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When it comes to vacationing, are you the carefree one that goes with the flow, blissfully unaware of everything? Or are you the planner that worries and obsesses over every detail? Whether it's a backpacking adventure or a luxury cruise you have in mind, the question of whether or not to get travel insurance can keep you up at night. 

On one hand, you don't want to waste your hard-earned cash on something you might not need. On the other hand, you don't want to end up stranded in a foreign country with no medical coverage or financial assistance should you lose your luggage. 

So what's a traveler to do? Let's break down the pros and cons of travel insurance — including what travel experts think — to help you make an informed decision.

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What Is Travel Insurance?

Traveling is an exciting and enriching experience that allows you to learn about new cultures, try different cuisines, and create unforgettable memories. 

However, unexpected events can occur during your travels that derail plans and cause financial hardship. This is where travel insurance comes in: It's a type of insurance that covers unexpected events occurring before or during a trip. Travel insurance can include coverage for trip cancellations, medical emergencies, lost or stolen luggage, flight delays, and more.

According to an analysis of travel insurance rates conducted by Forbes, the average cost of travel insurance in 2023 amounts to 5% to 6% of your trip cost. This means that for a $5,000 trip, the average travel insurance will run you about $228, with policies ranging anywhere from $154 for a basic policy to $437 for more comprehensive coverage. 

You can acquire travel insurance in a few ways:

  • Travel Agents: Many offer travel insurance policies as part of their services. Agents can provide you with information about different policies and help you choose the right one for your needs.

  • Online: You can purchase travel insurance online through insurance companies' websites or comparison sites. This option allows you to compare policies from different providers to purchase the policy that best fits your needs and budget. 

  • Through Your Credit Card: Some credit card companies offer travel insurance as a perk for using their card to purchase your trip. Be sure to check the terms and conditions to understand what is covered and what the limitations are.

  • Via Your Employer: Some employers may offer business travel insurance as a benefit to their employees, especially if your job involves frequent travel. Check with your employer to see if this is an option for you.

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The Pros of Travel Insurance

  1. Peace of Mind: Travel insurance can provide you with something money can't buy: peace of mind. Knowing that you are protected against unexpected events that could occur can help you feel more at ease about your upcoming trip. 

  2. Medical Coverage: It can provide you with coverage in the event of a medical emergency that would require medical treatment, hospitalization, or medical evacuation.

  3. Trip Cancellation Coverage: Should you need to cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, injury, a family emergency, or a natural disaster, travel insurance can cover the costs of that cancellation. 

  4. Lost or Stolen Luggage Coverage: Travel insurance can provide reimbursements for lost or stolen luggage, easing the financial burden of having to replace your belongings and avoid further losses. 

  5. Flight Delay Coverage: In the event your flight is delayed or cancelled due to the airline's fault, travel insurance can cover expenses such as meals and accommodations to ensure you're not left stranded in an airport.

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The Cons of Travel Insurance

  1. Added Expense: Travel insurance can be expensive, especially if you opt for a comprehensive policy that covers a wide range of events. This can add a significant financial toll to the already steep expenses associated with traveling. 

  2. Exclusions and Limitations: Some policies may have exclusions and limitations that can make it difficult should you need to file a claim. Be sure to read the fine print carefully to understand exactly what your policy will cover and, when in doubt, reach out to the insurance company directly for clarification. (Pro tip: Keep receipts of everything in case you need to provide documentation at a later date.) 

  3. Pre-Existing Conditions: Some types of travel insurance may not cover pre-existing medical conditions, which can be a problem for some travelers. However, according to Forbes, you have the option to obtain a "pre-existing medical condition exclusion waiver" to guarantee that any issues with pre-existing conditions are covered during your travels.

  4. Deductibles: Travel insurance policies may have hefty deductibles that you need to pay before the insurance coverage kicks in.

  5. Unnecessary Coverage: Depending on your travel plans, some types of coverage may be unnecessary, which means you could be paying for coverage that you do not need, adding more expenses to your trip. 

What Do Experts Think? 

According to many travel agents, you should always buy travel insurance if you can afford it. "Safe travel starts with travel protection," Tara Minson, executive vice president of travel agency InteleTravel, explained to CBS News.

Other experts echoed Minson's statement. "Medical expenses can be very costly in other countries, plus you may have to pay upfront for medical care, including hospitalization and surgery," Michelle Osborn, who runs travel agency Outta Here Travels, told CBS. "Travel insurance can help cover those expenses."

"Traveling without travel insurance carries a huge risk — a risk that many people cannot afford if something happens before or during their trip," Shane Mahoney, founder of luxury travel agency Lugo's Travel, told the outlet. "If you don't have travel insurance, anything that happens during your trip, from something common like flight cancellations and lost baggage to more serious situations like medical emergencies abroad, you are on the hook for paying for all of it."

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The Bottom Line

Whether or not travel insurance is worth it will depend on each traveler, their preferences, and the nature of their travels. For last-minute domestic flights, for example, travel insurance may not be needed, says Mahoney. "In that case, you most likely didn't prepay for any non-refundable expenses and you're not worried about last-minute trip cancellation, so it can be safe to not get travel insurance."

Still, travel insurance can provide valuable protection against unexpected events that can occur during a trip. But with any purchase, it's important to weigh the pros and cons carefully to determine if travel insurance is the right choice for you. When selecting a policy, be sure to read the fine print carefully and compare policies from different providers to find the best coverage for your needs and budget.

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