Travel Insurance Basics: What to Look For and When to Buy

Travel insurance all ages
Travel insurance or offerings to the gods: you decide.

There are as many reasons to purchase travel insurance as there are travelers. When beginning the process of buying travel insurance, it's helpful to understand the two primary ways in which travel insurance protects you, and the many benefits a good travel insurance policy will provide.

We traveled without travel insurance for longer than we care to admit. Delays and cancellations were part of our life. Stolen goods were part of our lessons. Medical emergencies were few and manageable. When we realized we were just one misstep from needing to be airlifted from a remote area to medical facilities and back home, as one friend required, we suddenly took travel insurance seriously.

Fortunately, we wised up before experiencing any real hardships. We’ve become students of travel and of serendipity, disruptions, and travel insurance. We now carry an annual policy for the two of us, covering all our travel – domestic and international– with one easy transaction. We renew annually.

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Why You Should Carry Travel Insurance

We probably get asked about travel insurance and various policy variables more than any other travel question. The short answer is we buy Allianz Travel Insurance's annual plan, called AllTrips Premier Plan. But you can easily compare all Allianz Travel plans and see quotes right here.

Our chief motivation for getting travel insurance falls into the “unexpected events” or “medical emergency” categories. But protecting the travel investment is the most popular reason for getting travel insurance. These days, with all the complications that come with record-breaking tourism and post-pandemic international travel, insurance benefits provided by actual travel insurance companies are as critical as ever.

Protect your travel investment in flights, tours, and bookings

The first insurance principle is to protect your investment in travel. Those big expenditures like flights, tours, and non-refundable trip costs can be covered. More minor expenses and annoyances, like delays, cancellations, and lost luggage or personal belongings, fall into this category as well.

Cover unexpected events like illness, injury, or emergencies

The other reason to purchase travel insurance is to cover unexpected medical expenses, such as illness, injury, or other emergencies. It's important to remember that your regular medical insurance probably doesn't cover you outside the United States, and definitely won't pay for emergency evacuation to get you back home.

Travel insurance is distinct from health insurance.

Your health plan will almost never cover you when you are traveling internationally. Medicare certainly won't. Don't be lulled into thinking that, because you have medical insurance, your trip to the doctor or pharmacy overseas will be covered. It won't.

Travel insurance goes beyond credit card benefits

When you buy distinct travel insurance direct from the insurer, you control the coverage. For example, we might select additional trip cancellation or medical evacuation coverage. Even good credit card plans, like
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Platinum Card® from American Express, both of which we carry, don't provide the coverage we want. Furthermore, we'd have to remember to put certain charges on that specific card in order to be covered with the credit card plan. We're not that reliable.

travel insurance
When you suddenly need stitches, it's nice to have a travel insurance plan in place.

General tips for shopping travel insurance

Questions around travel insurance plans – the coverage and benefits – can be complicated, but it’s not rocket science. A few travel insurance tips will help you find the right policy to protect you and your fellow travelers from financial losses for each and every trip. First, consider your travel frequency and needs. Do you need to cover a traveling companion? Will you be traveling with minors? Do you have concerns that you are just hoping beyond hope won't interfere with your upcoming trip?

Annual multi-trip versus Single Trip policies. If you travel three or more times a year, it is more convenient and less expensive to purchase an annual policy. Even road trips of more than 100 miles from home are covered in these comprehensive travel insurance policies. We love the fact we don't have to worry about this checklist item for every trip we take.

Single trip policies vary in coverage levels. Take a moment to see that the plan fits your expectations. You have choices.

Buy at the time you book your trip. When is the best time to buy your travel insurance? If you don't have an annual plan that keeps you covered, buy the travel insurance as soon as you pay for your trip. Whether you use one of the convenient shopping tools for Allianz through travel companies, or you buy direct, the closer you secure your insurance to the time of payment for travel, the better the protections for your investment. Simple: if you haven't purchased travel insurance, you are not covered.

