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Last-Minute Travel Insurance: Your Safety Net for Short-Notice Trips

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Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

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A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...
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Planning a last-minute getaway, or just forgot to buy travel insurance? You can still protect your trip with last-minute travel insurance, which covers travel delays, emergency medical treatment, and more. 

Travel insurance policies are generally available up to a day before departure. Some travel insurance companies offer post-departure travel insurance, too. It still makes sense — even at the last minute — to buy travel insurance to protect your finances and health while traveling.

This article explains how last-minute travel works, its benefits, and how to choose the best travel insurance policy before you head out the door.

The 5 Best Last-Minute Travel Insurance Plans

You can get good coverage for your travel plans with a travel insurance policy purchased up to the day of departure. We’ve quoted several comprehensive travel insurance plans you can get at the last minute, searching for plans purchased the day before travel for a 37-year-old visiting Spain on a $2,500 trip:

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Last-Minute Travel Insurance Plan

Best For

What’s Covered

Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection ExactCare Value

Low cost

Trip cancellation and interruption, secondary medical coverage, and emergency medical evacuation

IMG iTravelInsured Travel Essential

Travel delays

Trip cancellation and interruption and travel delays

AXA Assistance USA Silver

Sports

Trip cancellation and interruption, secondary medical coverage, medical evacuation, and sports activities

Travelex Insurance Services Travel Basic

Primary medical

Trip cancellation and interruption, primary medical coverage, and medical evacuation

Trawick International Safe Travel Explorer

Coverage limits

Trip cancellation and interruption, secondary medical coverage, medical evacuation, and travel delays

Best Last-Minute Travel Insurance for Low Cost: Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection

While it was the most inexpensive last-minute travel insurance policy we quoted, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s ExactCare Value plan offers a good variety of coverage for the price.

It has trip cancellation and interruption coverage, up to $15,000 in medical emergency coverage, and up to $150,000 in coverage for emergency medical evacuation or repatriation. It also offers coverage for travel delays and baggage delays or loss. We were quoted $45 for this plan.

Best Last-Minute Travel Insurance for Travel Delays: IMG

Our quote for an iTravelInsured Travel Essential policy from IMG didn’t include emergency medical treatment or emergency medical evacuation and repatriation coverage.

However, it excels in travel delay coverage with up to $2,000 in travel delay benefits after a 12-hour delay. It also offers up to 100% reimbursement for trip cancellations and 125% for trip interruptions. COVID-19 coverage is included in trip cancellation and interruption benefits. Our quote for this plan came to $56.13.

Best Last-Minute Travel Insurance for Sports: AXA Assistance USA

The AXA Assistance USA Silver plan covers sports and adventure activities, including sports equipment baggage and sports fees. Additional coverage includes trip cancellation and interruption, up to $25,000 in secondary emergency medical benefits, $100,000 in medical evacuation and repatriation, and benefits for travel delays and baggage loss. The quote for this policy was $78.

Best Last-Minute Travel Insurance for Primary Medical: Travelex Insurance Services

Though $15,000 in emergency medical coverage isn’t much, it’s primary coverage with an Insurance Services Travel Basic plan from Travelex. With primary coverage, you can use your emergency medical benefit to pay for medical treatment without going through other applicable insurance first.

This policy also offers up to $100,000 in medical evacuation benefits and 100% reimbursement for trip cancellations or interruptions. We were quoted $87 for this policy.

Best Last-Minute Travel Insurance for Coverage Limits: Trawick International

While more costly than some of the other policies we reviewed, the International Safe Travels Explorer plan from Trawick International offers higher benefit limits than most lower-priced policies.

You’ll get up to 100% reimbursement for trip cancellation and interruption and up to $50,000 in emergency medical reimbursement. There’s up to $200,000 in medical evacuation and repatriation benefits, up to $1,000 for travel delays, $750 for baggage and personal item loss, and $500 in missed connection benefits. This policy had a quote of $88.74.

What Is Last-Minute Travel Insurance?

Couple running and sightseeing
Running off to adventure? You still have time for last-minute travel insurance. Image Credit: Melissa Sombrerero via Pexels

Last-minute travel insurance is travel insurance coverage that you purchase just before departing on your trip. While less robust in coverage than travel insurance purchased shortly after booking, last-minute travel insurance can cover cancellations, interruptions, delays, medical emergencies, and more. It’s a good option if you want travel insurance coverage but haven’t purchased it for a trip that’s coming up quickly.

How Last-Minute Travel Insurance Works

Like regular travel insurance, last-minute travel insurance covers travel-related financial risks. You’ll get quotes and review the policy’s terms, purchase coverage, and travel as planned. You can file a claim if you experience a covered loss, such as a trip cancellation or medical emergency.

You might pay about the same for less coverage using last-minute travel insurance, but it can save you money and offer peace of mind if you run into any trouble with your trip.

How To Get Last-Minute Travel Insurance

You can get last-minute travel insurance just like a policy purchased right after booking. Start by getting quotes from travel insurance companies, comparing costs and coverage, and purchasing a plan. Once you’ve obtained your last-minute travel insurance policy, be sure you understand the terms and conditions and keep contact information and policy details handy if you need to use your coverage.

What You’ll Miss With Last-Minute Travel Insurance

If you’ve waited until the last minute to buy travel insurance, you can still get a travel insurance policy, but that doesn’t mean you should expect the same level of coverage you could get if you purchased travel insurance shortly after booking your trip.

Trip cancellation coverage is the main benefit you’ll largely miss out on with last-minute travel insurance. While you can get cancellation coverage at the last minute, your coverage generally doesn’t take effect until the next day — and travel insurance policies generally only offer cancellations up to the day before departure. 

If you’re buying travel insurance the day before you travel, you won’t take advantage of the cancellation benefit. That’s far less valuable than a policy that offers weeks or months of trip cancellation insurance and can reimburse you for your prepaid, nonrefundable deposits.

Some travel insurance coverage is only available if you buy your policy early on, including Cancel for Any Reason coverage and waivers for preexisting conditions. These coverage types are generally only available if you purchase your policy within about 2 weeks of booking your travel.

Hot Tip:

Learn more about the best time to buy travel insurance in our guide to when to buy travel insurance.

Is Last-Minute Travel Insurance Worth It?

Last-minute travel insurance offers less value than insurance purchased shortly after booking, but travel protection is still worth buying. Even if you can’t take advantage of trip cancellation benefits, you can still get a lot of value out of other coverage areas, especially emergency medical benefits.

Travel Insurance 101

What Travel Insurance Covers

Travel insurance provides financial protection and support for your travel ranging from coverage for trip cancellations to medical emergencies. Coverage varies between policies, but these are common benefits offered by travel insurance:

  • Baggage Protection: You can use travel insurance to get reimbursed if your baggage or personal belongings are lost, stolen, or delayed on your trip.
  • Emergency Assistance: Travel insurance generally offers a Travel Support 24/7 hotline you can call to get connected with what you need, whether it’s medical facilities or replacing lost documents.
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation and Repatriation: If you’re critically injured or seriously ill, travel insurance emergency medical evacuation benefits can pay for moving you to an appropriate medical facility. Repatriation benefits can cover bringing your remains home if you die while traveling.
  • Emergency Medical Expenses: Many travel insurance policies offer coverage for medical emergency treatment if you’re injured or become ill on your trip.
  • Missed Connections: Travel insurance can cover the cost of rebooking your flight and accommodations if you miss a connecting flight or cruise.
  • Rental Car Coverage: Your travel insurance policy may cover your rental car insurance so you can decline it at the rental desk.
  • Travel Delay: You can get reimbursed for additional expenses related to travel delays, such as accommodations and meals, if your trip is delayed due to covered circumstances such as severe weather or airline strikes.
  • Trip Cancellation: When you purchase travel insurance early enough, coverage extends to trip cancellation, which reimburses you for nonrefundable prepaid travel expenses if you need to cancel your trip. However, with last-minute travel insurance, you may not have time to take advantage of this benefit.
  • Trip Interruption: Travel insurance can cover the cost of getting home and reimburse you for unused trip expenses if your trip is interrupted for covered reasons such as a medical emergency or natural disaster.

Optional coverages often include preexisting medical conditions, adventure sports, and Cancel for Any Reason.

What To Look For in Travel Insurance

As you consider last-minute travel insurance policies, take these factors into account:

  • Customer Service Reviews: You want to be sure your insurance company is there for you when needed. Check customer service reviews of travel insurance companies to find out if other customers had a good experience, especially if they needed to file a claim.
  • Deductibles: Understand whether the policy has deductibles you must pay before your insurance coverage kicks in and consider whether you can afford the deductible if necessary.
  • Limitations and Exclusions: Consider the maximum benefit limits for coverage areas and also understand what isn’t covered by the policy.
  • Trip Duration and Destination: Verify whether the policy covers your trip’s entire duration, as some don’t cover long trips. Likewise, make sure your planned destination is covered.
  • Value: Compare costs to coverage, terms and conditions, and other policy details to determine which last-minute travel insurance policy offers the most value for your needs.
  • What’s Covered: Find out what each policy offers in terms of benefits and ensure your priorities are covered.

When Is It Too Late To Buy Travel Insurance?

You can generally buy travel insurance up to the day before departure. Some insurance companies also offer post-departure travel insurance. It’s generally not too late to buy travel insurance — unless you’ve already run into trouble with travel. 

For example, if there’s a named hurricane heading to your destination or you’re showing signs of illness, it’s too late for you to get covered for hurricane or illness-related travel insurance coverage.

Annual Travel Insurance

Woman lying on beach reading book
You can travel protected for a year with annual travel insurance — no need to remember last-minute coverage. Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

If you want to get ahead for your next trip and avoid the drawbacks of last-minute travel insurance, you can purchase an annual travel insurance policy. With an annual travel insurance policy, all of your travel within the specified period is covered — and you don’t have to remember to purchase it early enough to get the best benefits.

What Travel Insurance Costs

Travel insurance generally costs 5% to 10% of your total trip cost. Purchasing at the last minute means you’ll get less coverage for your money because you don’t get the benefit of a lengthy trip cancellation period, but you generally won’t pay any more or less for last-minute travel insurance. However, your options may be more limited, particularly for add-on coverage such as Cancel for Any Reason and preexisting medical conditions.

Credit Cards With Travel Insurance

Panicking because you think your upcoming trip isn’t covered? You might be doing better than you think — if you have the right credit card. Many credit cards offer travel protection benefits; if you’ve paid for travel expenses with that card, you may already have coverage. 

But before you rely on your credit card travel insurance protection benefits, ensure you understand the coverage and any limitations. You may need more coverage than what your credit card provides, in which case it’s probably a good idea to purchase travel insurance — even at the last minute.

Hot Tip:

Read our guide to the best credit cards with travel insurance to learn more about credit card travel protection benefits.

Final Thoughts

Planning a trip can be a whirlwind experience but don’t forget to protect your trip with travel insurance — even if it comes down to the last minute. You might not get the same amount of coverage you’d get as you would with a policy purchased earlier, but last-minute travel insurance can offer a safety net while you travel. Compare policies to find last-minute travel insurance coverage that can offer peace of mind and protection.

Check out our guide on the cheapest travel insurance for further reading.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you buy last-minute travel insurance?

You can buy last-minute travel insurance. Often, travel insurance companies offer policies as late as a day before departure. There are also options for post-departure travel insurance.

Can I buy travel insurance and use it immediately?

Immediate travel insurance isn’t quite possible. Travel insurance usually goes into effect the day after you purchase it. You won’t be covered immediately, but it’s pretty close.

Does travel insurance get more expensive closer to the trip?

How late you purchase travel insurance generally won’t significantly influence the cost of your coverage. However, last-minute travel insurance coverage options are usually more limited than travel insurance purchased earlier.

How late is too late for travel insurance?

You can usually purchase travel insurance policies up to the day before departure. Your policy options will significantly decrease if you wait until the day of departure or after departure to purchase your policy. And it’s too late if you want to get covered for circumstances already threatening your travel plans, such as a named hurricane or showing symptoms of illness.

Jessica Merritt's image

About Jessica Merritt

A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little cash as possible.

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