1. Travel medical insurance
These plans provide health insurance while you’re away from home. Although in some ways these policies work like traditional health plans, generally you cannot use travel health insurance for routine medical events. For example, a routine medical checkup is usually not covered. In addition, these policies often include limitations on coverage and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
Although most travel insurance plans cover many recreational activities, such as skiing and horseback riding, they often exclude adventure sports, such as skydiving or parasailing, or competition in organized sporting events. You may need to buy a special travel policy designed for adventure or competitive sports.
International travel insurance
Most likely, your U.S.-based medical insurance will not work while you’re traveling internationally, and Medicare does not provide any coverage once you leave the United States outside of a few very specific exemptions. If you plan on traveling abroad, purchasing travel medical insurance could make a lot of sense.
» Learn more: Travel medical insurance: emergency coverage while you travel internationally
2. Trip cancellation, interruption and delay
Trip cancellation coverage reimburses you for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses if the tour operator goes out of business or you have to cancel the trip for one of the covered reasons outlined in the policy, such as:
Your own illness.
The illness or death of a family member who’s not traveling with you.
Trip interruption insurance covers the nonrefundable cost of the unused portion of the trip if it is interrupted due to a reason outlined in the policy.
Trip delay coverage reimburses you for expenses such as lodging and meals if you’re delayed during a trip (e.g., your flight gets canceled due to weather).
Many package policies cover all three. These policies are different from the cancellation waivers that cruise lines and tour operators offer, the Insurance Information Institute says. Waivers are cheap, ranging from $40 to $60, and often include restrictions. For example, according to the institute, waivers might not refund your money if you cancel immediately before departure. Waivers are technically not insurance policies
Some companies offer additional layers of coverage at extra cost. “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage will reimburse a large part of the trip cost, no matter why you back out. And some companies let you pay extra to cover pre-existing conditions if you cancel for medical reasons.
» Learn more: What you need to know about Chase’s trip delay insurance
3. Baggage and personal belongings
This coverage reimburses you for baggage and personal belongings that are lost, stolen or damaged during the trip. Some plans also reimburse you for extra expenses if you experience a baggage delay for more than a certain period, such as 12 hours.
Your renters or homeowners insurance may cover personal belongings while you are traveling. It’s best to review your homeowners insurance policy to determine the level of coverage it provides so you do not end up paying for a benefit you already have.
4. Emergency medical assistance, evacuation and repatriation
This coverage pays medical expenses if you get sick or injured on a trip. Medical evacuation coverage pays for transporting you to the nearest hospital, and medical repatriation pays for flying you to your home country.
5. 24-hour assistance
This service is included with many package plans. The insurer provides a 24-hour hotline that you can call when you need help, such as booking a flight after a missed connection, finding lost luggage, or locating a doctor or lawyer.
Most travel insurers cover a wide array of services, but the specific options vary. Some plans include concierge services, providing help with restaurant referrals, tee time reservations and more. Many services also offer information before the trip, such as required vaccinations. The only way to know what’s included is to read the policy.
» Learn more: Should you insure your cruise?
6. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance
This coverage pays a lump sum to your beneficiary, such as a family member, if you die in an accident while on the trip. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance policies also pay a portion of the sum to you if you lose a hand, foot, limb, eyesight, speech or hearing. Some plans apply only to accidental death in a plane.
Nerdy tip: This coverage may be duplicative if you already have sufficient life insurance, which pays out whether you die in an accident or from an illness. You may also already have accidental death and dismemberment insurance through work, so it’s best to check your policies to ensure you’re not overpaying.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s guide to life insurance
7. Rental car coverage
This pays for repairing your rental car if it’s damaged in a wreck, by vandals or in a natural disaster. The coverage doesn’t include liability insurance, which pays for damage to other vehicles or for the medical treatment of others if you cause an accident and are held responsible.
Ask your car insurance company whether your policy will cover you when renting cars on the trip. U.S. car insurance policies generally don’t cover you when driving in other countries, except Canada.
Car insurance requirements are complex because they vary among countries. You can usually purchase liability insurance from the rental car company. Learn about car insurance requirements by searching for auto insurance by country on the U.S. Embassy website.
