What is Travel Insurance and How Does it Work?

Most people have some experience with car, home or health insurance, but not everyone is familiar with travel insurance and how it works. With interest in travel insurance at an all time high after the COVID pandemic, we thought it would be a good idea to explain what it really is.

To help you understand and educate yourself, we’ve answered common questions that people who are new to travel insurance often ask, like “what is travel insurance?,” “what does travel insurance cover?” and “how does travel insurance work?” 

What is Travel Insurance: The Basics

We’ve all heard about canceled flights and lost baggage, but most of us don’t automatically think “do we have insurance and are we covered?” Travel insurance helps protect you from certain kinds of unexpected events that can occur before or during your trip.

Unlike auto insurance, travel insurance is elective, which means it’s up to you to decide if you want it. Ultimately, it’s meant to help you travel with more peace of mind so you can worry less and focus on having a great trip.

Learn more about travel insurance:
• How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?
• Top 5 Reasons to Get Travel Insurance
• Travel Insurance Comparison: How to Choose the Right Plan

What does travel insurance cover?

The coverage that most people are aware of is trip cancellation, which provides reimbursement for unused, non-refundable, prepaid trip costs if you need to cancel your trip for a covered reason, such as sickness, job loss, flight cancellations due to adverse weather and more. Similarly, with coverage for trip interruption you can recoup trip costs if you can’t continue your trip due to a covered event, and our plans provide reimbursement for additional transportation costs to return home or rejoin your group.

See our full list of travel insurance coverage details and covered reasons

Travel insurance can also include lesser known elements including travel delay, lost, damaged and delayed baggage, medical and emergency evacuation coverage. Different providers offer different plans with a mix of these coverages and more, so be sure to educate yourself about all the options before choosing one. One way to tackle this is to determine your specific needs and find a plan that fits. Don’t be afraid to ask your travel insurance provider if you have questions.

Let’s use an example. If you are taking your family on vacation to Paris, then you would probably want a plan that included coverage for trip cancellation and post-departure coverages during your trip. These may include Baggage, Travel Delay, Medical and Dental, and Emergency Assistance and Transportation.

Generali Global Assistance offers a variety of plans and add-on coverages that will help protect your trip, whether it’s a weekend vacation rental stay or a month-long trek across Europe. Additionally, our 24-Hour Emergency Services, Concierge and ID Theft Resolution services are included with our plans. These services round out the travel protection plans, so not only can you be reimbursed for certain costs if something goes wrong with your trip, but you can get assistance in real-time when you need it on your trip.

Read more about what travel insurance covers and what it doesn't cover

How does travel insurance work?

The process for filing a travel insurance claim is similar to car or home insurance. If you get in a car accident or have a water leak in your bathroom, you file a claim.

If something happens during your trip and you need to use your travel insurance, you’ll need to file a claim to be reimbursed. We have a page that explains how to start a claim, a great resource for learning more about the claims process.

Let’s say your baggage is delayed and you need to buy clothes and toiletries, you would submit a claim to seek reimbursement. Travel insurance comes in handy in scenarios like this.

When you’re ready to buy a plan, you can purchase directly from the travel insurance company online. Oftentimes, travel insurance is offered when buying a cruise, airfare or booking a vacation rental. We encourage customers to pay attention to the fine print. For example, a cruise line’s travel insurance may not pay cash to cover a cancelled or interrupted cruise, but instead, offer credit towards a future cruise. If you prefer cash reimbursement, that’s reason to consider purchasing direct from a travel insurance provider instead. Also consider the type of trip you are taking. If you are taking a cruise, then you may want a plan that includes Missed Connection coverage, as our plans do.

Also read: Why Travel Insurance is Crucial for Cruise Trips

Be sure to bring a print out of your plan documents with you. If you are affected by a storm and can’t get internet or lose power, you still know what number to call and what instructions to follow. 

 Learn more about: How does travel insurance work?

When to buy travel insurance

As with all things in life, timing is everything, especially when it comes to deciding when to buy travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed to protect you against unforeseen events, which means it is meant to be bought before an event occurs. For example, you would not want to buy travel insurance after you decided to cancel a trip, for the same reason that you can’t buy car insurance to cover an accident that has already occurred.

It’s best to buy your plan when you book your trip so you are eligible for coverages that apply prior to departure. For example, if you break your leg and need to postpone hiking in the Alps, then you could be covered. 

Get the right travel protection plan for you

Should you buy travel insurance?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can tackle the big question. Should you buy travel insurance? There are a few major factors to consider before determining if travel insurance is right for you: cost, destination and who is traveling.

If you can’t afford to lose the amount you’ve invested in your trip, then you should probably consider travel insurance. If you’re traveling far, maybe around the world, or to a remote area where the nearest hospital is many miles away, then a travel protection plan could help save the day. It’s impossible to know what might happen to you or a traveling companion that could throw a wrench in your travel plans, especially if travelers include children or the elderly, who might be more vulnerable, travel insurance may help you rest easier before and during your trip. 

Also read: Do You Really Need Travel Insurance?


1. U.S. Travel Insurance Association

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