Travel insurance: Coverage options for international trips

Navigating the intricacies of travel insurance demands careful consideration, especially in today’s unpredictable landscape. While some may view it as an unnecessary expense, prudent travelers recognize its pivotal role in mitigating risks inherent in travel arrangements. Whether embarking on a domestic excursion or an elaborate international journey, securing comprehensive coverage ensures peace of mind and financial security.

In 2023, insights from leading insurance comparison platform Squaremouth underscored travelers’ commitment to protection, with an average expenditure of $403 for comprehensive coverage and $96 for medical-only policies. Despite the financial commitment, the benefits far outweigh the costs, particularly when considering the potential consequences of unforeseen events during travel.

To navigate the spectrum of travel insurance options effectively, a systematic approach is indispensable. Understanding the nuances of coverage, assessing individual needs, and comparing policies meticulously are fundamental steps in selecting the most suitable plan. Let’s delve into these components to empower travelers in making informed decisions regarding their insurance needs.

What travel insurance covers

For precise coverage selection, adhere to the following guidelines outlining the essential components of various travel insurance policies:

– Travel Medical Plan: Guarantees coverage of medical expenses for unexpected illnesses or injuries during your trip that are not covered by your regular health insurance.

– Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation: Facilitates transportation to the nearest suitable medical facility or repatriation to your home country in the event of severe injury or illness during travel.

– Trip Cancellation, Interruption, and Delay: Reimburses nonrefundable expenses if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to illness or other covered reasons, and compensates for additional costs incurred due to travel delays.

– “Cancel for Any Reason” Coverage: Provides reimbursement for nonrefundable reservations regardless of the reason for trip cancellation.

– Baggage and Personal Belongings: Covers expenses resulting from loss, theft, or damage to baggage and personal belongings during travel.

– 24-Hour Assistance Services: Grants access to legal assistance and support services at any time during travel emergencies.

– Car Rental Collision Insurance: Offers coverage for damage to rental vehicles during the rental period.

Travel insurance policies vary in terms of coverage and services provided. Some policies may even extend coverage to catastrophic events, such as accidental death while traveling, providing a lump sum payment to beneficiaries.

Before purchasing a policy, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the nuances of different insurance products, including pricing structures, coverage inclusions and exclusions. Particularly in uncertain times, such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring coverage for related emergencies is crucial. Generally, more comprehensive coverage entails higher premiums.

How much does travel insurance cost?

The pricing of travel insurance is subject to various factors:

1. Duration and cost of the trip: Longer and more expensive trips typically result in higher policy premiums.
2. Local healthcare expenses: Higher healthcare costs at the destination can lead to increased insurance prices.
3. Pre-existing medical conditions: Coverage for existing health conditions may elevate insurance costs.
4. Extent and scope of coverage: Policies offering broader coverage and including more risks often come with higher premiums.
5. Age: Advanced age is often associated with higher insurance rates.
6. Optional policy supplements: Additional add-ons or enhancements, such as Cancel For Any Reason or Interrupt For Any Reason coverage, may incur additional expenses.

Consider these factors carefully when evaluating different travel insurance options.

Types of travel insurance

When evaluating travel insurance options, you’ll encounter a wide range of protection plans tailored to meet diverse needs.

Traditionally, travel insurance is offered as a comprehensive package, encompassing various coverage components.

Below, we delineate seven common categories of travel insurance:

Travel medical insurance

These policies provide health coverage while traveling, resembling conventional health insurance plans. However, they generally exclude coverage for routine medical events, such as regular checkups. Additionally, restrictions and exclusions, particularly related to pre-existing conditions, are typical features of these plans.

While standard travel insurance policies cover many recreational activities, certain adventurous pursuits like skydiving or parasailing, as well as participation in organized sporting events, are often excluded. In these instances, individuals may need specialized travel insurance tailored for adventure or competitive sports activities.

International travel insurance

It’s essential to recognize that standard U.S.-based medical insurance usually does not provide coverage while traveling internationally. Additionally, Medicare typically does not extend coverage beyond the borders of the United States, with only limited exceptions. Given these constraints, opting for travel medical insurance is often a wise decision for individuals planning to travel abroad.

Trip cancellation, interruption and delay

Trip cancellation coverage reimburses prepaid, nonrefundable expenses in the event of trip cancellation due to specific reasons outlined in the policy, such as personal illness, the illness or death of a non-traveling family member, or unforeseen natural disasters.

