Original Post by: Reviews.com

Our Top Picks for the Best Travel Insurance

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The Best Travel Insurance

Whether you’re planning a month-long honeymoon in Asia or just renting a car for the weekend, travel insurance is there to smooth things out if the going gets rough. While you don’t always need all the bells and whistles that come with some policies, the best travel insurance can be a lifesaver (literally) in the event of an accident, helping you pay for expensive medical care, stolen property, or the cost of canceling a dream vacation you’re suddenly unable to take.

Travelex, our pick for most family-friendly provider, automatically covers kids under 18 when they’re traveling with a parent, with no adult to child ratio limits. In addition to offering comprehensive protection against all the big potential mishaps, its add-on protection is organized into customizable upgrades. The Additional Medical Coverage upgrade provides an additional $50,000 in Medical Expenses and $500,000 in Medical Evacuation.

If you’re not traveling with kids, consider John Hancock. Like Travelex, its policies cover travel practically anywhere in the world, with primary (first-payer) medical plans that simplify the claims process if you get sick or injured abroad. But what really differentiated John Hancock for us was its telephone customer service. The rep we spoke to not only knew the in’s and out’s of each plan, but was warm and friendly too — we felt like we were talking to an old friend, not a sales agent. If you’re in a crisis far from home, there’s nothing more helpful than being able to turn things over to an experienced professional.

IMG and Allianz are also worth considering for their comprehensive plans. They didn’t wow us in customer service or extra coverage the way John Hancock and Travelex did. However, IMG stands out for its extreme sports coverage; coverage for activities like scuba diving or hang gliding comes standard with every policy. We also like that Allianz, like Travelex, will cover trips up to a full year in length.

Our Picks for the Best Travel Insurance

Best for Families

Travelex wins this distinction for being the only insurer to cover kids under 21 at no additional cost. There are a few restrictions: You have to purchase the Travel Select plan, which caps medical treatment coverage at $50K, but does provide an additional $50k with the Additional Medical Coverage upgrade. The total trip cost cannot exceed $10,000 (though if you’re spending that much on a vacation, you’re probably not too concerned about paying a little extra for your kids’ coverage).

We like how Travelex packages its optional coverage, too: as Customized Upgrades designed around specific trip types.

Customer service was on point as well. Our email was answered within four hours, and our phone call in less than a minute. The rep we spoke to was knowledgeable, friendly, and didn’t push us once for personal data, which was refreshing. Travelex’s underwriter, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, has an A++ rating from A.M. Best.

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Best for Solo Travelers

John Hancock impressed us at every stage of our testing, but really pulled ahead in the customer service evaluation. Attentive customer service is crucial — especially during unexpected, stressful situations when you’re away from home.

It bears noting that John Hancock’s customer support (their sales and claims departments) is actually managed by Seven Corners — another insurance company that just missed the cut for not offering primary medical coverage. When you call about a John Hancock policy, you’ll be speaking to someone from Seven Corners. Even with this extra layer, a policy with John Hancock offers first-rate coverage backed by the best customer service reps we spoke to.

Our test call was answered after less than a minute by a woman named Ynez who had worked for years in the company’s claims department and knew the coverage backward and forward. She was warm, patient, and sounded genuinely happy as she recounted a story about a woman she’d helped evacuate from a safari after she fell ill. We’re confident that, if we had to call in an emergency, we’d be in good hands.

Each of its three comprehensive tiers (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) offers add-on options for extreme sports/activities as well as Cancel for Any Reason.

We don’t like the absence of a pre-existing conditions waiver for the Bronze plan, but Silver and Gold have everything we looked for, including a tiny detail in trip delay coverage that stood out: up to $150/day for meals and other expenses if your flight is delayed by three hours, as opposed to five to 12 hours with every other company we reviewed. That means if you and your family are starving in the terminal as you await your flight, John Hancock will pay for everybody to eat a meal after a three-hour delay, which seems much more considerate than asking you hold out for five or more.

Still, families should prepare to shell out a little more to cover kids; John Hancock treats them as additional travelers subject to their own premiums.

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Best for Adventurers

IMG offers one comprehensive travel packages: iTravelInsured LX designed for remote and tropical locations, which includes coverage for extreme activities, search and rescue, and an automatic Cancel/Interrupt For Any Reason provision. It’s an experienced company whose customer service impressed us (especially the Live Chat option, which only John Hancock matched among our finalists).

The only downside: its trip and baggage delay coverages don’t kick in until you’re delayed six and 12 hours, respectively, which seems long. Still, that’s a tiny difference in the grand scheme, and the rest of IMG’s comprehensive coverage is plenty robust.

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Best for Long Trips

Allianz is a big name in the industry (we often see its collision coverage offer at the end of the rental car booking process), but surprisingly, it only offers one plan that met all our criteria: the Classic Plan with Trip+. Its coverage is fairly thorough with one notable exception: no Cancel for Any Reason option.

Less important but still absent is “hazardous activities” coverage for things like scuba diving or zip lining. That said, if you’re planning a trip longer than six months, Allianz is one of your best options. Most providers (excepting Travelex) limit their coverage to three months, but Allianz will insurance trips up to one year in length. If you’re spending the year studying aboard or backpacking across Europe, its coverage is generous enough to see you through a worst-case scenario.

However, out phone experience with Allianz customer service was mediocre at best: We were on hold for more than five minutes initially, and then we were connected with someone who seemed to know less about the plans than we did. If we had to file a claim or urgently needed help, we’d expect to hit a few bumps.

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Did You Know?

The best time to buy travel insurance is within 10 days of your initial trip payment.

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 up to 20). After that, these extra benefits are off the table.

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. Imagine if you or your traveling companion has a well-managed condition that you’re not expecting to be an issue, only to have it flare up close to your departure. 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.

  • Cancel for Work Reasons will reimburse you for lost trip costs if you’re forced stay home for work, but requires verification in writing from your boss that you had the time off and had to unexpectedly cover someone or something that came up.
  • Cancel For Any Reason is more expensive (usually an extra 40 percent in premium), but lets you nix your whole trip up to two days before you’re supposed to leave and still recoup 75 percent of your costs.

Read the fine print, and don’t hesitate to call with specific questions.

Every insurance plan comes with something called the Policy Certificate that lists all covered 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 it’s a third-world country or there’s been civil unrest in the region.

You may already be covered for certain risks through your renters or homeowners insurance.

Many comprehensive travel plans offer benefits for things like lost property, rental car collisions, identity theft, and accidental death, but these risks might also be covered by your existing insurance. For example, most homeowners and renters policies cover belongings anywhere in the world, and many credit cards have rental car damage waivers that extend internationally. Still, only travel insurance can offer immediate emergency medical coverage.

Since you won’t be able to collect benefits from two different companies for the same loss, it’s best to check your existing policies for duplicate coverage before you buy travel insurance.

Credit card benefits aren’t substitutes for comprehensive travel insurance.

Although some credit cards come with a travel insurance benefit, there’s usually an annual coverage limit of $1,500–$2,500, and a very limited number of covered reasons for cancellation or delay. Far more important though, is that no credit card provides medical treatment/evacuation coverage abroad.

Keep your assistance card on you.

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).

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