Is Travel Insurance Worth the Cost?

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If you’ve booked a vacation online before, you’ve likely been offered the option to protect your investment with some form of travel insurance. And like many insurance offerings, the option to buy travel insurance can leave you wondering — is it worth the added cost?

While the answer to this question depends on a number of variables, plus some personal considerations, there are some rules of thumb when deciding whether purchasing travel insurance is worth your while. Consider these five factors that may sway your decision one way or the other:

What’s covered? While there are a number of varieties of travel insurance, most fall into one of two categories: 1) trip-cancellation protection, which generally covers lost baggage, missed connections, and cancelled travel plans due to an illness or accident; and 2) comprehensive travel insurance, which usually covers all of the above, plus expenses related to medical and dental emergencies, as well as disaster evacuations and even accidental deaths. Obviously, the comprehensive plans are more expensive than the basic trip-cancellation plans. Either way, you’ll want to carefully evaluate what any plan you’re considering covers and doesn’t, then weigh the value of the protection vs. the plan’s price. Be warned — travel policies are often governed by very strict guidelines that determine whether reimbursement will be made. Read the policy carefully before purchasing it.

Where are you traveling, and for how long? If you’re traveling within the Unites States on a week-long trip, you might be less inclined to purchase travel insurance than if you’re traveling abroad for a longer duration. One big reason for this is that domestic travel is usually far less expensive than international travel, reducing your need for a safety net. Also, international travel tends to be booked much farther in advance — giving you more cause to consider travel coverage, since the longer delay before departure creates more opportunity for the trip to get derailed. Further, if you have health insurance, your plan likely gives you options for receiving covered medical care stateside, whereas medical care outside the United States is less likely to be covered by your health plan. So, as a general rule, the longer your trip and the farther you’ll venture from home, the more seriously you might want to consider purchasing travel insurance.

How are you traveling? If you’re flying, trip-cancellation insurance may not be vital, as many potential travel issues are already covered by airline policies. For example, if your flight is cancelled, the airline will typically put you in the next available seat to your destination. Further, if you experience significant flight delays or flight cancellation, you’re often entitled to compensation for your troubles from the airline, even without any insurance purchase. You may want to give the insurance more consideration, though, if you must be at your destination at a specific time and date, for example for a cruise departure.
If you’re taking a cruise, on the other hand, comprehensive travel insurance might be worth your while, as a lineup of the top travel risks are involved with this type of travel — including a substantial payment up front, international travel and weather threats, along with other potential trip inhibitors.

Does your credit card cover you? Before booking, check with your credit card company, as many credit cards offer certain types travel insurance as a no-charge perk when the trip is booked on the card. If your protection via one of your credit cards is substantial, use it to pay for your trip, and you’ll often avoid any need to buy additional travel insurance.

Are there medical factors to consider? If there’s a significant chance that you could have to call off your trip for medical reasons, it could be a good idea to look into travel insurance. And if you’re traveling abroad, once you get to your destination, most medical plans will cover “customer and reasonable” hospital costs in foreign countries — but the coverage is unlikely to be as broad as it would be stateside. Especially if your trip takes you out of the U.S., it might be worth considering the travel insurance.

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