Don’t go anywhere without these expert tips for buying travel insurance

tips for buying travel insurance

There’s no shortage of expert tips for buying travel insurance online. But where’s a pro when you really need one?

That’s what Mike Mehta wanted to know when he contacted me recently. “Is travel insurance worth buying?” he asked. “Do you have any recommendations for reasonably priced travel insurance providers?”

And then I remembered a recent conversation I had with Zubair Jeewanjee, who runs the California travel insurance technology company G1G Travel. Even though travel insurance companies offer similar products, he says, “travel insurance is not all the same.”

Why you need travel insurance advice

In fact, you can buy travel insurance almost anywhere these days — directly online from a travel insurance company, from a travel agency, even while you’re booking a flight or hotel — but Jeewanjee says travelers are often disappointed when they find out what happens after the sale and they have to file a claim.

“That’s when they discover they’re on their own,” he says.

Americans spend $2.8 billion on travel insurance a year, according to the US Travel Insurance Association, a trade association. “Misspend” may be a more accurate word. By thoughtlessly throwing money at the first travel insurance policy that comes along, they may be signing up for worthless coverage.

With the busy summer travel season just ahead, how do you ensure that you’re buying insurance from a reliable source? I have a list of trusted insurance websites in this recent story. But what should you buy? What do the travel experts say — and what, specifically, should you look for?

What are the expert tips for buying travel insurance?

I asked travel insurance experts for their thoughts on how to buy the best travel insurance. Here’s what they told me:

Make sure you’re not already insured

“One potential mistake people can make when purchasing a travel insurance policy is that you could potentially end up buying a policy that has some duplication of benefits with what you already have,” says Joel Ohman, founder of InsuranceProviders.com, an insurance site. He advises you to review the benefits you already have with any of your other current insurance policies, credit cards, and membership programs. Actually, any legitimate agent will tell you to check your other policies before buying another one. Otherwise, you could buy too much insurance.

Look for a guarantee

That’s Jeewanjee’s advice. For example, G1G offers a service guarantee that promises its policies will meet a high standard. Its quality assurance process includes an analysis of a company’s BBB report, customer reviews, claims payout ratio, reinsurers credit history, and other benchmarks. “We help our customers throughout the whole process of purchasing a travel insurance plan from start to finish, and what we do makes the process easy,” he says.

Make sure it’s real insurance

It isn’t always, says Shylar Bredewold, CEO of Odyssean Travel, an online travel agency. “I’ve seen some very decent cruise protection plans,” he says. “But these should not be confused with insurance and often come with disclaimers stating that they are indeed distinct from a coverage policy.” Bredewold says the difference between “protection” and “insurance” has been a hot topic in the insurance industry lately. (Technically, “protection” isn’t an insurance product.) “Travel professionals continue to be vigilant in what they recommend to clients, even when we trust the supplier,” he adds.

Read the paperwork carefully

That’s what Justin Tysdal recommends. First, always read the benefits and then the “exclusions and limitations” in the policy. “Although something might first appear to be covered in the policy, there could be an exclusion that eliminates the coverage,” explains Tysdal, CEO of Seven Corners, a travel insurance company. “Coverage may show in the schedule of benefits, but it may be eliminated based on a Travel Advisory that [the State Department issues] for a level 3 or 4. Most advisories at level 3 or 4 will exclude certain benefits from coverage.” Tysdal also recommends checking on the company offering the policy. Make sure it’s underwritten by a reputable insurance company with an “excellent” rating with A.M. Best, an agency that rates insurance companies based on financial stability.

Timing is everything

“One of the most important factors when buying travel insurance that many first-time purchasers don’t understand is around the timing of the purchase,” says Christine Buggy, vice president of marketing at Travelex Insurance. “Purchase a travel protection plan as soon as you’ve made your initial trip deposit to ensure you have coverage.” Buggy says if you have a pre-existing medical condition, many travel insurance companies may waive the exclusion for pre-existing conditions. You just have to buy travel insurance within a designated time frame — usually within 21 days of your initial trip deposit.

Travel agents offer expert tips for buying travel insurance

I also asked travel agents for their travel insurance advice. And here’s where things got interesting. Remember Jeewanjee’s comment about travel insurance not being the same? If there’s a common thread in the agents’ travel insurance advice, it echoes what he says. You have to look closely.

“It’s pretty easy to compare policies based on the amount of the benefits,” says Laura Patterson, a travel advisor for Brownell Travel, a Virtuoso member agency. “But there’s more to it than the dollar figure.”

For example, consider the baggage delay coverage on two competing plans. One provides reimbursement for personal articles and expenses for a baggage delay of 12 hours or longer. The other plan doesn’t reimburse you unless it’s a 24-hour delay.

“This is significant if you arrive, but your luggage doesn’t,” she says. Suppose you’re attending a wedding. On a plan with coverage kicking in after a 12-hour delay, you’ll have time to shop for a suitable outfit, and peace of mind knowing that reasonable expenses will be reimbursed up to the benefit amount.

“But if the coverage is not in force until 24 hours after arrival, and the bags remain missing, the ceremony could very well be over before coverage is in effect, and you’ll end up paying for that purchase of new clothing necessary for the big event,” she says.

Deanna Maccario, the Asia program director with Audley Travel, a travel agency, says she also looks for coverage plan that offers primary, rather than secondary, coverage.

“This means that, in the case of a claim needing to be made, the client would not need to get declined by their primary insurance provider back home before having the option of submitting a claim to their travel insurance provider,” she explains. “With primary coverage, they can immediately apply to the travel insurance provider which exponentially speeds up the claims process.”

Advocating for every customer

There’s something Maccario and Patterson have in common. If one of their clients’ claims goes sideways, they’re there to help. (And believe me, claims do go sideways, a fact I discover almost every day on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site). Their expert travel insurance advice is: Buy it from someone you trust — not just the right travel insurance company, but the right agent.

How do you find good travel insurance companies? Well, let’s just say the good ones have a reputation. Typing in the name of the company and “reviews” into your favorite search engine will show you which ones to do business with, and which ones to avoid.

Posted in Smart Consumer 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 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 Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

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 Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten 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 Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

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 Insuremyrentalcar.com

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  Mediacomcable.com.

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 Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

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. Elliott.org 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 TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com 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  TravelInsurance.com.

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  Squaremouth.com 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, SinglesCruise.com, 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.