The Best Travel Insurance
How We Found the Best Travel Insurance
15 Hours of Research
22 Providers Evaluated
4 Top Picks
The Best Travel Insurance
To find the best travel insurance, we looked at 22 of the nation’s top providers. Our mission: find the ones that offer primary medical coverage, generous limits, few exclusions, and top-notch customer service. The cost will depend on you, your trip, and who’s coming with — which is why it's important to compare quotes from multiple providers. Our four top picks are a great place to start.
How We Chose the Best Travel Insurance
Travel coverage comes in many shapes and sizes — some providers sell only medical, while others let you customize your plan around a few specific risks. But to truly be the best, a company should offer a policy with five major coverage options, even if you don’t end up buying them.
The best travel insurance should cover:
- Emergency medical care
- Medical evacuation and repatriation
- Trip cancellation/interruption
- Baggage/personal item loss and delay
- 24/7 worldwide assistance
The five general coverage types form a comprehensive plan, but the specific benefits within them can vary. To see how they stack up, we combed through each company’s policy details and scored them on both available options and generosity of coverage. We gave extra points to generous providers such as those who provide the option to “cancel for any reason” and free coverage for children.
International travel insurance ensures that you’ll stay covered when traveling outside the country. While travel insurance is useful for traveling around the states — health insurance often doesn’t travel over state lines — it’s absolutely essential abroad. We made sure all of our top picks provide medical and emergency insurance that will cover you anywhere in the world.
Robust emergency medical coverage
The travel industry experts we spoke to agree that emergency medical coverage is the most important piece of travel insurance, in large part because most US health plans don’t cover you abroad. That means if you break your leg or catch pneumonia in a foreign country or on an international cruise without travel insurance, you’re responsible for the entire bill.
As for the amount of medical coverage you need, Megan Singh, of travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth.com, recommends enough to cover at least a week in the hospital — about $50K. So, we made sure all of our top picks offer at least one plan with $50K in medical coverage. Most providers offer at least one plan that matches our cutoffs, so we focused on minor differences to find the most well-rounded coverage.
For example, we prioritized companies with optional medical coverage for hazardous or “extreme” activities like scuba diving or helicopter tours. These are never covered by standard emergency medical, and we wanted to ensure our providers would cover the most adventurous among us. The difference gave providers like Travelex the edge over competitors like Travel Guard.
Reliable medical evacuation coverage
Standard medical coverage will cover your treatment, but medical evacuation is a separate coverage item that is just as critical. If you need to be airlifted in a medical transport helicopter or flown home to the US on a medically staffed flight, those costs can easily exceed $50,000.
Megan Freedman, Executive Director of the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, explained, “A medical evacuation can easily cost $50–100K.” A policy with $100K in evacuation coverage should cover a worst-case scenario, so we made it a requirement. Most providers had at least one plan that met our minimum requirements, so we gave preference to companies like John Hancock whose cheapest plan starts with a generous $250K in evacuation coverage.
Primary medical and evacuation coverage
We also required both medical coverages to be primary rather than secondary. Primary means that your travel insurance effectively replaces any other medical insurance you already have, which helps in two important ways.
First, it speeds up claims-processing times. Because there’s no need for your travel insurer to coordinate with your health provider back home, you’ll get reimbursed months faster, without as much paperwork. Second, in the rare event that your US plan is in effect, your travel insurance will kick in first. In other words, you won’t be responsible for multiple deductibles, and there’s no risk of hitting any annual or lifetime health insurance limits. This meant providers with secondary coverage such as World Nomads were out.
To compare the financial strength of each company, we consulted A.M. Best, the gold standard for Financial Strength Ratings among travel insurers. A rating of A- or higher from the agency means that a company has the financial stability to pay your claims, no matter how large. So, we made sure each company’s policies had an underwriter with an A- (excellent) score or higher to ensure financial reliability.
Best-in-class customer service
We looked for companies with knowledgeable and patient reps who were upfront about their coverage options and claims process. We called each company with questions about their coverage options to see which reps had actual claims-handling experience and which were just reading the policy to us over the phone — something we could do on our own.
We passed on providers like AXA whose reps came across as impatient to make a sale and pushed for our personal details before answering our questions. When it comes time to file a claim, we wanted providers who had our best interests in mind rather than profits.
The 4 Best Travel Insurance Companies
Why we chose it
Comprehensive coverage and upgrade options
Travelex’s Travel Select Plan has all the makings of a great travel insurance policy. It offers $50K of coverage for medical treatment and an impressive $500K for medical evacuation. If you purchase your plan within 21 days of the initial trip deposit, the policy will also offer coverage for losses due to a pre-existing medical condition (normally excluded in most plans). Aside from medical coverage, the plan covers everything from missed connections to baggage delays.
