Are you searching for the best travel insurance options for your upcoming trip in 2020? Whether you’re unsure if you need travel insurance or if you’re shopping around for the best recommendations, you’ve come to the right place. As somebody who has traveled the world for over a decade and made use of travel insurance many times, I’d happy to share with you based on my personal experience.
**The following is a guide to the best travel insurance options. Even after reading this guide – and before you make any purchasing decision – please take the time to carefully read the terms and conditions of the policy you’re considering. Some links below are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you I may be compensated should you decide to purchase coverage.**
So your bags are packed, tickets booked, and you’re ready to head out the door on your adventure. Yet while double-checking your travel packing checklist, you see you have yet to purchase travel insurance.
It’s natural to ask yourself “Is purchasing travel insurance really necessary?” After all, if we take enough time to think about everything that can go wrong, assess potential risks and how to avoid them, why spend extra money on an insurance policy?
The problem is no matter how much time one takes in preparing for those scary “what ifs,” there are always external factors beyond our control that can derail even the most well thought out itinerary.
Dealing with the unexpected is a part of traveling. From an inconvenient mishap to a serious medical injury, it is smart to invest in an insurance policy that protects you from an unexpected circumstance threatening to drain your wallet.
Since 2010, I have witnessed and heard about a variety of accidents ranging from infectious wounds, stomach illnesses, dengue fever, concussions, medical evacuations to more minor issues like missing an international flight or getting an iPhone stolen. Many of these folks lacked travel insurance. They either had never heard of it or decided they did not want to pay for it…at least until they actually needed it.
This guide will help you understand the following:
Having drawn information from numerous sources, this article will help you avoid spending time going from website to website looking up information on travel insurance.
What is Travel Insurance and How Does it Work?
What is travel insurance exactly? I hear that question quite a bit.
Travel insurance is emergency care and services provided when unexpected things happen while traveling. It typically covers you from the time you leave home to when you come back or reach your final destination.
Depending on the policy you buy, it could help you in the following example situations:
- When your luggage is lost or stolen at the Paris airport.
- When you fall off a bike and get a concussion while riding around Beijing China’s bike share bicycles (perhaps one of falls apart on you?!).
- When you get a parasite after eating exotic food in Vietnam.
- When you need to cancel or cut your trip short because your grandmother passed away.
If you find yourself in a dangerous medical situation requiring surgery or evacuation, you can work with your provider to pay for the costs. For other incidents covered by your travel insurance policy, you pay up front and are reimbursed afterward.
To determine if you really need to purchase a policy, however, it is a good idea to understand what all of the best travel insurance policies covers.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
Below is a quick rundown of what can be covered by good travel insurance. Please note: You’ll need to check each individual policy to determine what is specifically covered.
Emergency Medical Expenses
Now you may be thinking, “Hey I already have health insurance. Doesn’t my policy already cover me when I am overseas?” If you are traveling abroad, typically that is not the case and your policy may offer only limited coverage – if any at all.
Even if your home policy does provide coverage, you may still be charged outrageous fees on deductibles before your insurance company pays for your claim. So in the event you need to seek medical attention, you may be on your own in covering the hospital bill without dedicated travel insurance.
In the event that a medical evacuation becomes necessary, a good policy covers the cost of transporting you the nearest suitable hospital for treatment. Some plans even cover transportation costs to send children home and a visitor to watch over you should you require hospitalization.
Coverage on emergency evacuation due to a political crisis or natural disaster is also available for purchase on some insurance plans.
Trip Delays and Cancelation and Interruption
Oftentimes unforeseen circumstances may require you to delay or cancel your trip. Some examples of how your trip could get delayed or cancelled could be:
- Getting your passport stolen.
- Inclement weather or natural disasters hitting your destination.
- You lose your job all of the sudden.
- You’re called in for military obligations.
- You or someone at home gets sick or injured.
- Your traveling documents or baggage is stolen or misplaced.
- Civil unrest breaks out in your destination and it is deemed unsafe to travel there.
In the event you need to cancel or delay your trip, travel insurance can help with reimbursement for money already paid for bookings (i.e. flight changes, which can be costly!), fees charged for rearranging your travel plans or canceling them entirely.
Flight delays can be a pain. Luckily, travel insurance makes them more bearable by covering unforeseen costs during a delay. If your flight is delayed or canceled due to severe weather, mechanical breakdowns, or even a labor strike, travel insurance can cover hotel stays, meals, and local transportation costs.
In the event of a catastrophic flight disaster, insurance providers pay out benefits for accidental death and dismemberment. Obviously you hope that never happens!
