There are some things you know you’ll never leave home without when you’re packing for a trip. But besides making sure you’ve grabbed the proper attire for the weather where you’re heading and double-checking that you haven’t forgotten your essential chargers, it can also be important to make sure you’re covered with travel insurance. Most packages can be a way to secure some peace of mind about being prepared for any mishaps on the road, like lost luggage or flight changes. But if you’re looking to get the most out of your plan, there are a few things you should know before you make your decision. Read on to see what experts say are the best travel insurance hacks you should know.
READ THIS NEXT: Never Do This After Checking a Bag, Flight Attendant Says.
Double check which coverage you already have.
Credit cards today are much more than a way to pay for items without cash. Even many basic options come with all kinds of perks and bonuses, not to mention ways to make it cheaper to book travel with rewards points. But they can also include some built-in insurance you didn’t even realize you had—along with other services you’re already paying to use.
“Check with the credit card you used to purchase the travel,” says John Rose, chief risk and security officer of travel management company ALTOUR. “The American Express Platinum card, for example, has some travel insurance coverage from AIG and already contains medical evacuation coverage through American Express. People should also check their homeowner’s or renter’s policy as it may contain coverage for any lost or stolen items, such as luggage. Don’t buy double coverage, but make sure you have coverage for the things you are concerned about—namely, trip cancellation, medical assistance, and so forth.”
Take a photographic note of everything you’ve packed in your checked luggage.
Whether packing is a long, drawn-out, and traumatic process for you or an easy last-minute task you breeze through, you still might not recall everything that makes its way into your bag. That’s why experts say it’s important to remember to do one thing before you zip up and take off.
“Before you close your suitcases, take photos of the contents, so you have an accurate list for a claim,” Steve Dasseos from Trip Insurance Store tells Best Life. “It’s nearly impossible to remember what you packed if your suitcase is lost.”
READ THIS NEXT: 5 Things You Should Never Bring on a Cruise, Experts Warn.
You might need more coverage than you already have.
If you’re savvy enough to know which cards make the most sense to have in your wallet, you might have a decent idea of the perks that come along with them. But experts warn that just because you think you’re covered doesn’t mean it will be enough for any mishaps on the road when you need it most.
“Don’t blindly rely on just credit cards and existing policies such as home insurance when planning travel,” Joe Cronin, president of International Citizens Insurance, tells Best Life. “Take a close look at your policy to better understand what’s covered, and be sure to purchase appropriate travel insurance to cover items such as medical care, baggage, personal belongings, and trip interruption. Credit cards often offer baggage insurance and trip cancellation coverage, but almost no credit cards offer any emergency medical coverage.”
Don’t wait too long to book your insurance.
Getting everything squared away and finalized for a trip can take plenty of upfront research and holding off for a better deal before you finally pull the trigger. But experts say if you want the most out of your travel insurance, it’s best to book it immediately.
“Follow the 14-day rule,” says Elad Schaffer, co-founder and CEO of Faye Travel Insurance. “It’s best to buy travel insurance as soon as you make your initial trip deposit, such as purchasing your flights or accommodation. That way, you’ll be protected against unexpected events that might cause you to delay or cancel. And if you buy within 14 days of your initial trip deposit, you’ll be eligible for your travel insurance provider’s full range of coverage protection.”
But still, that doesn’t mean you should go for the easiest or fastest option. “Trip protection tends to be a forgettable add-on via a box we feel pressured into checking following a hotel or flight booking. They usually say something like: ‘Add travel insurance in one click and just relax.’ In reality, many are likely to opt into these offers without understanding what the plans actually cover, only to find out about the minimal coverage they paid for when the you-know-what hits the fan,” Schaffer warns.
“In fact, travel insurance distributors that work directly with flight and hotel booking platforms may take a super-high commission on these sales and provide minimal assistance. Explore what travel insurance providers have to offer by going directly to their sites and avoid trip protection from hotel, car, and flight websites,” he suggests.
Consider going for longer-term travel insurance.
Are you one of those travelers who practically live out of their suitcase? Besides being more likely to need insurance overall, experts say there’s another option that could save you some cash and time while giving you peace of mind.
“One thing that many travelers don’t realize is that travel insurance providers offer annual coverage as well as coverage on a trip-by-trip basis,” Roger Broussard, CEO and founder of Pilot School Hero, tells Best Life. “Subject to certain terms and conditions, of course, this type of policy will provide you with comprehensive coverage for all your trips in any given year. If you’re a frequent overseas traveler, whether for business or for recreation, this will undoubtedly save you a significant amount of money over the course of the year versus insuring yourself for each individual trip.”
But Broussard says there are still some limits to this strategy. “Bear in mind that trips that require additional coverage due to a perceived higher risk—for example, going skiing—are still best covered by single-trip insurance,” he says.
For more travel advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Consider extra coverage if you’re at a higher risk of needing it.
Being away from home can make it harder to react when something goes unexpectedly wrong with a plan or luggage, but it’s another situation entirely when it comes to your health. Experts say that anyone at a higher risk of needing to visit a hospital while on the road should seriously weigh stepping up their plans to ensure they’re covered to avoid a costly payout in the end.
“If you have pre-existing conditions or are pregnant, you should consider travel medical insurance,” says Cronin. “While your health insurance may reimburse for some of these costs, you’ll still be responsible for paying these costs upfront. Travel medical insurance will help you cover these costs and provide additional support such as helping to find English-speaking doctors and a medical evacuation back to the U.S. in case of an emergency.”
Travel insurance isn’t just for long trips.
Most people only think to look up travel insurance when planning an expensive transatlantic jaunt or cross-country vacation. However, experts say this can be a huge mistake.
“Don’t buy into the myth that you only need travel insurance if you’re venturing abroad,” says Schaffer. “Domestic trips, specifically in today’s travel climate, warrant travel insurance—especially if you’ve paid in advance for accommodation and activities.”
Don’t be afraid to pay a little more if you want the best coverage.
Deciding on the right type of travel insurance can feel like a process that’s confusing and daunting by design. And no matter what your budget may be, no one likes paying for anything they don’t need. But experts say that when it comes to insurance, purchasing the right option can sometimes determine if you’ll get what you need out of it.
“Sometimes paying a little extra will save you dividends in the long run,” Ciara Turner-Ewert, travel expert and CEO at Wellness Travel Diaries, tells Best Life. “Travel insurance companies typically have three different types of coverage, so paying a little extra may bump you up to the next coverage level. In other words, your dollar may go much further, and you’ll get better coverage—just always double-check to see what’s offered.”