How to get travel insurance
When you’re considering travel insurance for an upcoming trip, you’ll be happy to know that some components of your trip may already be covered. For example, when you book a trip with your credit card, depending on the card you use, you may already receive trip cancellation and interruption coverage.
So when deciding on what level of coverage you need, check to see what you already get with your credit card. Then, decide what additional coverage you would like. Commonly, travel medical protection is not included with your credit card, so if you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage, it makes sense to purchase a general trip insurance policy.
» Learn more: 10 credit cards that provide travel insurance
Below, we include four ways to obtain travel insurance, along with the pros and cons of each option.
Some credit cards offer trip cancellation and rental car insurance if you use the card to book the trip or car.
Pros: Coverage is free.
Cons: You can’t customize the insurance to meet your needs. Most credit cards offer secondary car rental insurance, which pays for the costs not covered by your regular car insurance plan.
Travel agents and travel reservation sites
You can buy travel insurance when you book your flight, hotel and car rental.
Pros: Buying is as quick and easy as clicking “yes” when you book reservations. Coverage is inexpensive.
Cons: You can’t customize the coverage.
Travel insurance companies
You can purchase travel insurance directly from an insurance provider.
Pros: You can choose a policy that fits your needs. Many travel insurer websites also offer information to help you understand the coverage.
Cons: You’ll need to go to multiple websites to compare coverage and pricing.
Travel insurance comparison sites
You can compare different policies and review quotes at once based on the trip search criteria you’ve input into the search form.
Pros: You can choose a policy that fits your needs and compare policies and pricing in one place.
Cons: Comparing multiple policies takes time.
» Learn more: Airline travel insurance vs. independent travel insurance: which is right for you?
Buy the best travel insurance for you
Comparing travel insurance policies from different providers is your best bet for finding a policy customized to your needs and at the price you want. We’ve compiled a list of travel insurance providers and comparison sites to help you shop for the best quote.
Travel insurance comparison sites
If you don’t know which provider to go with, it makes sense to browse a list of plans on a comparison site. These sites will often include plans from the best travel insurance companies along with customer reviews. Below, we’ve included five popular insurance comparison sites:
Compare plans from more than 30 providers.
Over 86,000 customer reviews of insurers.
Under its Zero Complaint Guarantee, SquareMouth (a NerdWallet partner) will remove a provider if any customer complaint isn’t resolved to its satisfaction.
Has a filter option to see policies that provide COVID-coverage.
Compare plans from 13 providers.
See good and poor customer ratings and reviews for each insurer when you receive quotes.
“Learning Center” includes travel insurance articles and travel tips, including important how-to information.
Quotes provided from each provider include a link to COVID-19 FAQs, making it easy for customers to review what’s covered or not.
Compare plans from more than two dozen providers.
More than 70,000 customer reviews.
“Anytime Advocates” help customers navigate the claim process and will work on behalf of the customer to help with appealing a denied claim.
Includes a link to plans that offer COVID coverage.
Compare plans from 11 providers.
Search coverage by sporting activity, including ground, air and water sports.
Many types of plans available for students, visiting family members, new immigrants, those seeking COVID quarantine coverage and more.
Compare different insurance plans from 35 providers.
Over 5,600 customer reviews on Trustpilot, with an average 4.9 stars out of five.
Formerly known as AardvarkCompare, AARDY includes a “Travel Insurance 101” learning center to help customers understand various policies and benefits.
Quote search results page includes COVID-coverage highlighted in a different color to make it easier for customers to review related limits.
Top travel insurance companies & reviews
If you already have an insurer in mind or just want to learn more about some of the best travel insurance companies, take a look at our top 10 list below. Whether you’re looking for an international travel insurance plan, emergency medical care, COVID coverage or a policy that includes extreme sports, these providers have you covered.
Allianz Global Assistance
Annual and single-trip plans.
Plans available for international and domestic trips.
Stand-alone rental-car damage product available.
Travel Guard by AIG
Four levels of comprehensive plans and a build-your-own customizable plan.
Flight accident insurance, medical evacuation plan and annual plans available.
Plan available for business travelers.
USI Affinity Travel Insurance Services
Search comprehensive plan types by policy name, insurance needs and traveler type.
Medical and evacuation plans for international travel.
One annual plan with two levels of coverage to choose from.