Travel insurance is one of those things that people wonder if it’s worth buying. And while it typically isn’t too expensive, I think it’s important to know all the details of what it covers to know if travel insurance is worth it.
In this guide, I’ve combed through some of the most popular travel insurance companies to show what policies typically cover and don’t cover to help you determine if it’s worth purchasing for your travels.
Do You Need Travel Insurance?
It’s hard to get a straight answer about whether you need travel insurance or not.
First, it’s something people hope never to use.
Second, people who buy travel insurance luckily rarely ever use it (which is a good thing).
Third, there are multiple travel insurance companies so it’s hard to know what is best for your travels.
Fourth, people don’t take the time to fully understand their policies so they assume it covers way more than it does.
Here’s the thing… statistically you don’t need travel insurance. There’s a very small chance anything will happen on your trip that requires coverage. But plenty of people still buy it—according to the US Travel Insurance Association data from 2020-2022, Americans spent nearly $4.27 billion on various forms of travel protection and 77+ million people bought over 49.3 million plans.
Here’s my take: If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
I view travel insurance as a cheap way to cover any potential catastrophically expensive medical emergencies while traveling abroad. Many policies cover other things (trip interruption, damaged luggage, car rental damage, etc.) but the MAIN thing is covering major medical emergencies.
And honestly, travel insurance is relatively cheap so paying anywhere from $2.50-$8/day for $100,000-$250,000 worth of medical coverage abroad is a pretty easy choice for me.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
People rarely take the time to understand what their travel insurance covers and they often overestimate their level of coverage—which can lead to some unpleasant surprises (I’m guilty of this myself).
Multiple companies offer travel insurance policies and each offers varying degrees of coverage options. In this section, I’ve outlined the main things you want to keep in mind but you’ll still need to read your policy’s coverage document.
Travel Insurance Medical Coverage
Having a medical emergency abroad can be extremely costly and I know people who would have been hit with a huge bill if they weren’t insured.
A trip to the hospital for a major injury can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars and a medical evaluation can cost $100,000+.
Nearly all domestic employer-sponsored health plans (including Medicare) offer no coverage abroad but 46% of travelers assume their domestic health insurance will provide coverage. Additionally, medical care received abroad is considered “out-of-network” for U.S. health plans, so if your domestic plan does offer international coverage, it will still be very expensive.
And if your domestic coverage does offer some international coverage, you’re often required to pay upfront for service and then you’ll need to try getting reimbursed by your insurance company—which can be an uphill battle.
What Does Medical Travel Insurance Cover?
Budget-friendly travel insurance typically offers $100,000 worth of medical insurance coverage but more robust plans can offer $1,000,000+ in coverage.
Emergency Medical Coverage normally includes:
- Hospital Fees
- Surgery Costs
- Outpatient Fees
- Prescription Medicine
- Emergency Transportation To Hospital
Travel insurance also normally covers medical emergency evacuation which will reimburse you if you need to be evacuated to a nearby medical facility. Some plans may cover your transportation home but that typically requires a separate plan.
Emergency dental coverage is often separate from emergency medical coverage so your coverage amounts might only be $500-$1,500.
NOTE: Pre-existing medical conditions are rarely covered.
Adventure Sports & Activities
Not all travel insurance policies cover you if you’re injured while doing adventure sports or other high-risk activities—like skiing, snowboarding, diving, mountain climbing, horseback riding, etc.
Even things like playing basketball or going to the gym may be considered an “adventure sport” so it’s important to read up on these exclusions.
Some policies let you add on an adventure sports rider for an extra cost but you must add it before your trip.
Don’t Forget About The Deductible
Most emergency medical policies have a deductible so expect to pay at least $250 out of pocket before your travel insurance coverage will kick in.
Accidental Death or Dismemberment
Most travel insurance policies provide accidental death or dismemberment coverage. The reimbursement amounts vary by policy.
It’s also important to note that someone will need to submit a claim for accidental death so you should let someone know you’ve purchased travel insurance so they can notify the travel insurance company.
