10 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Travel Insurance

Written and researched by Michael Kays (Travel Insurance Expert) | Fact Checked by Danya Kristen (Insurance Agent).

When it comes to buying travel insurance, even the most seasoned travelers can make mistakes. These slip-ups can lead to unnecessary costs and headaches down the line. If you’re planning a trip and considering travel insurance, avoid these ten common mistakes.

Not Buying Travel Insurance at All

The first and possibly the most egregious mistake travelers make is not investing in travel insurance. Let’s face it, traveling is a thrilling, albeit risky endeavor.

It’s all part of the experience – the unexpected occurrences, the unforeseen incidents, and the surprising discoveries. But some risks can cause financial harm, major inconvenience, or even danger to your health.

Not buying travel insurance at all is like stepping into a minefield without a map. You don’t know when a misstep can lead to an unwanted explosion of problems.

You might think you’re saving money initially by skipping the travel insurance, but the potential costs of unforeseen mishaps, medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or lost baggage can far outweigh the cost of a travel insurance policy.

Consider this – a fall in a foreign city could lead to a sprained ankle or worse, a broken leg. Without travel insurance, you could end up with medical bills running into thousands of dollars.

A sudden family emergency could cause you to cancel your trip. Without travel insurance, you lose all the money you invested in the journey.

Travel insurance acts as a safety net, catching you when you fall into the unexpected pits of travel chaos. It provides peace of mind, knowing you have financial protection against the most common travel mishaps. Thus, forgoing this crucial part of travel planning can be a costly mistake.

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Buying on Price Alone

Everyone loves a bargain – it’s a universal truth. But when it comes to travel insurance, the old adage, “you get what you pay for,” rings true.

While it’s important to consider the cost, purchasing the cheapest policy available can lead to inadequate coverage.

Travel insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all product. It offers a range of coverage options that address different risks associated with traveling.

As such, you need to scrutinize every policy you’re considering based on what it covers, not just the price tag.

Bargain-basement policies may not provide comprehensive coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellations, or property loss and damage. You may find that a cheaper policy has lower coverage limits or excludes certain events or activities.

Consider a scenario where you’ve purchased a cheap policy, and midway through your mountain biking expedition in a remote part of your destination, you sustain an injury that needs immediate medical attention.

You’re airlifted to the nearest hospital, which is an expensive process, only to realize that your bargain insurance policy does not cover adventure sports or has a cap on evacuation costs.

To avoid the pitfalls of buying solely based on price, take time to understand the ins and outs of the policy. Understand the terms, conditions, and exclusions.

Compare policies not just on price, but also on the benefits, coverage limits, and customer service reputation of the insurance provider. Remember, when it comes to travel insurance, value and comprehensive coverage should be the primary deciding factors, not just price.

Not Reading the Fine Print

Even the most seasoned traveler can fall victim to this common pitfall – not reading the fine print of their travel insurance policy. Let’s face it, insurance documents aren’t exactly page-turners.

They’re filled with technical jargon, complex terms, and clauses that can make your head spin. However, taking the time to understand what’s included and excluded from your policy can save you from a world of trouble down the line.

Take this scenario, for example: you’ve been looking forward to your skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps for months, but a sudden snowstorm cancels your flights.

You’re not too worried though, you have travel insurance, right? However, upon filing a claim, you learn that your policy doesn’t cover weather-related trip cancellations. If only you’d read the fine print!

This mistake is more common than you might think, and it’s easily avoidable. Make sure you fully understand your policy before purchasing. If there’s something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask your insurance provider. Remember, the devil is often in the details when it comes to insurance policies.

Assuming All Medical Conditions are Covered

Travel insurance policies are designed to cover unexpected events.

However, any medical condition you were aware of before purchasing your insurance policy is considered a “pre-existing condition” and is typically not covered unless you disclose it and the insurer agrees to cover it, often at an additional premium.

Failing to disclose pre-existing medical conditions can be a costly mistake. If you fall ill while traveling due to an undisclosed pre-existing condition, your insurer may refuse to cover your medical expenses, leaving you with potentially enormous medical bills to pay out of pocket.

Consider this hypothetical scenario: you’re a diabetic and are well-managed on medication.

You’ve planned a vacation but haven’t disclosed your diabetes because it’s under control and you don’t see it as a risk.

However, while traveling, you fall ill due to fluctuating blood sugar levels and need medical attention.

When you claim the medical costs, your insurer may reject the claim because you did not disclose your pre-existing condition at the time of policy purchase.

To avoid this pitfall, be honest and upfront about any and all pre-existing conditions when you apply for travel insurance. It may increase your premium, but it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, knowing you’re covered if your condition flares up while you’re traveling.

Purchasing Insurance at the Last Minute

Do you tend to leave buying travel insurance to the last minute?

