When to Buy Travel Insurance

So How Do You Know When to Buy Travel Insurance?

Not sure when to buy travel insurance in your trip booking process? Find out the best time to buy your travel insurance policy to get total protection and all trip costs covered with our quick guide.

If you’re torn between adding a simple protection policy during the booking or waiting until after you’ve booked, paid for, and planned your trip, we’ve got you covered. We’ll show you when to buy travel insurance to protect all reservations and prepaid costs for your trip.

Stick around for helpful tips and info on travel insurance policy start dates, coverage periods, and more.

What Is Travel Insurance?

What does travel insurance cover? Travel insurance protects an upcoming trip against interruptions, cancellations, flight delays, baggage delays, lost luggage, and medical coverage. The cost of travel insurance is based on the state of residence, the total cost of the trip, departure date, return dates, and the initial deposit. Travel plans can cost as little as a few dollars a day.

How Does Travel Insurance Work?

Travel insurance works by reimbursing you for expenses incurred as a result of an interruption in your trip, such as missed flights, lost luggage, or medical emergencies. It can also provide coverage for trip cancellations and delays.

When to Buy? Immediately After Booking

What is the right time to buy travel insurance? Should you wait until a few days before your departure date?  Do you need to buy it during or directly after booking your trip?

The best time to buy travel insurance is right after booking all of your trip reservations. The next best time to buy travel insurance is within 2 weeks (14 days after paying your first trip deposit).

So why is it a good idea to buy travel insurance right after you’ve finished booking all the reservations and tickets for your trip? Waiting to buy travel insurance until you booked all of your prepaid reservations is key. It’s the best way to ensure 100% (or more) of your trip costs will be covered by your travel insurance policy.

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Why? Because travel insurance costs are based on your total trip costs. You won’t know your total trip costs until you’ve booked and arranged reservations for all the transportation, tours, and accommodations you’ll be using during your trip.

Buying travel insurance after booking only part of your trip, like your flights or hotel rooms, can leave you uncovered for any additional trip reservations or tickets purchased afterward.

That might mean you only get a portion of your total trip cost reimbursed in the event of an accident, cancellation or delay!

If you don’t buy travel insurance right after finishing booking reservations for your trip, all is not lost. You can still purchase travel insurance up until the night before your trip with a few more limitations. However, it’s a good idea to buy travel insurance no later than 14 days after making your first deposit on the trip. Buying travel insurance after you’ve made your first trip deposit will still give you a wide coverage window and provide options if you need to cancel, delay, or change your trip itinerary close to the departure date.

The key here is making sure you buy your travel insurance early; the sooner you purchase your policy, the more coverage and freedom you’ll have for trip cancellation.

When you buy travel insurance right after you’ve completely booked your trip, your policy’s effective date starts the next day (if you’ve purchased travel insurance online). That means you’ll start getting cancellation and trip delay coverage right away. Waiting any longer to put your policy into effect only reduces your window of coverage.

When to Buy? 14 Days After Deposit

Let’s say you’ve already booked your trip and paid your first deposit. Can you still buy travel insurance at the time? Absolutely.

While buying travel insurance right after booking all parts of your trip is the best case scenario, buying a policy after booking and your first deposit will still give you plenty of cancellation coverage.

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The sooner you can purchase your travel insurance after booking the better. Try to buy your travel insurance no later than 2 weeks after paying your first deposit to get the widest range of coverage.

Some travel insurance companies have policies that won’t cover cancellations related to pre-existing medical conditions if you buy travel insurance later than 14 days after making your first trip.

Until you buy travel insurance, any prepaid costs and deposits you’ve paid toward your trip will be unprotected and at risk of loss in the event you need to cancel or delay your trip, so the longer you go without paying travel insurance after booking and paying deposits, the riskier your trip gets in terms of out-of-of-pocket expenses and loses.

The second money changes hands for reservations and tickets related to your trip, you need travel insurance to cover for potential cancellations, delays, and plan charges.

When Is It Too Late to Buy Travel Insurance?

Maybe it’s mere days before your planned departure date, or your flight is tomorrow. When is it too late to buy travel insurance?

Think of it this way: The best time to buy travel insurance was yesterday. The next best time is right now. You can even buy travel insurance as late as 1 day before your planned departure date. Though it’s not recommended, getting coverage late is better than going without coverage.