Lost or Stolen Baggage
Waiting at baggage claim is always a pain. If baggage is delayed, many plans reimburse you for essential items you need while waiting for your bags to be returned.
When purchasing a policy, definitely read carefully the “essential items” part of your coverage. They may not reimburse you for a pair of Oakley sunglasses you need to visit the beach.
If baggage is stolen, your provider can both provide and assist you in getting compensation from responsible parties as long as you report the theft in a timely manner.
What is NOT Covered by Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is pretty handy to have and covers a lot to get you out of a jam. It does have its limits, however, and you should be aware of what is not generally covered. While each policy has different limitations, it is best to read the fine print to determine what is and is not covered by your insurance provider.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Generally, pre-existing medical conditions are not covered. If you have a pre-existing condition, you must first get a quote to determine whether or not the condition will be covered.
While getting a quote, you need to disclose pre-existing medical conditions including recurring illnesses or injuries, on-going or lifelong conditions, previous surgeries and any conditions you are currently suffering from. This information will then be used to determine if you need to pay any extra premium, a higher amount of money you pay towards a claim, or a medical related exclusion.
For policies where pre-existing conditions are not covered, you are covered for all the usual situations as long as they are unrelated to the medical condition you had or were aware of before you bought it.
Dangerous or Unstable Countries
If you are planning a trip to Afghanistan to explore its beautiful scenery and rich culture, don’t expect your trip to be covered by travel insurance! Countries featuring government travel warnings are often not covered by travel insurance.
Your country of residence can also influence coverage in different countries. So it is also a good idea to inquire with your intended provider about which countries are covered under their plans.
They Don’t Cover Stupid
World Nomads puts this best by saying, “deliberately putting your life in danger is not covered.” This means things like picking fights with locals, racing your rental car, trekking across the Sahara desert with few provisions, and even picking up a sexually transmitted disease.
If you fancy risking your neck, it is likely you will be doing it on your own dime.
Accidents Resulting from Consuming Alcohol
When you are on vacation, it is understandable to cut loose and drink a bit…but there’s no coverage for overdoing it! If you are involved in an accident resulting in consuming too much alcohol, your claim is likely to be denied.
These accidents can include anything from driving under the influence, being hit by oncoming traffic while crossing a street, and even stumbling off a cliff (see “They Don’t Cover Stupid” above).
What Kinds of Plans are There?
Coverage depends on the type of plan you purchase. Each insurance provider tends to offer a number of plans that range from basic to comprehensive. Benefits can also vary depending on your country of residence. When you have a provider in mind that you are thinking you would like to purchase a policy from, it is best to get a quote for full details on benefits.
Coverage also differs according to where you travel. If traveling domestically, an insurance policy will be less comprehensive, usually cheaper and will supplement your current insurance plan. Plans geared toward international travel have far more benefits and are more expensive than plans geared for domestic travel.
The information below offers a general picture on what to expect from insurance providers.
What Does a Basic Plan Look Like?
For Whom: the healthy traveler that will be gone less than a month.
Budget plans are generally intended for budget conscious travelers. In comparison with other plans, it includes the bare essentials such as:
- Emergency medical coverage
- Emergency evacuation
- Travel delay
- Trip interruption or cancellation
- Baggage delay or loss
- 24-hour assistance
The length of coverage is also limited to a short span of time such as a month. If you’ll be traveling longer than a month or need more coverage, consider the next step up.
Looking at a Silver Plan
For Whom: the traveler who wants extended coverage for up to 180 days
If you feel like you need coverage that goes beyond what is covered in a basic plan, you can choose to opt for the next level, often referred to as a silver plan, or a more mid-range plan for your trip. Mid-range plans go beyond basic plans in terms of coverage.
For example, basic plans offer coverage of around $100,000 for medical evacuation. But for a mid-range plan, your coverage is extended to up to around $500,000. The length of coverage is also extended by a significant margin, around 180 days for some plans.
Checking out the Gold Plan
For Whom: the nomad who spends the majority of their time traveling.
If you are a traveler who tends to spend much time overseas and you cannot find a plan that covers you for the entire length of your trip, consider purchasing a “gold plan” or comprehensive travel insurance coverage. Many comprehensive plans offer up to 365 days of coverage and are suitable for travelers without a primary insurance plan or a primary insurance plan with little or no coverage overseas.
The benefits offered on these plans are marginally higher than basic and mid-range plans. For example coverage for medical evacuation can be as high as $1 million and your plan may feature additional coverage on items such as sports-related injuries, higher compensation for loss to more serious items like accidental death and repatriation of remains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the best travel insurance. Hopefully what you find here will answer your particular question but if not, feel free to leave your question in the comment section below.