Trip Cancellation, Interruption, & Delay Insurance
Nearly all travel insurance policies have some form of trip cancellation, interruption, and delay coverage. This coverage will help you recoup costs when your trip is interrupted after a certain amount of time but there are many coverage nuances so let’s take a deeper dive.
Trip Delay Insurance
Travel delays are the most common travel insurance claim so you’ll want to find a policy with this coverage. Coverage applies to delays caused by mechanical, weather, or other unforeseen issues.
Trip delay insurance covers additional expenses you incur when your travel is delayed. Here’s the catch—most policies require a minimum delay of six to 12 hours. Some policies mandate that the delay requires an overnight stay.
Your reimbursement only covers necessary expenses and most policies put a cap on how much they’ll cover so some only offer around $200/day or $500 total. Coverage typically covers:
- Transportation to/from your hotel
- Miscellaneous personal items
Trip Cancellation and Interruption
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance provides coverage for prepaid and nonrefundable travel expenses. Remember that you’re only covered for non-refundable things like flights, cruises, hotel stays, etc. that you’ve already paid for.
You should pay close attention to this type of coverage if you’re planning an expensive trip like a non-refundable cruise with non-refundable airfare as you’d be out thousands of dollars if you had to cancel.
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance only covers unforeseen circumstances like sickness, injury, death in the family, bad weather, etc. However, you won’t be covered if you buy insurance after you sustained a trip-canceling injury.
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance provides coverage before your trip begins and during your trip so you can still get partial compensation if something happens in the middle of your travels.
Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) Coverage
Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) Insurance is just like it sounds… it allows you to cancel your trip for essentially any reason and you’ll receive a partial refund—usually around 50%-75% of the total trip price. This is an ADDITIONAL coverage option you add to your standard trip cancellation insurance so it covers things not covered by your standard plan.
CFARs normally only allow you to cancel your trip 48 hours or more before your departure date. And because of its flexibility, CFAR coverage will make your policy around 50% more expensive than standard travel insurance.
Baggage Delay and Baggage Loss Insurance
Many travel insurance policies cover compensation for baggage delays and baggage loss. Airlines also typically cover baggage delay/loss insurance so you’ll have to file a claim through the airline first before your travel insurance will provide additional coverage.
Baggage Delay Coverage
Baggage delay insurance covers the purchase of essential items while you’re waiting for the airline to deliver your delayed coverage—your luggage will normally need to be delayed for at least 12-24 hours before you’re allowed to get reimbursed. This is usually limited to personal care items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. It should also cover a change of clothing, shoes, etc.
Many policies offer a blanket coverage amount (around $75-$200/day) but some might ask you to submit receipts for reimbursement. Nearly all policies will have a limit so you can’t treat this as a spending spree and expect to have it all covered.
NOTE: Many policies only cover the “outward” leg of your trip so it won’t cover luggage delays as you return home.
Baggage Loss Coverage
Baggage loss coverage will compensate you if the airline loses your luggage—which statistically happens to less than 0.5% of all bags.
First, baggage loss coverage is secondary to the airline’s standard coverage so you’ll have to go through the airline first before your travel insurance kicks in.
There are plenty of caveats when it comes to how much and what kind of things travel insurance will reimburse you for if your luggage is lost—so you need to pay close attention to the fine print.
For example, many people are surprised to find out that there is often a dollar maximum to how much their insurance will cover—many travel insurance companies will only reimburse you up to $500 per item and there may be a cumulative total they’ll cover (which obviously won’t fully cover many items).
More comprehensive plans will have higher limits but you’ll most likely be asked to submit original receipts for high-end items like jewelry, watches, electronics, etc. when you make a claim.
It’s also important to know that reimbursement may only cover the “current value” of the item and not the price of a brand-new item.
Travel insurance may not cover everything—including cash, perfume, pets, and a few other things according to each policy.
NOTE: Homeowners’ insurance often covers some of your valuables so check there because they may provide more compensation than your travel insurance.
Theft, Loss, and Personal Property Damage Coverage
Your travel insurance may also provide coverage if your things are lost, stolen, or damaged during your travels.
