You might be the kind of traveler who always purchases travel insurance, or maybe you’ve never even thought about it. It all depends on the trip you’re planning and what kind of traveler you are. But no matter your preference, we can agree that you should never buy travel insurance just because you feel pressured into it. Before you buy, we believe that it’s essential to know the details of your coverage as well as the limitations. You should take the time to read the fine print of any plan that you’re considering. Perhaps you’ll even want to get advice from a travel agent or a trusted friend.
This is why we encourage you to steer clear from the “add trip protection” option during check-out offered by many online travel agencies (or OTAs). Sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Booking.com, etc., are third-party booking sites designed to get you to book travel. Many OTAs have gotten very good at pressuring customers while they browse for hotels, and they’ll continue that pressure throughout the check-out process. They’ll try to upsell you in any way they can because the more money you spend on your trip, the more money they make.
But impulse-buying travel insurance isn’t wise, especially if you’re not sure if it will even be worth the extra investment. It doesn’t help that some sites have messages that make you really nervous if you choose to decline coverage. For instance, below is an example of what you see when you’re offered protection plans on Orbitz.com.
Everything about this messaging makes it hard to turn down. But knowledge is power, and we’re here to help you understand the details of each flight and hotel insurance policy offered on these sites. After this, you’ll know how to book travel insurance the right way.
Travel Insurance Policies Offered by Orbitz and Expedia
Expedia and Orbitz (who are related, by the way) both use a third-party company called Travel Guard from AIG to offer travel insurance policies. They offer two policy packages that include flight cancellation and a flight total protection plan. For hotels, they also offer two options. Here are the deets…
The Flight Cancellation Plan covers domestic flights within the U.S., except for flights to Hawaii and Alaska. They can reimburse you up to your total trip cost if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip for covered reasons, such as sickness or injury. But don’t automatically assume that this will protect you no matter what; their list of “covered reasons” may be subject to limitations and exclusions.
The Flight Total Protection Plan covers all flights, including to destinations outside the U.S. They can cover the cost of your flight, baggage theft or damage, accidents, and medical expenses (up to $15,000).
Hotel Booking Protection
Here is a screenshot from Expedia. It contains similar messaging to the Orbitz flight insurance example above, but for hotel protection. Below is a summary of the two hotel plans that these sites offer:
The Hotel Booking Protection Plan is for U.S. hotels only. You can be reimbursed up to the total cost of your trip (with $3,000 as the maximum trip cost) if you need to cancel. The plan claims coverage if you get delayed and miss a night of your hotel stay, and it covers baggage delay expenses as well.
The Hotel Booking Protection Plus is an option for hotels located outside the U.S. This plan covers the same as the booking protection plan, but if you got sick or injured during the trip, this plan can reimburse medical expenses and any emergency evacuation expense.
Although it may seem nice to add flight and hotel protection to your travel plans for a small fee, be careful of being pressured into an impulse buy without reading the fine print. Each of these plans has extensive limitation and exception documents attached to them. If you don’t read the details, you could be paying for something that won’t cover you in the end.
Why Travel Insurance from Orbitz or Expedia Isn’t Worth the Money
So, you don’t have time to study the lengthy limitations documents? We hear ya. And that happens a lot with customers thinking they are covered when they aren’t.
We welcome you to read the Travel Guard Consumer Reviews provided by Consumer Affairs (the majority being one-star reviews) to see some of the loopholes customers ran into with their claims. Here are just a few:
1. You’ll need mounds of documentation and receipts in order to get coverage
For example, if you don’t have a receipt for the jewelry passed down from your grandma that was stolen from your carry-on, it won’t be covered.
2. There are loopholes that might leave you without coverage
Flooding and emergencies may not be covered without proof of the event. Multiple complaints said that their proof of emergency or snowstorms wasn’t enough so they were denied coverage. For weather-related delays, there are loopholes as well.
3. The medical coverage is very limited
They do not cover medical care received back home in the U.S. even though the incident happened while on your covered trip. They are also picky about requiring appropriate proof of illness before granting coverage.
Exploring Your Options for Travel Insurance
As we learned from the user reviews above, you shouldn’t have to pay extra for coverage that you won’t even get. You also shouldn’t have to pay extra for rights that you may already have as a traveler. Many airlines or hotels already have built-in benefits and protections for travelers that you probably had no idea existed. But if you still want to add additional insurance on top of that, you may be better off buying trip protection directly from the airline or the hotel. Be sure to check out those options before you purchase insurance through a third-party plan. For example, here are Delta’s trip protection options.
General Airline Coverage Already in Place
Most airlines will let you get your money back if you have a valid medical excuse. Also, if there is inclement weather, your airline will offer you a seat on the next available flight to your destination. Generally, if your flight is canceled, you are due a refund on the unused parts of the ticket. However, airlines vary in policies, so it’s wise to check before booking.
Hotels Have their Own Cancellation Policies
We urge you to look for hotels that have flexible cancellation policies—some will even honor a cancellation up until hours before until your stay. Also, most hotel loyalty programs offer flexible cancellation policies, so think about joining your hotel’s loyalty program before you book.
Some Travel Credit Cards Will Cover Travel Fees
Check with your credit card company to see what their travel insurance covers when you book a trip using their card. There are a handful of well-known credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, that will cover canceled trip fees up to $10,000.
Check Your Current Medical Insurance for Existing Coverage
Ahead of buying a travel insurance policy for your trip, particularly if you’re considering insurance for medical reasons, check with your medical insurer—you may already be covered. Here, we covered what to do if you fall ill or get injured while on vacation.
Most medical insurance policies besides Medicare will pay reasonable hospital costs locally as well as abroad. However, if you run into a serious issue, the bills can add up quickly and having secondary insurance may be beneficial.
Is the Cost of Travel Insurance Worth It?
Ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” This is a big one when it comes to deciding if you need travel insurance or not. If the price you paid for your hotel or flight isn’t insanely expensive, you may not want to spend the extra money to cover that flight. You’ll just “take your losses” if anything should happen that isn’t covered by the airline or hotel already.
Also, think about what kind of traveler you are. If you never pre-book anything, such as tours or vacation packages, it doesn’t make sense to buy insurance because most insurance plans only cover purchases made before your trip anyway.
But if the risk of not being covered does outweigh the cost, consider buying coverage. You may want to do this when you’re traveling abroad and have spent a lot of money on tickets. If you do opt for insurance, our opinion is that your consider purchasing travel insurance from companies with higher industry ratings (as provided by an unbiased review source such as Consumer Affairs or Forbes) rather than Expedia or Orbitz’s Travel Guard.
With so many to choose from, we recommend spending the time to do your research. Get quotes for plans online and choose a package that fits your needs. If you’re not sure where to start, this guide from Nerdwallet offers some great information about travel insurance and outlines the most comprehensive providers. Also, if you want to compare multiple travel insurance companies all at once, you can compare them on this website.
From our research, we found a few travel insurance companies that seem to be doing it right in terms of having happy customers. We’ve heard some good things about Allianz Global Assistance with almost 5,000 Consumer Affairs reviews giving them four and a half stars. Alternatively, if you’re traveling for adventure, World Nomads offers travel medical insurance that is hard to beat.
Choose Your Travel Insurance Plans Wisely
Everyone, every destination, and every situation is unique, and your travel insurance should mimic that. Knowing your options gives you the confidence to decline the urgent “add to cart” messages you see when you book your flight or hotel on most online travel sites.
If you appreciate searching for hotels without feeling overwhelmed, we invite you to search on Roomkey.com. We strive to give you the best experience possible when searching for a hotel and booking your next vacation. Give us a try!
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