Insurance, one of the most boring subjects and worst parts of “adulting” – especially when talking about travel. It is, unfortunately, an important and necessary thing to have the more you do travel, and definitely when going abroad. In the unlikely event that you’ll need to use it, however, you’ll be so unbelievably happy you have it!

When we began researching our options, there were many times we were ready to pull our hair out in frustration due to the difficulty in finding answers to specific questions. We struggled for a long time in determining the right coverage for our situation.

Along the way, we learned a ton of information and want to pass that on to you!

Which brings us to the purpose of this post. We’re going over the nitty-gritty details of travel insurance. We’ll explain what it is, its importance, things you should look for, answers to the questions we had, and how to compare the many different companies.

By the end, you’ll have all the tools you need to make the most informed decision and choose the best provider and coverage for you!

* ALL PRICES IN THIS POST ARE CALCULATED IN UNITED STATES DOLLARS (USD)*


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What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is a service you pay a company to provide a contractual guarantee of compensation in the event of a specific loss to you. It covers you monetarily from costly, unexpected risks including trip cancellation and delay, baggage delay, loss of personal items and baggage, emergency medical expenses, and medical evacuation.


Why is Travel Insurance Important?

Traveling is expensive. Without the proper insurance, you risk losing money if you must cancel your trip due to an unforeseen illness, a natural disaster occurs at your destination before or during your visit, you are involved in an accident and require emergency medical care, etc.

Purchasing travel insurance is important because it creates peace of mind against unforeseeable risks.


What to Look for With Travel Insurance?

As with any insurance, there’s fine print as to what is covered. Be sure you understand what each item is and what really is covered.

Decide what is the most important thing you need in your travel insurance. Each travel insurance company provides different levels of coverage to address different aspects that may be more important to you.

Trip Cancellation

Make sure the coverage meets your expectation. Most travel insurance companies cover 100% of the trip cost, but you usually have to identify the cost up front. However, some may only cover up to a certain amount of the trip cost.  Additionally, reading the fine print will tell you what situations are covered under trip cancellation.

Emergency Medical Care and Evacuation

Make sure the dollar amount covered meets your peace of mind. Travel insurance companies cover anywhere from $5,000 to $1 million.  You need to decide what dollar amount is the happy medium for you. Also, be sure to look into whether the coverage is primary or secondary.

Primary coverage

The travel insurance company will pay the medical fees first –  before other insurance coverage (like your existing health plan).

Secondary coverage

The travel insurance company will reimburse the medical fees after other insurance coverage (You need to check your existing health plan if they’ll cover you abroad). It’s harder to find primary coverage and it will typically cost more.

One thing to note, secondary becomes primary if you don’t have other insurance coverage companies. So, it may not be necessary to even consider primary coverage if you don’t have other coverage elsewhere.

Baggage Loss, Theft, or Damage

You must make sure you understand what is covered and whether it is enough. Usually, this coverage is pretty limited and maxes out anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000.  This may not be enough if you have a lot of money invested in expensive gear for a unique hobby. You’ll need to look into separate coverage which will be explained in another post for insuring your gear.


Answers to Difficult Questions

When should you purchase travel insurance? 

Purchase your travel insurance policy as early as possible after you’ve made your first trip reservation and you have an idea of how much your trip will cost.  If you purchase your policy early, you are covered if any of your travel companies go bankrupt, if a natural disaster occurs at your destination, or if you (or a close family member) have an unforeseen health issue.

These are only covered by the insurance policy if you purchase the policy before any of these occur. For instance, if a hurricane hits Hawaii and takes out the area you will be visiting and then you decide to purchase your travel insurance in hopes the expenses you already put out will be covered, you are out of luck, they will not be covered.

READ: 23 Essential Tasks to Complete Before You Travel

How much emergency medical care is enough? 

This was the hardest question we had getting answers to. First, check with your existing health plan and see if they cover you while traveling in and out of your country. If they do, check to see if it’s the same coverage you would receive at home or emergency room care only. How do they pay – do they pay upfront or do they reimburse you after?

Answers to these questions will help determine how much coverage you need. If your existing health plan provides the same coverage as they do in your country and pays upfront, then you don’t need your travel insurance policy to cover you. However, if your existing health plan covers you but will only reimburse you after, then you need to make sure your travel insurance policy covers you enough so you’re not stuck paying medical fees out of pocket. It’s all about peace of mind.

Change your frame of mind when thinking of how much a procedure costs. The United States is one of the most expensive countries for health care and the same medical procedure is significantly cheaper in other countries. So you don’t need as much coverage in another country. But how much?!?! It really comes down to how much can you afford. The higher the coverage amount, the higher your travel insurance premium will be. If you want $1 million emergency medical coverage for peace of mind, your travel insurance premium will reflect this as well, so can you afford that?

Is non-emergency/routine health care covered?

Probably not, usually only emergency health care is covered.