You can find some Allianz Travel Insurance products conveniently through airlines, cruise lines, tour operators/travel advisors, or even through Marriott hotel bookings, available when you are checking out from your online purchase. Or research and buy your travel policy directly with the company. Either way you will be able to review and adjust your policy within the first 15 days of purchase.

Take advantage of Allianz's 15-day free look period. Know that Allianz Travel Insurance offers a 15-day “free look” period that allows you time to review the fine print and change, exchange or cancel your policy. Always.

Consider the process of filing a claim. Read up on how claims are filed for various types of coverage. Some companies, for example, offer instant reimbursement for travel delays, giving passengers a payment on the spot to cover these unforeseen costs. We have filed claims directly from our phones or online.

Read and understand your policy's terms, conditions, and exclusions. Do read your policy, no matter through which channel you purchased your policy. Understand the terms, conditions and exclusions.

Customize your policy for specific needs like medical emergencies or trip cancellations. Confused about what you need or want or just bought? Call and speak to a real person. Very helpful.

Access 24/7 assistance for peace of mind. This is key service, important to any traveler who unexpectedly has to file a claim or, even more urgent, find a clinic or hospital. Even if you just have questions about re-booking flights or your plan's coverage, the live service gives much needed peace of mind. At times, we've even purchased policies by phone when we wanted clarification or reassurance that we were selecting the right plan for our needs.

Allyz TravelSmart app. Using the TravelSmart app keeps your policy information at hand and provides user-friendly information on local hospitals, clinics and embassies you may need. Find local police, ambulance, and fire services (it’s not 911 everywhere, friends), plus medical and prescription phrases in 18 languages. You needn't be an Allianz policy holder to use the app. Look for new features coming April 15, 2024.

Which Travel Insurance Plan Is Right for You?

If you like real-life stories on using travel insurance, see stories we've highlighted in a sidebar block in this post. Or skip the stories and look for the policy that works for you right now. Get started here to check out the options for single or multi-trip travel insurance, or for rental car insurance.

Note: Travel insurance coverage and rates vary depending on your age and your state of residence. There are many different types of travel insurance policies, so invest time looking at your specific policy details and make an informed decision on the type of coverage you need.

Annual Multi-Trip Insurance

For us, an annual policy represents a big financial savings and saves us the hassle of buying insurance every time we head out on a trip. This covers us for all domestic (over 100 miles from home) and international travel, and includes our rental car insurance too. We pay about $700 per year covering the two of us with this multi-trip “AllTrips Premier” annual travel insurance plan. We’re covered whether we are traveling together or not.

When you choose a premiere annual plan like ours, you’ll get (at varying levels depending on your exact policy) the new epidemic coverage endorsement (more on that below) on top of benefits including trip cancellation insurance, trip interruption, emergency medical and medical transportation, baggage loss/damage and delay, travel delay, rental car damage and theft, and travel accident coverage. Policies regularly include hot-line and concierge services (no small thing) and optional add-on coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

Single Trip Insurance

With Allianz, a single trip insurance query will yield three ranges of policies with differing levels of coverage: One Trip Basic, Prime and Premier. (Note: the Cancel Anytime add-on described below is available with Prime and Premier policies.) An overview shows all three options include epidemic coverage and the usual trip cancellation/interruption, baggage delay/coverage, and medical emergencies and transportation, though to varying benefit levels.

One Trip Prime includes the added benefit of free coverage for children 17 and under when traveling with a parent or grandparent.

One Trip Premier essentially ups the benefit limits and includes more covered reasons for trip cancellation.

Single Trip policies can be further customized. Opt for a OneTrip Emergency Medical plan to cover emergencies and travel mishaps…without the cancellation/trip interruption coverage. Or consider (especially for domestic travel) a OneTrip Cancellation Plus plan if you want cancellation and trip interruption benefits without any post-departure (medical) coverage.

