plans do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, high-risk activities, or travel to high-risk destinations, so be sure to read the entire plan so that you know just what type of coverage you’re getting.
Pay attention to the exclusions in the policy you’re considering, and make sure you are comfortable with them. For example, if the trip cancellation benefit excludes cancelling due to illness, either yours or that of a family member, you may want to look for a policy that doesn’t exclude illness. For trip delays, check to see how long you have to be delayed before the benefit kicks in and make sure that time frame is acceptable. In general, any item not specifically excluded in your policy is automatically included and vice versa.
It also pays to compare. By doing a little extra digging you may find a company that offers the coverage you want at a more affordable cost, or that has just the added coverage you need to make it worth spending more money. For travel to more exotic locales where medical services may not be easily obtained, you’ll want a policy with a more robust medical emergency and evacuation benefit. If you’re renting a car and traveling across Europe, car rental insurance may be a priority.
In the end, investing in a travel insurance policy can help you not only by protecting your financial investment but also providing the necessary medical support should an emergency arise. In the words of von Wellsheim (and Nike), “Just do it. Do it.”
Summary: Best Travel Insurance Options
TravelInsurance.com: If you’re looking to shop around and compare multiple quotes in one place, TravelInsurance.com makes that easy. You can buy directly through the site, streamlining the research and purchase process.
Generali Global Assistance: Generali Global Assistance offers comprehensive support and resources to help you during an emergency. Three plans are easy to understand and offer coverage for domestic and international travel.
Travelex Insurance Services: If you’re traveling with children under age 17, they’ll automatically be covered under the Travelex Insurance Services policy you choose, as long as the children are with a covered adult. This can save you money when compared to other plans.
RoamRight Travel Insurance: Staffed by experienced department leaders and account managers, RoamRight is known for providing great customer support and service.
World Nomads: Planning an adventurous vacation? World Nomads’ policies cover 150 activities and even offer gear coverage for your camera and sports equipment.
Allianz Travel: Owned by an insurance company that’s been in business for over 100 years, Allianz Travel has built a reputation that you can trust.