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- Travel insurance covers medical emergencies and financial losses while on a trip.
- It’s best purchased right after booking your trip, as some coverage options are time-sensitive.
- Purchasing early is smart if you may need to cancel or want coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Travel insurance protects you against financial losses and medical emergencies while on a trip. If you want the highest level of protection, it’s generally best to book this coverage as soon as you know your trip details.
However, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, and there may be times when you want to wait to purchase your policy. Here’s what you need to know about travel insurance and when you should buy it.
When to buy travel insurance
Travel insurance provides medical coverage and will reimburse you for things like lost luggage, trip delays, and sometimes even trip cancellations. It’s typically a smart option if you’re going somewhere your health insurance won’t cover you or if a lot of your charges are non-refundable.
Though you can buy travel insurance at any time before your trip, it’s generally best to purchase shortly after booking, once you have a good gauge on your total costs.
Buying quickly after booking also allows you to:
- Purchase cancel for any reason coverage, which reimburses you for 60% to 75% of your costs if you back out on your travel plans. This must be purchased within 15 to 21 days of putting down the first deposit on your trip.
- Guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions. Many travel insurers won’t cover pre-existing conditions unless you purchase coverage within two weeks of booking your trip.
- Cancel your travel insurance if you’re not happy with it. Most plans allow you to cancel your insurance and get a refund — as long as you do so within 15 days and your trip hasn’t started yet.
As Michelle Osborn, a travel agent and owner of Outta Here Travels, explains, “Most travel insurance policies have a time limit of when you can purchase to get the maximum benefits.”
If you’re unable to purchase your travel insurance right after booking, you should still qualify for a policy. Most companies allow you to buy insurance until the day of your trip, you just won’t have access to CFAR or pre-existing condition coverage.
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When to buy annual travel insurance
Annual travel insurance, sometimes referred to as multi-trip insurance, covers you for all your trips over an entire year.
This type of travel insurance may be a good option if you regularly travel for work or have at least a handful of trips — particularly international ones — planned for the next 12 months.
“Travel insurance should definitely be purchased anytime you travel out of the United States,” Osbon says. “The main reason is most US health insurance policies don’t cover treatment internationally.”
You may want to buy annual travel insurance just before your first trip begins. Since these plans last 365 days, this would allow you to stretch your policy to cover the most travel.
However, this may limit the coverage you’re able to obtain, so tread carefully. For example, you may not be able to get medical coverage for pre-existing conditions.
“In the case of a pre-existing medical condition, you’ll need to meet a few requirements to be covered,” says Jeff Rolander, director of claims at Faye Travel Insurance. “Faye’s travel protection covers pre-existing conditions as long as you purchase your plan within 14 days of your initial trip deposit and are medically able to travel when you purchase your plan.”
When is it too late to buy travel insurance?
You should be able to purchase travel insurance any time before the date of your trip. Once the day of your departure rolls around, the window will close. You also can’t purchase travel insurance during your trip or after an injury or loss has already happened.
The moral of the story: It’s always better to buy sooner rather than later.
“Right when you book your flights or hotel stay is when you should get your trip covered,” Rolander says. “The sooner you buy coverage for your trip, the sooner your coverage starts.”