Alex Gillard hesitated before he bought pricey travel insurance for his visit to Thailand. And he’s glad he did.
Thailand requires visitors to carry insurance, but the policy offered through the government site cost $57 for a one-week stay. So before he clicked the “buy” button, he spent some time shopping.
“I saved money by going through an insurance company that I found reading blog articles about travel insurance, rather than just immediately going through the Thai government’s partner insurance company,” says Gillard, a wildlife photographer. “I ended up paying $43 for the coverage.”
Why are travel insurance rates rising in 2023?
Experts predict travel insurance rates will rise even more as demand surges. So if you’re planning a trip for 2023, chances are you’ll be in the same boat as Gillard.
“I believe travel insurance rates will rise next year,” says Mike Nelson, CEO of the travel technology company arrivia.
Inflation and increased demand have pushed the cost of individual trip components higher. That means the value of what’s covered by a travel insurance policy is higher. Also, there’s been a significant spike in claims over the past two years – first COVID-related cancellations, then the travel disruptions at the beginning of the summer. Travel insurance providers will try to recoup those losses through higher premium rates.
Tim Dodge, vice president of marketing at insurance company Arch RoamRight, says that the price increases are modest for now. “We’re seeing an increase of 1% in the average insured trip cost,” he told me.
But I spoke with several experts who said that if the current pricing trends hold, the increases could be more significant — perhaps as much as 10% for the year.
“Increasing rates are certainly likely to send travelers shopping for deals on travel insurance,” says Brooke Kirby, vice president of marketing at Travelex. “I strongly recommend that travelers fully understand what coverage they are and aren’t getting before making a decision to purchase.”
Kirby says plan prices are generally competitive, so consumers often have to look at other factors. Those include the quality of customer service, claim payment rates, coverages included in plans, and upgrade options.
“That’s how to determine which plan gives them the best coverage for your money,” she adds.
So how do you save money when you buy travel insurance? Industry professionals say it’s a combination of careful research and understanding the limits (and a few secrets) of how travel insurance works.
Here are a few strategies that could help you save serious money on travel insurance in 2023:
1. Run a travel insurance audit before you book
Whether you need travel insurance for your domestic trip or international travel insurance, you’ll want to figure out what kind of policy you need long before you book your vacation. This is particularly true for vacation packages.
“Look at the cancellation and refund policies,” says Murat Ozguc, owner of the Turkish tour operator Travel Atelier. “Based on that, decide on the insurance you need.” Ozguc says once you ask yourself what could possibly go wrong, you may eliminate some eventualities. And that could lead you to a less expensive travel insurance policy.
2. Avoid no-name travel insurance companies
You might pay less for your policy from one of them, but it could cost you in the end, says Andrew Lokenauth, a former travel insurance executive who now teaches at the University of South Florida’s School of Management.
“Purchasing from the right company is crucial,” he says. “Many travel insurance companies have bad customer service. That makes dealing with the whole claims process a terrible experience.”
How do you know if the company is legit? I publish a free guide on travel insurance that will help you sort out the quality companies form the fly-by-night travel insurance operators.
3. Buy separate policies for your family
You can divide the cost of your travel arrangements among the travelers in your family. “If you are traveling with children, their coverage is priced lower because of their age,” says Dan Skilken, president of TripInsurance.com. “And when you allocate the cost of travel evenly among the travelers, you will save money on the total cost of the plan.”
4. Compare travel insurance and shop like a pro
That’s the advice of Matthew Roberts, chief operating officer at the Canadian car insurance site My Choice. “Compare quotes from multiple insurers before buying,” he advises. “Do not immediately buy on the travel booking site where you just tick a box and have to pay additional fees for the travel insurance. In most cases, it would cost you more.”
Roberts says the key to getting the best insurance policy deal is shopping around. Use comparison sites, but also research insurance companies “and get their quotes to ensure you’re not missing out on those offering comprehensive coverage at lower rates,” he adds.
5. Look for a low price along with the coverage you need
Damian Tysdal, editor of the travel insurance site CoverTrip.com, says travelers are often confused when they’re on a travel insurance comparison site and they see a big price difference between similar plans.
“But this does not mean one plan is worse than the other,” he explains. “It simply means that each company designs its plan to appeal to a different demographic.”
In other words, cheaper doesn’t always mean worse.
6. Avoid overinsuring yourself
Here’s a common mistake travelers make when looking for the best travel insurance: They overestimate when they give their insurance company the trip cost. That drives up their costs.
“When entering your trip cost, only total the nonrefundable costs,” says Lynn Pina, chief marketing officer, at Geo Blue. “So if you can cancel and get a full refund for your hotel, you don’t need to cover that.”
If you have to file a claim later, your insurance company will ask if you could get a refund for your hotel. If you can, it won’t cover the lost room night. But you will still have paid for the extra coverage.
7. Don’t buy any extras (unless you need them)
Many travel insurance providers offer add-ons that may not be relevant to your trip, like rental car protection, vacation rental damage protection and the option to cancel your trip for any reason.
“If those aren’t of interest to you, then no need to add them to your policy,” says Elad Schaffer, CEO of Faye travel insurance.
Note: The popular “cancel for any reason” option can double the cost of your travel insurance. And if you want vacation rental damage protection, add 10 percent to the cost of your travel insurance plan.
8. Consider a health-only policy
If your credit card already covers most of your travel insurance needs, you can save money by getting a health-only policy. “The available plans will have all of the benefits except for trip cancellation and trip interruption and can be a very cost-effective way of getting travel medical coverage along with baggage, trip delay, and other benefits,” says Stan Sandberg, the co-founder of travel insurance site TravelInsurance.com.
Pro tip: Read the “member benefits” section of your cardholder agreement to find out if you’re covered for your next trip.
9. Don’t just buy the cheapest policy
You might regret buying a policy based strictly on price. You could miss important and necessary travel insurance coverage. “Everyone wants to get the most out of their travel insurance for a reasonable cost,” says Christina Tunnah, general manager for the Americas at World Nomads. “But it’s important to be aware that deals that seem too good to be true often are.”
That’s also true of “free” insurance — coverage you already have through your auto insurance or credit card.
“That might seem like a great way to keep down costs, but there might be some exclusions that could come back to bite you if there’s an accident.”
10. Check your memberships
Before you buy any travel insurance policy, make sure you’ve checked your memberships. Sometimes, they will include coverage. For example, if you’re a AAA Premier Member, you get various travel insurance coverage including up to $1,500 in trip interruption or delay and lost baggage coverage for up to $500, says Andrea Woroch, an expert on saving money. “You may not even have to buy additional insurance coverage,” she adds.
If you want the best travel insurance for your 2023 trip — and trust me, you do — then you’ll need to conduct a full audit of your insurance needs and sharpen your pencils. It’ll take a little research to find the cheapest and best travel insurance for your upcoming vacation, but you could save hundreds of dollars with these simple strategies.