S2, E30: Everything You Need to Know About Travel Insurance

In this episode of Unpacked, we untangle the complicated web that is travel insurance.

This week on Unpacked, we untangle the confusing world of travel insurance. And we actually have a little fun along the way.


Wendy Perrin: “OK, I’m unconscious in the Amazon, in the middle of nowhere, and I’m—what, what are you expecting me to do in order for my claim to be paid . . . eventually?”

Aislyn Greene, host: Unconscious in the Amazon sounds like a great headline for a story.

Wendy: Ha!

Aislyn: I’m Aislyn Greene and this is Unpacked, the podcast that unpacks one tricky topic in travel each week. And this week, we’re going to try to untangle the confusing web that is travel insurance.

Now before you tune out, shut this all down: I know, it’s not the sexiest subject. But it is an important one, as I found on a recent trip. And I promise we’ll have some fun. Or at least, we’ll have some education. There’s even a trivia question buried in the middle of the episode, and who doesn’t love trivia?

OK, back to the story that sparked this episode. A couple of months ago, I traveled to a conference in the Midwest. It was one of those long hellish journeys to get there, one of those flightmares that make you want to swear off air travel forever. After 24 hours of travel, I finally got to my hotel, hopped into the shower and: immediately slipped. It was one of those tub shower combos, and one second I was up, the next second I was down. And on the way down, my ribs slammed against the side of the tub, knocking the wind out of me. Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head or land on my wrist, but it was very painful and I thought I’d actually broken a rib or two.

Now, I did not do what most people would recommend in this situation, what my mother would recommend. I did not go to the ER, I did not check to see if my health insurance would cover a visit to the ER, and I didn’t tell anyone besides my partner what had happened. I just kind of suffered through it, hoped for the best, and went to the doctor when I got back home. (Although, I did Google to figure out how to tell if you have a punctured lung and felt pretty—pretty confident that I did not.)

It turns out it was just a badly bruised rib, not a bad ending to the story. But the experience kind of spooked me. It was a reminder of how quickly things can turn. One minute, you’re up and happy and healthy. And the next, you’re slipping in the shower, or you’re down with food poisoning, or maybe something even worse.

Part of the reason I didn’t do anything while on my trip is because I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t have travel insurance and I didn’t want to spend the time to kind of figure out in the middle of this trip what was going on or what I could do. I’ve actually never purchased travel insurance before, but once I got home, I thought that it was time to learn more about it.

So today, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of travel insurance. We’ll talk with several experts to understand what travel insurance is, the different types of insurance, how to figure out if you need it, and if so, how to pick the best policy for you. We’ll also share tips on what to do if the worst happens and something does go wrong on your trip. You ready? You with me?

Wendy: The point of travel insurance is to protect you, financially, the amount that you’ve paid in advance for a trip.

Aislyn: That’s Wendy Perrin, the editor in chief of wendyperrin.com, a travel advice website. Wendy has thought a lot about travel insurance. Check out her website; she has some great explainers there. At its very basic level, travel insurance is coverage that protects you from risk and financial loss while traveling. But as Wendy says:

Wendy: You don’t always need travel insurance. It just depends on your particular circumstances.

Aislyn: We’ll get to how to look at your travels and make the right decision later in the episode. But first, let’s try to understand the three main benefits of travel insurance. Enter Christina Tunnah, the general manager of marketing and brands for World Nomads, a travel insurance company that focuses on adventurous and independent travelers.

Christina: You want to get insurance for the three categories where stuff can happen to you. And it happens to your investment: So you have to cancel your trip. Or you’re on your trip and something happens, you have to come home. And so all the reservations and bookings that you made [are lost]. So your investment. [Travel insurance] covers you, your person, your health, your body, so medical emergencies or accidents, sickness, things like that. And your stuff, right? So things that you take with you.

Aislyn: But how do you know if and when you need it? Wendy Perrin says to first think about the reasons you might need to cancel a trip, either a situation that you have back at home that might draw you back home, a health issue that you have or another family member. Any risks related to activities on your trip. Choosing insurance is highly personal and it changes from trip to trip.

Wendy: Do you have a mother who has a heart condition, who you might need to leave your trip in the middle to come home to take care of her if something happens to her? Are you going to a place where there’s been, you know, it’s kind of risky and, you know, politically or geopolitically? Are you going to the Caribbean in hurricane season? Like, you want to think about: What are the reasons why you might need to leave a trip in the middle or cancel it in the first place?

Aislyn: But make sure that you’re really careful about the policy you buy if you’re doing certain types of activities.

Wendy: Let’s say your, your trip is going to involve rock climbing or scuba diving or bungee jumping or some activity that’s seen as risky. Then you might have an additional need, like you’re like, “OK, I really ought to, in case I get injured and I’m in the middle of nowhere, near no reliable medical care, maybe I should have insurance.” But then you need to be really careful which policy you’re buying because only certain policies are even going to cover sort of riskier sports like that.

Aislyn: Honestly, even young people in their twenties and thirties need it. I know it can be easy when you’re younger and on a budget to cut insurance, but don’t think so fast.

Wendy: Everyone can get injured, no matter what your age, right? You can, you can trip and fall, you can break your ankle, you can, any number of injuries can happen on many different types of trips. I mean, young people might be particularly active, right? You know, they’re the ones who want to go rock climbing or scuba diving.

Aislyn: If you don’t quite know how to look at your trip and figure out the risks, go with the “cancel for any reason” insurance.

Beth Godlin: The advice that I normally give folks is: If you’re buying the insurance because you think something is more likely than not to occur, buy the cancel for any reason.

Aislyn: That’s Beth Godlin, president of Aon Affinity Travel Practice, which creates travel insurance policies that travelers can buy through third-party services. So for example, if you’ve ever booked a tour or a cruise and been offered, or purchased, travel insurance at the time of booking, there’s a good chance that Aon is behind the policy. Now, cancel for any reason insurance, the kind that Beth mentioned, is expensive but there’s a good reason for that.

Beth: You may get, instead of a refund of money, you may get a credit for a future trip. Or you may get a 75 or 80 percent of what you insured, depending upon the product that you buy. But that gives you the most flexibility and it doesn’t have specific reasons that you could choose to cancel and direct your trip.

Aislyn: It sounds like a lot of it comes down to what are your personal priorities. Like, are you carrying a lot of gear with you that would be really, you know, horrifying to lose?

Beth: Which is all insurance, right? You know, do I, do I rent an apartment, do I get renter’s insurance, or do I just insure myself?

Aislyn: I asked Beth who she thinks needs insurance the most.

Beth: I would say the people that most need it are the ones that are planning travel in advance. So, booking now for a trip that may come up in 60 days or 90 days. Because during that window, things could happen that might prevent you from taking your trip. Likewise, people traveling far away that want to ensure that they’ve got emergency medical benefits, that they’ve got interruption benefits in case something happens and they have to come back early. Or they, you know, have to come back later because let’s say they got sick and they couldn’t make their flight.

Aislyn: You’ll also want to consider our old friend, that cancel for any reason insurance, if you’re making a huge, nonrefundable payment far in advance. And remember that you usually need to buy this type of insurance within 14 days of your initial trip deposit. Because then you’re covered for cancellation based on pre-existing medical conditions. But if everything on your trip is cancellable or refundable, you might not need insurance that covers cancellations, according to Wendy Perrin.

Wendy: You know, you’ve booked a hotel, but you can cancel 24 hours ahead. You’ve booked a rental car, but you can cancel at the counter. Uh, you’ve got an airline ticket that you can get a refund on or a full credit toward a future flight. Like, if you haven’t put out a lot of money, you don’t need insurance protecting you.

Aislyn: You should still think about medical insurance though. And that leads us to our next point: Don’t over insure! Before you run out and get a policy, Wendy Perrin says, check the insurance you already have.