The standard coverage from the Travel Select plan is thorough, but we really like how Travelex packages its optional coverage too: à la carte upgrades that you can add to your existing coverage. The coverage upgrades include popular options such as coverage for adventure or “extreme” sports and the ability to cancel for any reason.
The company also offers a medical upgrade that gives you an additional $50K for standard medical coverage for a total of $100K — a nice inclusion for those who want a little extra security.
Kids covered for free
For anyone traveling with families, we recommend getting a quote from Travelex. That’s because any children under 18 are covered on the Travelex Select plan for free. Most companies generally charge a flat fee for kids; when we got quotes from John Hancock, it added on about $50 per child.
Travelex policies are underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance which as an A++ rating from A.M. Best. Put simply, this means Travelex is one of the most financially stable travel insurance providers on the market, and you won’t have to worry about the company’s ability to pay your claim.
Great customer service
Travelex offers some of the best customer service as well. Our phone call was answered quickly, and the rep we spoke to was knowledgeable, friendly, and didn’t push us for personal data until it was appropriate — a refreshing change of pace. If anything goes wrong on your trip, the company’s 24/7 emergency assistance ensures you’ll be able to contact a Travelex rep at any time for support as well.
Points to consider
Limited basic plan
While the Travel Select plan offers impressive coverage, Travelex’s basic plan did not meet our base requirements for travel insurance providers. For starters, the Travel Basic plan caps emergency medical coverage at $15K which is far below the recommended minimum. It also does not offer options for “extreme” activities or a Cancel for Any Reason add-on. To be fair, the basic plan may be an acceptable match for shorter domestic trips, but we feel confident the Travel Select plan is the way to go.
Not always the best deal
While price depends on a number of variables including your location, travel destination, and trip length, it is worth noting that the Travel Select plan is Travelex’s most expensive. In other words, there is a possibility that you can find another provider that offers more thorough coverage such as $100K of medical coverage for cheaper. This isn’t guaranteed, but shopping around may lead you to a better deal elsewhere.
Why we chose it
John Hancock offers an impressively straightforward and easy to read contract. When explaining coverage for trip interruptions due to a stolen passport the contract clearly states it will cover “a documented theft of passports or visas. Documented means that you have reported the theft to the local authorities.” The contract isn’t an entertaining read, but we like that it lays out the policy as simply as possible and offers clarifications along the way so we know exactly what to expect from our coverage.
John Hancock offers all the standard coverage you would expect from a travel insurer including trip cancellation reimbursement and 24/7 assistance. You even get up to $150 per day for meals and other expenses if your flight is delayed by three hours as opposed to the five to twelve hours of other companies we compared. We were equally impressed by the medical coverage — the Bronze plan (the cheapest) offers $50K for medical treatments and $250K for medical evacuation. Upgrade to the Silver or Gold and the amounts increase. The company even offers $750 for dental (a full $250 more than competitors like Travelex).
Excellent customer service
We were also impressed by John Hancock’s world-class service. John Hancock’s reps were knowledgeable, friendly, patient, and warm, and knew the coverage backward and forward. Better still, it took less than a minute for the company to answer our call which made us feel confident that, if we had to call in an emergency, we’d be in good hands.
It bears noting that John Hancock’s customer support (their sales and claims departments) is actually managed by Seven Corners — another insurance company that didn’t quite make our top picks. Even so, we feel John Hancock’s policies and the customer representatives make a great pairing.
Points to consider
No free coverage for kids
We were disappointed to see that John Hancock does not offer free coverage for children under 18. That means you will have to pay extra to insure your kids which may end up being quite expensive. If you’re taking a family trip and want to save some cash, we suggest comparing quotes with providers such as Travelex and Allianz.
No coverage for "extreme" sports or activities
If adventurous activities like rock climbing, skydiving, or caving are on your itinerary, John Hancock won’t be the best choice. The company does not offer coverage for injuries due to “extreme” sports and activities. For those who enjoy these activities, we recommend getting quotes from providers who offer the optional coverage like Travelex or IMG. But for those who want to take it easy, John Hancock is still a great choice.
Why we chose it
Coverage tailored around adventurous activities
IMG leads the pack when it comes to offering plans for adventurers. Specifically designed for trips to remote or exotic locations, the iTravelInsured LX plan offers coverage for adventure or “extreme” sports and activities as well as $10K of coverage for search and rescue. Adventurous but naturally hazardous activities such as rock climbing or scuba diving can put you at risk of an expensive injury or getting stranded. We like that IMG offers a plan that can give adventurers peace of mind.
