More people are buying travel insurance. According to SquareMouth, an online travel insurance comparison website, there has been a 20 percent increase in travel insurance policies purchased for vacations for this fall, compared to one year ago.
The increase isn’t surprising given the string of recent worrisome events—from the Zika virus and the devastating earthquake in Italy to chilling acts of terrorism around the world. In fact, SquareMouth reports that consumers searching specifically for policies that cover the cost of a trip canceled or interrupted by terrorism has more than doubled over the past year.
Top 10 Trip Insurance
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How to Keep Costs Down
Before purchasing travel insurance, make sure you aren’t already covered and that you aren’t paying for coverage you don’t need.
- Check your credit card coverage. Four in 10 credit card issuers surveyed by CardHub offer coverage for lost luggage, and one-third of card issuers offer trip cancellation coverage, though the average limit of $3,300 may not be enough. CardHub rated the Sapphire Preferred Card offered by Chase as tops for travel protection. (Consumer Reports also rates it highly for its cash-back payoff.)
- Consider if you need to include medical coverage. Once you step outside the U.S. your health insurance may not cover any medical expenses if you fall ill while traveling abroad. (Be sure to check with your current insurer on what is and isn’t covered.) If that’s your sole worry, you might want to skip a comprehensive travel insurance plan that covers trip cancellation, transportation delays, and luggage issues and look for a more focused medical insurance plan that covers medical care and medical evacuation outside the U.S. This targeted medical coverage can cost just a few dollars for each day you’re on vacation, according to Damian Tysdal, founder of Travel Insurance Review.
- Comparison shop. Skip the coverage you may be offered while booking your flights online. And don’t automatically settle for the plan offered by a travel agent, who may be pushing a policy that pays her the biggest commission. Websites such as InsureMyTrip and SquareMouth allow you to get free price quotes from multiple insurers, based on your customized needs. (InsureMyTrip also offers a free guide that walks through all the various levels of coverage you may want to consider.)
- Read the fine print. Each insurance policy will have very specific rules on what triggers coverage. For example, if after the terrorist attack in Nice, France, this past summer you decided you wanted to cancel your October vacation to Paris, the terrorism coverage on a policy would not likely cover you. That’s because most terrorism coverage requires your travel to be to the same city and often within 30 days of an event, says Rachael Taft of SquareMouth. Another area of potential confusion: Trip cancellation that covers you before you leave for a trip is not the same as trip-interruption coverage that would reimburse you for covered expenses if your trip is cut short.
- Avoid “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage. This coverage adds as much as 40 percent or more to the cost of basic coverage. And unlike regular travel insurance, where you can be reimbursed for the full cost of covered expenses, CFAR coverage often pays out only 75 percent of your costs or may reimburse you with future travel credits.
How We Chose the Best Travel Insurance
Travel coverage comes in many shapes and sizes — some providers sell only medical, while others let you customize your plan around a few specific risks. But to truly be the best, a company should offer a policy with five major coverage options, even if you don’t end up buying them.
The best travel insurance should cover:
- Emergency medical care
- Medical evacuation and repatriation
- Trip cancellation/interruption
- Baggage/personal item loss and delay
- 24/7 worldwide assistance
The five general coverage types form a comprehensive plan, but the specific benefits within them can vary. To see how they stack up, we combed through each company’s policy details and scored them on both available options and generosity of coverage. We gave extra points to generous providers such as those who provide the option to “cancel for any reason” and free coverage for children.
International travel insurance ensures that you’ll stay covered when traveling outside the country. While travel insurance is useful for traveling around the states — health insurance often doesn’t travel over state lines — it’s absolutely essential abroad. We made sure all of our top picks provide medical and emergency insurance that will cover you anywhere in the world.
Robust emergency medical coverage
The travel industry experts we spoke to agree that emergency medical coverage is the most important piece of travel insurance, in large part because most US health plans don’t cover you abroad. That means if you break your leg or catch pneumonia in a foreign country or on an international cruise without travel insurance, you’re responsible for the entire bill.
Reliable medical evacuation coverage
Standard medical coverage will cover your treatment, but medical evacuation is a separate coverage item that is just as critical. If you need to be airlifted in a medical transport helicopter or flown home to the US on a medically staffed flight, those costs can easily exceed $50,000.