Now that Americans returning to the US from abroad no longer need to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a flight, you may be wondering if you should pay to confirm your trip. Travel insurance often seems like an unnecessary expense, especially if it’s a refund or you don’t have to pay a replacement fee. But there are events that you must have, and times that are not required but are worth paying for.
What travel insurance covers
Some credit cards offer insurance, but the fees are low. In contrast, travel insurance pays more. Travel policies cover damage to rental cars, travel cancellations, lost luggage and medical expenses while abroad.
Most travel insurance policies now include cancellation and medical benefits related to COVID-19. But for some things related to COVID, like border closures, quarantines or fears of contracting the coronavirus, you’ll have to pay what’s called a “restriction for any reason,” or CFAR, increase. CFAR travel insurance can add 50% to the cost of travel insurance, but it provides better protection for travelers who are facing the disruptions that the pandemic has caused all over the world.
Some self-catering plans also charge additional fees if you need to stay extra days. Access is limited; for example, you can be reimbursed $200 per day for an additional two days of accommodation if you have to stay abroad.
Travel insurance premiums
On average, travel insurance costs $248, according to data from SquareMouth, a travel insurance comparison site. But the amount you pay for the policy depends on several factors—the length of your trip, the number of passengers you need to insure, and even your age. A better estimate is 4% to 11% of the total cost of the trip, experts say. You can compare plans at SquareMouth or TravelInsurance. Choose the best travel guide for your trip, and be sure to read the full text of each plan you are considering.
Travel insurance generally falls into one of three categories: basic, intermediate and comprehensive. While the benefits are usually very affordable and include benefits such as travel cancellation and lost luggage coverage, you may be required to pay a deductible if you are sick or injured. Intermediate coverage includes the same benefits as basic coverage but adds additional health insurance benefits. A more expensive, comprehensive policy may include basic or intermediate policy benefits, but with higher limits. Prices start at about $105, while the average and full are about $130 and $164, respectively, according to BankRate, a financial website. If you need a CFAR policy, too, this will be on top of that amount.
Because older travelers are often at greater risk of health problems, policies become more expensive as they get older. A 2021 analysis by AdvisorSmith, a small business website, says average prices range from a low of $92 for a young child to a high of $805 for a 100-year-old. The difference between the average cost of travel insurance for a 40-year-old and a 70-year-old can reach nearly $100. . But this does not mean that older people cannot find a plan they can afford; shopping around and comparing plans is important.
Time to buy travel insurance
As of June 12, 2022, travelers returning to the US will no longer need to be tested for COVID-19 to re-enter the country, easing fears of staying in another country longer than planned. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises anyone with symptoms of COVID not to travel. And there are times when choosing travel insurance is worth the cost.
If you’re worried about bad weather during your trip, a sudden accident affecting you or a family member, a terrorist attack, or losing your job, travel insurance with travel cancellation coverage will usually cover those unforeseen circumstances.
If you’re traveling to a place with a history of a COVID-related travel ban or where you’ve had other concerns about COVID-19, consider a travel ban for any reason. Be sure to check the travel restrictions of any countries you visit regularly; some countries still require travel insurance to visit.
In addition, there is no guarantee that the US waiver of COVID testing for international air travelers is permanent. The test requirements will be reviewed on September 10, 90 days after the removal. It can be reintroduced if there is another case of COVID—and the highly-spread BA.5 virus has been dangerous.
Time to skip travel insurance
Whether you pay for travel insurance and how much you get depends on your risk tolerance, of course. But it also depends on whether you will have to pay more if you have to cancel or delay your plans.
If you’re worried about losing money on an expensive international flight, for example, think again before you pay for insurance. This also goes with travel insurance plans that are paid for when purchasing a flight or train ticket. While it may seem like less money in exchange for more flexibility, remember that most airlines already have flexibility.
Major U.S. airlines have adapted during the pandemic, allowing more bookings. This means you don’t have to pay a fee if you want to change your flight—as long as you don’t buy discount fares (Southwest allows free changes on all tickets). Also, some travel providers offer flexibility in bookings made over time. For example, major airlines and Amtrak offer refunds within the first 24 hours of booking if you have to cancel or change your trip.
Also, if an airline cancels your flight—as long as the flight arrives and/or departs from a United States airport—you are legally entitled to a refund, according to US Department of Transportation regulations. Airlines will usually only offer a credit or voucher for a canceled flight, but make sure you ask for a refund if that’s what you want, as well as your rights. Also, if there is a longer change (usually two hours or more) and you choose not to board the flight, you are entitled to a refund of your fare.