Wendy: Before you buy travel insurance, figure out what coverage you already have, either through your credit card or through, you know, your health, your own health insurance. Everyone has a different situation. That’s what makes this so tricky. You really need to think about your own personal, what are you already covered for? Because you don’t want redundant coverage.

Aislyn: There are two main types of insurance most people already have: health insurance and insurance through their credit card. Now most health insurance plans are likely to cover you if you’re traveling domestically, but Christina Tunnah of World Nomads says don’t assume that’s the case internationally.

Christina: Sometimes people think, well, I have health care here in the U.S., so I don’t need it for when I go overseas. There are some plans that might cover you overseas, but that’s where a phone call to that health care company is going to be really worthwhile to understand exactly what is covered. If you need repatriation, does your U.S. health coverage, health care insurance, cover that? Uh, what are the assistant services? Will they bring back your stuff? If you’re repatriated home, what about all the stuff in your hotel room? Will the health care company repatriate your, your belongings or your family members?

Aislyn: When it comes to credit cards, it can be just as complex. Christina says you need to look carefully at what your credit card includes. I know: It’s all about reading the fine print. Christina: Does the credit card cover those costs that might not have been paid for with that particular credit card? That’s very important. Um, does the credit card cover emergencies such as, uh, ambulance fees, should you need ambulance transfer? Would it cover potentially if you’re in the hospital? Does the credit card insurance cover you for an airline traveling nurse companion if that’s what you need?

Or does it cover the cost of family having to stay longer in a hotel because you’re in the hospital, or sending them back home because you’re going to be in the hospital for a while? All those different scenarios credit card companies may or may not cover.

Aislyn: Christina says that credit cards could also have limited coverage, or they could cap payouts. So again, look at your card provider. And if you are participating in adventures activities, make sure the credit card company covers those too.

So now you know what kind of insurance you already have. How do you go about finding the right policy for you?

Christina: Everybody can benefit, but not everybody can benefit from the same plan. I really have to emphasize that it’s not a one size fits all.

Aislyn: For example, since World Nomads is geared toward independent, adventurous travelers, they offer a unique service.

Christina: Because our travelers are pretty intrepid and sometimes extend their trips because they love traveling so much, or they have a reason to maybe claim while they’re online, our products and our website, uh, enables travelers to also, um, lodge a claim or to buy online, buy when they’re already overseas. And, and to do all of those things, even if they’re already on the road.

Aislyn: Depending on your country of residence, you can still purchase a plan with World Nomads after you’ve left home. There may be a short waiting period, and you can’t apply for coverage after something has happened—like you get sick or get in an accident.

Going beyond a company like World Nomads, Wendy Perrin recommends using websites like travelinsurance.com or insuremytrip.com, which allow you to compare and contrast different companies and prices. And she reminded me that it starts with asking what you’re doing on this trip and where your life is at.

Wendy: My biggest piece of advice is to think about: What is most likely to happen to you on this particular trip? What are the reasons for which you would need to cancel this particular trip, or leave in the middle, or injure yourself or get sick and need to come home? ’Cause each time it’s gonna be different.

Aislyn: And remember that timing really matters. Wendy: A lot of people don’t realize, like they’ll put down a deposit on a trip, and then they’ll realize like six months later, “Oh, maybe I need travel insurance.” Well, they might have missed out on coverage they really need. So just at the time when you’re first putting down money for a trip, that’s the moment where you need to be thinking about, “Do I want travel insurance or not?”

Aislyn: Then she says, call the insurance company that you’re thinking of buying a policy from and ask them “What happens to me?”

Wendy: Go through the scenarios. “OK, what happens if A happens? Or if B happens? Or if C happens to me? Is it going to be covered or not? How much is it going to be covered for? If there’s a claim, what are you going to need me to do? Like, you know, OK I’m unconscious in the Amazon, in the middle of nowhere, and I’m, what, what are you expecting me to do in order for my claim to be paid . . . eventually?” So, like, there’s, there are a lot of questions to ask, and I think that’s one of the most important things to do before you buy a policy.