Generous medical coverage
With a $500K medical coverage limit, you also won’t have to worry about footing a large bill in the event of any illness or injury — coverage for adventure sports and activities is included in the amount. In addition, a $1M medical evacuation limit ensures you can make it back home safely and affordably in case you need additional medical care.
Convenient customer service
Like our other providers, IMG earned high marks for its customer service. Phone calls were answered promptly, and the reps were patient, polite, and helpful. However, the company also offers a Live Chat option on its website which was incredibly helpful while we were comparing plans.
The only other company from our picks to offer chat was John Hancock, but its chat option was a separate window that was a little more difficult to keep track of. IMG’s chat box stays connected to the bottom of your screen and is minimizable for easy access when you need it.
Points to consider
Long trip and baggage delay requirements
IMG has some of the longest time requirements before you can claim reimbursement for trip or baggage delays. The LX plan requires you to wait 6 hours for trip delays and 12 hours for baggage delays while the SE plan requires 12 for both. The Travel Lite plan is even worse at 12 hours for trip delays and 24 hours for baggage. By comparison, other providers only require three to five hours — making this inconvenience difficult to ignore.
Fewer customization options
While we like how IMG designs its plans to satisfy the needs of specific travelers, we miss having the upgrade options of providers like Travelex. For example, we were disappointed that we couldn’t add coverage for adventure sports or the ability to cancel for any reason to the SE Plan. But all around solid coverage makes IMG worth consideration if you’re an adventurer or planning a family trip.
Why we chose it
Coverage for long trips
If you’re planning a trip longer than a few months, Allianz is one of your best options. Most providers (except for Travelex) limit their coverage to three months, but Allianz will insure trips up to six months in length — a great match for long vacations, backpackers, or those studying abroad. The plan we recommend is the OneTrip Premier Plan (formerly the Classic with Trip+), which meets our travel insurance requirements and covers kids under 18 for long family excursions.
For those who travel frequently, Allianz also offers annual plans that will provide continuous coverage for international or domestic trips over the course of a year. You’ll have to go with the pricier AllTrips Executive Plan or higher to receive reliable coverage, but the annual fee is worth it. The one time costs average around a couple hundred dollars which is more convenient and far less expensive than signing up for a new travel insurance policy for each of your trips.
Improved customer service
The first time we reviewed travel companies nearly a year ago, our phone experience with Allianz customer service was mediocre at best: We were on hold for over five minutes, and our rep seemed to know less about the plans than we did.
However, times have changed and our most recent experience with Allianz was much better. Our call was answered in about half the time and our rep was fairly knowledgeable. Full disclosure: Our other picks are still noticeably better, but we appreciate that Allianz stepped up its game.
Points to consider
Add-on coverage is lacking
Allianz is flexible when it comes to the length of your trips, but that flexibility does not extend to its coverage policies. We were disappointed to see that Allianz lacked add-ons such as the popular and helpful “cancel for any reason” option. We also didn’t see add on-coverage for “extreme” sports or activities, which we feel is a bit of an oversight. For long and easygoing vacations, Allianz is a solid bet, but more adventurous travelers or those with rapidly changing commitments will want to look elsewhere.
No free coverage for kids on long-term plans
Allianz does not offer free coverage for children in any of its annual plans which means families that travel frequently will have to purchase separate policies for their kids. The biggest strength of Allianz is its ability to cover long trips or frequent travelers, so this exclusion is strange. In any case, it’s still one of the few providers that will offer free coverage to kids for trips over six months.
Guide to Travel Insurance
How to choose a travel insurance provider
Look for the five major coverage options
As we mentioned before, there are five major coverage options that every travel insurance policy should offer. In simple terms those coverage options and their definitions include:
- Trip cancellation/interruption coverage reimburses you for pre-paid, non-refundable expenses such as flights and hotels in the event you need to cancel your trip or cut it short.
- Baggage/personal item loss or delay coverage reimburses you for lost, stolen, or damaged bags and items or covers the cost of clothing, toiletries, and other essentials if baggage is delayed.
- Medical care covers medical treatment due to accidents or injuries as we describe above. However, it does not include injuries caused by “extreme” activities by default.
- Medical evacuation covers the cost for medical treatment and transport to a treatment center or medically staffed transport to a hospital in the US.
- 24/7 worldwide assistance offers extra security by ensuring that a travel insurance agent will be accessible and ready to assist you in any emergency
Read the fine print and ask questions
Every insurance plan comes with something called the Policy Certificate that lists all acceptable coverage scenarios. If it’s not on the list, and you didn’t buy the option, it’s not covered. For that reason, it’s vital that you read the certificate before purchasing the policy (or at least in the first 10 days when most insurers will let you cancel for a full refund). Depending on where you’re headed, some policies offer better coverage than others, particularly if you plan on participating in “extreme” activities or there’s been civil unrest in the region.
