- From Short Trips to Traveling the World & Living Abroad -

What to Look For in Travel Insurance

Should you get travel insurance? And if so, what should you look out for? After spending most of my adult life traveling and having to claim things on my travel insurance several times, these are my travel insurance recommendations.

A big concern for most of us when making travel plans is what the future will bring as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned. And at this stage, it’s anyone’s guess.

Do we finally learn to ‘live with’ COVID? Or does another variant come along that sets us back even further? None of this is great news if you are making travel plans. All we know with any certainty is that we don’t know what will happen.

Booking a vacation used to feel like a fait accompli. Now it comes with a whole string of ifs and buts. We’ll have a great time if there isn’t another COVID lockdown, if the country we’re going to doesn’t change its entry rules, if no one tests positive before we go…

All we can do is accept that plans might change. And that means planning for change. Travel insurance has become more important than ever.

Yes, airlines and accommodation providers have become more flexible with their cancellation and rebooking policies in the wake of the pandemic. But if you want to guarantee that you won’t lose out financially if anything spoils your travel plans, you need travel insurance.

COVID-19 has changed travel. It has also changed travel insurance. Providers have responded to changing consumer demands by offering new types of cover.

And of course Covid isn’t the only reason to get travel insurance. Travel insurance has been a lifesaver for me (almost literally once, when I got severe dengue fever in Bali).

So, let me share my travel insurance tips with you.

Why Get Travel Insurance

a busy airport
Travel insurance tips & recommendations

First things first, why should you get travel insurance? What exactly does it insure?

Well, that depends a little on which travel insurance you get, which is why it’s important to know what to look for in travel insurance.

But, in general, travel insurance can protect you when a number of things happen:

  • When your trip is canceled or cut short.
  • When you miss a flight, bus, etc. or have delays affecting your trip.
  • In case of medical and other emergencies including medical evacuation.
  • When items get lost, stolen or damaged while traveling, including luggage, passports and money.
  • In case of accidental damage or injury caused by you.

But, not every travel insurance is the same and cover can vary widely between one insurance policy and the next.

Therefore the next important questions are:

What should you look for in travel insurance? How do you find the best travel insurance for your type of trip and your personal needs?

What to Look For in Travel Insurance

a man looking for travel insurance
What to look for in travel insurance

1. Choose a Policy That Covers Your Needs

The Destination(s) and Duration of Your Trip

Does the travel insurance cover the destination(s) you plan to visit? And the entire duration of your trip?

Some travel insurance policies limit the length of your trip. So if you plan to go on an extended trip, make sure your travel insurance covers all of it.

How Often Do You Travel

If you’ll only go on one or two trips this year, then individual travel insurance for each trip might be best.

But if you travel more often, and that includes domestic travel, then an annual travel policy might be a lot more economical.

What Will You Be Doing on Your Trip

a ski accident
Get travel insurance that fits your needs

Adventure sports such as scuba diving, skiing, etc. are not always covered in a standard travel insurance policy.

If you plan to do any adventure sports check if your travel insurance covers them.

And if it isn’t covered, I would recommend comparing prices for having them added to your travel insurance or paying for them separately.

For example, if you plan to go scuba diving just once during your trip, getting dive insurance through the dive shop you go diving with might be more economical than adding it to your normal travel insurance.

Do You Need Medical Insurance or Not

If you’re planning a trip inside your own country and you have health insurance, then that insurance plan should cover your medical costs the same way it does when you are at home.

When you travel abroad though you will most likely want your travel insurance to include medical cover.

Do check what your health insurance plan covers. They may (partially) cover you abroad, or cover you in specific countries, which could reduce the cost of the travel insurance plan.

Check for Age Restrictions

Some travel insurance providers charge more if you are over 65 or have insurance policies for specific age groups.

There are special travel insurance policies for older travelers which might be worth looking into.

2. Compare Policies on the Cover They Offer and the Cost

Read the fine print
Photo credit: Depositphotos

The cheapest travel insurance is, of course, not always the best choice.

Read the fine print and focus on what the travel insurance policy excludes.

For example, budget airline flights may not be covered by some insurance policies.

I had a travel insurance policy once that didn’t cover anything leading up to the flight. I didn’t read the fine print well enough so I only found this out when the bus I took to the airport got seriously delayed and made me miss my flight. Having to rebook that flight cost me a lot of money and a sleepless night at the airport!

Also check what the deductible is and the sum insured.

For example, my current travel insurance has a 50 Euro deductible on lost, stolen and damaged items. That means that if my phone gets stolen while traveling my insurance will pay out the value of the phone minus 50 Euros.

A higher deductible might make your travel insurance cheaper, but think about how much you are willing and able to pay out of pocket when something happens during your trip.

Many travel insurance policies also put a maximum on how much they will pay out per incident. It’s good to know what these maximums are.

In case of a claim for hospital expenses for example. Hospital costs can add up very quickly so you want to know how much is covered by your travel insurance and if that is appropriate for the country or countries you plan to visit.

3. Consider Different Cancellation Policies

One of the main drivers of more people buying travel insurance in the wake of the pandemic has been COVID-related cancellations. Most commonly, these cancellations occur when you or a person you travel with takes a mandatory test before you set off, it comes back positive, and you have to cancel the whole trip.

Because these cancellations happen just a day or two before departure, they often fall outside the cancellation or rebooking window many airlines and hotel booking services offer. Travel insurance is the only way to be sure you can get your money back.

Cancellation cover is nothing new in travel insurance. But traditionally you could only cancel for a very limited number of reasons, such as falling ill or a family member passing away.

