What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

This simple guide will show you exactly how travel insurance protects you and your money

16 October 2021
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

So, what does travel insurance cover? That’s exactly what we’re here to discuss today. Here’s the very short answer:

Travel insurance covers lost money from canceled trips, emergency medical expenses, evacuation costs, baggage & delays, and 24/7 assistance.

This is a simple overview of the coverage you get with comprehensive travel insurance. The long answer is that your specific travel plan will dictate the coverage you get. For a more in-depth explanation you can read our complete guide to travel insurance coverage. Meanwhile, we’re going to explain the 5 things most travel insurance plans cover. Towards the end, we’ll recommend your next steps in securing the best possible travel insurance coverage.

So, What Does Travel Insurance Cover? 5 Common Coverages

We’re going to start by explaining what travel insurance covers. From canceled trips to medical emergencies, evacuations to delays – most of your concerns are covered by the insurance company you get your plan through. However, the degree of coverage you have is dictated by your specific plan – so read carefully when comparing travel insurance plans. Oh – and after we finish up this section, we’ll answer an equally important question: what does travel insurance not cover? First things first – let’s talk about trip cancellation coverage.

1. Cancelled Trips

This is the #1 concern with most travelers.

When planning a trip you pre-pay for many expenses like airline tickets, hotel rooms, cruise fare, Disney tickets, tour packages, and more.

If these expenses are pre-paid and non-refundable, you risk losing it if something goes wrong. Your child could get sick, a parent could pass away, a hurricane could strike. Any of these events could cause you to cancel your trip and lose all of that money.

What does travel insurance cover?- Child sick in bed with thermometer

If these expenses are pre-paid and non-refundable, you risk losing it if something goes wrong. Your child could get sick, a parent could pass away, a hurricane could strike. Any of these events could cause you to cancel your trip and lose all of that money.

Travel insurance reimburses your costs if you need to cancel for a covered reason

Trip Cancellation Coverage reimburses you for pre-paid, non-refundable expenses if you need to cancel your trip before you depart. Insurance companies provide a list of covered reasons for trip cancellation, but here is an overview of the most common reasons travelers need to cancel.

Covered reasons to cancel your trip include:

  • Sickness, injury, or death of you, a family member, or a traveling companion
  • Hurricane damages your destination or cancels your flight
  • Terrorist incident in your destination city
  • Laid off from work or required to work
  • Bankruptcy of your travel supplier
  • Called for jury duty

By far, the most common reason someone getting sick or a family member passing away. This is especially common now with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Note: There is also an optional upgrade called Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage, which will allow you to call off your trip for any reason, as long as you meet the plan criteria.

Trip Interruption Coverage is similar to cancellation coverage, but covers you while you are on your trip for the same list of covered reasons.

If something happens and you are required to return home, insurance will reimburse you for the lost portion of your trip…as well as any additional expenses to get back home.

2. Medical emergencies

This is crucial, and often overlooked.

Most people think they are covered for medical emergencies if they already have existing health care insurance. Within the United States, that will likely be true.

But when you travel abroad, your health insurance from home might not travel with you. Most providers do not provide coverage, and Medicare never covers you abroad.

Travel insurance covers medical emergencies abroad- woman in hospital bed

Would you feel comfortable having a family member risk inadequate medical care in a foreign country?

For cruises, your health insurance from home may not cover you if you’re traveling on a foreign-flagged ship (which includes most cruise ships).

Travel insurance covers emergency medical expenses

Medical Expense Coverage will cover you for accidents and emergency medical and dental care when you travel.

Even if your plan from home covers basic emergency care overseas, your current health insurance provider will almost certainly NOT pay to evacuate you and repatriate you back to the U.S.

3. Emergency evacuations

Medical emergencies can be scary, and the travel medical coverage explained above covers the medical costs.

But how do you get home? What if you need a special medical flight, or a rescue from a remote location?

Travel insurance covers emergency evacuations and medical transportation

Emergency Evacuation Coverage will pay for emergency evacuation expenses such as airlifts and medically equipped flights back home, and oftentimes will transport you to the hospital of your choice for care.

Travel insurance covers emergency medical evacuations, like helicopter med flights

Evacuation expenses can be devastating. An ambulance to the hospital, an airlift to a more adequate hospital, getting you back home on board a medically-staffed flight afterwards…evacuation expenses can easily cost $100,000.

4. Lost bags, delayed bags, delayed flights

These coverage are for the “smaller things” that are nice to have. Again, the list is not complete but it will give you an idea of some additional coverages.

Travel insurance covers lost baggage and flight delays

Baggage Coverage can reimburse you for your personal belongings if your luggage is lost, stolen or damaged not just on your flight, but on your entire trip.