In contrast, trip interruption insurance compensates for the nonrefundable expenses associated with the unused portion of a trip that is disrupted by circumstances outlined in the policy.

During trip delays, coverage extends to reimbursing expenses like lodging and meals incurred due to delays, such as flight cancellations caused by adverse weather conditions.

Comprehensive package policies often include all three forms of coverage. However, it’s important to distinguish these policies from the cancellation waivers offered by cruise lines and tour operators. While waivers are cost-effective, they typically come with limitations, such as excluding immediate pre-departure cancellations from refunds. It’s crucial to understand the differences between waivers and insurance policies.

Certain insurers offer additional coverage options for an extra fee. “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage provides partial reimbursement of trip costs regardless of the cancellation reason. Additionally, some companies offer coverage for pre-existing conditions if trip cancellation occurs due to medical reasons, usually requiring an additional payment.

Baggage and personal belongings

Lost luggage insurance reimburses travelers for baggage and personal belongings that are lost, stolen, or damaged during travel. Some policies also cover additional expenses incurred due to baggage delay beyond a specified duration, typically around 12 hours.

It’s important to note that renters or homeowners insurance may already provide coverage for personal belongings during travel. Reviewing the terms of your homeowners insurance policy can help determine the extent of coverage it offers, thereby avoiding redundant expenditures on benefits already provided by existing insurance arrangements.

Emergency medical assistance, evacuation and repatriation

Medical evacuation coverage provides for the transportation of individuals to the nearest suitable medical facility in the event of illness or injury during travel. Similarly, medical repatriation coverage arranges air transportation to return individuals to their home country for medical treatment when necessary.

24-hour assistance

This service is commonly included in comprehensive travel insurance packages, offering a 24-hour hotline provided by the insurer. This hotline assists travelers in various situations, such as booking flights after missed connections, recovering lost luggage, or arranging access to medical or legal services.

While most travel insurance policies offer a wide range of services, the specifics can vary. Some plans may even include concierge services, providing assistance with restaurant recommendations, tee time reservations, and additional amenities. Additionally, many services offer pre-trip information, such as advisories regarding necessary vaccinations. It is essential to thoroughly review the policy documentation to understand the extent of coverage and included services.

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage offers a lump-sum payment to a designated beneficiary, usually a family member, in the event of the insured individual’s death resulting from an accident that occurs during the trip. Additionally, these policies provide partial compensation to the insured individual for specific losses, such as the loss of a hand, foot, limb, eyesight, speech, or hearing. Some policies may restrict coverage to accidental death that occurs during air travel.

Rental car coverage

Rental car insurance affords protection against damages sustained by your rental vehicle due to accidents, acts of vandalism, or natural calamities. It is imperative to understand that this coverage typically does not encompass liability insurance, which is responsible for indemnifying damages to third-party vehicles or covering medical expenses arising from accidents for which you are found accountable.

To ascertain whether your existing automobile insurance policy extends coverage to rental vehicles during your travels, it is recommended to confer with your insurance provider. Generally, car insurance policies in the United States do not extend coverage to driving in foreign territories, save for instances involving Canada.

The complexities of car insurance requisites can be multifaceted owing to discrepancies among different nations. While rental car agencies commonly furnish liability insurance alternatives, it is judicious to acquaint yourself with the specific mandates of your intended destination. Pertinent information regarding car insurance regulations can be accessed through resources such as the auto insurance guidelines provided on the website of the U.S. Embassy.

A note about single vs. long-term policies

Single trip insurance plans are meticulously crafted for individuals embarking on a solitary journey with a pre-defined duration, such as a two-week vacation, prior to their return home. The premium associated with such policies typically aligns with the overall cost of the trip.

In contrast, long-term travel insurance policies extend coverage across multiple trips, albeit with specific constraints pertaining to the duration of each trip, provisions for returning home during travels, and the total number of trips allowable within the coverage period. It is noteworthy that coverage for trip cancellation and interruption may either be unavailable or subject to a capped reimbursement amount, potentially insufficient to cover the cumulative expenses of all trips undertaken during the insured period.

Long-term travel insurance schemes, often denoted as ‘multi-trip’ or ‘annual travel insurance,’ are tailored to meet the needs of frequent travelers seeking comprehensive coverage for all their journeys throughout the policy duration. This ensures a high level of satisfaction with the provided trip cancellation protection.

How to get travel insurance

Below are outlined methodologies for obtaining travel insurance, accompanied by an assessment of their respective merits and demerits.