Riskier adventures can include activities like trekking, skiing and boarding, surfing, scuba diving, mountain biking, rock climbing and other activities that are more prone to medical injury. While these “risky” activities can offer an incredible experience during your time abroad, unfortunately, they are not usually covered by general insurance plans.
Don’t despair, though! They can be purchased as part of your policy or as a policy upgrade. When looking for coverage for riskier activities, look for “adventure travel coverage” or “adventure plus packs” on insurance websites.
Yes, there are some travel insurance policies that cover rental cars…for an extra cost. Many providers offer separate policies or upgrades on insurance plans. If purchasing a more expensive plan, rental car insurance may even be included.
Coverage generally covers collision, damage, and loss. Check the benefits of the policy you intend to purchase to determine if car rental insurance is included.
Is there insurance for my camera, phone and laptop?
Yes there is! Insuring your electronics is offered either as a separate policy or as a policy upgrade. I have met so many travelers whom have had their iPhone, iPad, laptops, cameras or other important valuables stolen and it was a shame that most of them did not have coverage for their stolen gear.
When traveling to another country it is easy to become a target of professional pickpockets and insuring your gear allows you to get compensated the value of your electronics in the event of theft. In addition to theft, many plans also cover damage to your items such as your camera or mobile phone. Some even cover water damage.
I am leaving on my trip tomorrow…can I still purchase insurance?
Luckily purchasing travel insurance is quick and often results in immediate coverage. Even if you leave buying travel insurance to the last minute before your trip, it is still quite easy to purchase a plan and then get out the door.
If you are currently abroad and are considering purchasing travel insurance, this is also possible. There may be special conditions that you need to consider, though. If you are currently overseas it is best to ask your intended provider about these conditions and how they can affect your coverage.
Best Travel Insurance Comparison
Below is a quick overlook on some of the most popular travel insurance providers followed by a brief review of each. Prices in the table reflect an insurance quote for a single, 30-year old traveler visiting China for a month who intends on spending $6,000 for the trip and is interested in a platinum insurance policy.
Based on our research, for the average traveler it seems that World Nomads offers strong travel insurance that covers a tremendous amount of activities. It’s always worth comparing quotes, though, which is why we also suggest you look at Travelex as well.
If you are a senior or have pre-existing conditions, we feel that Allianz Global Assistance offers the best option. If you feel that we are missing a quality service that deserves mentioning, please introduce it in the comments below.
|*Recommended*||More Travel Insurance Options|
|World Nomads||Travelex||Roam Right||Allianz|
|Emergency Medical Coverage|
|Emerg Evacuation||$500k||$500k||$150k||$1 million|
|Pros:||Covers 100+ high-risk activities.||Covers pre-existing conditions.||Low deductible ($50)||Covers some pre-existing conditions**|
|Cons:||Doesn’t cover seniors & pre-existing conditions.||High-risk activity coverage is a paid upgrade.||Doesn’t cover many pre-existing conditions.||Not ideal for high-risk adventure seekers.|
|Get a Quote|
*Pricing based on a single American traveler planning a 30-day trip to China with full coverage.
***Check with Allianz to determine which pre-existing conditions are covered in each plan they offer.
Travel Insurance Plans Reviewed
Below I’d like to go deeper into each of the various travel insurance options I’ve presented in the table above. While these reviews aren’t comprehensive (because everybody’s situation is different), it should hopefully provide you with a good starting point.
Option 1: World Nomads Review (*Recommended)
World Nomads is among the most reputable travel insurers and is partnered with National Geographic, Rough Guides, Intrepid Travel and Lonely Planet. It also has a large base of customers and covers people from 150 different countries.
After getting a quote, you are presented with two plans: Standard and Explorer. While their standard plan is pretty comprehensive, the explorer plan will cover you for more risk-prone activities such as rock climbing, snorkeling, and cliff diving.
Regardless of whether you purchase the standard or explorer plans, you are covered for all the typical things you look for in a policy including coverage for over 100 adventure sports and activities.
From my research, what makes World Nomads different from other insurance providers is the ability to easily extend your travel insurance if your plans change as well as being able to purchase it overseas. It’s also unique for its coverage of “adventure activities;” you can do an incredible amount of things on a World Nomads plan from shark cage diving, skydiving, elephant riding, ice climbing to more low key sports like yoga and get coverage in the event of a medical mishap.
