Travel insurance: How to find the right cover for you

Travel expert Johnny Jet shares his tips on the travel insurance features to look out for.

Image credit: kokouu/iStock
Relax on your holiday, knowing you’re covered. Image credit: kokouu/iStock

If you’re going on the trip of a lifetime or have a business trip lined up, getting travel insurance should be an essential part of your travel budget. You may already know, but you should get your policy as soon as possible after booking your trip. Doing so helps you get the best price and the most coverage. 

Besides cost, you should also know what the best travel insurance coverage to get is. Not every travel insurance policy offers similar coverage benefits. Before you purchase the first policy quote you receive, make sure it includes these vital features.

Trip interruption and cancellation coverage

Let’s say you are planning on taking a super sabbatical. Chances are, you’ll be gone for an extended period of time. More importantly, you might be spending a small fortune on prepaid travel expenses. 

Nobody has a crystal ball to predict when weather, sickness, a travel provider goes out of business, or other unforeseeable events will force a travel delay or cancellation. Your travel insurance policy should have more flexible reimbursement options than what the airline, hotel, or travel provider offers to cover prepaid expenses and any incidental costs.

You should purchase the policy as soon as you book your trip. For example, buying insurance after an official hurricane is announced is too late. Before booking, make sure the insurance provider covers the airline and hotel you use.

Your credit card may offer free trip interruption and cancellation coverage, as some of these credit cards with travel insurance options do. One of the best is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which reimburses up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip.

Medical coverage

If you travel abroad and have a medical emergency, the policy medical benefits may cover more than your regular medical insurance. This can be the case if you travel internationally. Some of the medical benefits you should consider adding are emergency medical care and emergency medical transportation.

Emergency medical care will provide more benefits for hospital visits and less for dental care. The Allianz OneTrip Emergency Medical provides up to $50,000 coverage with only $750 in dental expenses.

This add-on can be a good option if you are traveling to remote areas or developing nations. Quality medical care can be difficult and expensive to access.

Finding the right travel insurance policy for you takes time, but it's worth it. Image credit: GaudiLab/iStock
Finding the right travel insurance policy for you takes time, but it’s worth it. Image credit: GaudiLab/iStock

Pre-existing conditions

Having a pre-existing condition doesn’t automatically disqualify you from having medical coverage, but you will need to get a medical waiver.

You can usually get a medical waiver if you are physically able to travel on the day you book the trip. Having official permission from your doctor can also boost your odds of qualifying. 

One thing to look for is how far the insurance policy look-back period is. Most insurance providers only review your medical history for the last 60 days, though some may take the last 180 days into consideration. Medication changes, recent operations, or injuries can affect your chance of getting a waiver.

It’s a good idea to review the travel insurance company’s policy before buying insurance. See what steps you can take to increase your odds of coverage. Having the necessary paperwork can help you avoid unnecessary delays during the claim review process.

Rental car insurance

An add-on policy you might be considering is rental car insurance. This can be a good option when you get primary rental car collision damage coverage. Be sure to review car insurance guides and resources to compare policies and also learn if there is something you need to be on the lookout for, especially if you’ll be driving for an extended period of time.

Getting primary coverage means your travel insurance is the first agency to pay for collision-related damages up to the cash value for the rental car. You may be able to avoid paying cash or filing a claim with your auto insurance provider.

This travel insurance policy may not be a good option if they only offer secondary coverage. Most travel credit cards offer secondary coverage as a free benefit. Also, secondary coverage usually applies to the deductible amount for your auto insurance policy benefits. 

To qualify, make sure you decline the policy your rental car insurance tries to sell you. Luxury rental cars and reservations in certain countries may not qualify either.  

Extreme sports and scuba diving

If you plan on scuba diving or doing an extreme sport like skydiving, see if you can get a special rider. Most standard policies don’t cover high-risk activities. 

Not all sports are covered on all travel insurance plans. Image credit: zoff-photo/iStock
Not all sports are covered on all travel insurance plans. Image credit: zoff-photo/iStock

Baggage insurance

If your baggage is lost or delayed during common carrier travel, you can get reimbursed for essential expenses. Maybe you need to buy replacement clothing or toiletries. You will need to provide receipts for these purchases. 

If you don’t provide receipts, you might be able to get an inconvenience credit by showing proof of the delay.

Your policy may cover missing items like electronics and jewelry but remember, you usually need to alert the police within 48 hours to file a claim. The insurance provider may also have additional requirements or may not cover all instances. 

Most companies don’t reimburse pickpocket thefts as they are considered a form of “petty theft”. 

Once again, your travel credit card may provide baggage delay insurance. If so, these benefits may be comparable to what your travel insurance policy offers. 

Convenience add-ons to your travel insurance plan

More expensive plans might reimburse you for incidental fees for changing travel plans. Two examples are plane ticket change fees and award point reimbursements. You will need to decide if these add-ons are worth the fee. 

Flight insurance

Another add-on benefit that may not be worth it is flight accident insurance. This benefit only kicks in if the plane crashes. While it’s like a life insurance policy for your heirs, there are other ways to get free coverage. 

The credit card you book your flight with most likely pays up to between $500,000 and $1,000,000 if this tragedy happens.

Claims limits for travel insurance policies

In addition to seeing what events qualify for coverage, you should also review the claim reimbursement limits. Most travel insurance providers offer several plans with different coverage amounts. The basic plan may offer up to $10,000 in trip cancellation coverage but the most extensive plan may offer up to $100,000 in coverage.

Pay attention as well to the limits for medical coverage and any extra add-ons you might purchase. Make sure the cost is worth the potential reimbursement for any standard or add-on benefits.

In-depth policies may cost more but the additional coverage can be worth it. Buying an annual policy may provide better coverage amounts at a lower price instead of buying several one-time policies.

A good travel insurance policy only costs a small amount but can save you thousands of dollars in unplanned costs. Doing your research before you buy helps you get the best policy available. Getting a policy as soon as you book your trip also helps you secure the lowest rate and guarantees your coverage since once a storm is named you can’t get travel insurance. 

I use Allianz travel insurance when I travel and not just because I’m one of their brand ambassadors. It’s because they have offices in 34 countries that span six continents so chances are they will have people on the ground no matter where I am in the world.


Johnny Jet

Johnny Jet has traveled over 100,000 miles a year since starting his newsletter in 1995 and has visited close to 100 countries. On his website, he writes about how to maximize your credit card points, how to find travel deals, cheap flights, and how to benefit from insightful travel tips. He has hosted a television special on The Travel Channel and was named one of Forbes’ Top 10 Travel Influencers.