airplane in the sky

Whether it’s a vacation of a lifetime or a cross-country trip for a cousin’s wedding, you may be wondering when it’s worthwhile to buy travel insurance. Probably the best answer is that it depends on what you can afford to lose.

If this is a trip you’ve been anticipating for several years or you’re treating your kids and grandkids to an expensive family reunion, you should look into travel insurance. No matter the cost of the trip, it’s important to look at how a trip delay or cancellation would affect your finances. By understanding what travel insurance is and what it covers, you’ll be able to make the best decision on whether to buy it.

What does a travel insurance policy cover?

Trip insurance can cover a broad array of possible claims, including missing a connection for your cruise ship, reimbursement for lost luggage, medical care, evacuation while abroad, or the need to cancel a vacation.

It’s important to know that certain things may not be covered under travel insurance. If you have a preexisting condition, look for a plan that provides a preexisting condition waiver. If you’re visiting an area with political unrest, check into what coverage a policy provides if you wish to cancel due to problems in the area. Travel insurance policies cover some incidences of tour operator defaults due to financial issues. Look into how that’s handled before booking your trip.

What travel insurance coverage should you get?

Before looking into travel insurance, think about the reasons you might cancel. Is a trip delay due to weather going to dramatically change your vacation? Is it possible your school year will be extended or you will need to take a work-related trip instead? Are there acts of war in the country you’re going to visit? Are you nervous about the CDC issuing a travel warning for your vacation destination?

These are all valid reasons for cancelling a trip or wanting insurance coverage. But not all insurance covers these concerns.

Cancel for any reason insurance: When you buy this coverage, if you want to cancel because you have a hangnail, go ahead. The insurance company usually doesn’t need a reason. They just need you to cancel within the specified time frame, typically at least 48 to 72 hours before you depart.

You’ll trade convenience for a lower reimbursement level. With cancel for any reason insurance, you’ll get a percentage of your pre-paid, nonrefundable trip costs back, around 70%, without having to give a reason. You can sometimes purchase this as a standalone policy or as a rider on a comprehensive policy.

Comprehensive travel insurance: This is the typical policy that people imagine when they think of trip insurance. The comprehensive policy usually covers delays, cancellation due to sickness or death, lost luggage and some emergency medical costs. Just read the fine print so you know exactly what it covers.

More policy details

If you decide shortly after you purchase the policy that it doesn’t meet your needs, you can get a full refund (perhaps minus a small administrative fee) within a specified time period. This gives you time to fully read the coverage and make sure it provides what you want. Usually that time frame for 10 to 15 days. When possible, it’s best to understand exactly what the policy covers and how claims work ahead of time, in case you need to file a claim.

When booking a pricey trip, look into insurance at the same time. Some policies require you buy travel insurance within a certain amount of time after making your initial trip payment, such as within 10 to 30 days. With Travel Insurance from Nationwide you can purchase up to the day before you leave. Ideally, of course, it’s better to buy travel insurance well in advance of your trip so you can plan adequately.

Going on a trip should be an exciting experience. While cancellation and other problems cause stress, you can take the financial worry out of it by getting your trip insured.

Insurance terms, definitions and explanations are intended for informational purposes only and do not in any way replace or modify the definitions and information contained in individual insurance contracts, policies or declaration pages, which are controlling. Such terms and availability may vary by state and exclusions may apply.