Their coverage for digital items like smartphones, tablets, and SLR cameras also stand out as a reason to choose World Nomads. They are also a family friendly provider and insurance plans can provide coverage up to seven dependent children under eighteen.
I only have two gripes about World Nomads: 1) it does not offer coverage to travelers over 70 years old and 2) they do not cover any pre-existing conditions. Other than that, World Nomads looks like a great option for travel insurance.
Bottom Line: Great option for those looking to do high-risk activities on your trip. Offers coverage to residents of 150 different countries.
Option 2: Travelex Review
Travelex is another top-notch travel insurance provider you can choose from. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can still purchase coverage for your trip from Travelex if you are a US resident after speaking to their staff by phone.
Their insurance is divided up into four plans: Travel Select, Travel Basic, Flight Insurance, and Flight Insurance Plus. Each plan has its own perks with options for numerous upgrades such as rental vehicle coverage, adventure sport coverage, and additional medical coverage.
Travelex can be an ideal option if you are looking to travel with your family. One thing that distinguishes its service is that dependent children under the age of 18 can be covered at no cost as long as they travel with an adult family member.
Seniors are also eligible for their own coverage with Travelex. What’s more is among the upgrades you can purchase is Cancel for any Reason. With this upgrade, you can cancel your trip for any reason “no questions asked” and be reimbursed 75% of the insured trip cost. Other insurers provide trip cancellation, but this upgrade streamlines the process.
Bottom Line: Great for customers who would like to tailor their own insurance policy. Covering dependent children under the age of 18 and allowing customers to cancel for any reason distinguish them from competitors.
Option 3: RoamRight Travel Insurance Review
RoamRight offers a number of insurance plans to suit different kinds of travelers. What really distinguishes RoamRight from its competitors is the various levels of coverage that fits a variety of travelers. These plans include the “Essentials”, the “Preferred”, the “Elite”, and the “Pro” coverages.
Essentially, RoamRight gives you various options that allow for different types of coverage based on what you find most important. For example, perhaps you’re most worried about delays at the airport and want to choose a plan that pays out most for this contingency. Or maybe you’re most concerned about dental coverage while you’re traveling abroad. There’s a plan that emphasizes this.
The truth is that a lot of this can get pretty complicated and I hate looking at tables and trying to figure out what would be paid out in situation x versus situation y. If you feel the same way, the great thing about RoamRight is their customer support and sales. Just give them a call and tell them what you’re looking for. They’ll give you a quote and there’s no obligation to buy.
My only complaint with RoamRight is their murky explanation of what constitutes a “pre-existing condition”. They do cover pre-existing conditions, they say, but there are limits that don’t seem very clear.
Bottom Line: RoamRight offers an excellent array of options for coverage and is worth getting a quote for comparison.
Option 4: Allianz Global Assistance Review
UPDATE 2020: While I used to recommend Allianz as a reputable option, the COVID-19 epidemic has shown that they really are a profit-first company and not a people-first company. So while I’m going to keep this former review here, I have removed all links to their website and no longer recommend them.
Boasting a long history, Allianz Global Assistance
is used to be one of the top leaders in travel insurance. For Americans, Allianz offers numerous travel plans covering domestic travel, international travel, cruises, multiple trip, and rental cars.
Under their international coverage, three plans are offered: Basic, Classic and Classic with Trip+. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, Allianz may be a good fit for you as all three international plans offer coverage of select pre-existing conditions. Their top two plans also offer coverage for children under 17 making Allianz another family friendly option. Seniors are also eligible for coverage on all three plans.
One of the main drawbacks for Allianz is they exclude high-risk activities from their coverage. So if you intend on participating in more adventure prone activities, I suggest getting insurance with an alternative provider. Their coverage for emergency medical incidents also only amounts to $50,000 on their most expensive plan. For a similar rates, other providers offer as much as $500,000 for emergency medical coverage.
Bottom Line: Despite it’s former reputation, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown Allianz’s true colors. Don’t work with them.
Final Thoughts | Best Travel Insurance 2020
Before heading out on your journey overseas, you should seriously consider purchasing a travel insurance policy. A strong policy can let you relax instead of thinking about all the things that could go wrong on your trip. As you have seen, there are many options for travel insurance and you can even find more here.
My final advice is when purchasing a plan, be sure to read the entire policy cover to cover – or at least have an agent walk you through it. Knowing your policy will help you make smart decisions while traveling, especially if you are in a more high-risk environment. Wishing you good luck and good health on your journey!
What do you think? Do you have experience with any of these services or travel insurance that you’d like to share? Or perhaps there is a service not listed here that you think deserves a mention? Please leave a comment below!