Travel Insurance: Does It Work and Is It Actually Worth Purchasing?

When you travel, do you usually purchase trip insurance? I remember when I booked my very first trip out of the country in fall 2015, the travel company with whom I booked my trip recommended trip insurance.

Feeding Giraffe at Giraffe Manor, Kenya


I did purchase insurance, but not from them. I shopped around a bit and ended up going with a company that was recommended by the insurance/investment company with whom I insure my home and car. I’ve taken quite a few trips since then, and each time I’ve continued to use the same company for trip insurance.

Clark Howard, an avid traveler and a popular consumer advocate here in Atlanta, recommends the website InsureMyTrip (web address is insuremytripdotcom) when shopping for travel insurance. It’s a pretty cool site that let’s you quickly shop rates across insurance companies.


Initially when I considered buying trip insurance, I thought it was mainly to cover the cost of the trip if  I had to cancel for an unexpected reason like sickness–either my own or a family member. But during the process of buying the insurance, I realized it really serves a much more important purpose. Trip insurance can also cover the cost of medical care if you should become sick during a trip.

My Tent at Mahali Mazuri, Safari Resort, Kenya


Over the past couple of years as I’ve traveled, I’ve been surprised to learn that not everyone buys trip insurance.

Mahali Mzuri Safari Resort, Kenya


During previous trips, usually during dinner, it’s common for fellow travelers to share the places they’ve visited, some of the great deals they’ve found on travel and travel tips in general. A few times the topic of travel insurance has come up and there are always those who say they never buy it. What?!

Positano, Italy Overlooking Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta Church and the Amalfi Coast

Positano, Italy Overlooking Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta Church and the Amalfi Coast


The reason I always buy trip insurance is not to cover the cost of the trip, although it would be nice to be reimbursed for that if for some reason I was unable to go.

Abandoned Mill, Valle dei Mulini or Valley of Mills, Sorrento, Italy


The main reason I always buy trip insurance is so I’ll have medical coverage in case I get sick with an illness that requires a hospital stay, surgery or a possible evacuation back home.

A Visit to Bramasole, Frances Mayes Italian Villa in her book, Under the Tuscan Sun


It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had to cancel a trip and lost the amount I had paid for the trip, but it could be financially devastating if I came down with appendicitis or an illness/injury that required a lengthy hospital stay and/or possible surgery.

View of Miami from Cruise Ship, Sailing With The Scotts

Sailing With the Property Brothers to Key West & Cozumel, 2015


That’s the real reason I would never take a trip without first buying trip insurance. If you’re sure that your insurance works in other countries, then you may be okay, but I definitely recommend verifying that prior to booking a trip out of the country.

Starstruck on the Property Brother’s Cruise to Key West and Cozumel 🙂


Does It Actually Work? Is Trip Insurance Worth Purchasing?

After purchasing travel insurance for so many trips over the last two years, I’ve never had a chance to actually “test” it until my recent trip to Germany in December.

Kinderdijk, Holland


During that trip I came down with an evil case of the flu that put me in bed with severe pain and fever for the duration of the trip.

Amsterdam, View from Ferris Wheel

Royal Palace, Dam Square, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


My health insurance doesn’t work outside of the United States, so I paid out-of-pocket for the medical care and prescriptions I received while on the trip. Once back home I was too sick with bronchitis for the first couple of weeks to deal with completing the forms for reimbursement. I did call the company with whom I had purchased the insurance to let them know I would need to submit a claim.

Camel Ride in the Sahara, Morocco

My riding companion through the Sahara Desert, Morocco


During that call I briefly shared what had happened and was not at all happy with how the call went. The representative was cold and uncaring and made it clear that I might not be reimbursed. I made it clear that they could expect a battle on their hands if they rejected my claim.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco


I hung up feeling pretty angry, wondering if they were going to try to get out of paying. I was fully prepared to fight if necessary. I never walk away from a battle, especially if I feel the other party is not holding up their end of the deal.

