The Ultimate Checklist When Choosing Travel Insurance

When it comes to choosing travel insurance, you want to get the most out of your policy. However, determining the most appropriate coverage can be overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if you’re hopping on a weekend trip to the Caribbean or embarking on a well-planned voyage across the globe: travel insurance is a must! Here is the ultimate checklist to help you determine which travel insurance policy is right for you.

Does the insurance cover cancellations?

Editor’s Note: For cancellation information specific to the current COVID-19 pandemic, see our page regarding Important FAQs and Cruise Line Information.

Sometimes unexpected events can cause you to have to cancel your vacation. It happens. If you have to cancel your trip at the last minute, will you get your money back?  Under what circumstances? When you select a policy, check if cancellation is a part of your travel insurance policy. Also, be sure to check the maximum amount of money that you can claim back. You might be allowed to claim the funds for the canceled flight, transfers, accommodations, and tours or excursions among others with certain policies—if you cover those amounts with your premium.

What if your flight is delayed or canceled? Flight delay, trip interruption or cancellation insurance typically pays for accommodations, meals, and new travel arrangements to get you back home or to your destination once you’ve been delayed a certain amount of time (often six to 12 hours—read your policy carefully).

Does the insurance cover all of my destinations?

It is important to be sure the specific countries you are visiting during your trip are all included in your policy.  Some countries may not be included due to US State Department regulations or other insurance restrictions.  For example, Cuba is not always covered in standard policies.  It is also important to ensure that the policy you purchase is applicable for your nationality.  Are you a US or Canadian citizen, or a legal resident?  In which state do you reside?  These can all impact what policy options you have.

In addition to destinations and residency/nationality, be sure that the activities you plan are not excluded from the policy.  Are you a scuba diver?  Do you plan on bungee jumping or other “high risk” activities?  Check the exclusions before you purchase.  

Does the insurance cover my baggage, travel documents or personal belongings?

Baggage Loss or Delay So you arrive at your destination but your bags are nowhere to be found. Albeit frustrating, you don’t have to panic. Baggage loss and delay coverage will protect you if your bags are lost, delayed, or stolen. This often includes a cash payment if your bags are delayed for more than 12 hours after you arrive at your destination.

Travel Documents or Personal Belongings In most cases, travel insurance covers some extent of your personal belongings. However, it’s important to know exactly how much you are insured for. Is it enough to cover all of your belongings? (This is particularly important if you plan to carry laptops, camera equipment or any expensive gadgets with you). Does it cover your possessions against theft, loss, or damage? If not, consider upgrading or changing the policy.

Furthermore, travel document protection can kick in to help you replace a passport or other travel documents when they’re lost or stolen.

Does the insurance cover me if I get hurt or sick while traveling?

While most people think of travel insurance as cancellation protection, medical and evacuation coverage is the most important component.  Most US health insurance doesn’t cover you outside the US or even in a different part of the country, and if it does, it often carries high deductibles.  Medicare doesn’t cover you at all outside the US.  In reality, if you have to cancel your trip, it’s a disappointment, but not a life-altering budget buster.  If you have a health emergency when traveling, uncovered medical expenses can impact your life and financial health for years.

Let’s face it—accidents happen. If you’re injured or fall sick, travel insurance can cover the cost of treatment at a doctor’s clinic or hospital overseas. If the doctor determines that you’re too sick to continue your trip, your insurance can help cover the cost for your trip to get home.

Nobody likes to think about dying or serious injury, but when things hit the fan, you’ll want this type of coverage. Emergency evacuation insurance pays for you to be airlifted to a local hospital or flown all the way back home—an ordeal that can cost you around $35,000 or more.

Is annual travel insurance right for me?

If you travel many times a year (particularly internationally), it may be more economical to purchase annual insurance instead of individual policies for each trip. Annual insurance may also be a good idea if you regularly travel to developing countries, even if it’s only a few times a year.

Most annual policies provide medical evacuation coverage, minimums for lost luggage, and treatment costs for illness or injury. These policies typically do not include trip cancellation coverage, but in some cases, you have the option to add this for a fee.

Are there other insurance coverage technicalities I need to know?

If you or your travel companion have pre-existing medical conditions, you will need to be more careful about the travel insurance or healthcare coverage you choose.  Many policies require you to purchase within 7 or 14 days from your initial trip payment in order to cover these conditions. Be sure to read all terms and conditions carefully to confirm that the policy provides the types of coverage you’re seeking, is valid in the countries you’ll be visiting, and that you satisfy any deadlines to purchase in order to have pre-existing conditions covered.

This is not a definitive checklist for choosing travel insurance. However, it should give you ideas about what to look for when buying your travel insurance policy.