Travel insurance can cover your medical bills if you experience an injury or illness during your holiday. Depending on the policy you select, the best travel insurance policies can also cover trip interruption, lost baggage, rental car damage and emergency evacuations.
If you've invested a good deal of money on pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses or are planning an extended vacation, you don't want to leave on a trip without protecting yourself from the unforeseen. But you also don't want to overpay for that sense of security.
Read on to learn how to find cheap travel insurance for your next trip and get tips on buying the right coverage to meet your needs.
How much does travel insurance cost?
The cost of travel insurance varies significantly. According to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, you can expect to pay between 4% and 8% of your total trip cost on a travel insurance policy. The exact price will depend on the trip's length, your age and the coverage amount you select, among other factors.
For example, if your trip costs $5,000, you'll pay between $200 and $400 for travel insurance. However, if you're older or planning to be out of the country for a prolonged period, you can expect your insurance premium to reflect those risks.
You may also pay more or less depending on the type of coverage you purchase. For instance, a policy with trip cancellation and medical evacuation coverage will likely cost more than one that provides travel medical benefits only.
What is considered cheap for travel insurance?
Your definition of affordability may be very different from that of other travelers. So, if you want to find the least expensive travel insurance option, there's no getting around comparison shopping. Cheap travel insurance can be any policy that affords the coverage you need at a lower price point than other options.
Say you're traveling with professional equipment like cameras. Purchasing a medical-only travel insurance policy could be more affordable than buying one that provides generous coverage for baggage loss and personal effects. However, going for the cheaper option may result in higher out-of-pocket costs if your bags are lost or stolen.
How to find cheap travel insurance for an upcoming trip
Finding the most affordable travel insurance will require some legwork. Here are some tips to make your search easier.
1. Only purchase the travel insurance coverage you need
Buying more insurance coverage than you need will increase your expenses. With that in mind, it's best to start by understanding what travel insurance covers and then defining your needs.
Most travel insurers offer different plan tiers with various levels of coverage. Plans that cover more scenarios and offer higher coverage limits will cost more. Purchasing add-ons like rental car coverage will further increase the cost of your policy.
So, for example, you probably don't need a policy that covers baggage delay or flight cancellation if you're driving over the border into Canada. Instead, you can save money by selecting a more basic plan offering only emergency medical and personal effects coverage.
Similarly, paying for an annual travel insurance policy doesn't make sense if you only leave the country once or twice a year for a couple of days each time. It might sound like a good idea because these plans often offer cheaper medical travel insurance coverage per trip, but they will cost more if you don't travel frequently enough to make them worthwhile.
2. Choose the right type of policy for your trip
If you purchase travel insurance, make sure to select a plan that covers the risks you're likely to face during your trip. For instance, you might go with a policy that covers missed connections and trip delays if your travel plans are complicated and involve numerous stops.
Similarly, if you're participating in high-risk activities such as rock climbing or scuba diving, look for a policy that covers these, as not all plans do. And if you are taking a cruise, a cruise travel insurance policy can cover risks unique to this form of travel, such as medical emergencies that necessitate an airlift to an on-shore medical facility.
3. Check whether you already have some form of rental car coverage
You'll need rental car insurance if you're renting a car during your travels. Depending on your destination, you may already be covered under your car insurance policy. That could be the case if you're traveling to Canada in a rental vehicle, for example. However, if you're traveling to Mexico, you'll need a separate policy.
Similarly, your car insurance policy from back home typically won't cover you overseas. In that case, you can purchase insurance from a rental car company at your destination or check whether your credit card offers such protection. Many of the best travel credit cards include rental car coverage. If your card does, check whether that coverage is primary or secondary. Secondary coverage applies after you've exceeded the limits of any other applicable insurance policies.
With this in mind, you may not need to purchase rental car coverage from your travel insurance company. If your travel insurer offers you a better deal on a collision damage waiver — which is what travel insurers generally offer — call your rental car company first to see if it accepts this form of coverage, as some companies do not.
4. Check your credit card for travel protection benefits
Your credit card may also offer travel protection benefits beyond rental car coverage. Depending on your credit card, you could receive reimbursement for baggage loss and delays, trip interruptions and cancellations, and travel accidents. Some cards also provide emergency medical, dental, and even medical evacuation coverage.
However, every card is different, so contact your credit card issuer to learn what it covers and whether limits and restrictions apply (and they generally do). For example, only trips you purchased with the card would be covered, and you may be required to meet a deductible before coverage kicks in.
Just as with a travel insurance policy, you'll have to cover any expenses out of pocket and then submit a claim for reimbursement. You'll also be required to provide documentation to support your claim, such as medical bills. So, whether you purchase travel insurance or rely on your credit card's travel benefits, always budget for contingencies.
5. Consider purchasing group coverage
Not all companies offering group travel insurance policies consider the travelers' ages when pricing these plans. That means group coverage may be more affordable than buying individual policies for each group member. If you're traveling with family, friends or colleagues, shop for group travel insurance instead.
Just keep in mind that group policies aren't as customizable and coverage limits may be lower than what you need.
6. Comparison shop
We really can't stress this enough, but comparison shopping is the best way to get a good deal on any kind of insurance, even travel insurance. If you don't have time to do the legwork yourself, a travel insurance marketplace can help you quickly compare options from various insurers in a single place. It can also give you a better idea of how much travel insurance will cost you.
One possible drawback of doing business with an insurance marketplace is that they don't partner with all providers, so you could be missing out on a good deal from a carrier the comparison site doesn't do business with.
Is cheap travel insurance good?
Whether an affordable insurance policy is adequate will depend on what it includes and the specifics of your trip. If you're flying to multiple countries, a cheap policy that doesn't cover flight interruption may not suffice. However, that policy may suffice if you drive over the border for a few days and only require basic emergency medical coverage.
A cheap policy that covers all of your main risks is better for you than an expensive plan that doesn't, so it all comes down to the coverages you need to best protect yourself. When searching for a policy, consider where you're going, what you'll be doing and how long you'll be gone.
Summary of Money's guide to finding cheap travel insurance for your next trip
Planning a trip takes time, and finding the ideal travel insurance policy will add to your workload. However, travel insurance can give you great peace of mind during your travels by helping you protect your savings. Moreover, affordable options exist.
To save even more on travel insurance, define your coverage needs, check whether you already have other forms of insurance or travel benefits that can protect any aspects of your trip and comparison shop.