Camel Ride in Sahara Desert

A ride through the Sahara Desert


About a month after returning and feeling much better, I finally sat down and took the time to complete the forms which included a Medical Expense Claim Form, a Trip Interruption Claim Form and something called a Planholder/Patient Authorization Claim Form. In addition to the claim forms, I scanned in and emailed nine supporting documents including doctor’s bills, invoices, receipts, medical reports, prescriptions and test results.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland


It didn’t take long before I received an email from the insurance company letting me know their decision regarding my claim. In summary, I got everything I had requested. They reimbursed all my medical expenses, as well as the hotel lodging and meal cost for the night I couldn’t fly home due to breathing issues. They also reimbursed the cost of the trip (trip interruption) for the four-five days I spent in bed in my cabin, too sick to leave my room or the boat for any tours or excursions.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway Ireland


One of the documents I submitted when I filed the claim was the test results from the Urgent Care I visited the day I returned home. It showed I had tested positive for Influenza A. I don’t know if that was helpful or necessary to include with all the other documentation, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

A Visit to Belleek Pottery, Northern Ireland


I will continue to buy trip insurance whenever I travel. Though it would not have been a tremendous loss financially if I hadn’t been reimbursed for the 4-5 days of my missed trip (trip interruption) and the relatively small amount of medical expenses I incurred, the expenses could have been much, much higher if I had been hospitalized. That’s exactly what happened to another passenger on the trip who ended up with pneumonia. Hopefully they had trip insurance.

Lough Eske Castle after Nightfall

Lough Eske Castle after Nightfall, Ireland


I wanted to share my experience in case it’s helpful for you or someone you know who loves to travel. If your travels take you to places where your current health insurance isn’t accepted or valid, I very much encourage you to purchase good trip insurance the same day you book your trip. I think the insurance company I typically use gives you 10 days to purchase trip insurance after booking a trip. Once you’re past that window, they will not let you purchase insurance.

Christmas Markets, Cologne Germany, December 2017 06

Christmas Markets, Cologne Germany

So do your research prior to booking your trip, that way you’ll be ready to purchase your trip insurance the same day or very soon after. I always buy mine the same day I pay for the trip, so I don’t forget.

Do you typically buy travel/trip insurance when you travel? Have you ever had to use it or file for reimbursement? Hopefully if you did, the outcome was what you wanted.

Wishing you many happy travels and it’s my hope you never have the need to actually test or use your trip insurance!

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  1. Wow, Susan! To be so sick while traveling solo must have been really frightening! Glad you were able to at least get some medicine on the trip.
    We always purchase travel insurance, but would like to know which travel insurance you used, since it came through for you. Fortunately, we haven’t yet had to use the insurance. Our next trip is in October!

    • Definitely wasn’t a fun experience! I’m going to try to avoid planning any more trips outside the U.S. during the height of flu season in the future. Just not worth the risk. I’ve been using Travel Insured International.

  2. Kathy Shearer says:

    I always buy travel insurance through InsureMyTrip. Like you, it is primarily in case of the need for medical evacuation. I had an acquaintance trip and break her leg on the first day in Israel. It was a severe break. Thankfully, she had trip insurance. You just never know what could happen. It is worth a couple hundred dollars for peace of mind.

  3. Sandra D, Joliet says:

    I have never traveled outside the USA and probably won’t due to declining health. In fact I don’t think I’ll be traveling far within the USA. I think this is a most helpful issue though. I hope a lot of people read it and heed your advice. Thanks for posting this and so many other helpful postings

  4. I find your blog so informative, both regarding the fun stuff like clothes and handbags, but also serious subjects like travel insurance. I felt terrible for you being so sick for what was meant to be a wonderful trip. I’m glad to know your insurance company kept their end of the bargain. Have you thought about contacting them regarding the poor customer service you received from the person you spoke to on the phone?