How to compare travel insurance companies?

There are a couple of great resources that will help you decide the way to go for your travel insurance policy.

  • Travel Insurance Review is a fantastic resource that has reviews of the popular travel insurance companies and also provides tips on all the different aspects of travel insurance.
  • Squaremouth is another wonderful resource that allows you to compare the numerous travel insurance companies and plans. You first enter the parameters of your trip like your trip dates, trip cost, country you are visiting, how many travelers, etc. After you have your parameters entered, you are provided with all the different travel insurance companies, the cost of each policy, the details of each policy, reviews of each company, and the AM Best Rating which rates the financial strength of the travel insurance company.
  • World Nomads is a highly recommended travel insurance company by Lonely Planet and many well-known travel bloggers like Nomadic Matt and The Blonde Abroad. Their coverage and prices are very competitive too. They are not included in Squaremouth.com so we wanted to be sure to include them as another comparison option for you.

Take insurance company reviews lightly. People are more likely to write a bad review than a good one which appears as a result of them not fully understanding their policy and what it covered from the very start.


Top 20 Travel Insurance Companies for 2018

Travel Insurance Side-By-Side Comparison
Travel Insurance Side-By-Side Comparison
Company and Plan Insurance
Premium Cost
Go Rating
1-5
Overall Coverage
Color Score
Trip
Cancellation
Trip
Interruption
Travel
Delay
Emergency
Medical
Emergency
Dental
Emergency Transportation Accidental Death &
Dismemberment-
Common Carrier
Accidental Death &
Dismemberment-
Travel Accident
Baggage &
Personal
Effects
Baggage
Delay
Missed
Connection
Rental Car
Damage
Cancel for
Any Reason
Pre-Existing
Medical Conditions
Waiver
Political / Non-Medical
Emergency Evacuation
Primary/
Secondary
Insurance Specialties

The table above includes the top 20 travel insurance companies that pop up consistently when doing a Google search for “Top Travel Insurance Companies for 2018.” We took this further and researched the coverage for each of the different plans associated with each company and displayed it in the table for a side-by-side comparison.

The table is interactive with comments above the column headers for the different coverage categories that explain what that coverage is. To see these comments, simply hover over the specific column heading and the description will show.  Some items within the table, like anything under the Travel Delay and Baggage Delay columns, will also display a comment when you hover over it to identify how long of a delay before coverage kicks in. Any “Optional” item will also display a comment to identify the amount of coverage if you were to purchase this optional coverage.

The best interactive feature of the table is the area directly below the table, here you can enter search criteria for any of the columns. For instance, if you know you want Emergency Medical Coverage for $250,000, you can enter this into the blank box under that column and the table will then only show the plans that offer that amount of coverage.

The table can also be exported into Microsoft Excel or a CSV file by clicking on the “Save As” options above the table to the left.

Coverage Color Key

The following color key was used to give each plan coverage category a color score based on the level of coverage it provides:

Travel Insurance Coverage KeyOnce each coverage category was given a color score, we then gave each plan an Overall Coverage Score by averaging the color for each category within a plan.

Go Rating Scale

We created the following number scale to give each travel insurance plan a rating that takes into consideration the cost of each plan as well as the coverage score:

  • A rating of 1 means there is not enough coverage for the price.
  • A rating of 2 means there is enough coverage, but it’s expensive and you can get the same amount of coverage for a cheaper price.
  • A rating of 3 means there is okay coverage for the price.
  • A rating of 4 means there is good coverage for the price.
  • A rating of 5 means there is the best amount of coverage at the right price.

Cost

* ALL PRICES IN THIS POST ARE CALCULATED IN UNITED STATES DOLLARS (USD)*

  • Insurance premium costs typically range from 2% to 8% of trip cost
  • Expect to pay between $4.40 to $31.40 for each day of your trip
  • Price and percentage ranges are calculated using the Search Parameters below

Search Parameters

Number of Travelers: 2

Age of travelers: 32 and 32

Trip Destination: Iceland

Length of trip: 2 weeks (November 3, 2018, through November 17, 2018)

Cost of trip: $6,000 ($3,000 each person)

Largest Factors that Affect Insurance Premiums

These are the Search Parameters that have the greatest effect on the total cost of travel insurance premiums.

Cost of trip – The more expensive the total cost of your trip, the more it’s going to jack up the price of your insurance.

Age of travelers – Unfortunately, the older you are has significant effects on the cost of your insurance premiums.

Additional Factors that Affect Insurance Premiums

Each insurance plan has several different coverage categories that offer varying levels of coverage. Depending on the level of coverage you want for each category the more (or less) you will pay. The categories below are the ones that affect the total cost of travel insurance premiums the most.

Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption

Trip Delay

Emergency Medical / Dental

Emergency Transportation

Baggage loss and delay

Primary vs. secondary coverage


READ: Weighing Your Options – Carry-on vs. Checked Luggage


Top 5 Cheapest Travel Insurance Plans for 2018

CompanyPlanPrice
CF Travel InsuredTravel Medical Protector$66
American ExpressBasic$118
AXA Assistance USASilver$132
NationwideEssential$141
Seven CornersRound Trip Economy$142

What is Covered?

Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption

covers 100% of trip costs (Exceptions are CF Travel Insured – Travel Medical Protector which isn’t covered at all, and American Express – Basic which is capped at $1,000)

Trip Delay

minimally covered or not at all ($250, $500, $600). CF Travel Insured – Travel Medical Protector is the exception with $1,000 which is in line with the more expensive plans.

Medical

coverage appears to be where the cheapest companies excel. Exceptions are American Express – Basic and Seven Corners – Round Trip Economy, they both very minimally cover medical with either $5,000 or $10,000 covered in medical expenses.

Baggage

is also very limited in coverage –  covering only $250 or $500 (this could barely cover the cost of the bag, let alone the contents in it.) CF Travel Insured – Travel Medical Protector is the exception again with $1,000 which is in line with the more expensive plans.

Surprisingly, the #1 cheapest, CF Travel Insured – Travel Medical Protector, provides the best coverage for everything in the cheapest category.  Keep in mind though, it doesn’t cover trip cancellation at all.

If we were to reorder the top 5 cheapest based off of coverage alone this would be our list:

  1. CF Travel Insured – Travel Medical Protector
  2. AXA Assistance USA – Silver
  3. Nationwide – Essential
  4. Seven Corners – Round Trip Economy
  5. American Express – Basic

Top 5 Expensive Travel Insurance Plans for 2018

CompanyPlanCost
USI AffinityElite$471
TripAssureComplete$446
American ExpressPlatinum$416
Allianz Global AssistanceOneTrip Premier$384
CF Travel InsuredWorldwide Trip Protector Plus$374

What is Covered?

Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption

limits really do cover fully 100% of a trip.

Trip Delay

coverage averages at $1,000. (Exception is Allianz Global Assistance – OneTrip Premier which doesn’t cover Trip Delay at all)

Medical

coverage is a lot more than the cheapest, as you would expect. As with all other categories, for the cost, Allianz Global Assistance – OneTrip Premier lacks good coverage in this category and only covers $50,000 compared to the other top 5 that cover over $100,000. However, most top expensive plans cover $1,000,000 in Emergency Transportation. (Except TripAssure – Complete covers $500,000)

Baggage

coverage is more realistically covered averaging $2,000. (Exception, CF Travel Insured – Worldwide Trip Protector Plus, coverage is $1,000)

If we were to reorder the top 5 expensive based off of coverage alone this would be our list:

  1. USI Affinity – Elite
  2. TripAssure – Complete Seven Corners – Round Trip Economy
  3. CF Travel Insured – Worldwide Trip Protector Plus
  4. American Express – Platinum
  5. Allianz Global Assistance – OneTrip Premier

Our Top 10 Travel Insurance Plans for 2018

Taking into consideration both coverage and cost, here are Go See The Place’s Top 10 Picks

#CompanyPlanCost
1AXA Assistance USAPlatinum$216
2Seven CornersRoundTrip Elite$224
3AXA Assistance USAGold$176
4IMGiTravelInsured Travel SE$184
5TripAssureAsset$196
6Berkshire HathawayExactCare$198
7Tokio Marine HCCAtlas Expedition$214
8CF Travel InsuredTravel Medical Protector$66
9NationwideEssential$141
10AXA Assistance USASilver$132

Who we went with and why

AXA Assistance USA seems to be the best overall travel insurance company providing the best coverage at the right price points for all their plans.

Emergency medical care was the most important aspect for us. We were willing to have more emergency medical care coverage over the other insurance aspects like trip cancellation, trip delay, lost or damaged baggage and/or personal items. Due to this, we went with AXA Assistance USA – Platinum Travel Plan because it has primary coverage that covers $250,000 for emergency medical care and $1 million in medical evacuation.

This is enough peace of mind for us since our current health plan in the United States covers any emergency medical cost while traveling out of the country, but they only reimburse us after the emergency care occurs. So, we need additional insurance coverage while abroad so that no money would be coming out of pocket.


READ: The One Tool for Planning the Best Travel Itinerary


Final Thoughts

If you have to submit a claim, extreme documentation is key. Otherwise, you risk your claim being denied.  The travel insurance company will not just take your word for anything, receipts will need to be provided, doctor’s notes provided, etc.

As you can see, travel insurance can be quite frustrating to understand what is covered and what isn’t. We hope this post helped uncover the gaps and confusion that comes with researching travel insurance.

We’d love to hear it if you have any additional information from your experience with insurance for your travel needs. Let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email.

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We are RJ and Megan Barrett- A husband and wife team who are passionate for all things travel!

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