theSkimm on Travel Insurance

Published on: Oct 28, 2020fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
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The Story

A trip to anywhere probably sounds good right now. But...COVID-19. There are still a lot of question marks about the future of travel, when vacations are back on the table, and whether it’s safe to head home for the holidays. (PS: here's what the CDC says.)

Is this a job for travel insurance?

Depends. Like pretty much all kinds of insurance, what’s covered varies by provider and policy. Basic travel insurance usually covers things like:

  • Cancelations or interruptions because you get sick or injured. Or someone close to you passes away. Some also have your back if you get laid off or called for jury duty. If you’ve got proof, you could get some of your money back.

  • Delays if your flight changes because of mechanical problems or bad weather, and you have to pay for meals and a night at a hotel. Or if it’s the airline’s fault that you miss a connecting flight.

  • Damaged or lost property. Think: luggage that goes MIA in transit or valuables stolen while you’re traveling. You could get reimbursed for what’s gone. Especially if you needed important replacements (like a toothbrush) stat.

Does travel insurance cover medical issues?

If you’re traveling within the US, your regular health insurance probably has your back. Going international could be a different story. Some travel insurance includes medical coverage for accidents or emergencies abroad. You can also buy additional emergency evacuation coverage for things like airlifts or medically equipped flights home.

Talk to me about travel insurance and COVID-19.

Being worried about contracting the coronavirus isn’t generally covered by basic travel insurance. And because the pandemic is now a “foreseeable event,” related problems may be specifically excluded from policies. Some travel insurers will cover you if you get sick before your trip, though.

“Cancel for any reason” (CFAR) policies are a lot more comprehensive. And expensive. Standard travel insurance can cost up to 10% of what you paid for your trip. CFAR insurance could add about 40% to that rate. And still may only reimburse a portion – like 50-75% – of what you’ve spent. Keep in mind that timing matters. You might be required to buy coverage and cancel your trip within a certain time frame in order to get money back.

Are there any better ways to be flexible without losing money?

There’s probably no way to safeguard ALL your money in ALL situations. But you might have some protections already.

  • Check your credit card perks. Some cards automatically come with trip cancellation, baggage delay, rental car or emergency medical transportation coverage if you book with that plastic.

  • Read companies' refund policies. Lots of airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and other travel businesses have gotten more flexible with their cancellation policies since the pandemic started. That means you may not need to buy extra cancellation coverage.


Travel insurance could help you get some money back if something interrupts your plans. But it may not give you all the flexibility you want. Before purchasing coverage, check to see if there are free ways to protect yourself. Then weigh the pros and cons to get the most from your investment.

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Skimm'd by: Ivana Pino, Stacy Rapacon, Elizabeth Smith, and Elyse Steinhaus