Travel Insurance: What You Need to Know

by Paul Konrardy

Travel insurance is like other insurance: you may be reimbursed if the unexpected occurs.

Talk to your insurance agent about what areas are covered under your current homeowners (or other insurance) policy before purchasing travel insurance.

What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is similar to homeowners or car insurance. If a hurricane or blizzard prevents your trip from happening, you get sick while traveling, or any other mishaps occur, you may be partially reimbursed for certain areas of your trip.

Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

That is up to you. Travel insurance is a good choice for those with medical problems; senior citizens; for expensive, multi-leg journeys; or if you’re traveling to a high-risk area.

What Is Covered?

All insurance policies vary so read your policy and talk with your agent about the specifics – what’s covered, how much is covered and what’s not.

WHN TIP – Is My Underwear Covered? Your luggage and its contents may fall under your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Talk with your agent about your homeowner or renter’s policy to see what is covered before purchasing travel insurance.

What is Trip Cancellation/Interruption?

This is the main clause in any travel insurance policy. This clause covers you in case something unforeseen causes a delay or cancellation in your plans. This may or may not include events like terrorism, natural disasters or suppliers declaring bankruptcy.

Weather may also fall under the trip-cancellation clause. Other interruptions might include:

    • You have to cancel your trip due to falling ill before the trip
    • A family member becomes ill while you’re abroad
    • There’s an emergency regarding your home (burglary, fire, natural disaster) and it is now uninhabitable

WHN TIP – Define “Bad Weather”: Be sure to ask your travel insurance agent what “bad weather” means. Does it mean drizzle or downpours? A few snowflakes or blizzards?

Are There Additional Coverage Options?

The following items may be included in your policy. If not and you’d like to include these options, talk to your agent about additional riders.

WHN TIP – Primary and Secondary: Be sure to ask about primary and secondary coverage. For instance, you might have medical coverage on your travel insurance but you’ll need to file a claim with your medical insurance first before receiving funds from your travel insurance. That’s considered secondary coverage.

Emergency Medical Care

Unfortunately, your U.S. health insurance here may not translate overseas. For example, Medicare does not cover health care expenses outside of the United States. So check with your health insurance company. You may wish to consider adding additional coverage in case of illness or injury.

WHN TIP – What Do You Mean? Be sure to ask your travel insurance agent what “ill” or “injured” means. Does it mean a cold, flu or surgery? A broken leg or worse?

Medical Evacuation

If there are no local doctors or medical services available at your current location, travel insurance will cover some or all of the costs necessary to transport you to available care.

Pre-existing Conditions

Most travel insurance policies exclude coverage for pre-existing medical conditions that may flare up on your trip. But many also will waive the exclusion if you buy your policy within a specified number of days after making your first trip payment.

Lost Baggage

  • This may be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Talk with your homeowner’s insurance agent before purchasing additional coverage for lost baggage.
  • This coverage reimburses you for lost, stolen, or damaged bags. But be careful packing and make a list of everything; if your bag is lost, you may be reimbursed for some contents, but not all.
  • Exclusions might include sunglasses, antiques and collector’s items, contact lenses, prescription medication, cash, charge cards, tickets, and travel documents.


Travel insurance can also cover expenditures incurred as a result of identity theft, passport theft, luggage theft and ticket theft.

Legal Matters

Travel insurance can assist you if legal problems arise while traveling. Your travel insurance company might also have a network of lawyers available for consultations if needed.

What Isn’t Covered?

It depends on your policy but usually, policies only pay out for “covered” events, which will vary by company. Talk with your insurance agent about what isn’t covered.

How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?

According to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, travel insurance policy costs will vary depending on your trip costs, your age and the amount of coverage in your policy. But most policies range between 4-8 percent of the total trip price.

Buying Travel Insurance: When and Where?

When can I buy travel insurance?

If you are going to buy travel insurance, buy it when you book your trip if possible. You might get a discount or additional coverage if you purchase it as part of a travel package. Preexisting conditions might also be waived at that time.

Also, you can buy insurance for just one journey or purchase year-long coverage.

Where can I buy travel insurance?

You can buy travel insurance through travel agents, tour operators, travel insurance agents or other vendors.

Making a Claim

Before Your Trip

    1. Read your policy carefully.
    2. Start a “travel insurance” folder for your trip. In it keep copies of:
      • Contact details for your travel insurance agent and company
      • Contact info for your medical and homeowner’s insurance agents as well
      • Bring along a copy of your policy. Store your originals in a safe location outside your home (like a relative’s house or bank safe deposit box), in case your home is damaged in any way.
      • Keep copies of receipts for all expenses during your trip
    3. Ask your travel insurance and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance agents about specific instructions on how to make a claim.
    4. If you have to cancel your trip due to illness or another emergency, call your agent right away.

During Your Trip

    • If something happens – call your agent immediately. Don’t delay!
    • Explain exactly what has happened.
    • Ask what is needed in order to file a claim.

WHN TIP – Prove It: In most cases, the insurance company will need a record or proof showing the event took place. Keep copies of the police report, airline claims, receipts, take pictures of damaged luggage, the incident, and so on.

    • If you need monetary assistance, ask the agent how you’ll receive the money. Will it be wired? Will you be sent a check? Should you pay the bills and keep the receipts?
    • For medical bills, you might have to pay for the care first and then be reimbursed later. Save all receipts, records and so on. Can’t pay the bills? Be sure to call your insurance agent immediately for assistance.

Photo Credit: Tabea Damm

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