When To Buy

Many cruise lines and tour operators have a fairly liberal cancellation policy -- you might book your trip 18 months in advance but up until perhaps 60 days prior to the start of the trip you can cancel with no penalty. So why would you want to spend money on a non-refundable travel insurance policy before there's any risk of a loss?

But the travel insurance companies know that the closer a traveler gets to the departure date the less likely he/she is to buy a policy.  So they've come up with a number of incentives to encourage travelers to do something that would normally be illogical -- buy insurance at a time when there's no (or little) risk of loss. 
A typical plan will include a number of additional benefits if the policy is purchased within a number of days (typically 7 - 30) from the date the trip is first booked. They can include:

  • Coverage for pre-existing medical conditions
  • Coverage for financial default of a travel supplier
  • Optional Cancel For Any Reason benefit
  • Coverage for terrorism events
So when deciding when to buy a policy the traveler has to decide if getting these additional benefits or coverages is worth buying a policy that is otherwise of little use until some future date.

Usually the greatest concern is the pre-existing medical condition exclusion. Even if there are none to worry about at the moment, it's always possible that one would pop up unexpectedly to disrupt your plans. And remember that the pre-existing medical condition condition exclusion can, depending on the insurer, apply to non-traveling family members also.

For those that choose to wait until the final payment date of their cruise or tour there are insurers that will offer pre-existing medical condition coverage up until that late date. Both CSA and HTH offer this benefit as long as the policy is purchased no later than 24 hours after making that final payment. 

Keep in mind that almost all insurers will let you transfer your policy/premium from one trip to another. Say you've insured a future cruise immediately after booking it in order to get the coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. At a later date, but still before there's any cancellation penalties imposed by the cruise line, you cancel this sailing and book a different cruise several months later. In almost all cases the insurers are happy to move your coverage over to the replacement trip. If the new cruise is costing you more you may have to pay an additional premium and if the new cruise is costing you less they'll refund the difference.

Is there any cost savings by waiting? Only one major insurer (CSA Custom and Custom Luxe plans) has premiums that go down the closer you get to your departure date. The others will be the same whether you buy your policy 18 months or 18 days before you leave.

travel insurance basics