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Is travel insurance worth it? Here's what travel agents say

Travel agents generally recommend buying travel insurance every time you travel, if you can afford it. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Travel insurance can protect you if your travels don't go as planned. It can help if you lose your luggage, get injured abroad, and, perhaps most commonly, if your travel plans change (or need to be canceled entirely).

Still, travel insurance comes at a cost, and in some cases, it might not be worth the investment. When should you consider it, and how can you get the best coverage? We spoke to travel agents to find out.

You can start exploring your travel insurance options here now to learn more.

Why (and when) travel agents think travel insurance is worth it

Travel agents generally recommend buying travel insurance every time, if you can afford it. As Tara Minson, executive vice president at travel advisory agency InteleTravel, explains, "Safe travel starts with travel protection."

If you're on a tighter budget, though, consider investing in insurance only on bigger trips — ones that cost you lots of cash and planning time — or on international ones

"Medical expenses can be very costly in other countries, plus you may have to pay upfront for medical care, including hospitalization and surgery," says Michelle Osborn, who runs the travel agency Outta Here Travels. "Travel insurance can help cover those expenses."

It can also be helpful if you're going to be participating in any high-risk activities while traveling — things like bungee jumping, skiing, or other adventure sports that you might get injured doing. If you're taking a low-risk trip in the same country or state, though, it might not be worth the money. 

"The only time I would say travel insurance isn't necessary is if you go on a last-minute domestic trip," says Shane Mahoney, founder of the luxury travel agency Lugo's Travel. "In that case, you most likely didn't prepay for any non-refundable expenses and you're not worried about last-minute trip cancellation, so it can be safe to not get travel insurance."

Explore your travel insurance options here now or in the below table to find the right protection for your next trip.

How to pick a travel insurance policy, according to agents

There are lots of companies that offer travel insurance, so picking the right one isn't always easy. To start, agents say it's important to think about your specific needs and trip details.

"Do you have a preexisting health condition you want to make sure is covered," Osborn asks. "Is there a chance you might have to cancel the trip due to work or something else? Are you worried about arriving at your destination but your luggage did not and having to purchase new items while in a foreign place?"

Knowing what your biggest concerns and risks are can help point you toward the right types of coverage.

Osborn also says to consider things like an insurer's reputation for customer service and their financial ratings, which speak to how stable the company is (and how likely they'll be in business for the long haul). 

Finally, make sure to purchase from a third party, not the company providing the trip. 

"The biggest mistake travelers make when choosing to add travel protection is booking a 'protection plan' with the travel supplier directly — the cruise line, tour operator, or vacation company," Minson says. "Booking travel protection from a third-party insurance company is always the best protection. It offers you, the traveler, higher value coverages, more types of coverage, cash refunds — not just future travel credit — and more."

What travel agents caution travelers to be aware of

In general, travel is risky. There are hazards en route to your location, you could get injured or develop an illness while abroad, and you have lots of money on the line, too.

"Think of Steve Martin trying to get home for Thanksgiving in 'Planes, Trains. and Automobiles,'" says Mary Despain, president of the travel agency Destination CLEs. "A car on fire, missed flights, and a nightmare of a trip home. Lost luggage can be just the beginning — and his trip was in the United States." 

Travel insurance can help offset some of these risks and ensure you're not just covered medically while traveling (most U.S. health insurance doesn't extend to other countries) but also financially as well.

"Traveling without travel insurance carries a huge risk — a risk that many people cannot afford if something happens before or during their trip," Mahoney says. "If you don't have travel insurance, anything that happens during your trip, from something common like flight cancellations and lost baggage to more serious situations like medical emergencies abroad, you are on the hook for paying for all of it."

Purchasing your travel insurance policy

If you're confident in what type of policy, coverage, and insurer to use, you can purchase travel insurance on your own online. Some credit cards also come with travel coverage, though it may not be as comprehensive as third-party policies.

If you're not sure how to pick the right policy or how much coverage you need, you can always enlist a travel agent for help. They can recommend insurers, coverage amounts and more. They may also be able to negotiate better deals on your behalf.

Start comparing your travel insurance options here now.

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