Credit cards

Certain credit cards offer trip cancellation and rental car insurance benefits when used to book trips or rental cars.

A select few credit cards provide varying levels of travel insurance coverage for transactions made with the card.

Travel agents and travel reservation sites

Travel insurance can be procured simultaneously with flight, hotel, and car rental reservations.

Pros: The acquisition process is streamlined, involving a straightforward affirmative click during booking confirmation. Moreover, the cost of coverage is generally reasonable.

Cons: Options for customizing coverage are constrained.

Travel insurance comparison sites

You have the opportunity to compare different policies and evaluate quotes simultaneously, utilizing the trip search criteria specified within the search form. Platforms such as Squaremouth or facilitate this process.

Pros: This method allows you to choose a policy that meets your exact needs, providing the convenience of comparing multiple policies and prices within a unified platform.

Cons: Conducting thorough policy comparisons requires a significant time commitment.

Travel insurance companies

Travel insurance is obtainable directly from an insurance provider.

Pros: This option offers the flexibility to choose a policy customized to your specific needs. Furthermore, many travel insurer websites provide extensive information to aid in understanding the coverage offered.

Cons: The process requires visiting multiple websites to conduct thorough comparisons of coverage and pricing.

What to look for in travel insurance

Consider the following guidelines when evaluating a travel insurance policy:

1. Assess Your Financial Risk: Evaluate the potential financial liabilities associated with your travels. Determine if you can absorb these costs independently or if purchasing insurance is prudent.

2. Review Current Coverage: Assess the extent of coverage provided by your existing arrangements. Verify if your credit card offers travel insurance, review coverage under renters or homeowners insurance for personal belongings, and understand the breadth of your health plan’s coverage in different travel destinations.

3. Obtain Online Quotations: Request quotes for travel insurance online. Tailor your choice by selecting a package that matches your needs, and compare prices for similar coverage options offered by different insurers.

4. Scrutinize Policy Terms: Narrow down your options and carefully review the policy details. Seek clarity on coverage inclusions, exclusions, and limitations. The cheapest policy may impose overly restrictive conditions, while slightly higher premiums could secure more comprehensive coverage. Conversely, the most basic policy may adequately meet your needs.

Best travel insurance comparison sites

If you are unsure about choosing a provider, it is recommended to review a comprehensive array of plans available on a reputable travel insurance comparison platform. These online marketplaces typically showcase offerings from leading travel insurance companies, supplemented with customer reviews to assist in your decision-making process.


Utilize the platform to compare offerings from an extensive array of over 30 providers. Access over 86,000 customer reviews, providing valuable insights into insurer performance. Benefit from the Zero Complaint Guarantee, implemented by Squaremouth, a partner of NerdWallet, ensuring the removal of providers in the event of unresolved customer complaints. Utilize the filter option to narrow down policies that specifically offer COVID-19 coverage.


    Assess offerings from a curated selection of 13 reputable providers. Access detailed customer ratings and reviews for each insurer upon receiving quotes, facilitating informed decision-making. Utilize the “Learning Center” section, featuring a wealth of travel insurance articles and tips, including essential how-to information. Quotes provided by each provider include direct access to COVID-19 FAQs, streamlining the process for customers to review coverage details.

  • InsureMyTrip

    Assess offerings from more than two dozen reputable insurance providers. Access an extensive database of over 70,000 customer reviews, offering valuable insights into insurer performance. Benefit from the support of “Anytime Advocates” dedicated to assisting customers throughout the claims process and advocating on their behalf, including assistance with appealing denied claims. Easily find plans offering COVID-19 coverage through provided links.


    Assess offerings from 11 reputable insurance providers. Efficiently search for coverage tailored to specific sporting activities, including ground, air, and water sports. Choose from a diverse range of plans catering to various demographics, including students, visiting family members, new immigrants, individuals seeking COVID-19 quarantine coverage, and more.


Amy Danise

Amy Danise is the managing editor for and Forbes Advisor's insurance section, covering auto, home, renters, life, pet, travel, health, and small business insurance. With over 30 years in the insurance sector, she specializes in simplifying complex insurance topics into actionable information. Amy collaborates with her team to translate insurance jargon into clear language for consumers, helping them understand insurance costs and find top-rated companies. Leveraging her extensive industry contacts, she develops Forbes Advisor's insurance content and analyzes state regulatory filings for insights. Amy's expertise has earned her features in major news outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She holds a Bachelor's degree in American Studies from Wesleyan University.

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