If you’re trying to save money on your vacation, a lot of people overlook travel insurance. It might feel like a wasteful extra, but it can actually save you a ton of money if something really horrible does happen.
Seriously, I know from experience…
A few years ago, my wife and I took a vacation to Jamaica. We went ahead and ponied up a little extra for travel insurance, and it ended up being a huge help. Her father passed away while we were out of town and our travel insurance company reimbursed us for a huge portion of our trip.
I also know someone who was on a Mediterranean cruise and had an esophageal rupture (a major freak event), and it resulted in her being medevaced to a neighboring country. She spent weeks in a foreign hospital, and her travel insurance company covered nearly all of her $1+ million medical bills.
We rarely go without travel insurance now. One of the times we always use it is when we visit the Caribbean, which we do during the off season to save money. Off season means hurricane season, so there are a ton of what-ifs. Having travel insurance means we can weather those what-ifs.
Travel insurance is there to cover any number of unexpected scenarios, from trip cancellation, emergency medical costs, and baggage protection. And after I tell you about the 6 best travel insurance companies of 2020, I have some more tips to help you make the right choice.
Before anything, see what travel insurance benefits come with your credit card
If you book your trip with a credit card, many credit card companies offer a few basic travel insurance benefits, like:
- Trip cancellation or trip interruption coverage
- Trip delay reimbursement
- Primary auto rental collision coverage
- Baggage delay insurance
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- Coverage in the event of death or dismemberment
- No foreign transaction fees
Those travel insurance benefits wouldn’t have fully covered the scenarios I mentioned above, but alone they are great for shorter or last-minute domestic trips.
You’ll also notice that the lower tiers of many of these plans are pretty much the same coverage you get with your credit card. Keep that in mind while shopping for travel insurance.
Ready to look at the best travel insurance companies now? Good… let’s go!
6 best travel insurance companies for 2020
For the sake of comparing costs, I’m using a hypothetical trip to look into each company. Here are the details: wifey and I are flying from Houston, TX to Dublin, Ireland for a two-week trip. The estimated cost is $5,000 for the both of us.
I’ll use that information to shop around, and here are the rest of the details you’ll need when planning your trip:
- Country of residency
- State of residency
- Departure and return dates
- Number of travels
- Age of each traveler
- Cost per traveler
When I researched the best travel insurance companies, I wanted to find ones that worked for nearly any kind of traveler, from families to adventure seekers. These companies aren’t in any particular order – I’m just giving you my top picks.
1. Travelex – Best for families
Travelex offers two different levels of coverage – Travel Basic and Travel Select. If you’ll be traveling with kids, Travelex is one of the best travel insurance companies because under the Travel Select plan, children 18 and under are covered for free when accompanied by an adult.
Both levels offer protection for trip cancellation, delay, and interruption. For medical coverage, Travel Basic only covers up to $15,000 in medical costs (on the lower end), while the Travel Select covers $50,000. Both levels have a $500 sub-limit for dental.
The Travel Select plan gives you some optional add ons, like medical upgrades, adventure sports coverage, and cancel for any reason protection.
To cover our trip to Ireland, Travel Basic would be $144 and Travel Select would be $204.
Have kids? Read Can You Travel the World With Kids (On a Budget)?
2. Allianz Global Assistance – Best for protecting your points
Allianz has three different levels of coverage – Basic, Prime, and Premier. All of their plans come with trip cancellation and interruption but that’s not at 100%. The emergency medical coverage with Allianz is:
- Basic $10,000
- Prime $25,000
- Premier $50,000
The top two tiers of coverage, Prime and Premier, also give you up to $500 in change fee coverage if you need to change your travel dates. Those two levels will also redeposit up to $500 in travel miles if your trip is canceled – that’s a pretty sweet perk.
But what about the costs? Well, for my pretend trip to Ireland, we’d pay $162 for Basic, $204 for Prime, and $264 for Premier.
Learn more about collecting credit card points for travel at A Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking: How to Take Your First Free Trip and 10 Things You Need to Know to Start Travel Hacking.
3. Generali Global Assistance – Best list of features
Generali also offers three different levels of plans, and they’re on this list because they come with some pretty impressive features.
All three Generali plans – Standard, Preferred, and Premium – offer:
- Trip cancellation, interruption, and delay coverage
- Baggage protection
- Medical and dental coverage
- Emergency medical transportation coverage
- 24-hour emergency assistance services
- Concierge services
- Identity theft resolution services
With Premium, you’ll also receive coverage for the following things:
- Sporting equipment
- Accidental death and dismemberment, both in flight and on your trip
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Financial insolvency
Those features are all great, which makes Generali more expensive than the first two companies. However, the lowest level of coverage is pretty on par with the highest levels of Allianz and Travelex.
The Standard plan would cost us $270, $348 for Preferred, and $439 for Premium.