Something to keep in mind is that your travel insurance policy options will significantly decrease as you get closer to the departure date for your trip. You might be limited to purchasing a travel emergency medical insurance plan without trip cancellation coverage if you try to purchase insurance the day before you leave.

If you need trip protection (trip cancellation, interruption, and delay coverage) the latest you can get travel insurance is within 2-3 days of your planned departure date.

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For last-minute coverage that may not include trip protection, you can purchase travel insurance as late as 11:59 the night before your planned departure date.

Most travel insurance companies don’t offer policies that begin on the departure date. Your departure date is the marker for when it’s generally too late to buy travel insurance.

You’ll have to purchase at least a day (probably 2) in advance of your departure date to get any type of coverage for emergency medical care, trip delays, delayed/lost/stolen luggage, and missed connections.

Can I Buy Travel Insurance During My Trip?

Travel insurance is meant to protect, insure, and cover you for unforeseen events and expenses that may occur before or during a trip. That said, sometimes life happens and you may find yourself already abroad enjoying your trip before you realize you forgot to get travel insurance.

So can you buy travel insurance after departure, when you’re already on your trip? You can, but there are some limitations to the companies that offer post-departure coverage and the types of coverage you can get.

Travel insurance companies like Safety Wing, Heymondo, and World Nomads all offer travel insurance plans you can purchase when you’re already abroad.

Your coverage can be adjusted to last 1-180 days depending on the length of your trip. Post-departure travel insurance coverage may go into effect immediately (Safety Wing) or within 48-72 hours after you purchase your plan.

These plans obviously won’t cover pre-trip cancellation, but may include coverage for trip interruption, missed connections, baggage, and emergency medical expenses.

Benefits of Buying Travel Insurance Early

Buying travel insurance as soon as possible after booking your trip is always the best plan. If you buy travel insurance ASAP after booking and/or paying your first deposit, you’ll reap the benefits!

  • Better cancellation coverage. Getting travel insurance as soon as possible after booking means you’ll get the best cancellation coverage. The sooner you get travel insurance, the sooner your plan’s effective date starts and the sooner your cancellation coverage kicks in. If anything comes up during the time between your travel insurance purchase and your departure date, there’s a good chance your cancellation will be covered and you’ll be reimbursed. The longer you wait to buy insurance, the shorter your cancellation window is.
  • Completely insure your trip. When you purchase travel insurance early enough (within 2 weeks of paying your first trip deposit), you’ll be able to fully insure your trip costs. Say a tropical storm begins brewing a week before your planned trip to Mexico. If the storm is named and you haven’t already gotten coverage, you won’t be able to cancel your trip with full reimbursement. But with travel insurance already in place, you’ll be able to cancel with full reimbursement even after the storm is named.
  • Get the best insurance policy options. Buying travel insurance too close to your departure will significantly reduce the number and types of insurance plans if you wait until the day before your trip. However, buying soon after booking gives you the option to buy trip protection, cancellation insurance, emergency travel medical insurance, or comprehensive (cancellation+medical) travel insurance.
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Still have a few questions when to buy travel insurance? Find your answers among the Most Frequently Asked Questions below.

Can you buy travel insurance right before you leave?

Your travel insurance policy’s effective date is usually the day after you buy your plan. Some plans may immediately go into effect, but you’ll need to check with your insurance provider.

How long in advance do you need travel insurance?

You should ideally purchase travel insurance as soon as you’ve fully booked your trip and/or paid your first deposit. The moment money changes hands, you risk losing that money if you don’t have a travel insurance plan in place with trip protection and cancellation coverage.

You can buy travel insurance right before you leave, but your plan options will be severely limited. Starting 24 hours before your departure date you may not be able to purchase trip protection/cancellation coverage.

Emergency travel medical insurance may be your only option right before you leave, but that’s better than going without insurance at all.

What is the effective date of a travel insurance policy?

The effective date determines when your coverage goes into effect and can protect you in terms of trip cancellation, delays, or missed connections.

How much should you expect to pay for travel insurance?

Travel insurance costs are based on your total trip costs, coverage selected, your age, and the length of your trip. That said, average travel insurance costs are typically 4% to 12% of your total trip costs.

How do you buy travel insurance?

There are a few different ways to buy travel insurance. One option is to buy it online from a reputable insurance company. Another option is to purchase it through a travel agent when you book your trip. Finally, you can also sometimes buy travel insurance through your airline, but this may not cover all parts of your trip.

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Blair Witkowski
Author: Blair Witkowski

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