Aislyn: There are also supplemental policies, and companies that offer unique coverage that’s often left out of major policies. One great example is medical evacuation. Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind, right? But as I was reporting this story, I learned about what a heinously expensive process that can be—we’re talking, like, more than $100,000. Unless, that is, you’re covered by a company like Medjet.

John Gobbels: Medjet, you know, basically and it’s, it’s, uh, it’s first form is a travel protection product for individuals. It’s a membership program for travelers and those individuals that find themselves 150 miles away from home. And if they find themselves ill or injured and hospitalized, Medjet is a service that they would have that would provide them that medical transport back to their home hospital.

Aislyn: That is John Gobbels, vice president and COO of Medjet. Now, Medjet primarily uses air ambulances to transport patients. In case you’re wondering, an air ambulance is a fixed-wing aircraft, think of like a Learjet, and it has a full critical care team on board. Or if someone doesn’t require that critical care team, Medjet can send a critical care nurse to retrieve you—you and the nurse would essentially fly back commercially (in business class) and that nurse would take you to your hospital back at home. John says that people usually buy the membership for a big international trip, but he finds people often use it closer to home.

John: So let’s say, you know, you’re going to Africa or you’re going on a cruise somewhere, you’re going over to Asia. And we really find that about 90 percent of the people actually purchase it for that big trip but find themselves using it domestically. They go to the beach, they go away for holiday somewhere, and they may be a state away or across the country and they realize like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got Medjet we bought for our cruise back in January. We still have it.” And they call up and we take care of everything. And you know, even domestic transports could be well over $30,000.

Aislyn: Medjet offers several different kinds of memberships, including an eight-day membership, a month-long one, all the way up to annual and multi-year memberships. Memberships start at $99 and vary pretty widely depending on, you know, how long you’ll be away. But as John shared, that small fee can wind up saving you a ton of money.

John: In late May we had a couple that was traveling actually in, in Ghana and came down with kind of a weird neurological disorder that no one would have seen coming. Like, they didn’t have any past medical history of this. They had the Medjet membership. And I think this is one of the last things they thought that they would be dealing with.

And, and they were hospitalized, they were receiving really good care where they were at, but they want[ed] to come back and, really, it was a condition that is such that there really is not a lot of treatments. It can be irreversible. So I think it was super important to get them back here to the United States. And really, the cost of that was right around $130,000.

I’m not aware of a lot of people that can just write a check for something like that. So, really for, you know, a membership for just an annual, you know, individual—that would be like $315 to be a member of Medjet—that saved them $130,000 to do that and really had a positive outcome on their recovery.

Aislyn: We’ll come back to another company doing interesting things in this space, but first that travel trivia I promised you at the top of the episode. Here’s the question: Solo leisure travelers may experience sturmfrei. What does this German word mean? A) A feeling of being able to do whatever you want. B) Fear of isolation due to bad weather. C) A panic attack. D) Freedom to confide in strangers. I’ll reveal the answer after the break.

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Aislyn: And we’re back. Did you guess the right answer? If you guessed A, a feeling of being able to do whatever you want, you’re correct! And according to our copy editor Pat Tompkins, who writes these questions, there is no short English equivalent for sturmfrei; it literally means storm free.

OK, now back to insurance. In addition to supplementary services like Medjet, there are newcomers to the travel insurance adjacent space, newcomers like Sensible Weather.

Nick: We produce forecasts that are bespoke for trips or experiences, and at the end of the day we guarantee what we forecast. So the idea is you can use our tools to plan your trip, or if you’re going to an outdoor music festival or whatever, to really understand what you might expect, and ultimately lock in that outcome with a product that we call Weather Guarantee.

