Here are the best travel insurance policies


What are the best travel insurance companies? That’s easy: I list them in my annual Readers’ Choice Awards.
The best policies? That’s not easy.

And it’s a question I get almost daily from my readers: Can I recommend a specific policy?

This is where consulting a professional can really help — someone who can carefully consider your needs as a traveler and, based on their knowledge of your itinerary, recommend the best travel protection. A qualified travel agent or insurance broker can help.

But there are things I know that they might not. I have a database filled with consumer complaints and executive contacts that your travel agent doesn’t. Plus, I have decades of experience in mediating insurance-related disputes. So I can help you understand the lay of the land before you go shopping for insurance.

First, you might wonder why no one publishes fixed rates for insurance. It’s because the price of your policy depends on three factors: your age, the cost of your trip and the length of the journey. In order to get a price quote, you’ll need to enter those three, plus your state of residence. Generally, the older you are, the more insurance will cost. There may also be more limits on the policy’s coverage. And of course, the longer the trip, the more expensive the insurance.

It’s impossible to tell you how much insurance will cost unless you can provide those three details to your agent, broker or insurance company. From there, it gets even more complicated, because you need to compare the kind of coverage each policy would offer based on those criteria. One policy might offer $50,000 of medical coverage, whereas another might only offer $30,000.

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An expert can help you review all of those clauses and coverage options, but ultimately you need to identify which aspect of your insurance is the most important, and if you’re covered for the right amount. Ultimately, an agent or broker can’t really make that determination. Only you can.

It is more a question of the type of insurance policy that works best.

The most common type of insurance is a “named-peril” policy. It allows you to cancel or interrupt your trip if you experience a covered event. Your policy will include a list of covered reasons for cancellation or interruption and will pay you 100 percent of your nonrefundable trip costs when you cancel for one of those reasons. These can include an injury or illness to an insured, a close family member or a traveling companion, among other reasons.


Named-peril policies come in various configurations. For example, Allianz offers policies for domestic, international, car rental and annual coverage.

A second kind of insurance is a “cancel for any reason” policy. It costs a little more than a named-perils policy and covers any kind of cancellation, including those not addressed by basic coverage. You may be reimbursed up to 80 percent of your nonrefundable trip payments and deposits if a trip is canceled for a reason other than a named peril.

But what’s the best policy for you? Well, unless I know your age, the length of your trip and how much you paid for it, plus your coverage requirements, I can’t answer that. But I can offer some buying advice that will help you get a little closer.

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Take your time when you buy insurance. The worst policies are the ones that you buy thoughtlessly. Don’t just click on that little radio button as an add-on to your flight. Don’t breeze through your credit card agreement and say to yourself, “I’m covered!” If you don’t know what’s in it, how can you know if it covers you?

Read before you make a decision. Yes, travel insurance contracts are dense, but at the very least you should review the summary — if not the entire thing — before you buy it. If you don’t have the patience to do that, at least work with a travel advisor or broker who does, and can carefully explain what you’re getting.

Prioritize your coverage. Remember the “Worst Case Scenario” book series? You have to basically do that for your trip. What is likely to go wrong? What kind of coverage am I likely to need? The more paranoid you are, the better. Do you have any medical conditions that are likely to flare up? Is the destination known to be dangerous in any way? What are the hospitals like? Is the airline you’re flying prone to delays? Imagine all the things that could go sideways and then check to see if they’re addressed in your named-perils policy. If they aren’t, you might want to spend extra for a cancel-for-any-reason policy.

You’re probably wondering what kind of coverage I have. Fair question. I’m on the road 365 days a year, so my policy has to last that long. I bought an annual policy through Allianz, which covers the basics and has helped me on several occasions. It may be the best policy for my family, but if you don’t travel as often, you won’t need that much insurance. You may not need travel insurance at all. But you owe it to yourself to find out.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “Here are the best travel insurance policies”

    “But what’s the best policy for you? Well, unless I know your age, the length of your trip and how much you paid for it, plus your coverage requirements, I can’t answer that.”

  • DChamp56

    It would all depend upon one’s needs.
    A 30 year old in outstanding health, spending $800 on a trip needs a different coverage as a 90 year old spending $5000.
    It’s like asking what’s the best car. It all depends on your needs.

  • cscasi

    And, there are more that are not mentioned that provide good coverages, as well. Just as you say, one has to answer the questions and then look to see which one(s) fit his/her needs. I have found that Travel Insured International meets what my wife and I need (she is 66 and I am 70) when we travel internationally and it has comparable rates for the levels of plans it offers.
    Folks just need to take the time to look, compare and read what each plan covers and does not cover before making an informed decision.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Exactly, which is why I thought that headline was so strange, and very “click-baity.”

    “Here’s What To Think About When Deciding on the Best Travel Insurance Policy for YOU” would have been much better.

  • Steve Rabin

    The simple answer is: comparison shop, like most things in life. Nowadays this is pretty easy on the web. But be sure to compare apples to apples–similar coverages should be compared. And my basic rule of thumb is never, ever, buy a policy from the line/provider of the travel–it is always slanted in their favor. There are plenty of third party companies to look at.

