This is the difference between travel insurance and trip protection

If you don’t know the difference between travel insurance and trip protection, talk to Christopher Benson. He learned about that the hard way.

When Benson and his wife, Betty, planned a trip to Paris, Orbitz offered them a “vacation waiver” option that looked a lot like travel insurance. But when the Bensons tried to invoke the waiver, it didn’t work as they expected. Lufthansa would not refund their tickets from Chicago to Paris.

“I feel I’ve been duped,” says Benson. “They offer a vacation waiver, which does not seem to work.”

Technically, the Orbitz vacation waiver isn’t insurance. It’s an add-on product that allows you to change or cancel your trip for any reason, with Orbitz waiving any cancellation fees and refunding any amounts refunded by the travel provider. It also offers a travel credit, good for a future trip.

Benson’s confusion is common. Travelers who want to protect their trip may be considering insurance and tempted to buy a less expensive waiver or trip protection plan. But there are important differences between travel insurance and trip protection. They’re worth knowing.

“Travelers do not understand the difference between travel protection versus travel insurance,” says John Lovell, Travel Leaders Group’s president for leisure travel, supplier relations and networks. “Many times these terms are used interchangeably from one provider to another.”

What you need to know about trip protection

Benson’s request took a tragic turn when his wife passed away, leaving him with vouchers he wouldn’t use. I contacted Orbitz on his behalf, and the company negotiated a full refund with Lufthansa.

But Benson isn’t the only traveler surprised by protection. James O’Connor, an attorney with the Nickless, Phillips and O’Connor in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, has filed a lawsuit against river cruise company Vantage Travel for selling a travel protection plan that promised to cover passengers for a mechanical breakdown that causes a complete cessation of services for at least 12 consecutive hours. O’Connor says Vantage did not honor the claims.

“This travel protection appears to be a rip-off,” he says.

Vantage says there was no cessation of services by the 12 consecutive hours. “The vessel was used as a hotel, with meals and all other shipboard activities,” says Gary Greenstein, Vantage’s chief financial officer. He noted its protection policy also contained a ‘‘cancel for any reason’’ provision that allows passengers to cancel their vacations before their trips.

“We think the plan is a very good one and well worth travelers considering its purchase,” he adds.

How trip protection has changed

If you want to understand the difference between travel insurance and trip protection, you have to start with a few basics. Products such as waivers and protection are not the same thing as insurance. But they’re more similar today than ever.

“In the past, trip protection could look a lot like travel insurance when sold by cruise lines or tour operators – except that it wasn’t,” explains Stan Sandberg, co-founder of, a travel insurance website.

Travel insurance is an actual insurance product underwritten by large insurance companies and regulated by state insurance agencies. But trip protection plans were much riskier propositions and could be full of exclusions. A trip protection plan might only cover a portion of the trip and not reimburse you for a cancellation but instead issue you a credit for future travel.

Also, the protection plans were backed by tour operators instead of highly rated insurance underwriters. So if a tour operator ran into financial difficulties, it might mean your trip “protection” was worthless.

But things are starting to change

That’s starting to change, says Beth Godlin, president of Aon Affinity Travel Practice, a travel insurance company. Today, many travel protection products bundle travel insurance with other benefits and services, like 24/7 travelers’ assistance. For example, Vantage’s program has an insurance component, but like all insurance, its coverage is limited.

“When you purchase travel protection through a cruise line or a tour operator, known as supplier plans, both the insurance and those additional benefits are tailored to the type of trip you’re taking,” she says. “These plans give travelers seamless, customized coverage in one easy-to-purchase package.”

In other words, the most reputable travel companies that offer trip “protection” will have actual insurance components in there somewhere. But you have to look for it. A few companies continue to sell old protection that may or may not work.

Steve Dasseos, CEO of, says buyers need to beware when they hear the term “protection.”

“People assume all plans are essentially the same,” he says. “They are not.”

How to tell if your travel protection will protect you

Look for real protection
Some plans promise to do what any self-respecting tour operator or agency would do, like process a change or cancellation on your behalf. You don’t need to pay extra for that. Look for a cash refund when you file a claim for a covered reason.

Look for an insurance component
Insurance is a regulated industry – promises are not. If you’re shopping for travel protection, make sure you’re dealing with a travel insurance company and underwriter. (Any reputable travel insurance underwriter will be rated by AM Best and be a member of the US Travel Insurance Association).

Look for a name you trust
Saying it’s “insurance” isn’t enough. Make sure you’re dealing with a well-known brand, like Allianz Travel Insurance, Travelex, Travel Guard or Generali Global Assistance. These companies have a brand name to protect and will help you if something goes wrong on your trip, as long as you’re filing a claim for a covered event.

Posted in On Travel Tagged , , , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: