How To Buy Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is one of the easiest insurance policies to purchase. It is frequently part of a travel booking process (either online or with a travel agent) and there are a number of comparison websites where travelers can shop for policies to cover trips they booked themselves. Answering a few questions, getting a quote and purchasing a policy only takes a couple minutes. Having said that, there are several things travelers should consider before buying travel insurance. We walk you through that process below.

Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Whether or not you need to buy travel insurance depends largely on two things: the cost of nonrefundable expenses and how averse you are to risk. The more nonrefundable costs paid for in advance of a trip, the more a traveler stands to lose if they need to cancel it or if delays and mishaps preventing it from happening. The more money at stake, the more likely they should buy travel insurance.

For example, a trip within the U.S. and with only $200 in nonrefundable costs probably doesn’t need to be covered by travel insurance. A traveler visiting other countries on a trip with $2,000 in nonrefundable expenses should strongly consider buying travel insurance. The international traveler’s health insurance might not cover them while they are abroad (coverage that travel insurance can provide) and $2,000 in nonrefundable expenses would be a lot to forfeit in the event they had to cancel their trip.

Some travelers might find themselves in a situation somewhere between those two examples. In the case of domestic travelers planning a trip with moderately high nonrefundable costs, only they can determine if travel insurance is worth the cost.

What Travel Insurance Coverages Should I Buy?

Most travel insurance policies include a number of different coverages but some are designed for specific situations. Others allow policyholders to pick and choose which coverages or claim limits they want.

Below is a list of travel insurance coverages that someone should consider purchasing based on the corresponding need or situation, including travel health insurance benefits.

CoverageWho should consider it...
Flights And Baggage OnlyFor domestic travelers who need their belongings (or replacements) at their destination as soon as possible. We recommend Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s AirCare product.
Trip Cancellation/InterruptionRefunds a traveler for prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs they have booked in case they need to cancel their trip or a delay occurs.
Accident And Sickness Medical CoverageFor travelers who need healthcare insurance abroad. This covers things like emergency room visits, hospital stays and other expenses.
Medical EvacuationFor travelers in remote or semi-remote areas far from major medical centers.

When To Buy Travel Insurance

You cannot get an insurance policy for a trip you’re already on. But you can buy some travel insurance plans all the way up to the day before your trip, although waiting until the last minute is ill-advised. For example, travelers can get Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s AirCare or ExactCare coverages up to 11:59 p.m. the evening before their flight departs. It doesn’t matter if the flight is at 12:01 a.m. or 8:00 p.m. the next day.

The best time to begin shopping for a travel insurance policy is as soon as you’ve made the last nonrefundable payment for a trip. Once the final nonrefundable payment is made, a traveler will know what trip costs to declare when gathering a travel insurance quote.

When you buy travel insurance will not significantly impact the cost. For example, insuring the same trip five months before you leave should cost the same amount as insuring it five days before. As long as the traveler meets the deadline to purchase a policy set by the respective insurance company, they can buy it at their convenience without worrying about overpaying.

How To Shop For Travel Insurance

Once a traveler has determined they need travel insurance, compiled a list of coverages they want to buy and knows (or can closely estimate) the nonrefundable costs of a trip, they can begin shopping for a policy.

Steps before shopping for a policy:

  • Determine if you need travel insurance
  • Make a list of coverages you need
  • Confirm or estimate nonrefundable costs
  • Shop around for a policy

With the previously mentioned information at hand, the best place to start shopping for a travel insurance policy is at one of the many comparison websites. In our study of the average cost of travel insurance in 2017, we found almost all of the travel insurance quotes from comparison websites were identical or very similar in price to the premiums quoted from insurers directly. You can also call travel insurance companies directly and they should be able to quote you a premium to insure your trip.

We also analyzed dozens of insurers and determined the best travel insurance companies for specific types of trips and travelers – this is a good place to begin choosing a company, too.

Many travel agencies and cruise lines offer travel insurance but they typically have a partnership with a specific insurer, which means you’ll only have one company or plan to choose from. Those policies are probably adequate, but shopping around for a travel insurance policy could lead to comparable coverage for a better price, or more coverage for the same price.

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