March 28, 2013 9:26 pm
These days, travelers are offered travel insurance at nearly every turn in their travel planning process – from their travel agents, online booking sites, at the airport – anything to make an extra fee off the traveler.
It’s important to understand, however, that there is a best way to buy travel insurance. Below is what you need to know:
1. Get prepared
You know the minute you book your first flight or reserve your cruise, you’re going to be offered travel insurance. Stop right there! The travel insurance offered on booking engines and by cruise lines may not be the right coverage for you. In fact, if you’ve purchased their coverage before, did you even read it to see if you’d have the coverage you need? If your mother or your child is hospitalized, for example, and you want to be by their side, do you have coverage for that trip cancellation?
Many travelers make the mistake of taking the first insurance offered to them thinking it’s one less thing to cross of their list and they can get it done quickly.
Unfortunately, our comment forum is full of travelers who feel they got scammed when that impulse buy let them down and they lost even more money on their trips. The truth is that they took a shortcut and bought a policy they didn’t understand and that didn’t suit their needs.
Figure out what kind of coverage you need before you start booking your trip. Use the information here to select the coverage you need.
2. Buy your travel insurance early
Travelers enjoy some big benefits when they buy their travel insurance soon after their first trip booking. Why? Because some coverage in travel insurance plans requires booking within a certain number of days of that first trip booking.
One of the biggest ‘got-chas’ that travelers complain about when their claims are denied is due to pre-existing medical conditions.
Travel insurance companies need to exclude illnesses and injuries that happened before their coverage starts to keep their costs down. If you’re diagnosed with a condition or have a change in an existing condition but didn’t buy your coverage soon after your first trip payment, you won’t be covered if you have to cancel your trip. You can, however, buy pre-existing medical condition coverage as long as you buy your plan early in your trip planning process.
3. Compare quotes and coverage
When you look for airfare or hotels, you probably use a comparison engine like Expedia.com or Hotels.com to compare features and quotes and get the right flight or hotel room. It’s the same with travel insurance and it’s the smart thing to do.
Once you know what coverage you need, you can enter your trip dates and a few other details (age, country of origin, etc.) into our travel insurance comparison tool and get quotes from all the major travel insurance providers at once.
Need a specific coverage for your trip? Select that coverage to filter the list of available plans, then review each plan’s details to better understand the coverage. Once you find the right policy, click to buy it and you’ll get your plan documents delivered to your email in minutes.
See our instruction for getting quotes and comparing plans for more detail.
4. Use the free-look period
Unique to travel insurance policies, a traveler has the right to review the plan document and make changes or cancel their travel insurance coverage if it’s not right for them. You’ll even receive a refund of your premium (minus a small processing fee in some cases).
The free-look period is the 10-15 day period after you make your travel insurance purchase in which to review the plan details – that means sitting down with a cup of something and carefully reading the policy.
Don’t worry – these policies are not the huge documents you have to understand to get to know your homeowner’s insurance better (you read those, didn’t you?). Compared to those larger, more complicated insurance documents, travel insurance plans are relatively easy to read and pretty short.
Look carefully at these items:
Read the exclusions - so you know what isn’t covered and you won’t be surprised that para-sailing isn’t a covered activity, for example. Call the 24/7 assistance line and ask questions if you don’t understand. These are the reasons your travel insurance claim can be denied, so it’s important to understand them.
Check the coverage limits – the coverage limits are the maximum amounts that will be paid out for a claim and they may be too high or even too low:
If your cruise is costing you over $7,000 does the trip cancellation amount cover that and airfare and other costs?
If the plan limits are much higher than what you’ll need, call and modify the plan and the difference in the premium will be returned to you.
Look for optional coverage for special circumstances – many plans provide extra coverage for special situations like ‘cancel for any reason’ or ‘cancel for work reasons’ and pre-existing medical conditions, extra sports equipment coverage, and hazardous sports for example.
Double-check your trip details – be sure that the trip details you entered to purchase the plan are accurate, including trip dates, ages of each of the insured parties, and more. Many claims get denied simply because the original trip details were incorrect.