Unfortunately, travel insurance often only covers a small number of personal reasons for canceling a trip. If something happens on the supplier side, such as an airline having to ground its planes or something happening at a hotel meaning you can’t stay there, the insurers leave it to the provider to compensate for travel changes.

This has become an issue during the pandemic with cancellations caused by changes in government policy. Tens of thousands of travelers have missed out on trips because of new lockdown rules or travel restrictions. But most insurance policies don’t cover that in their cancellation rules.

Another example is that many policies will pay out for a cancellation due to a positive test, but not for enforced self-isolation because of close contact with someone who has tested positive. Travelers understandably feel this is unfair.

And thankfully things are changing.

The insurance industry is responding in the form of ‘cancel for any reason’ policies. These travel insurance policies are currently more widely available in the US than in Europe, but it’s worth checking if you can get a travel insurance plan that includes ‘cancel for any reason’.

Travelers have become more sensitive to the risks of cancellation and they want protection whatever the reasons. Of course, these new policies do come at a price, but it’s worth considering.

So, my recommendation is to look for travel insurance with a cancellation policy that fits your needs. 

4. Trips Cut Short and Enforced Extensions

a covid test, which could affect your trip

Cancellation isn’t the only risk that a positive COVID test throws up. Increasingly, travelers are being asked to take tests after they arrive. Test positive, and you face a whole new set of issues, including being forced to quarantine.

That completely changes your trip. You might be asked to leave your booked accommodation to stay somewhere sanctioned for quarantine instead. Not only do you lose the rest of your booking, many countries demand you pay for quarantine.

And then there is the possibility that the quarantine period takes you past your flight home. You’d have no choice but to book another flight. Who pays for this?

The simple answer is you – unless you find an insurance policy that pays out on curtailments or enforced extensions.

Travel insurance providers are only just getting up to speed with meeting this demand. But, things are expected to change quickly and my travel insurance advice here would be to check what Covid related cover the insurance policy offers.

During my recent travels I’ve noticed that several countries (St Maarten and Costa Rica for example) have made it mandatory to have travel insurance which includes ‘quarantine cover’. It will be interesting to see if other countries follow this example.

But, no matter whether it’s mandatory or not, right now having travel insurance that covers you if you have to quarantine or are forced to extend your trip, is something I’d highly recommend!

5. Greater Flexibility

We’ve all had to learn to be a bit more flexible when making plans during the pandemic. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect travel insurance providers to do the same.

Traditionally, single trip travel insurance has been sold for fixed dates only.

But now that airlines are offering flexible bookings and giving travelers the option to change travel dates within a specified window, it is inevitable that the travel insurance sector will follow suit.

So keep an eye out for that. If your trip can easily be rebooked, make sure your travel insurance can as well.

Or, if you travel multiple times a year it might be easiest, and more economical to have annual travel insurance.

6. Check if You Have Any Other Insurance That Will Cover You Away From Home

Emergency surgery while traveling
Your health insurance might cover you during your travels

Sometimes, travel insurance is included as an extra service offered through your bank account or credit card. You should check how much you’re paying for this and what kind of cover it offers. Sometimes cover is good, but more often it’s quite limited and it might be better to buy a separate policy.

Depending on where you live, health insurance in your country might cover you abroad. For example, my Dutch health insurance covers me abroad, to some extent. And by paying a small additional fee to my health insurance provider I now have an even better worldwide cover.

This turned out to be a lot more economical than looking for travel insurance with a good medical cover.

But, read the fine print. My current health insurance plan doesn’t pay out if I go on trips longer than 180 days. Other insurance plans exclude cover in the USA. Make sure you know what you are covered for!

If you have home insurance it might also cover you for items you take traveling with you. In that case, you could opt for travel insurance that has limited cover for stolen, lost and damaged items.

7. Are You Traveling Independently or Booking an Organized Trip

Organized trips sometimes offer their own insurance.

Often the insurance is limited, but it might be enough and it’s worth looking into.

If it covers all you need then you won’t have to take out your own travel insurance.

8. How Easy is it to Make a Claim on Your Travel Insurance Policy

Travelers with luggage at a train station
How to make a claim when your luggage gets stolen?

It may sound like a minor thing, but it’s worth checking before something goes wrong.

For example, in case you’d end up in a hospital abroad, do you need to pay out of pocket and get your medical expenses refunded only months later? Or does the insurance provider deal directly with the hospital?

Or, and more likely to happen, what do you have to do if an item gets lost or stolen? Do you have to go to a local police station to report a stolen item?

It’s good to know exactly how your travel insurance works.

Some travel insurance companies have apps that make it easy to file and track claims on the go.

How to Find the Best Travel Insurance

As you’ve seen, which travel insurance is the best for you really depends on your needs, your type of trip and which insurance(s) you already have.

So, to find your perfect travel insurance I recommend a good online search to compare travel insurance plans.

Thankfully there are many travel insurance comparison sites and I would recommend to start searching for websites in your own country.

In my case, my travel insurance is through a Dutch company because they work well with my Dutch health insurance and therefore I don’t pay for any overlap between the two.

I hope you’ve found my travel insurance recommendations useful and find a policy that suits your needs.

Also Read:

 

Like this article about what to look for in travel insurance? Pin it!

How to find the best travel insurance

Featured image by Depositphotos

Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. Owner of marketing company A to Z Marketing.
I spend most of my time living and working abroad and use this website to share "the good, the bad and the ugly" of traveling and living abroad. Visit the About Me page for more info.

Leave a Comment