  5. Thanks for the good icformation and glad they reimbursed you for what you asked for.

    You are just too cute in these pictures! They show you enjoyed your trips. Am waiting to hear where your next adventure will take you.

  6. Beatrice Bryan says:

    I don’t use trip insurance, but if you want to, be sure to look at reviews from people who have actually had claims. It doesn’t matter how wonderful their customer service if they don’t pay out on legitimate claims.

  7. If you use the same insurance company next time, I wonder what happens if you have to file another claim. I wonder if it works like regular insurance – use it a couple of times then get canceled or have the rates go up?

  8. I’ve always wondered if it works to buy those. I bought it for my daughter when she went to Italy but she never had an issue however I felt better that I did. That was a nasty trip for you!

  9. Donna Nance says:

    We always buy travel insurance when we travel. We did have to file a claim when my husband had a re-occurrence of c. diff bacterial infection on Thursday before we were to leave on a 10 day cruise on Saturday. I filed the claim on the 21st of December and had a full refund by December 27th. I use the insuremytrip website to buy our insurance. Now that we are both senior citizens it is more important than ever as Medicare will not cover you out of the USA. We think it is money well spent.

  10. Good, informative post. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Wanda Bradey says:

    Never travel without insurance! I always purchase. Glad to hear you had great results. I’m traveling to The Holy Land in May. First thing I did was buy the insurance.

  12. Sabrina Holmes says:

    You mentioned having a military ID, do you also have TriCare coverage? I’m not clear if they cover one outside the US.

    • Yes, that’s what I have. When I sat down to fill out all the forms, I called the insurance company to ask a follow up question. During that conversation, the person I spoke with told me that I would need to first file on my own insurance to see if they would cover the medical expenses, then I could file with them. She never asked what type of insurance I had, but I told her I had Tricare and I was sure my insurance wasn’t going to pay for anything. She immediately changed her answer after, agreeing with me that they definitely wouldn’t pay. She told me she was noting that in their records, so when I submitted my paperwork for reimbursement, whoever handled the claim would know I had Tricare.

  13. Thanks for the lovely photos and information. I hope you called the company and let them know how you were treated during your first call.

  14. Cyndi Raines says:

    Makes perfect sense to me and something I would do if I was traveling abroad. Thanks for the good information and so glad your claim paid and no hassels.

  15. Susan…so sorry about your illness and then the paperwork after ! Yes, we always take trip insurance. When younger because of elderly parents and heaven forbid something would happen while we were away. Now, for illness and unexpected cancellation…as well as heaven forbid if we pass away while away. That cost is astronomical if you do not have insurance. Always purchase it through our AAA travel agent. Glad to hear you are feeling better…and love reading your blog for ideas and inspiration. Going on a river cruise in November….getting lots of travel ideas from you. Thanks !

  16. Carol Summers says:

    Sorry to hear that you had to use the insurance. We were on a cruise once where an elderly lady fell down a flight of stairs. She had to be evacuated by the Coast Guard in gale force winds. The pilot of the helicopter had to hover above the top deck and use a basket to be lowered to get her. Now that pilot had skills!! I cannot imagine what the bill for that had to be without insurance. We never travel without insurance on trips outside the US.

  17. Thank you for the great info! I have never purchased trip insurance before and will do so next time! After reading about your flu, I realized that trip insurance is valuable.

  18. Regality (aka The Quing) says:

    I do buy trip insurance and my insurance company covers out-of-country medical expenses, so that’s not a worry. Thank goodness I’ve never had to use either.

    One comment you made about another traveler needing to be hospitalized because of pneumonia brings to my mind some advice: When you turn 65, be sure to get your series of two pneumonia shots!

    • Curious about your comment on series of two pneumonia shots! I had the first one and when I asked for second I was told the first one was good for five years and that I should wait for second because there would be no more offered. My husband’s doctor gave him the second shot. Not sure if age plays a part in the decision.