In any case, if you have any questions, be sure to ask. A good travel insurance provider should have knowledgeable reps who can clarify any misunderstandings. All of our top picks had reps who were up to the task.
Even though cost is often the main factor when choosing a travel insurance provider, we didn’t compare premiums. There are just too many variables for us to reliably say which company will give you the best price. Company A could have better rates for your family’s trip to Canada than Company B, but Company C might be cheapest for your Australian rock-climbing sojourn. For more information about what affects trip cost, check out our review of the best cheap travel insurance companies.
Purchase travel insurance early
Three important coverage options are only available for a limited time after you start planning your trip, since they’re designed to protect against things that can happen before you depart (the typical window is 10–14 days, although some companies allow around 20).
The waiver for pre-existing medical conditions exclusion is the most important; it stops the insurance company from using your previous health history to deny a medical claim. With the waiver, you only have to prove that you were medically fit to travel on the day you bought the policy for your claim to be covered. Without it, your claim could be denied as long as there was evidence of the issue in the two to six months prior.
The other two time-sensitive options are known as “cancel for work reasons” and “cancel for any reason”. Each lets you cancel for reasons beyond the standard ones — most often a medical emergency or severe weather.
Keep your assistance card on you when you travel
Megan Freedman, Executive Director at the US Travel Insurance Association advises travelers to be aware of the 24-hour travel assistance services provided by every plan: “It’s really important for travelers to keep that contact info handy.” The wallet-sized card you get from your travel insurer can be useful in both emergencies (like if you lose your passport) and non-emergencies (like if you just want a quick way of getting tickets to the opera).
Travel Insurance FAQ
Is travel insurance worth it?
If you are taking an international trip, having travel insurance for medical treatment or evacuation is highly recommended since your health insurance may not apply when you are traveling abroad. But even when not traveling abroad, insuring big ticket trips ($5,000) or traveling frequently, travel insurance can prevent heavy financial losses due to unforeseen circumstances like a sudden trip cancellation. As for short or cheap domestic trips, travel insurance is likely unnecessary — coverage for baggage and delays aren’t may not be worth the cost.
How much does travel insurance cost?
In general, you should expect your policy to cost between 4–10 percent of your total trip cost. The main factors that determine premiums are trip cost and length, the age of the travelers (older people are more expensive to insure), and any options you select (things like extreme sports or rental car coverage). To find the best price for your trip, we recommend comparing quotes from each of our top picks.
Can I buy travel insurance after booking a flight?
Yes. In fact, you can only get travel insurance coverage after you’ve made the purchases that you want covered. For example, if you want cancellation coverage on your $1K international flight, you’ll need to actually purchase your ticket before you can obtain insurance for it. Any trip expenses you incur after you buy your policy won’t be covered.
When should I buy travel insurance?
You should purchase travel insurance immediately after you’ve purchased your major trip expenses like flights, hotels, and cruises. Most policies waive pre-existing medical conditions, but only if you purchase insurance within two or three weeks of your final trip deposit. If you wait any longer, you could end up without coverage for your primary medical issues.
Does travel insurance count as health insurance?
Travel insurance is not a replacement for health insurance. Many travel insurance policies place a heavy emphasis on medical coverage, because it is one of the most expensive travel risks. But it will not cover a visit to your doctor for a check-up. In addition to the medical coverage, travel insurance will protect you from other travel risks like trip cancellations or lost luggage.
Won't my credit card travel benefits be enough?
Not really. Although some credit cards come with a travel insurance benefit, they aren’t substitutes for comprehensive travel insurance. For one, there’s usually an annual coverage limit of $1,500–$2,500, and a very limited number of covered reasons for cancellation or delay. More importantly, no credit card provides medical treatment/evacuation coverage abroad.
How do I file a claim?
When it comes time to file a claim, you will want to review your policy to ensure your claim will be honored and then call your travel insurance company as soon as possible (many allow you to file online as well). Your travel insurance company will provide directions on the steps you need to take to receive payment. After filing, it normally takes 1-2 months until the claim is resolved.
What helps is if you keep detailed records of your travel in the form of receipts and getting invoices, bills, and even causes of delay in writing. Doing so ensures your travel insurance company can’t reject a claim due to a lack of proof.
The Best Travel Insurance: Summed Up
* Except for residents of New York
† Under 18
Our Travel Insurance Reviews
The travel insurance company you choose depends on your personal preference and needs. We addressed a few of the most common specialized travel insurance needs in the following reviews: