What’s not covered by travel insurance?

If I’ve seen Claire Richardson’s question once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. Maybe even a thousand times.

“Before I purchase plane tickets, I need to know which company to buy insurance from,” she says. “Is there any other issue I should pay attention to?”

This is the third part of our five-part travel insurance buyer’s guide. We’ve already covered special circumstances and which ones are covered. Today, we’re talking about what’s not covered.

Back to Richardson. Where to buy — that’s an easy question to answer. I list the names of the major travel insurance companies in my frequently asked questions section on travel insurance.

Buy direct. Companies sell insurance policies directly to travelers, usually online. The big players are Allianz Travel Insurance, CSA Travel Protection, and Travel Guard. A full list of other insurance companies worth checking out is on the US Travel Insurance Association’s website.

Buy through your travel company. Many travel companies, including airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators, offer optional insurance directly to consumers. These can be a good deal, but it’s worth shopping around before deciding to buy one of these policies. Also, be careful of tour operators or cruise lines that offer generic protection services. They won’t cover you if the company goes belly-up.

Buy through a travel agent or third party. Your travel agent may offer an insurance policy. (More on buying through an agent in a moment.)

You might also consult an online company that specializes in comparing and evaluating insurance policies, such as Squaremouth, Travel Insurance Review, Trip Insurance Store, and InsureMyTrip.com. These can be useful ways to quickly find the best travel insurance policy.

(Disclosure: A lot of these companies are current or former supporters of this site.)

But when it comes to the other issues to which you should pay attention, the answer isn’t so easy.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: an existing medical condition, sometimes also referred to as pre-existing medical condition.

If you have a bad back, or chronic migraine headaches, or if you are a cancer survivor, you need to know about this. (Even if you disclose it, you may not be covered.) Unless there’s a specific waiver for your condition for an existing medical condition — in other words, unless the policy covers existing medical conditions — it will not. Some policies will cover an existing condition if you purchase the waiver at the same time you buy insurance, but you have to read the fine print.

Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Make sure you have it in writing.

It’s hardly the only special circumstance that travel insurance won’t cover.

Having second thoughts about your trip.
We live in an uncertain world, where terrorism and politics can turn a “safe” destination unsafe overnight. Also, people change their minds. It happens. When it does, you should know that most travel insurance will not cover you for changing your travel plans. (Note: You may be able to get a refund or credit from your airline, hotel or cruise line, so the claim isn’t your only hope of recovering your vacation dollars.)

Bad weather.
If you’re visiting the Caribbean for a little sun and fun or hitting the slopes in the hopes of finding great powder, you should know that insurance will not cover inclement weather. Of course, there’s an assumption made by many travelers that travel insurance protects your entire vacation and anything that might happen that “ruins” it for you. Not so. That doesn’t mean all weather events are not covered. Some policies will cover a flood, fire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption, blizzard, or avalanche “due to natural causes.” It’s buried in the small print. Read it before you leave.

Had a good time — too good of a time.
Not that this would happen to you, but it’s worth noting that travel insurance won’t cover you if you hit the bars hard, get wasted, catch a sexually transmitted disease or get robbed (not necessarily in that order). Travel insurance doesn’t cover any kind of risky or reckless behavior, so any medical expenses associated with recovering from a night of debauchery are on you. Also not covered: Enjoying one or two cocktails and making a foolish timeshare purchase. No travel insurance on earth covers that. If it did, the insurance company would quickly go out of business.

Richardson is right to consider travel insurance before booking her vacation purchase. It’s good to shop around for the right policy, too. But asking about the “other” issues — well, that’s brilliant. If more travelers did that, then travel insurance would be virtually problem-free, both for the companies and their customers.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

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