  19. So happy to hear you got all your expenses reimbursed, and it didn’t involve a “fight on their hands.” I generally give a cold, uncaring tone by a customer service rep a pass. Once. But the part about you probably not getting reimbursed was waaay out of line. That needs reporting. Imagine calling a medical facility for an appt and a front-desk clerk saying, “yeah, I don’t think we can cure you” (without an exam, lab tests etc).

  20. I am more curious about what insurance you have that won’t cover you out of the US!

    I always get travel insurance, but my personal medical insurance does cover me anywhere. Or so they say! I have thankfully never had to test it.

    I love that you share these kinds of posts, as well as all the lovely decorating ones. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Tammy! I have Tricare, it definitely only works in the U.S.

      • Ah, that makes sense, although I don’t understand why our vets and their families would NOT be covered anywhere, even when no longer actively serving, since they risked and sacrificed their lives everywhere. (Stepping off my soapbox now)

  21. Absolutely buy the insurance. Friends of ours traveled out of the USA and were in a horrible car accident, as in no breaks, down the side of a mountain. They were hospitalized for several weeks. The husband had broken his leg. Had they not had travel insurance it would have financially wiped them out. The car rental place had no insurance!

    I have always been glad to read that you purchase insurance and advocate for buying as protection. I am so sorry you had to use it on your beautiful trip to Germany!

  22. I always buy travel insurance. The first few trips I made out of the country I did not but as I got older I began to think it was a good idea. My husband and I had a Mediterranean cruise scheduled and the morning we were to leave a family member was killed in an auto accident. I called travel agent right away and cancelled the trip. Had no trouble getting refund but did have to send them a copy of death certificate. Will never travel without it again. Have an Alaska cruise scheduled this year and yes I have insurance!

  23. Good article Susan, with great photos! Thank you. I traveled around the world with my husband for almost 20 years. We never bought travel insurance or went on trip tours with a travel company. We had an American Express Platinum account that included medical/health expense coverage. It also included a concierge service where they would book the doctor office appointment and made travel arrangements to the office. When I became ill with bronchitis and a fever of 105 F, in Beijing, China, everything was taken care of, including the medications. The doctor at the international medical clinic used to work at UCLA hospital emergency room. Also, my own healthcare insurance at the time was Humana, they paid for the medical expenses in Italy.

  24. Marlene Stephenson says:

    This was informative and i want to thank you for all your information. My health ins. is good in some other countries but you are so right when we travel it is important to safeguard our health.

  25. Jane Franks says:

    We took a cruise from Montreal, Canada around the Maritime Provinces to Maine and then Boston several years ago. We were encouraged by our cruise organizer to purchase trip insurance, which we did. Thankfully, we didn’t have to use it, but it was great assurance to know that we had it, if something happened. My husband has/had a few health issues, so it gave us great peace of mind. Like you say it is well worth the couple hundred dollars or whatever it costs. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and just figure that cost into the total coast of my trip when planning. Good advice, Susan, and you are doing everyone a great service to talk about this.

  26. I am very fortunate to have *medical* travel insurance through my employer until I’m 65. That includes transport back to Canada if necessary. When I went to New Zealand two years ago, I got a quote for the medical insurance at it was astronomical because I’m over 60, despite not having any pre-existing conditions. What I always buy is trip cancellation insurance, just in case, since I have my elderly mother living with me and it gives me peace of mind. I’ll be going to NZ again next year, before my benefits run out!

  27. Joellen Wilcox says:

    Tricare does cover you while traveling overseas. Here is one of many links I found: You should have a conversation with your nearest Tricare representative.

    • This link Mary be better because it looks to each Tricare plan individually.

    • I called them this afternoon to verify again. They recommended I always buy travel insurance because I would have to pay for everything up front and they would reimburse part of it. The woman I spoke with at the Travel Insurance company said Tricare wouldn’t cover anything, she seemed to have dealt with them before. My insurance isn’t regular Tricare, it’s Tricare Prime. I have trouble finding doctors here in the U.S. that will take it because they pay so poorly. The last 4 primary care doctor’s I’ve had, have dropped it because it pays so little of what they bill. So yeah, I would hate to rely on it in a foreign country.

