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When Should I Buy Travel Insurance?
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Planning a vacation is a great way to unwind and get a break from the daily grind. However, you may need to book airline flights, a rental car, and a place to stay. As the costs add up, you may want to consider investing in the best travel insurance to cover your financial risks.

Travel insurance can protect your investment for just a small percentage of your overall total trip cost. If you get sick, have a canceled flight, or have a family emergency, travel insurance can help provide financial protection.

When should you purchase travel insurance? And how much coverage do you need? We’ll walk you through the basics so you can decide if holiday insurance is right for your next trip.

 

The Best Time to Get Travel Insurance

The best time to purchase travel insurance is when booking your trip, just after the first deposit (or full payment upfront if applicable) has been made, although you can buy it all the way up to the day before your trip departure date. If you buy it soon after your first deposit, you will have access to optional upgrades such as Cancel For Any Reason coverage and you may be eligible for waivers of the pre-existing condition exclusion.

Ideally, you will want to purchase travel insurance when you book your trip. For some trips, like international travel, this may be a no-brainer, but for short-distance or long weekend vacations, you will likely have to weigh the pros and cons before purchasing.

When trip planning, always add insurance as soon as possible so you are covered for pre-departure benefits such as trip cancellation coverage. It is possible to secure coverage up until the day before your trip, but many things can happen in between booking your trip and the day you depart home, which is why it is wise to purchase travel insurance as soon as possible after booking your trip.

 

Should I Purchase Travel Insurance Before or After Booking?

You should purchase travel insurance shortly after booking your vacation. Once you are committed to travel dates and can secure your reservations (hotel, flight, etc.), you will have a better sense of travel costs and the specific travel insurance needs.

 

When Is It Too Late to Buy Travel Insurance?

Although you can purchase travel insurance up until the day before your trip (and many travel medical insurance plans can be purchased after your trip has already started), the ideal time to buy coverage is from your initial trip deposit or booking and the subsequent 21 days. Purchasing travel insurance at this time will ensure you are getting the best price and access to optional upgrades and coverage types.

 

Best Reasons to Buy Travel Insurance

Trip Cancellation

Trip Cancellation coverage is a popular benefit that is available for purchase up until the day before you start your trip. While it may seem like a “covers everything” policy, it’s important to note that it only covers specific covered reasons or unforeseen events that are listed in the policy.

For example, the event must occur after you buy your policy, including weather conditions like hurricanes.

Insurance typeWhat does it cover?When can I buy it?
Trip CancellationPre-paid vacation expenses if you must cancel due to unforeseen covered reasons listed in the policy.Up until the day you start your trip

Cancel For Any Reason

After you make your initial trip payment or deposit, you have 7-21 days to purchase the optional Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) travel insurance upgrade.

Cancel For Any Reason generally provides a partial refund of trip expenses for any reason at all, including travel anxiety or something not otherwise covered by trip cancellation coverage. If the available trip cancellation covered reasons are too restricting for you, you may find the Cancel For Any Reason coverage a better solution for your trip insurance needs.

Insurance typeWhat does it cover?When can I buy it?
Cancel For Any ReasonUp to 75% of the money lost or non-refundable trip costs, no matter what the reason14-21 days from initial trip payment or deposit (i.e., purchasing flight tickets or booking a hotel)

Pre-Existing Conditions

Adding supplemental pre-existing condition coverage can provide related medical care in an emergency while traveling. Travel insurance excludes pre-existing conditions, so if you or one of your travel parties has a pre-existing condition, it’s worth considering a plan that offers a waiver of the pre-existing condition exclusion if certain eligibility requirements are met.

One of those requirements is that the policy must be purchased within 21 days or less (depending on the policy) of your initial trip payment date. Further, to qualify for the waiver, you will generally need to be stable (the condition has not changed or worsened) within 60-180 days of purchasing a comprehensive plan (aka look-back period) and you will need to insure 100% of your pre-paid and non-refundable trip costs. Failure to qualify for the waiver can result in non-payment should a medical emergency occur while traveling that relates to a pre-existing condition.

A pre-existing condition in insurance terms applies to changes documented in your medical records and many plans have a look back period of 30 to 180 days. Pre-existing conditions include but are not limited to treatments, diagnostics, tests, or a change in prescription medication.

Insurance typeWhat does it cover?When can I buy it?
Pre-existing condition coverageMedical emergency costs related to a stable pre-existing condition (traditional travel insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions unless you are eligible for a waiver of the exclusion)Usually within 14-21 days of your first trip payment or deposit

Last Minute Travel

You can purchase last-minute travel insurance if you book a spontaneous trip or risks increase closer to your trip. You can even book after starting your vacation with a travel medical only policy. Still, it’s important to note that all last-minute travel insurance plans have a waiting period of at least 24 hours before coverage begins.

Buying a last-minute insurance plan foregoes trip cancellation benefits, including CFAR and pre-existing medical condition waivers, although you will have access to post departure benefits such as trip interruption, emergency medical, baggage loss/delay and other coverage.

Insurance typeWhat does it cover?When can I buy it?
Last MinuteThe plan can cover specific travel categories such as emergency travel health insurance or comprehensive.You can buy last-minute travel insurance within days of your trip start date. Some companies even allow you to purchase coverage after your vacation has started.

Comprehensive

Comprehensive travel insurance can include:

  • Emergency medical coverage and evacuation.
  • Dental.
  • Baggage damage or loss.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption coverage.
  • 24-hour traveler assistance.

However, according to your specific trip, you may have additional coverage options included with your comprehensive plans, such as rental car damage or cruise insurance.

Purchase comprehensive travel insurance for business or leisure travel. Since comprehensive travel insurance covers a lot of risks, you will want to know what protection you need and how much your trip will cost so you can buy the appropriate amount of insurance.

Insurance typeWhat does it cover?When can I buy it?
ComprehensiveEmergency medical coverage and evacuation, dental, baggage damage or loss, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, and 24-hour traveler assistance (plus trip-specific coverage like rental cars or cruises)You can purchase comprehensive insurance after trip payment or deposit. However, you will want to know the total price of your trip for accurate cost and coverage.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Travel Insurance

Is Travel Insurance a Waste of Money?

No. Travel insurance can protect your financial investment when traveling domestically and internationally. Although travel insurance is not for everyone, it can be reassuring for those traveling with at risk trip costs or unique situations such as a pre-existing medical condition.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Pandemics?

Most travel insurance cover you if you contract COVID-19 before or during your trip. However, not all insurance companies provide pandemic coverage, and you should check the fine print if you require this coverage on your trip. When quoting on TravelInsurance.com, click on the “COVID-19 FAQs” link for each plan to read specific coverage details related to the virus.

What Affects the Cost of Travel Insurance?

Several factors can affect the cost of travel insurance. However, you can expect your travel insurance to be about 3-6% of your total trip cost (slightly more if traveling internationally).

Factors include:

  • Amount of coverage
  • Your age
  • Cost of health care at your destination
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • The total cost of the trip
  • Length of trip
  • Supplemental insurance add-ons

 


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