Nina Boal needs a travel insurance policy. But with so many choices out there, which one should she buy?
“I want to see if I can buy appropriate policy,” she says. “I checked online, and can’t find any direct answers.”
She’s right. An online search for “travel insurance” is likely to pull up a long and confusing list of possible answers. But there are really just three options.
Buy direct. Companies sell insurance policies directly to travelers, usually online. The big players are Access America (which is sponsoring this series), CSA Travel Protection and Travel Guard. A full list of other insurance companies worth checking out are on the US Travel Insurance Association’s website.
Buy through your travel company. Many travel companies, including airlines, cruise lines and tour operators, offer optional insurance directly to consumers. These can be a good deal, but it’s worth shopping around before deciding to buy one of these policies. Also, be careful of tour operators or cruise lines that offer generic protection services. They won’t cover you if the company goes belly-up.
Buy through a travel agent or third party. Your travel agent may offer an insurance policy. (More on buying through an agent in a moment.) You might also see an online company that specializes in comparing and evaluating insurance policies, such as Squaremouth, Travel Insurance Review and Trip Insurance Store, all of which, by way of full disclosure, are site sponsors). Also, check out InsureMyTrip.com. These can be useful ways to quickly find the best travel insurance policy.
But how do you pick the right one?
Let’s get back to Boal. She’s planning a trip to Japan, and wonders which of these places will offer the policy she needs. The answer is: all of them might.
The first time you’ll be given the option of buying an insurance policy will probably be when you book a trip, either directly through a travel company or through an agent. It’s nice to be reminded about the insurance option, because when you’re planning a big trip, it can easily be overlooked.
Still, experts generally agree you shouldn’t take the first policy you’re offered – no matter how attractive the policy, or how hard the sell. (A few years ago, I would have said travel agents were the worst offenders in this department, but nowadays, websites like to use scare tactics to persuade you to “protect your trip” with insurance in bold uppercase letters, making human agents look downright polite.)
Boal will need to shop around for the right policy, which will mean consulting with at least two of the three travel insurance sources.
Travel insurance is extremely competitive, and by checking with multiple sources, you won’t just find better terms or prices. You’ll also avoid buying a potentially useless policy.
What to look for
When comparison-shopping, you’ll want to match your own needs with that of the policy, to the extent that it’s possible. Here are a few coverage areas to be aware of.