    One other thing I found is that for Costco members, buying insurance through them gets a gold standard policy for a much lower price then from the same company outside of the Costco umbrella (comparable in price to the most basic policy from the same insurer).

  • Pegtoo

    “The more paranoid you are, the better.” When protecting a long-awaited and long-planned vacation… that would be me!

  • Mike

    What’s important to you? To me I want a waiver of pre-existing conditions and primary, not secondary, health and property coverage. I use a site like http://insuremytrip.com to shop and its comparison feature makes it easy to compare policies, features and prices. Medical evacuation is expensive. I always look for a policy with at least $250,000 in coverage, usually $500,000. i travel often and you’d think by now I’d have a favorite policy. I don’t. I get quotes and compare every time and often end up with different policies.

    I planned a cruise to Cuba. My favorite cruise policy wasn’t available because the company did not insure trips to Cuba. To get the waiver of pre-existing conditions you have to meet certain requirements. Usually you have to buy the insurance within 14 days of your first deposit. My deposit was refundable and we wanted to lock in air before committing. So I missed the 14 days but found a policy with a 20 day period and grabbed it.

    Now your travel agent often can get insurance for you, sometimes at a cheaper rate. And sometimes the pre-existing waiver is good as long as you buy the insurance prior to making your final payment. I’ve used that on cruises booked a year in advance with a small refundable deposit and the balance due 90 days out. However, those policies often have secondary coverage on health and property. And some don’t offer pre-existing condition coverage.

    Now there are policies with cancel for any reason or stated reason benefits. They can be very costly. If your concern is work related issues, there are some policies that insure against cancellation because of work only for a lot less than cancellation for any reason.

    Some major cruise lines and travel companies offer there own policies. Years ago, they underwrote those policies and when they cruise line or travel company failed, your insurance was worthless. Today most do not self insure. Still, check that out. The plus of buying this way is that price is often lower especially for older travelers and limited cancellation for any reason benefits included for not a lot of money.

    The secret is to read and compare. my last trio I picked a policy through Insuremytrip but called to see if I had missed anything. I had, for $60 more I got much better coverage on a 10 day cruise for two. So even if you know what to look for, look but then call an expert who represents multiple companies to be sure you did not miss anything.

    For young people not concerned with pre-existing conditions, policies without waivers often cost less. Also, if your health insurance will cover costs you might incur on vacation even out of the country, then secondary coverage might seem not a big deal. One warning, if you show up at a foreign hospital with travel insurance providing secondary coverage only you might be asked to post a big deposit to access services. This could happen anyhow but is less likely if you have primary coverage.

    Travel safely. Do not buy insurance for trips where you can afford the loss. The insurance companies are in business to make money and odds are you won’t need the coverage. If coverage cost say 7.5% of trip cost, to come out ahead long term you’d need a major claim (other than health) every 13 or so trips. Very unlikely. But if you are doing that special, expensive trip, then taking the risk yourself is likely a bad idea.

    Confused. Good, because otherwise you have not understood the complexities of travel insurance at all.

  • Annie M

    We use Travel Insured for our personal travel. It offers the highest medical and emergency evacuation of any policy we have found. However, we also live in a state that doesn’t permit Cancel for Any Reason Insurance – you must check your state regulations to find out if this coverage is even legal in your state.

  • Annie M

    And call the insurance company directly if you have any questions.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “if you have to cancel your trip before you leave can you afford to lose everything you have paid for it”

    If the answer to that isn’t “yes,” then you can’t afford to take the trip in the first place. After all, if the trip goes exactly as planned, you’ll have lost everything you paid for it.

  • Annie M

    What? If the trip goes exactly as planned you’ve lost nothing. I don’t understand your statement.

  • Annie M

    I haven’t seen a company that allows one to purchase the pre-ex policy before final- I’d love to know what companies sell that.

    One of the issues of not buying a policy within the window if the ore-ex waiver is if you develop a new medical condition after that date- that new medical condition becomes a pre-ex condition and won’t be covered.

    Example – we have a client who never bought insurance until final payment. She booked a cruise and two months after she booked was diagnosed with cancer. She couldn’t buy a policy that would cover her because of the look back period.

    She had to decide at final payment if she
    was willing to risk losing money if she had to cancel the cruise after final or take a chance and hope she would be healthy enough to go. She ended up canceling and it turned out she would have been able to travel.

  • Michael__K

    There are many scenarios outside your control that don’t fall under a Named Peril on a travel insurance policy that could result in losing everything you have paid for your trip. So if you can’t afford that possibility then you can’t afford the trip with or without travel insurance.

  • Michael__K

    If the trip goes exactly as planned then you have the pictures and the [hopefully terrific] memories, but financially you are no better off than if you had stayed home and forfeited your non-refundable deposits.

  • Annie M

    I still don’t understand your logic. If that is the case you should never book a vacation.

  • Michael__K

    Why not? Book a vacation if you are funding it with disposable income (or savings) that you won’t need afterwards.

  • Annie M

    I agree with that which makes more sense than the wording you used.

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