When Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

Last updated on 03/11/2024

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A common question we are asked is, “When should I buy travel insurance?” Our customers know a plan is important but aren’t sure of the “travel insurance sweet spot”. Do they purchase before a trip is booked? The same day it's scheduled? After the trip is paid off? Before or after they depart?

There are only three "rules" about when to buy a travel insurance plan:

  1. After your first trip payment is made. If you want to purchase a comprehensive plan to cover trip cancellation, we recommend you do it after making at least one payment towards your trip, but some plans require you to have already put money down. You will want to have a good grasp of your total expected trip cost. This will allow you to get the most accurate quote for the right travel insurance plan.
  2. As close to that first payment as possible. If you need coverage for a pre-existing medical condition or are interested in optional Cancel for Any Reason coverage, you should be aware that both of these have time-sensitive eligibility requirements tied to your initial trip payment (among other requirements). In other words, once you’ve paid for a part of the trip (whether it’s airfare, accommodations or a down payment for a cruise) you have a limited amount of time to buy a plan to access these benefits.
  3. Prior to when the plan is needed. You must purchase travel insurance coverage before it is needed. Some travel medical plans are available for purchase after you have departed, but comprehensive plans that include medical coverage must be purchased before departing. However, you can’t buy any medical coverage once you recognize a need for medical attention. The same applies to all travel insurance coverage. Once you recognize the need, it is too late to protect your trip.

So, in reviewing the three rules, you may still be a little confused on that “travel insurance sweet spot.” We tell travelers to prepare early. As soon as you book and make an initial payment on your trip, start comparing travel insurance plans.

Last Minute Travel Insurance

Travel isn’t always meticulously planned. While many of us like to take the scrupulous approach of scheduling things months in advance, making sure each hotel is booked, each flight secured, each detail firmly in place well ahead of our anticipated departure, there’s no denying that some trips just don’t work that way. Sometimes travel opportunities sneak up on us quite unexpectedly — whether from sheer spontaneity or something more serious that requires us to make hasty arrangements. Just because the planning phase has to be shortened considerably doesn’t mean that travelers should be any less proactive about buying a last-minute travel insurance policy to cover them in the event something goes awry. We’re fond of reminding travelers to purchase their travel insurance immediately after making their first trip deposit, so they’ll have access to all the potential benefits and options available. But what happens if the initial trip deposit and the trip itself go practically hand-in-hand?

Don’t Worry About Fancy Benefits

While Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policies are extremely popular with many travelers, for good reason, they’re probably not where you want to focus your search if you’re about to depart. CFAR is intended to help you out if you choose to cancel your trip for any reason that’s not stated as being covered on your travel insurance policy. However, if you’re putting together a last-minute itinerary, chances are you won’t be changing your mind. Also, since CFAR policies require you to cancel — and notify all of your travel suppliers of your decision — a minimum of two days prior to your departure, last-minute travelers may not have time on their sides.

Do Keep Up with the News

If you’re planning to depart quickly, you should scan the news and weather for any events that may disrupt your trip. It’s likely that anything you find will not be covered by your travel insurance policy; since travel insurance is only for unforeseen events, any hurricane threats, possible airline strikes, or other threats to your travel experience that are already being discussed in the media will more often than not be considered "known perils" and won’t be covered. Obviously, if you’re determined to travel, you should still purchase a last-minute travel insurance policy to possibly cover other disruptions, but it’s best to enter into your travel insurance purchase having a realistic expectation about what benefits are truly available to you.

Take Advantage of Time-Sensitive Benefits

The good news about being in a hurry is that, since you’ll be purchasing your last-minute travel insurance soon after you’ve made your first payment on the trip, you may be eligible for some very helpful benefits that aren’t offered to travelers who wait. Items like pre-existing conditions waivers offer valuable coverage, but are only available if you buy travel insurance within 10-21 days of your initial trip payment. That’s good news for last-minute travelers.

While some plans only offering post-departure benefits can be purchased last minute (single-trip travel medical, evacuation memberships or Accidental Death & Dismemberment plans), we advise not to wait when considering plans with pre-departure benefits like a comprehensive plan.

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Only a few travel insurance companies on InsureMyTrip offer plans that cover medical emergencies and evacuation as well as cancellation, delay, and baggage. Some companies offer cancellation-only plans as well. All plans available on InsureMyTrip must be purchased before you leave Canada, you cannot purchase any of these plans once you have departed. Importantly, you cannot purchase coverage for only a portion of your trip; you must fully insure it. If you do not, then the plan would be considered invalid and not provide coverage.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article serves as a general overview of benefits and should only be used for informational purposes. Refer to your individual certificate of insurance for specific coverages, exclusions and benefits. When in doubt, please contact one of our licensed agents for additional assistance.