But there are a lot of caveats so let’s take a look at what most travel insurance doesn’t cover:
- Loss or damage to electronics in checked luggage.
- Theft from items left in unattended vehicles (unless it was locked in the trunk).
- Theft of items not secured in a hotel safe.
- Theft or damage while items are with non-insured people.
- Theft or damage of times when you can’t prove you owned the item (i.e. you need original receipts or proof of ownership).
- Lost and stolen cash aren’t covered.
Most plans will cover the loss/theft/damage to electronics and other high-ticket items BUT there is often a per-item limit to how much they’ll cover (typically around $250 but I’ve seen some plans that cover $500+). And they only cover the “current replacement value” of the item so your 5-year-old laptop will only be worth a few hundred dollars—i.e. they won’t buy you a brand-new laptop.
Note: All travel insurance companies require you to submit a police report for stolen items so that’s an extra (time-intensive) step that you must take.
Travel Tip: Take a photo of all your stuff (at least your valuables) so you can more easily prove which items you need to be reimbursed in case of loss/theft.
Supplemental Theft, Loss, & Damage Coverage
As mentioned above, travel insurance only provides limited reimbursement for expensive items so you’ll need to buy supplemental insurance if you want extra coverage for high-end items like expensive cameras, laptops, expensive jewelry/watches, etc.
Rental Car Coverage
Many travelers rent cars while traveling abroad so having adequate rental car insurance is something you’ll want to be familiar with (remember, your domestic car insurance won’t cover you in another country).
Most travel insurance policies provide some form of collision coverage for rental cars (it’s an additional add-on with some policies). Additionally, many credit cards also offer some insurance for rental cars but you must rent that card with that card—some credit cards exclude coverage of luxury cars and won’t cover you in certain countries, like Ireland and Italy.
Personally, I always use a good credit card to book my rental car while also buying a travel insurance policy that covers rental cars—just to be safe.
Most policies only offer coverage due to a collision so it may not cover loss due to theft or medical expenses (to yourself or third parties).
In addition, you may be required to pay for repairs yourself and then get reimbursed by your travel insurance company by submitting a claim.
To further complicate things, most rental car companies pressure you to buy their collision insurance (which is usually the most expensive option) but I find my credit card + travel insurance to offer sufficient coverage.
How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?
Travel insurance is generally affordable but the only way to truly learn how much it costs is to get a quote from a series of travel insurance companies.
Because multiple variables go into the actual cost of travel insurance—here are the most common factors:
- Your Age: Rates typically rise as age increases, so a 25-year-old will probably pay less than a 55-year-old. Some travel insurance companies have an age limit cap (usually around 75). Some specialty plans cover seniors (65 and 89 years) so they cater to the needs of an older traveler but prices are higher.
- Trip Length: Rates increase as the length of the trip increases. Most policies allow a Maximum Trip Length of 90 days but some go up to 12 months.
- The Cost Of Your Non-Refundable Bookings: Many plans will ask you to estimate the total value of your non-refundable bookings (hotels, flights, cruises, activities, etc.) so the higher the amount the higher your premiums will be.
- Coverage Breadth: The more things your plan covers the more you’ll pay. For example, you’ll pay higher rates for a plan that includes car rental insurance than if it doesn’t.
- Coverage Reimbursement Amounts: Reimbursement amounts vary greatly by plan so this has a major impact on rates.
- Trip Location: Some travel insurance companies alter prices based on where you travel.
- Supplemental Coverage: If you add specialized coverage (medivac, extra insurance for electronics, etc.) then that will raise your premiums.
Example Travel Insurance Costs
It’s hard to truly compare different travel insurance companies/policies since every policy offers slightly different coverage but I wanted to run a few scenarios to give you a broad overview of the costs. Again, you’ll need to enter your information to get an accurate quote.
NOTE: The prices below were accurate as of publishing but should only be used for educational purposes. All the travel insurance companies referenced are well-known and reputable, but I’m not specifically promoting any of the companies.
EXAMPLE: 15-day trip to France for a 25-year-old from the USA
- World Nomads
- Standard Plan: $87
- Explorer Plan: $157
- Safety Wing:
- Nomad Insurance: $45
- Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection ($4,000 trip cost)
- ExactCare: $121
- ExactCare Extra: $137
- Allianz Global Assistance ($4,000 trip cost)
- OneTrip Basic: $151
- OneTrip Prime: $171
- OneTrip Premiere: $231
EXAMPLE: 21-day trip to Italy for a 45-year-old from the USA
- World Nomads
- Standard Plan: $103
- Explorer Plan: $190
- Safety Wing:
- Nomad Insurance: $58
- Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection ($9,000 trip cost)
- ExactCare: $507
- ExactCare Extra: $512
- Allianz Global Assistance ($9,000 trip cost)
- OneTrip Basic: $358
- OneTrip Prime: $532
- OneTrip Premiere: $718
EXAMPLE: 21-day trip to Italy for a 65-year-old from the USA
- World Nomads
- Standard Plan: $103
- Explorer Plan: $190
- Safety Wing:
- Nomad Insurance: $158
- Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection ($10,000 trip cost)
- ExactCare: $684
- ExactCare Extra: $691
- Allianz Global Assistance ($10,000 trip cost)
- OneTrip Basic: $546
- OneTrip Prime: $750
- OneTrip Premiere: $1,013
How To Submit Claims & Get Reimbursed
I’m going to be honest… the most frustrating thing about travel insurance is getting your claims paid since just about every travel insurance company makes you submit multiple documents before they’ll reimburse your expenses.
You have to be persistent.
Expect to get the runaround—hopefully, things go smoothly but I recommend going into this process assuming you’re going to run into a few roadblocks.
AND YOU HAVE TO DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. KEEP ALL YOUR RECEIPTS. KEEP EVERY DOCTOR’S NOTE.
Examples Of Documentation You Might Need To Submit
Here are a few common documents your travel insurance may ask for when you submit your claim:
Your travel insurance company will give you multiple forms to fill out when submitting your claim. Make sure you fill them out completely and thoroughly or you might have your claim denied.
Other Insurance Information
Sometimes travel insurance is considered “secondary coverage” so your travel insurance provider might ask you to submit your claim to your “primary provider” first and then they’ll cover the remaining.
Proof Of Payment
You’ll need to provide proof that you paid for your out-of-pocket expenses so you might need to submit your credit card statement, a canceled check, or a receipt for services paid with cash.
Proof Of Claim Reason
You’ll need to prove that you required medical treatment so ask for a note from the doctor if the reason isn’t included on the treatment bill/receipt.
Explanation Of Benefits
You’ll have to submit all the Explanation Of Benefits (EOB) that you receive from all other health insurance providers.
All Original Receipts
You must provide the original receipts for the medical expenses incurred—typically you’ll want to submit an itemized receipt that details every expense.
You also must provide receipts for all your non-refundable expenses like hotels, flights, trains, cruises, etc.
Police Reports (For Theft)
Be sure to get a copy of the police report if you’re submitting a claim for theft.
Travel Insurance Claim Reimbursement
Most travel insurance requires that you submit your claim within 20-90 days of the incident so it’s important to be timely—especially if you need to track down multiple receipts and other documentation.
Expect a little back-and-forth with the insurance company.
More Travel Tips From The Savvy Backpacker
Here are a few articles I’ve written that I think you might find helpful as you plan your trip to Europe:
- The Most Visited Cities In Europe
- Guide To Train Travel In Europe
- How To Avoid Common Travel Scams
- Price Guides For 30+ European Cities
- Guide To eSIM Data Plans In Europe
- Fashion Advice: How to Avoid Looking Like An American Tourist In Europe - February 20, 2024
- How To Purchase Train Tickets for Europe | Strategies For Buying European Train Tickets - February 16, 2024
- Complete Guide To Train Travel In Europe | How To Travel Europe By Train - February 15, 2024
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Thanks For Reading! — James