Where To Buy Your Policy
The great majority of travel insurance policies are purchased through the travel agent or directly through the travel supplier (airline, tour operator, cruise line, etc). With the growth of the internet more and more travelers have discovered that they can shop around for their coverage and find plans that better fit their needs and maybe save some money at the same time.
Buying From Your Travel Agent
Advantages: Quite often if a claim falls into some
sort of 'gray area' and could go either way, the help of your travel
agent can be invaluable in getting the decision to come down on your
side. Why? To the insurer you may be just one more customer. But the
travel agent may be sending hundred of thousands of dollars of business
to the insurer every year and that gives them quite a bit of leverage
if they choose to use it on your side.
Also, many large travel agencies and smaller agencies that are members of larger agency groups will have insurers design plans especially for their clients. These plans can have very nice features and very reasonable pricing so when you do your shopping for a travel insurance plan for your upcoming trip be sure to include the plan offered by your travel agency in the mix as you might get a nice surprise. For example, Travelex has their Travel Net plan available to some of these large agencies. The advantage is that the premiums are not age-based so someone that's 80 pays no more than someone who's 20. This can be a huge savings for those in the upper age brackets. But you won't find it online or by going to Travelex directly -- only through the agencies authorized to offer it to their clients.
Disadvantages: Many travel agents are not thoroughly educated about travel insurance, even with the plans they offer clients every day. So don't 100% trust their information without verifying it directly with the insurer.
Most travel agencies will work primarily with only one insurer. This usually means they end up offering a "one size fits all" plan that will probably be adequate for most of their clients but may not be right for you. And it also usually means that, in order to get the most complete coverage, it will be a high-priced plan when a budget plan might be just fine for your needs.
Our advice -- keep the plans offered by your travel agent in the mix when choosing a plan but don't give any extra weight to the agent's recommendation. You're not looking for the plan that best suits their needs, you're looking for the plan that best suits your needs.
Buying Directly From Your Travel Supplier
Advantages: Many large tour operators and cruise
lines have specially designed plans for their clients offered by one of
the major travel insurance companies. If it's truly an insurance plan
it might have the tour operator's or cruise line's name on it but the
coverage is provided by a third party insurer. Some travel providers
offer a Cancellation Penalty Waiver which isn't really insurance at
all. You pay some amount and they agree to waive their normal
cancellation penalties and they may not include include any other
benefits such as medical, travel delay or emergency evacuation.
Many of these travel supplier plans do not take the traveler's age into
account when determining the premium so they can be quite reasonable
for those in the upper age brackets and many also include a "Cancel For
Any Reason" benefit at no additional charge.
Disadvantages: None will include coverage for a possible financial default of the tour operator/ cruise line itself. They are often very low on the coverage limits for medical and emergency evacuation/repatriation. You probably won't be covered for independently-booked trip arrangements. For example, if your tour starts in Rio de Janeiro, the air tickets you bought to get to Rio, if booked independently of the tour, probably will not be covered.
And remember that buying the travel supplier's plan won't change how your medical coverage will work. For example, perhaps you purchased your cruise line's coverage and need some medical help while on the ship. Can you just present your proof of insurance and walk away with no bill? Unfortunately, no. You'll have to go through the same process as clients of any other insurer would -- pay the bill and submit it for reimbursement when you get home.
The internet has made it much easier to shop around and compare plans and features. While some of these major sites offer quite a few of the available plans none offer all of them. And while there's a pretty good overlap with the plans offered by the major insurers, there are some differences. They just can't reasonably offer every choice and not completely overwhelm their visitors.
Advantages: Choice! By searching the web you'll find a great variety of plan and coverages not otherwise available to you. You're not locked into a "one-size-fits-all" situation as you would be if you confine yourself only to those plans offered by your travel supplier or travel agent.
Disadvantages: Choice! When visiting these online sites it's possible to feel overwhelmed by the number of plans features. But we hope the information on our site will help you quickly and efficiently narrow your choices down to just a few.
Don't forget to check with your other insurance sources to see if they offer travel insurance also. For example, many current and former members of the US Armed Forces and their families get their auto insurance through USAA. But they might not know that USAA also offers a very competitively priced travel insurance policy also. As always, price should be only one part of your buying decision. Keep these plans in mind but be sure to also check your other options