Aislyn: That’s Nick Cavanaugh, the founder and CEO of Sensible Weather. Nick started his career as a climate scientist, and he’s also a huge data nerd and avid traveler. (His words.) He had built these tools to help himself, as climate scientist, travel better and realized that as our world continues to change, and with it, the weather, that other people could use these tools too. Sensible Weather isn’t really insurance. You’d buy it at the same time you book an activity, such as camping, or skiing, or an outdoor tour. But insurance only covers a loss—so for example, if you couldn’t do that activity. But Sensible Weather is doing something totally different.

Nick: What we’re really trying to do is take this day that, you know, it could have been a 100 percent day if it was beautiful and sunny. Instead it rained half the day, so maybe it’s a 40 percent day. Can we reimburse you the entire amount so that it then becomes a 140 percent day?

Aislyn: You say a guarantee. What does that mean? So, you know, does that mean that, like, it rains on my trip and I don’t have a great time . . . ?

Nick: That is, that is effectively what it means. And, and that’s that sort of ethos is, is really what we’re going after. You know, say you go on a seven-day trip and two of those days are rained out. You know, those, those days are, you know, maybe otherwise miserable.

Can we in real time offer somebody a reimbursement for those days so they can change their plans and ultimately have a better outcome, better experience?

Aislyn: The average cost for Sensible Weather is 10 percent of the activity cost—and they pay out much more than a regular insurance company. Here’s how it might work.

Nick: So, so each, each day—so seven-day trip, you effectively have seven coverages, one for each day. The beginning of the rainy day, 90, 95 percent of our reimbursements at this point are paid out as a forecast. So actually at the beginning of the day, we would say, “Hey, you know, this is not going to be the greatest, you know, greatest day. It’s going to rain from, you know, two to five this afternoon or whatever. You’re eligible for reimbursement.” And that comes via text message, and there’ll be a link on that text message where you click that link and there’ll be offered various methods of reimbursement, be that a bank transfer via ACH or Venmo or PayPal.

Aislyn: Nick says their target audience is really the planner. A lot of families with young kids who book theme park vacations use the service, as do people who participate in outdoorsy activities such as skiing and camping. And in fact, Sensible Weather has partnered with two campground booking services that you may have used yourself, Reserve America and Campspot. Because Nick’s goal is also to support people who run travel companies.

Nick: So financially, what I hope that we can do through planning tools and weather guarantees is sort of nullify the effect of weather volatility, where on the consumer side, obviously destination trip, you get rained out, that’s a huge bummer. Um, we want to reimburse for that. However, especially for, for regional destinations, weather causes cancellations or, or people not to book in the first place. So that ends up being a hit to their revenue.

Aislyn: In the end, the goal is to get people to take their trips, even as climate change increases.

Nick: As we move into the future, like travel, travel events, social things that are so emotional for people, like they will be impacted. You know, the world is changing. They will be impacted. And we are trying to set up the infrastructure so that “Yes, it’s impacted, but it’s OK, right? Yeah, we want you to get out there. We want you to still go.” We want to empower the customer to enjoy the world.

Aislyn: So at this point you might be convinced that you need travel insurance, but maybe you’re wondering: What’s it going to cost me? Again it depends on the plan, where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. For World Nomads, Christina Tunnah says it could be as little as 50 bucks for a weekend away.

Christina: Or it could be as much as, uh, you know, 1,000 if you’re going away for six months and you’re planning to do adventure activities as part of that six months away. So there’s a massive range in the costs and it just depends on a lot of the drivers and levers of what’s driving up that cost.

Aislyn: If you’re buying a policy through one of the booking services that Aon Affinity Travel Practice works with, Beth says that they aren’t priced per day.

Beth: Most of the policies that are sold, most but not all, contain trip cancellation and interruption coverage, which is the coverage that will either refund travelers if they have to cancel their trip for a covered reason or interrupt their trip and have additional expenses. Because those cover trip costs and key off of the original, you know, amount that you paid for your trip, the benefit, the package usually runs as a percentage of your trip costs. So on average, I would say 6 to can go up to 10 or 11 or 12 percent.

Aislyn: And remember that pricing changes depending on what you want to do, says Wendy Perrin.

Wendy: Travel insurance can be pricey. It can be like basically 4 to 8 percent of your trip cost so it can be expensive, but it’s really the trip cancellation part of it that is so expensive. If you don’t care about that, if you’ve paid nothing ahead of time for your trip, it’s all refundable, but you still want the medical coverage, it actually can be really inexpensive.

Aislyn: And a reminder to check to see if your policy has medical evacuation coverage, and how much. If it doesn’t, remember that Medjet memberships begin at $99.

So you’ve got your policy, or you’re ready to get it. The work isn’t quite over. But you’re very close! Beth Godlin says just make sure to dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s.

Beth: Take a look at the policy before you buy it, you know, or even after you buy it. Almost all companies will give you a couple of weeks to get your money back if you don’t like it. So if, you know, you’ve got a sick parent, and you’re buying it because that sick parent is very sick, and you think, you know, something may happen, make sure to check the pre-existing exclusion component to make sure something like that would be covered. Or call the company and ask them.

Aislyn: Christina Tunnah agrees. She says as difficult as it is, sit down and just read your policy.

Christina: I know that’s probably not the most exciting Sunday reading but—

Aislyn: Get a cup of coffee. Sit down with your policy.

Christina: And that’s really all it is. It’s a cup of coffee’s worth of reading.

Aislyn: Now, this might be totally obvious, but once you get that policy, you’re traveling, you’re out in the world, don’t forget to use it! You’ve spent the money, you’ve spent the time. And even lost luggage and flight delays might be covered if you have the right plan, says Christina.

Christina: We do hear anecdotally of people who, maybe their bag didn’t make it. [They say] like, “Oh, it’s fine. I’ll just wait and see when it arrives in my hotel.” And I’ve always told them—in fact, I met a woman when we’re both waiting for a bus to go further afield in country and she said, “Oh, my bag didn’t arrive.” And I—she had insurance—and I said, “Well, why don’t you call the assistance company?” She goes, “Oh, no, I’ll just wait and see if the airline—” No. Call the assistance company. That’s exactly what they’re there to do is to help be your, your eyes and ears for your case, for drumming down.

Aislyn: And if something big does happen on your trip, you want to contact your insurance company right away. The thing that I avoided during my little incident. You’ll also want to immediately begin to document the process so that you can file a claim once you’re home.

Christina: When you come home and you want to start doing the claims process, it could be pretty swift, but it’s only as swift as the information you have at hand is complete and fully detailing your particular claim scenario. If you only submit partial evidence of loss, and that loss could be a trip delay or lost baggage or that you had to overnight in a hotel because your last flight was missed. All of those types of scenarios, if you don’t have full proof of, of backing your story with the needed receipts and documents, then it becomes a back and forth.

Aislyn: So keep notes, take screenshots, keep the receipts, all that.

Christina: Keep notes and also particularly in medical situations. If you’re going into a walk-in clinic, you might think, oh it’s, uh, you know, 50 bucks to get my hand bandaged—the receipts, everything is great. But again, call the assistance because then you already have established your case and you’re able to ask the, the attendant, “What do I need to make sure I do not leave the clinic without?” And they will help you so that you are not after the fact thinking about, “Oh, I don’t have documentation for that.”

Aislyn: Christina says that proof of ownership is particularly important for lost gear and tech. So you have to be able to prove that you own that piece of equipment before there will be a payout of it. So you really want to have evidence of ownership as part of your documentation process.

Christina: We always recommend travelers take photos of your receipts, if you still have them. Take photos of your item, any kind of serial numbers of that item, a credit card receipt that shows, “Yes, I bought this at Best Buy July 3rd, 2020.” Anything that really helps back you up. And just put it in the cloud and save it so that should you ever have to claim for it, you’ve got that stuff ready versus doing it after the fact.

Aislyn: I promise we’re almost at the end. One of the cool things I learned is that insurance can even benefit the greater good. Here’s Christina again.

Christina: We also view insurance as the responsible thing for travelers to take with them, because you don’t want to be a burden to the host community’s systems and you want to make sure that you’re not taking a bed from somebody else or just being a burden to that medical attention because you don’t have it.

Aislyn: World Nomads also has a program called Footprints, which allows travelers purchasing a policy to make a micro donation to a specific project.

Christina: We work with NGOs all over the world that are vetted and we select projects where they need very specific funding, so it’s not an ongoing fundraising mechanism. It could be, “We need $20,000 to buy two boats and petrol and gear for rangers who are going to help prevent turtle poaching in Nicaragua.” Or “We need $50,000 to build, uh, programs for, uh, water sanitation in the Torres Straits.”

Aislyn: This whole thing can seem very overwhelming and a little dry, but a reminder that this goes back to one simple concept. Travel insurance is there to protect you financially. Here’s Wendy again.

Wendy: I think the main reason why it’s valuable is when it can save you tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, right? I think people really need to think about, like, where am I spending the most money, where [do] I need to protect myself or potentially during the trip? Because that’s really what it is, is financial protection.

Aislyn: Christina agrees. And she says a little planning can go a long ways.

Christina: You know, the vacation starts when you actually start planning it and getting inspired where you want to go. And I get it. People don’t want to start thinking about what could go wrong on vacation. But if you make it part of your planning process and you’re really across what it can and can do for you and each traveler is different, right? And then you can carry on with all the fun parts of your holiday, right? So get it over with, bed it down, and carry on.

Aislyn: Let’s recap what we learned today.

Takeaway #1: Not everyone needs travel insurance, but the best way to find out if you do is to assess your life and your travels, each time you plan a trip.

Takeaway #2: There are three core things you might want to protect with travel insurance: The money you have or will spend, your health, and your stuff. Decide which ones are most important to you and go from there.

Takeaway #3: Cancel for any reason insurance can be the most helpful in terms of getting money back, but it’s also the most expensive. So consider carefully—people who are putting down large nonrefundable deposits are good candidates for it. But remember: You usually have to sign up for it within 14 days of that first deposit.

Takeaway #4: If you’re not worried about cancellations, medical insurance on its own can be relatively inexpensive.

Takeaway #5: Before you get a policy, check to see what coverage you already have under your health insurance or credit cards.

Takeaway #6: Don’t forget about supplementary plans like medical evacuation and weather guarantees. Medical evacuation can be quite expensive and isn’t always covered under travel policies.

Takeway #7: Call the insurance company before you buy a policy and run through the most likely scenarios. And grit your teeth and read the fine print of your policy, once you hit purchase.

Takeaway #8: If something does happen on your trip, document, document, document.

Travel insurance: It’s a dizzying subject, but I personally feel so much more prepared to invest in my next travels. For example, I have a big trip planned to Japan in 2024 and beyond, and you can bet I’ll be buying travel insurance for it.

We’ll link to all the resources in this episode in our show notes, as well as to a travel insurance primer on afar.com.

Next week, we’re exploring the world of better travel pledges. Until then, happy travels.

Ready for more unpacking? Visit afar.com, and be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter. The magazine is @afarmedia. If you enjoyed today’s exploration, I hope you’ll come back for more great stories. Subscribing makes this easy! You can find Unpacked on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. And be sure to rate and review the show. It helps other travelers find it. We also want to hear from you: Is there a travel dilemma, trend, or topic you’d like us to explore? Drop us a line at afar.com/feedback or email us at unpacked@afar.com.

This has been Unpacked, a production of AFAR Media. The podcast is produced by Aislyn Greene and Nikki Galteland. Music composition by Chris Colin.

And remember: The world is complicated. We’re here to help you unpack it.