4. Amex Assurance – Best for building your own coverage
Amex Assurance is a travel insurance company that’s run by American Express. They are one of the best travel insurance companies because they several different plans and a “build your own” option.
The pre-built plans are Basic, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. All of these plans come with:
- Trip cancellation and interruption coverage
- Global medical protection
- Global baggage protection
- 24-hour travel assistance
Silver, Gold, and Platinum also come with travel accident protection and trip delay coverage.
Amex’s Build Your Own Coverage offers all of the above features, you just choose which ones you want and which level of coverage works for you.
As far as costs go, Amex Assurance would cost us $118 for Basic, $216 for Silver, $263 for Gold, and $360 for Platinum. Oh, and you don’t need to be an American Express cardholder to purchase insurance.
5. Seven Corners – Best variety of plans
Seven Corners offers even more travel insurance options than Amex does, with plans for:
- Basic travel insurance (coverage for non-refundable costs and emergency medical expenses)
- Travel medical insurance
- Medical coverage for visitors and immigrants
- Student plans
- Group plans (for five or more people needing temporary medical insurance while traveling)
- Annual evacuation and repatriation plans for Visa holders
That’s a ton of options for more than just vacation seekers, and now you know why they’re one of the best travel insurance companies out there.
But, what about the costs?
I’m just going to look at the basic travel insurance options (still really comprehensive) because that’s what most travelers are looking for. All of these plans come with:
- Trip cancellation, interruption, change, and delay coverage
- Medical benefits for emergency accident or sickness
So, Seven Corners RoundTrip Economy would cost us $124, RoundTrip Choice is $162, and RoundTrip Elite is $200. The top two levels come with add-ons that let you cancel your trip for any reason or if you need to cancel for work.
And I know this is going to sound super boujee, but Seven Corners also has coverage for lost ski days and lost golf rounds.
6. World Nomads – Best for adventurers
As you can tell from the name, World Nomads is travel insurance for adventurous travelers, but they also have a pretty strong focus on global stewardship, suggesting that you make a charitable donation when choosing a policy.
World Nomads has two different levels of coverage, Standard and Explorer, both offering all of the bells and whistles of the rest of the companies on this list. What makes them stand out as one of the best travel insurance companies is that they offer medical coverage if you are injured while participating in an adventure sport.
What qualifies as an adventure sport? That’s:
- Hang gliding
- Ultimate frisbee
There are a ton more, but know that not all activities are covered under the Standard package – Explorer offers the most coverage for whatever awesome and dangerous adventures you might go on.
The prices definitely reflect those differences – Standard would cost us $157.59 and Explorer is $284.70.
What else you need to know about travel insurance
Low cost can mean too little coverage
When you’re looking at the lowest levels of coverage and thinking that it might be worth it to save $50-$100, consider what that means. With some of these companies, the lowest tier plans are only giving you $10,000-$15,000 in medical coverage. That’s not a lot.
Knowing that your health insurance or healthshare ministry might not work in a foreign country, could you afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars more if something went seriously wrong? I’m not trying to scare you, but seriously, why wipe out your savings to save $50-$100 on travel insurance?
Trip cancellation coverage has limitations
Trip cancellation is protecting your financial investment in the trip, and all of the insurance companies on this list offer it. It’s what refunds your money if an emergency pops up, but you need a qualifying reason, like:
- Death of travel companion
- Death of a non-traveling family member
However, if you need to cancel for a non-qualifying reason, you’ll need special coverage. It could be work-related or even “I just don’t want to go to Ireland anymore.” Some of the best travel insurance companies offer that as an add on or have it included on a higher-tier plan.
When should you buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance is only going to cost a fraction of your total vacation budget, but I still get that its money you could save or spend on something that sounds more fun than insurance.
Based on my experience, I know that I’ll be buying it for the foreseeable future, especially on bigger vacations when there’s a higher chance of things going wrong.
If you’re wrestling with it, here are a couple of factors to consider if you’re thinking about buying travel insurance:
- Will you be at risk financially if you need to cancel your trip, lose your bags, have a delay, or medical emergency?
- Are you traveling somewhere, like outside of the country, where your health care might not cover the costs?
Insurance is financial protection when you need it, otherwise it’s just extra spending.
Say you were taking a short domestic trip to visit a friend, the financial investment is smaller. You could probably recover easily if your bags were lost for a day. And, your health insurance will still work. In that situation, travel insurance might just be extra.
Had you saved for over a year to visit Bali and are taking more than a week off of work… well, I’d get travel insurance in that situation. That’s an expensive trip, lots of planning, and it’s remote-ish.
Final word on the best travel insurance companies of 2020
Insurance always feels like a waste until you need it. That’s been my experience. But now that I’ve been using it when we travel, it really does give me a little extra peace of mind.
If you decide that travel insurance is right for you, all of these companies are going to have some great coverage options. Check out their websites and compare costs and coverage. Don’t forget to see what your credit card company offers too.