  28. Thanks for your very helpful comments and information. Yes, I always buy trip insurance, and feel it is a very good investment. You just never know what life brings and better to be safe than sorry! So glad your experience was a good one!

  29. We always purchase travel insurance. At least twice, trips had to be cancelled due to illness and all the expenses were reimbursed for four family members including the airfare, accommodations, pre-booked sports equipment, and some mileage expenses. The insurance is worth the peace of mind for sure.

  30. That trip interruption is an interesting little tidbit. Did they prorate the days? I’m glad you were a squeaky wheel and recouped your expenses along with the inconvenience of losing those days enjoying the river cruise. Thanks for sharing – I agree with so many others who write how much they enjoy the variety of topics and info.

  31. We recently went on a cruise to Mexico and bought insurance for the first time. We’ve never bought the insurance in the past for our cruises but I insisted on us buying it this time…..I’d been sick with the flu up until the week before we left and was worried we might have to cancel….fortunately I was over it and we had a wonderful time.

  32. Never have…BUT…how that we have “matured” it is probably a “good plan” to have insurance. You really “dodged the bullet” on that one and so nice to hear a “happy ending!!” franki

  33. Susan, I’m happy to read that your insurance paid the claim without issue. I usually take out trip insurance because we had an experience without trip insurance where my husband ended up on a Med Jet for transport off island to a major hospital. Expensive trip!
    Fun seeing all your travel photos. You’ve been on some exciting trips. I have a friend traveling to the Giraffe Manor this summer. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations you might offer?

  34. Frank Shackleford says:

    Thanks Susan,
    A very good and informative article on an important topic. We were advised by frequent travelers to buy Travel Insurance for the “Medical benefit” and “trip interruption” insurance is just a secondary benefit. My wife and I travel from GA to Europe and other countries at least a couple of times a year. Our friend and travel agent recommended an Annual policy for us from a company called Travel Guard and I think the cost was like $528/year (for both of us, not per person); this works for us; we do some cruises also but with this policy don’t pay the “per cruise” or “per trip” price, works better for us. Thanks again

    • I really need to look into that since I’ve been taking a couple of trips per year. Last year I took three but normally I would just take two. Thanks, Frank! Will definitely do research on that.

  35. Susan, thanks for the great information! Do you mind giving us an idea of what trip insurance costs? I realize it probably depends on where you are traveling and the length of your stay, but it would still be helpful to have a general idea. Also, do they make you pay a deductible? Is there anything important that it doesn’t cover?

    I was glad to see you say you ‘never back down.’ Lol. You’re such a sweetie, and sometimes sweet people can be taken advantage of. I’m glad you were willing to fight, if need be.

    • I know they consider your age, but I don’t remember them ever asking about my health or anything like that. I just looked back at three of my trips and it seems to vary greatly. Of course, the length of the trip effects what you pay as well. When I went to Africa/Kenya for 8 days, it was $348, 11 days in Holland/Belgium was $194 and this most recent trip to Germany for 12 days was $129. Maybe Africa is considered more risky since it costs the most.

    • Oh, and no, there’s no deductible.

      • Thanks, Susan. That’s very helpful. And I agree that the price is well worth paying for the peace of mind. I appreciate your answer.

  36. We take some pretty adventurous trips and buy it. While riding his bicycle from the top to the bottom of Africa, my husband became ill, and he was covered. On another biking trip from Paris to Dakar, Senegal with our daughter (my blog partner), he had to have surgery and was hospitalized a week. He was covered then, too. He ended up coming home, and I met up with the group in Spain and pedaled to Dakar. We were reimbursed for my travel expenses on his original policy. For smaller trips like cruises and European trips, we don’t always invest in it and I’m not sure why, but for Africa, Asia, India, and South America we do.

