Bob Hood is planning a trip to New Zealand next year, hopefully long after the pandemic. But like many travelers, he’s confused about travel insurance. Specifically, he’s wondering if he’ll need travel insurance after the pandemic.
“I’ve researched many companies and have come down to two plans,” says Hood. “One from Allianz and one from AXA. Both plans are fairly similar in the coverage limits, and their premiums are within $200 of each other.”
Of course, Hood is worried about choosing trip cancellation insurance after COVID-19. He wants to make sure his policy addresses all of his travel medical insurance needs. And he wants to be sure his policy will work internationally as well.
So if you need insurance, which policy should you buy?
The answer is yes — Hood needs travel insurance. For longer, more expensive trips abroad, I almost always recommend a policy.
But where can you find a good travel insurance policy? There are popular review sites with star ratings that claim to offer an easy answer. And there are novel-length blog posts that try to tell you where to find the best travel insurance policy. But they don’t.
It comes down to several tried and true strategies for finding the best travel insurance for your post-pandemic trip. And fortunately, we have something hard to find: an actual answer.
How to find travel insurance after the pandemic
Like many other consumers, Hood is confused by the recent emergence of star ratings for travel insurance. The reviews claim to use an objective set of criteria to determine which travel insurance policy is the best for your post-pandemic vacation or business trip.
For example, a plan with pandemic trip cancellation and medical benefits or “cancel for any reason” coverage might score higher. Policies without those benefits will only get one or two stars.
But that assumes a lot about you. Specifically, it says a “cancel for any reason” policy or a COVID trip cancellation is the most important thing for travelers now. That may not be true. Travel insurance has lots of benefits, including coverage for delays, interruptions, lost luggage, and medical benefits.
I list them in my definitive guide on how to find the best travel insurance.
Star ratings also fail to consider that state laws regulating travel insurance are not uniform. Also, the kind of plan you buy may depend on your age.
Bottom line: Star ratings for travel insurance are about as reliable as star ratings for hotels. They’re subjective, they oversimplify a complex purchase, and they can be highly misleading.
You can find another equally confusing “answer” online. Maybe you’ve seen those seemingly endless blog posts on the best travel insurance for your next trip. They list one writer’s example of buying travel insurance for a fictional vacation. They list screenshots of each travel insurance company’s web page and then cut and paste the terms and conditions.
But think about it. Do screenshots of someone buying travel insurance actually help you buy travel insurance? Do sample quotes from one person’s made-up trip to Europe assist you with a travel insurance purchase in any meaningful way?
And as for the cut-and-paste terms, come on. Didn’t your favorite travel expert tell you to read every policy — not the excerpt — before you buy?
No wonder people are confused and frustrated. Meaningless, arbitrary stars and navel-gazing, keyword-stuffing blog posts will definitely not help you find the best travel insurance policy after the pandemic.
What the best travel insurance policy ratings don’t have (but we do)
A few years ago, this site received lots of questions from readers like Hood. That’s because the internet search engines knew we had the best information about travel insurance. But insurance is big business, and before long, companies that sell insurance figured out how to bend Google to their will.
I know because some of the sites that now get the number-one rankings asked for my help and received it. I was naive about search engine optimization and believed that by writing about travel insurance for those sites, I would be helping readers. In fact, the very opposite happened.
It’s time to remedy that.
I know we can do it because we have something the other sites don’t. We have thousands of real travel insurance cases in our database. For instance, who can forget Molly Brooks’ awful injury abroad? Allianz eventually paid out her claim even though she had no receipts for her harrowing experience in a Mexican hospital.
And what about Russel Wayne’s terrible experience when his car rental suddenly went sailing into the ocean in Spain? Thank goodness his credit card-based travel insurance saved the day there.
Our case files are filled with real problems with real resolutions. And I can tell someone like Hood if a company is worth his business. Choosing the best travel insurance policy for your next trip after the pandemic is difficult. In addition to the right policy, you want to go with a company that will honor a valid claim.
The sites that say they can give you the name of the best travel insurance policy are offering you an incomplete, one-size-fits-all answer. They don’t have any information about claims disputes. Nor do they have any data about the resolutions of those cases.
And there’s a reason for that: They don’t want to help you. Their goal is to sell you a policy through their affiliate link.
How to determine if you need travel insurance after the pandemic
I’m not going to try to sell you a travel insurance policy. In fact, there are many times when you’re better off without a policy. That includes a road trip where you’re staying with relatives or if your credit card already covers you. I have colleagues who say you should never travel without insurance. That’s nonsense.
But travel insurance can still be worth considering, and there are no proven shortcuts — no sites with star ratings that you can turn to and just click on the policy with the most stars. Making a snap decision based only on star ratings or reviews may leave you with not enough coverage — or coverage you don’t need.
So how do you do it?
- Talk to a professional. Discuss your insurance needs with someone who understands insurance. It can be a qualified travel advisor or insurance professional. If you have a question about insurance, a pro can help you sort out the often complicated issues. No purchase is required.
- Do your research. You can’t skip this step. Visit the major travel insurance company sites or a site like TravelInsurance where you can compare multiple policies before you make your selection. Remember, there’s no site you can visit that magically answers all of your travel insurance questions and tells you which policy to buy. And any site that claims to do that is not being honest. Travel insurance is a complicated and often confusing product. If you’ve ever read a policy, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t let anyone oversimplify the process and make you believe research is irrelevant. Keep in mind, you generally have 10-14 days after your travel insurance purchase before it becomes nonrefundable. So use that time wisely — read through the entire policy to make sure you’ve selected a policy that fulfills all your needs.
- Read the reviews and ask tough questions. I’ve always said that star reviews are just one data point for you to make a decision. To find the best travel insurance policy after the pandemic, you have to go beyond the ratings. Ask hard questions like, “Does this travel insurance cover a COVID quarantine?” and “Do I need all of this coverage?” And, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Chances are, the ratings you see won’t address your travel insurance needs.
So what should you do about travel insurance after the pandemic?
Unfortunately, there is no “best” answer here that applies to everyone. You can’t publish a snappy headline and tell everyone to buy their insurance policy from one company. Some of you don’t need a policy. Others should buy from one company that meets their needs. And still others from another.
As I said, it’s complicated.
What I can do, though, is guide you through the process (See: This is how to find the best travel insurance).
And, of course, I’m happy to answer any questions. No shortcuts.
For Hood, who had concerns about the quality of Allianz versus AXA, the answer was easy. I reviewed our records and found that both companies generated a low number of complaints. Most of the problems we receive get resolved quickly and to the traveler’s satisfaction.
In other words, Hood could buy either policy, and he’d be fine.
One of the most common questions I get is: With all the travel you do, where do you buy your insurance? I have an annual travel insurance policy through Allianz Travel and a Medjet membership, which includes a FocusPoint evacuation benefit.
But remember, your travel insurance needs could be different from mine. You may not need that much insurance — or any at all.