Each option displays a link named “Plan Pricing and Detail PDF”. We recommend looking at this in advance of booking your travel and before deciding on your travel insurance plan. This research will make your subsequent decisions lots easier. You can then confidently choose travel insurance and buy direct or via your travel suppliers.

rental car travel insurance
We had no hesitation signing the waivers when we rented a car recently in Spain.

Rental Car Travel Insurance

We always double check our coverage – between our Allianz Annual policy and our credit card coverage – to educate and reassure ourselves before renting a car. It pays to know you are covered before you get bombarded with all those papers at the rental car counter. Allianz offers OneTrip Rental Car Protector independent of other policies.

Reminder: Reserve your rental car in advance; demand is high. Allianz Partners' annual survey in 2023 showed a 9 percent increase in rental cars booked for spring break holidays.

Travel Insurance through Hotel Booking

Now Marriott Hotels offer an insurance add-on option when you book direct. Look for the plan as you complete your booking, and you can find benefits covering your whole party and, for example, your special event ticket expenditures that may have inspired the trip in the first place.

Adventure Travel Insurance

We’ve embraced the “soft adventure” phrase that may as well have been invented for us. We love to hike and bike, kayak and canoe, and explore detours off into remote corners. You won’t find us doing much in the way of extreme sports, though, at least without training wheels and supervision. Via ferrata, anyone?

Adventurers even of our caliber have all the more reason to purchase travel insurance. The obvious benefits are emergency medical and evacuation coverage, cancellation of often expensive and remote trips, and coverage of that essential (and pricey) sports gear.

Be aware, too, of what is not covered on an adventure vacation. Extreme sports aren’t covered, and within that category are some sports that have become almost commonplace: bungee jumping, hang gliding, out-of-bounds skiing or snowboarding, scuba diving at greater than 60 feet depth, spelunking, free diving, or rafting above Class V rapids. These are all excluded. By the way, so is running with the bulls.

And speaking of hazards, did you know it is outlawed to take selfies during the running of the bulls? It turns out it’s not just the insurance companies that want you to pay attention to your surroundings.

What’s New in Travel Insurance

Event Ticket Protector

If we learned anything from the Eras Tour over the past year, it's that concerts and other big events inspire travel…and cost a lot. Now tickets, hotel, and all that non-refundable stuff you paid for are covered.

Telemedicine

A new product in development now is a digital solution for customers needing outpatient medical care while traveling. “Air Doctor,” currently being tested in 33 countries, will ultimately serve travelers in 75 countries and 21 languages.

Cancel Anytime

Just announced in January 2023, Cancel Anytime policy upgrades are available now. With the additional coverage – available as an upgrade to the popular OneTrip Prime and OneTrip Premium plans – Cancel Anytime can reimburse 80 percent of your lost non-refundable trip costs if you cancel your trip for almost any unforeseen reason not already covered. As in, you changed your mind. Or that destination wedding was called off. Given all the angst these days over travel decisions, this is a welcome and well-timed response to current travel concerns.

Of course, standard trip cancellation benefits can reimburse up to 100 percent of pre-paid nonrefundable expenses when you cancel for covered reasons (such as serious illness of the insured or a close family member). But if other circumstances are causing you to rethink your travels, Cancel Anytime will reimburse up to $16,000.

Important notes: The policy must be purchased within 14 days of paying your first trip deposit, for a trip at least 30 days in the future. You can cancel as late as the day of departure (as long as you haven’t already departed, of course).

Allianz provides this advice about shopping for and buying Cancel Anytime insurance: “Once you get a quote for travel insurance, click the link that says “Plan and Pricing Details (PDF)” and read through the list of covered reasons for trip cancellation. Ask yourself: Is there any likely reason you might cancel the trip that’s not included in the list? If so, you may want the additional protection of Cancel Anytime.”

We see this as a great scenario when there are many moving parts or people involved in your travels. But if your airline, hotel and other suppliers have good refund policies of their own, it may not be for you.

what to wear on plane
We travel with masks, up-to-date vaccinations, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and our travel insurance app on our phones.

