June 24, 2024
What does travel insurance cover?

Traveling is already stressful enough: packing, getting to the airport, going through security, and a dozen other things you must deal with on your way to your destination. With so much on your plate, the last thing you need to worry about is what might happen if your luggage is lost, your trip is canceled or an emergency throws a wrench in your plans.


That’s where travel insurance comes in. A travel insurance policy can protect you from the financial consequences of unexpected accidents, illnesses and other mishaps during your travels, regardless of whether you’re going on an overnight business trip or an exotic international vacation.


The Basics of Travel Insurance Coverage

Travel insurance is a form of insurance you can purchase to cover a specific trip or series of trips. You pay a premium — either as a lump sum or in installments, depending on the insurance provider and plan — and can submit a claim for reimbursement in case of a covered loss.


When you shop around for travel insurance, you’ll notice that plans and coverage vary by company. Most plans, however, cover things such as lost luggage, trip cancellations or interruptions and medical emergencies, including medical evacuation.


Some types of coverage have deductibles, which means you have to pay a certain amount out of pocket before your plan kicks in and covers the rest of the expense, up to a limit. Limits vary by coverage type as well. For example, most policies feature higher limits for medical emergencies and lower limits for dental emergencies.


The best travel insurance companies offer coverage for various scenarios, but there are notable exclusions. For example, standard travel insurance doesn’t automatically cover medical issues that take place during your trip for which you received treatment before purchasing your policy.

However, some travel insurance companies offer a pre-existing condition waiver if you meet certain conditions. These include purchasing your policy when you make your initial trip deposit (or soon after) and insuring the full cost of your non-refundable trip expenses.


With that in mind, it’s best to purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your trip and have a good idea of your non-refundable expenses. Buying coverage early or shortly after paying for your trip can also help you qualify for coverage options like cancel for any reason (CFAR) travel insurance.


Types of Events that Travel Insurance Covers

Again, while travel insurance policies vary by provider, most of them afford coverage for the following events:


Lost, stolen or delayed luggage

Travel insurance can cover lost, stolen or damaged luggage. If you have to purchase new clothing, toiletries or other necessities in your suitcase, your plan can reimburse you for those expenses, up to the limits listed on your policy.


Some companies also offer baggage delay coverage, but you must wait a certain number of hours — typically between 12 and 24 — before the coverage kicks in. Regardless of which modality of this coverage your policy offers, keep receipts of all your purchases as well as proof of the loss or delay, as you will need them to file a claim.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, your renters or homeowners insurance policies could cover stolen bags. And if you’re traveling with expensive electronic equipment, a homeowners or renters insurance rider or floater could provide sufficient coverage to replace them.


Injury, sickness and death

Travel medical insurance can cover healthcare expenses if you or anyone covered under the policy is injured or sick during the trip. This includes doctor visits (but not routine visits), hospital stays, emergency response and prescription medication.


Before purchasing a travel insurance policy, check whether your medical insurance provides any coverage when traveling. Even if you’re traveling within the U.S., your health insurance may not cover all out-of-network costs or services like emergency medical evacuation. Travel insurance could fill in those gaps.


If an insured traveler dies during the trip, their travel insurance policy could also provide a lump sum payment to their loved ones. Coverage amounts vary by company and policy, however.


Know that pre-existing conditions aren’t automatically covered under most policies. Moreover, not all insurance companies offer waivers for pre-existing conditions, and those that do will have particular requirements you must meet for the provision to apply.

Unexpected cancellations and interruptions

Trip cancellation coverage can provide peace of mind and financial protection to those who have spent a good deal of money on non-refundable travel expenses.


If you have this coverage and need to cancel or postpone your trip for any of the reasons covered by your plan, you could be eligible for reimbursement of certain non-refundable prepaid trip expenses. Limits and requirements generally apply, so read the policy document thoroughly.


Also, remember that to cancel your trip for reasons other than those listed as covered under your policy, you must purchase CFAR coverage within a specific timeframe (typically 10 to 21 days after making your initial deposit). And purchasing this coverage will increase the cost of your policy.


Types of Travel Insurance Coverage

If you’re in the market for a travel insurance policy, remember that plans vary by insurance provider. That means not all insurers offer all types of coverage, and you should thoroughly read the policy documents for any plan you’re interested in to understand what it covers.


To help you understand your options, the following section contains general information on some of the most popular travel insurance coverage options.


Medical care and emergency evacuation coverage

If you’re traveling abroad and experience a medical emergency, travel medical insurance can reimburse you for a portion of eligible medical expenses up to your policy limits. Eligible expenses may include medical transportation and evacuation to a qualified treatment center, hospitalization, necessary medication, emergency dental procedures, and, often, language assistance services.

Travel medical insurance often covers repatriation, paying for your return trip home if you experience a serious illness or injury while traveling. It can also cover costs (up to your policy limits) related to transporting your remains in the event of your death.

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