What To Look For
Trip Cancellation And Interruption
You're not going to find one plan that gets top marks for every benefit so you're going to have to make some compromises. Where you compromise is up to you but be realistic as to how those compromises will affect you. Yes, you're much more likely to have a baggage delay than an emergency evacuation but that's where we would be willing to give up some coverage if necessary to get a higher evacuation benefit. Use your best judgment.
Any plan that includes a trip cancellation benefit is probably going to include coverages that are important to you and some that are not -- if you're retired the ability to cancel if your're laid off from work won't matter much to you. But you normally won't be able tto delete these unwanted coverages and get a reduction in your premium. They come as a package. In the last few years some insurers have been offering the ability to add some coverages for an additional premium so if a plan looks good to you but isn't covering some event that you're concerned be sure to check if the insurer offers it as an add-on.
Many travelers are most concerned about an illness or accident happening to a non-traveling family member which most insurers will cover. Be sure to read the plan's definition of a "family member" and also if the pre-existing medical condition exclusion applies to them also.
With most, but not all plans, the covered reasons for trip interruption will be the same as those for trip cancellation.
Here's a link to some coverages that are outside the norm and may be of interest to you. if you have a specific concern that you're not finding in the plans you''re considering. In most of these cases you can buy a policy with the optional "Cancel For Any Reason" benefit buy why spend 50% more (and only have a portion of your loss covered) when the coverage you need may be out there at no additional cost? Note that plans change constantly so if you find a coverage you need be sure to verify that's still included .
Trip DelayThe higher the overall benefit limit the better but it's perhaps more important to have a high daily maximum. Most delays are for a day or two so we'd prefer to have a plan with a $1000max/$250day benefit compared to one with a $2000 max benefit but limited to only $100/day.
If at all possible you want ALL delays of a Common Carrier to be covered. Try not tot get into a situation where the insurer says the airline is responsible and the airline says take it up with your insurer.
If you are driving to your cruise or tour departure point or to the airport at any time of year where the roads can be closed you want to see something like this (from TravelSafe): "e) a documented weather condition preventing You from getting to the point of departure."
The shorter the delay time needed to invoke the benefit the better. You'll see times ranging from 3 hours to 24 hours. 6 hours is pretty average.
Emergency Evacuation / RepatriationIn general, a higher benefit limit is better. But how high is enough? For a trip to the Caribbean you might be satisfied with $100,000 of coverage. But for a tour to the Galapagos Islands you might find that $250,000 would be a minimum amount you'd feel safe with. More on this topic here.
You're going to see some plans that offer a "Hospital of Choice" benefit. Be sure to read very carefully what this includes as it probably does not include what you think it might. Basically, they say that they'll bring you back to a hospital of your choice for additional medical care instead of the one closest to your home. That's fine but be sure to note that most of these will only do so if you pay any additional costs. Any air ambulance company would be happy to do this for you anyway if you're willing to pay for it -- that's how they make their money -- so don't get fooled into thinking this benefit is a bigger deal than it actually is.
Baggage Loss/DamageBe sure to dig deeper into the plan wording to find out what's covered and what isn't. You may find that the plan has a nominal benefit limit of $5000 but it's not until you have that $3000 Mac Book laptop stolen that there's a $200 per item limit. Check the exclusions and per item limits carefully. The baggage coverage typically has more exclusions and limitations that any other benefit.
Baggage DelayLike the Trip Delay benefit, iwith many plans there will be a daily limit to the coverage along with a maximum overall benefit limit. We would tend to think a higher daily limit in most cases can be more important than the maximum limit. $1000 total with a $250/day limit is going to probably help you more than a $2500 total limit with a $100/day maximum. Also, the shorter the delay time to invoke the coverage the better for you. 12 hours is much better than 24 hours.
Medical CoverageThe more the better, usually. The "primary" vs "secondary" topic is discussed here. along with circumstances where an insurer can advance pre=payment to a hospital to get you admitted and treated. Be sure that you know exactly your regular health insurer will do for you (or not do for you) if you meed medical help while outside the country -- a cruise ship at sea or in a foreign port will be considered as being out of the country. Most travelers either don't know or think they know and are wrong. Take a few minutes and find out. More here.
For us, we have regular health insurance that covers us outside the country with a co-pay. So a secondary plan with at least $50,000 of coverage is adequate. If we didn't we'd be looking for a plan with at least $100,000 of coverage. Many others consider $250,000 to be the minimum they would want. But we want to be sure that the insurer will provide pre-payment to guarantee admission to a hospital if needed. Some insurers will do this, some won't.
Also be aware that some plans have their medical benefit as "per policy" not "per insured". It's very rare that more than one traveler needs medical help during the trip but it does happen.