If so, you’re not alone. It’s not unusual to focus on the fun aspects of planning a vacation and leave the less glamorous tasks, like purchasing insurance, until the eleventh hour. However, buying insurance at the last minute can have significant downsides.

Consider this: what if you book your dream vacation several months in advance, but a few weeks before you’re due to travel, you have a medical emergency and can’t go?

Without insurance, you could lose all the money you’ve spent on booking flights, hotels, and activities. This is because travel insurance not only covers you during your trip but also for certain events that may happen before your trip.

Furthermore, some policies offer coverage for pre-existing conditions if the policy is purchased within a certain window after making the initial trip deposit.

Wait too long, and you may not be able to get coverage for pre-existing conditions.

To avoid this mistake, make buying travel insurance part of your travel planning process. As soon as you’ve booked your trip, consider purchasing your policy. This ensures you get the maximum benefit from your insurance.

Not Considering Multi-Trip Policies

Ah, the allure of the multi-trip policy. It’s like the secret menu of the travel insurance world. Not everyone knows about it, but once you do, it could change your game entirely, especially if you’re a frequent flyer or a serial vacationist.

  1. What’s a Multi-Trip Policy?
    In the realm of travel insurance, there’s a product designed to protect those with a serious case of wanderlust: the multi-trip policy. Instead of purchasing individual insurance policies for each trip you take, a multi-trip policy covers all your travels within a specified time period, typically a year. This policy type is also known as annual travel insurance.
  2. The Potential Savings
    For those who travel regularly, multi-trip policies can be a game-changer, both in terms of convenience and cost. Purchasing a single policy that covers multiple trips can often be more cost-effective than buying separate policies for each trip. If you’re traveling more than two or three times a year, the math typically works out in your favor with an annual policy.
  3. Convenience and Peace of Mind
    Apart from potential cost savings, multi-trip policies offer the convenience of a one-time purchase. You won’t have to remember to buy travel insurance for each trip you’re taking, reducing the risk of forgetting and finding yourself without coverage. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it solution for the regular traveler, offering peace of mind for the entire year.
  4. Things to Consider
    However, before jumping on the multi-trip bandwagon, you should consider whether this type of policy suits your travel habits and needs. Multi-trip policies often have a cap on the length of any single trip covered, and might not be appropriate if you’re planning an extended stay in a single location. Moreover, the coverage offered may be more generic, and you may need to purchase additional coverage for specific activities or destinations.

The bottom line is, ignoring multi-trip policies can be a costly mistake if you’re a frequent traveler. It’s an aspect of travel insurance that’s often overlooked but can offer significant benefits if it matches your travel patterns and requirements.

Don’t forget to explore this option next time you’re shopping for travel insurance.

Forgetting to Cover All Destinations

Now, here’s a little plot twist that most travelers aren’t expecting when they’re sifting through their insurance policy – overlooking to ensure all their destinations are covered.

Sounds like a rookie mistake, right? But you’d be surprised how often this slips through the cracks, leaving travelers at a loss when they need to file a claim.

  1. The Misstep:
    So, here’s the typical scenario. You’ve planned a thrilling round-the-world trip, hopping across continents, exploring hidden beaches, trekking through rainforests, and savoring mouthwatering street food. You get travel insurance but in the whirlwind of planning, you forget to list all the countries you’ll be visiting, or you underestimate how global your itinerary actually is.
  2. Why It’s A Problem:
    Each country comes with its own set of risks, and the insurer’s assessment of these risks influences your policy’s terms, coverage, and cost. If you forget to mention a destination, any incidents that happen there might not be covered by your insurance, even if it’s a quick stopover.
  3. High-Risk Destinations:
    This is particularly crucial for countries considered high-risk due to factors such as political instability, environmental hazards, or high levels of crime or disease. Some policies explicitly exclude these destinations, while others might offer coverage at a higher premium.
  4. The Solution:
    To avoid this, meticulously list all your destinations when applying for travel insurance, including any countries you’ll be transiting through. It’s better to over-communicate and ensure that you’re fully covered, no matter where your adventure takes you.
  5. Consider a Worldwide Policy:
    If your travel plans are fluid or involve multiple countries, consider opting for a worldwide policy. While these policies may be slightly more expensive, they can provide comprehensive coverage regardless of your destination.

Remember, your travel insurance is only as good as the information you provide. When it comes to covering all your destinations, it’s a simple case of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. Don’t let an oversight leave you stranded without coverage in a foreign land!

Not Checking Coverage Limits

While the excitement of travel often takes center stage, overlooking the nitty-gritty of your travel insurance coverage can spell disaster if you’re not careful. One of the biggest pitfalls you can tumble into is not checking coverage limits.