  37. Oh my goodness, I cannot conceive anyone who is travelling abroad not purchasing travel medical insurance. That said; even as a Canadian whose country has a national health care system most citizens have additional insurance to cover expenses within its own borders as not ‘everything’ is covered. -Brenda-
    P.S.: Am so glad Susan and good for you that you pursued your claim and wasn’t influenced by a telephone representative who was possibly reading from a script. Need I say more …. .

  38. When we were younger we never even thought about insurance, but now that we are older and wiser, we always buy insurance. We have a friend who used to fly for a company that flew people back to the states that were ill or had been injured and needed medical care. These were not “life flights” with medical care on board, just the flight. I asked him 15 years ago what this cost, and he said it starts at $10,000 and up. It would be even more today. We have a friend who had emergency heart surgery in Nassau, we’ve talked to a woman who fell in Italy and broke her shoulder. Why on earth would you NOT want to have insurance? Do you go without insurance in the US?

  39. Turning this around…we have had relatives, not from the US, visit us for extended stays and insurance is important for them also. Often visitors from countries where insurance is provided forget or do not think ( young nieces and nephews) of how prohibitive the prices are for medical care here

  40. I definantly suggest insurance. While overseas three years ago my husband became ill. He spent a month in ICU. We paid out of pocket for his care. The travel insurance could not have been nicer. They made arrangements, upgraded him to first class and paid for a nurse to accompany him on his return home. The nurse also accompanied him via limousine to our home. We were then able to be reimbursed by our health insurance for out of pocket expenses. I will never travel without travel insurance again.

  41. Susan, Thankfully I have not used the medical part of trip insurance but I did have a suitcase that was stolen on my return trip from a cruise. it was Because the airline never received the bag they were not responsible for replacing it. It did take some paperwork but I received compensation for the bag and contents. Happily, I had also followed the other best traveling tip which is to never pack anything valuable in luggage that will be checked. I am glad to know that you were reimbursed. You can’t replace the experiences lost but at least in the end you didn’t pay for them. I agree with you 100% . Get the insurance.

  42. Long ago, the in-laws decided to take the entire family-15 people in all- on a Carribean cruise to celebrate their 50th anniversay. The in-laws purchased trip cancellation coverage but not medical, transportation or trip interruption coverage. On the third day out, heart trouble required FIL to be air-lifted to Miami at a cost of more than $10,000 (probaby $50k at today’s prices). None of it was covered and they were not reimbursed for the unuse portion of the trip. Lesson learned too late.

  43. Ronnie Todd says:

    I haven’t traveled out if the country in a long time, but in the last three years, when booking vacations within the country I have bought travel insurance. With aging relatives, and mine and my family’s aging, I didn’t want something to happen and have to return from a trip unexpectedly. Well, all went well until last year. My husband was in the hospital for 40 days before our preplanned trip, and after getting out, was unable to travel. I submitted the forms after canceling the trip, the doctor gladly filled out his portion of paperwork, and after submitting everything I got a check for total reimbursement, minus the cost of the insurance of course. Totally worth every penny, and peace of mind!

  44. Can you purchase insurance when you are booking each part of your trip yourself? An example~I have booked the rooms, will be booking airfare, tours, etc. Can I still purchase travel insurance and how would that work?
    TIA for any helpful info!
    I always add insurance to cruise bookings. Just haven’t had an opportunity to travel overseas & by planning the trip myself wasn’t certain how or if I could get coverage.

    • I’m 99% sure you can. When I booked my trip to Ireland, I paid the company with whom I scheduled the tour, but I had to book my own flight, etc… When I called to purchase insurance, the company I’ve been using just asked for the begin and end day of the trip. They already had my other information like date of birth, etc… from all the other times I’ve purchased insurance. They ask for a total of what the trip would cost, including airfare. At you can compare different companies. The company I’ve been using is Travel Insured International.

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