Travel insurance covers lost, stolen, or damaged baggage

Baggage Delay Coverage provides money to buy essential items until your delayed bags arrive, such as a toiletry kit, a swimsuit, or another change of clothes.

Travel Delay Coverage provides reimbursement for additional expenses if your flight is delayed, such as an extra night in a hotel or a meal at a restaurant.

5. Phone assistance 24/7 worldwide

This is about having a ‘lifeline’ to call when something happens.

Medical emergencies, stolen baggage, lost passports, cancelled flights. Every travel insurance company provides 24/7 support for all of these needs.

This service is most important when you have a medical issue. It can be scary to have medical issues abroad where language and customs are completely different than at home.

24/7 Travel Assistance Services can help you:

  • Locate the nearest adequate hospital if needed
  • Organize medical transportation
  • Arrange for treatment and overcome any language barriers with translators
  • Organize transportation home
  • Replace prescriptions in an emergency

In addition, non-medical assistance may include:

  • Lost baggage search; stolen luggage replacement assistance
  • Lost passport/travel documents assistance
  • Travel information including visa/passport requirements
  • Emergency telephone interpretation assistance

Additional coverage with travel insurance

Travel insurance can also provides coverage for:

  • Life Insurance coverage for accidental death or dismemberment.
  • Hazardous Sports extends the medical coverage to cover activities like SCUBA.
  • Rental Car Collision replaces your personal insurance or the rental company policy.
  • Identity Theft provides services to help in the event of identity theft while traveling.

What does travel insurance NOT cover?

We’ve explained what travel insurance covers – but it is just as important to ask the question of what does travel insurance not cover? Like any insurance policy, travel insurance cannot cover “everything”, after all.

For cancellations, there is a list of covered reasons for cancellation. We recently wrote a complete guide on this topic. Anything not on this list would not be covered. The list of covered reasons for cancellation includes the most common events like sickness, an accident, death, hurricane, terrorism, house fire, jury duty, needing to work, and more.

For complete peace-of-mind, Cancel For Any Reason coverage is available to extend that coverage. As we just mentioned above, this is an upgrade worth considering.

Other exclusions include losses caused by drug use, suicide, professional sports, hazardous sports (like rock climbing), and more. Again, there is a list of excluded items that would not be covered.

What does travel medical insurance cover?

The coverage above related to comprehensive travel insurance. This is the most popular type of insurance travelers buy, because it covers all parts of their trip.

If you are not concerned with cancelled trips, baggage, or delays there is a type of plan called Travel Medical insurance. Travel Medical is just focused on the medical emergency coverage, and evacuation coverage.

Travel Medical only insurance is popular with expatriates, business travelers, or those going overseas for an extended trip. You can purchase it for a year at a time, and can be renewed for several years.

What does COVID travel insurance cover?

We’ve covered what travel insurance covers – and you know the five most common coverages now. However, we want to take the time to answer another common question we’ve been asked: what does COVID travel insurance cover? At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of confusion about how trip insurance would cover Covid-related issues.

Most travel insurance companies treat Coronavirus like any other illness. This means it would cover if you get sick with Covid and need to cancel. It would also cover medical expenses if you get Covid abroad and need care.

It does not cover you if you are simply concerned about getting Covid. Many travelers thought a global pandemic would be a covered reason for cancellation, but this is excluded in many policies.

The best way to cover this concern would be a plan with the optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade. This coverage extends your covered reasons for cancellation and would allow you to cancel the trip for Covid concerns.

What expenses does travel insurance cover?

Comprehensive travel insurance covers your pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs. Travelers buy travel insurance for $300 airline tickets, or for an African safari costing $70,000.

Insurable trip costs can include:

  • Airfare
  • Hotels
  • Cruises
  • Shore excursions
  • Tours
  • Event tickets
  • and any other pre-paid, non-refundable expense

Final Thoughts On What Travel Insurance Covers

As you can see, travel insurance covers most of the concerns travelers have. You’ll enjoy peace of mind by upgrading to cancel for any reason coverage, though. Here is a quick summary of the different things travel insurance covers:

  • Canceled trips
  • Medical emergencies along your trip
  • Emergency evacuations
  • Lost bags and travel delays
  • Phone assistance

The company you ultimately end up choosing and your specific insurance plan will dictate the degree of coverage you have in these different areas. It is important to do ample research to make sure you actually have the coverage you want – and for the best price. Looking for a recommendation? We compiled a guide of the best travel insurance plans of 2022 for you.

Looking to learn more about trip insurance? Here are some of the most important related articles we’ve written. These resources will help you get the best bang for your buck with trip insurance and ensure you’ve covered all your bases:

Damian Tysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.