  1. The Misstep:
    Here’s the thing – not all coverage limits are created equal. In your rush to secure insurance, you might just scan the list of covered areas and think, “Great, this policy covers everything I need!” But the question you should be asking is, “How much does it cover?”
  2. Why It’s A Problem:
    Every insurance policy has limits on how much it will pay out for each type of coverage. This could be a blanket limit or specific limits depending on the claim. For instance, you might have $100,000 in emergency medical coverage, but only $500 for dental emergencies. If you have an accident that costs $5,000 in dental repairs, you’ll be left with a hefty bill even though you have insurance.
  3. Under-coverage:
    The risk here is under-coverage, which means that the coverage limit is too low to fully cover the potential costs you could incur. This could lead to significant out-of-pocket expenses, negating the financial protection that insurance is meant to provide.
  4. The Solution:
    Always scrutinize the coverage limits in your potential policy. Consider the costs you could potentially face – medical expenses in your destination country, the total cost of your trip (for trip cancellation coverage), the value of your belongings (for baggage loss/damage coverage), and so on.
  5. Adjusting Your Coverage:
    Most insurers allow you to adjust your coverage limits, although this will likely affect your premium. It might be worth paying a bit more upfront to ensure that you have sufficient coverage if things go south.

So, remember, next time you’re breezing through your travel insurance policy, hit the brakes when you get to the coverage limits. Make sure they match your needs because when it comes to insurance, the devil is indeed in the details!

Not Checking the Claims Process

While you hope to never have to use your travel insurance, you should understand the claims process before buying a policy. This is a frequently overlooked aspect of travel insurance that can have significant implications if something goes wrong on your trip.

  1. The Complexity of the Claims Process:
    Travel insurance policies can vary greatly in terms of how straightforward it is to make a claim. Some providers have a relatively simple online form where you can submit your claim and supporting documentation, while others might require lengthy phone calls, paper forms, and even notarized statements. It’s vital to understand what you’re getting into before you buy the policy. If the claims process is overly complex, it may deter you from making legitimate claims.
  2. Required Documentation:
    Understanding the documentation required to support your claim is crucial. Providers typically require documentation such as medical bills, receipts, police reports, or airline statements to process a claim. The specific requirements will depend on the type of claim you’re making. If you fail to provide the required documents, your claim could be denied. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these requirements ahead of time and to keep meticulous records and copies of relevant documents during your trip.
  3. Claims Processing Time:
    The time it takes for a provider to process your claim can vary significantly between companies. Some insurers are known for their speedy processing times, while others may be notoriously slow. If you’re facing significant out-of-pocket costs due to a travel mishap, a prolonged waiting period for claim reimbursement can add to your stress and financial strain.
  4. Customer Service Quality:
    Lastly, but most certainly not least, is the quality of customer service provided by the insurance company. When something goes wrong, you want to be confident that you’ll be able to reach a representative who can answer your questions and guide you through the claims process. Reading reviews from other customers can give you a sense of what to expect.

In conclusion, while the claims process might seem like a minor detail when you’re purchasing travel insurance, it becomes vitally important if you need to file a claim. Ignoring this aspect could lead to a lot of frustration and possible financial loss, so do your homework before you commit to a policy.

Not Checking the Activities Covered

Are you planning on going skydiving in New Zealand? Or maybe scuba diving in Thailand? Perhaps you’re just going for a hike in the Rocky Mountains. Whatever your adventurous soul wishes to undertake, make sure your travel insurance policy covers it.

Many people assume that travel insurance automatically covers all activities, but this is not the case. Some policies exclude “high-risk” activities, which could include anything from horseback riding to mountain climbing. If you’re injured while participating in an excluded activity, your insurance won’t cover your medical expenses or related costs.

Always check the list of covered activities before purchasing a policy. If your planned activities aren’t covered, you may need to purchase additional coverage or consider a different policy. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when your health and financial well-being are at stake.

In summary, buying travel insurance is not something to take lightly or rush through. Take the time to do your research, read the fine print, and make sure you’re getting the coverage you need. Avoiding these common mistakes can help ensure that your trip is as worry-free as possible, even when the unexpected happens. Safe travels!


Q: When is the best time to buy travel insurance?

A: The best time to buy travel insurance is immediately after booking your trip. This ensures that you’re covered should anything happen between the booking and your travel dates.

Q: Does travel insurance cover all countries?

A: Not all travel insurance policies cover all countries. Ensure you check the policy details and confirm that all your intended destinations are included.

Q: Are all medical conditions covered by travel insurance?

A: No, not all medical conditions are covered by travel insurance. It’s crucial to declare any pre-existing conditions and check with your insurer about what they will cover.

Q: How do I make a claim on my travel insurance?

A: The process for making a claim will depend on your specific policy and provider. It typically involves filling out a claim form and providing supporting documentation. Be sure to check the claims process before buying a policy.