Epidemic coverage

This coverage is related to epidemics and associated travel restrictions. Unlike Cancel Anytime coverage, Epidemic Coverage is now included in most Allianz policies – just another indicator of the way the COVID pandemic has changed travel forever.

As travelers know, pre-COVID travel insurance policies specifically excluded viral epidemic illnesses and resulting cancellations from their policies. This was an industry standard. But with the long-lasting changes in world health and the impact on travel, Allianz and others have revised travel insurance policies for good. Initially, Allianz includes “epidemic coverage endorsement” in both single and annual plans.

As you might expect, epidemic coverage involves trip cancellation, interruption or delay; emergency medical care; and emergency transportation.

Travel Past 50 has covered all sorts of scenarios when travel insurance is desireable, if not a life saver. Check out these stories to learn more about travel insurance coverage and about ways to find and buy your travel insurance policy.

Five Unexpected Travel Insurance Benefits

Business or Pleasure: Your Travel Insurance Options

Smart Travel Insurance Claims

Buying Travel Insurance While Booking Your Trip

Allyz TravelSmart App for Easy Access to Travel Insurance Benefits

…and for an award-winning, detailed story about putting our travel insurance to use:

A Dog Bites, A Travel Clinic Delivers

Allianz Travel insurance app
Use the Allyz TravelSmart app to refer to your policy, find emergency help, and get notified of local events affecting travel.

Better travel health and safety

What's that saying? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best scenario is never having to file a claim. While many aspects of travel are beyond our control, we practice what we believe: that our health and safety and enjoyment flows from good habits and preparedness.

Protect your good health

As you prepare and pack for your travels, think of your comfort and safety en route and at your destination. Our travel essentials include compression socks, sunscreen, insect repellent, knee braces and/or walking sticks, and a first aid kit.

Visit your Travel Clinic

Especially if you are traveling off the beaten path, and if you have questions about food, environment, hazards, and safety issues abroad, your travel clinic will be able to prepare you and provide any necessary immunizations. Not only have we benefited from vaccines (rabies especially), but we’ve learned to be aware when traffic or food, for example, are the primary threats to travelers' health.

State Department Resources

Wherever we go, we like to check are own U.S. State Department Travel page in advance. You’ll discover travel advisories from around the world, and you can link directly to your destination country’s public travel page for any specific health, safety, or visa notices.

We frequently register our travel with the State Department’s STEP program, and when conditions seem uncertain, we sign up for notices. Consider that you are doing your family a favor by registering your whereabouts so they might get quicker answers in case of natural disasters or emergencies.

Protect your Passport and Credit Cards

Besides carrying your critical cards and documents in a safe place while you are traveling, take a moment to copy or photograph these items before you embark. Loss and theft happens, but by keeping the essential information separately, you'll save time and money when it comes to replacements.

Stay Informed.

Whether you use Allianz Travel Insurance or not, the Allyz TravelSmart app will be a great comfort in locating local health, emergency and embassy resources. If you have Allianz insurance, all the better, because your policy number and details are right there in the app, along with the 24/7 assistance phone number.

Besides all this, the updated Allyz TravelSmart app can provide real-time flight updates and boarding information, international hospital searches, and medical translations in 18 languages.

buying travel insurance
Happy travels and peace of mind start with travel insurance.

The best way to achieve happy travels is to be prepared. For us, that preparation begins with travel insurance. The rest we can handle on the fly, perhaps with a little assistance from our apps and friends. Happy travels!

Note: This post and other posts on TravelPast50.com may contain paid or affiliate advertising links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. This post is sponsored by Allianz Partners (AGA Service Co.) and we've received financial compensation. However, all opinions expressed are our own.

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Flights: Start finding the very best flight deals by subscribing to Thrifty Traveler.

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with Booking.com.

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. We recommend Allianz Travel Insurance.

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