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When To Buy Travel Insurance and How To Best Time Your Purchase

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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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Nick Ellis

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Nick’s passion for points began as a hobby and became a career. He worked for over 5 years at The Points Guy and has contributed to Business Insider and CNN. He has 14 credit cards and continues to le...
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Stella Shon

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With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in ...

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Timing is key when buying travel insurance. It’s best to buy travel insurance within 2 weeks of making your first trip payment. You can buy travel insurance at any time, even after departure with some travel insurance providers. Still, the coverage and policy pricing is better when you buy travel insurance shortly after booking.

The sooner you buy travel insurance, the sooner you’re covered for your travel insurance policy, whether the tour company goes out of business or you get sick before your trip.

Let’s look at the best time to buy travel insurance and the advantages you get when you purchase your travel insurance policy right after booking.

What Is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of insurance coverage that offers financial protection and assistance when you’re traveling. Benefits often include trip cancellation, trip interruptions, medical emergencies, baggage loss or delay, and rental car coverage.

When To Buy Travel Insurance

The best time to buy travel insurance is within 2 weeks of making your first travel payment, whether that’s booking a flight or putting down a cruise deposit. Generally, any time you make a nonrefundable travel deposit, it’s a good idea to get travel insurance shortly thereafter. 

For example, you should get travel insurance after you buy nonrefundable airfare, or when cancellation penalties kick in for cruises or tours.

Benefits of Buying Travel Insurance When You Book

Buying travel insurance shortly after booking gives you immediate coverage for your nonrefundable travel expenses. While you don’t have to get travel insurance right at the booking process, earlier is better. Once you get travel insurance, you’re covered when a trip has to be canceled due to covered reasons. 

When you buy travel insurance at booking, you’ll maximize your coverage period for trip cancellation insurance. As long as your trip cancellation insurance is active, you’re covered if you need to cancel your travel due to a covered reason such as illness, injury, death of a family member, natural disaster, or job loss.

Also, your coverage options are usually better when you purchase travel insurance shortly after booking. Some travel insurance companies consider the 2 weeks after booking travel arrangements an advantage period and offer additional coverage or options during this period. 

For example, some travel insurance policies offer preexisting medical condition coverage if purchased shortly after booking. If you want preexisting medical condition coverage, you may need to purchase your travel insurance either before or within a day of your final trip payment. 

In an advantage period, insurance providers may also offer coverage for the financial default of travel suppliers and may allow you to add optional coverage such as cancellation insurance.

You also lock in pricing when you purchase travel insurance early. Your premium rate won’t increase if you’ve locked it in when you buy travel insurance. But rates could change if you wait until later to secure your travel insurance policy.

Bottom Line:

Coverage and maximum benefits aside, buying travel insurance when you book just makes sense so you don’t forget to buy it later.

Drawbacks of Buying Travel Insurance When You Book

Paying for a travel insurance policy at booking could strain your travel budget, as it adds another expense on top of the cost of your trip. It could be a lot to pay for at the same time as trip deposits. While you get the most value from your coverage when you buy it early, it could be easier on your budget if you wait and spread out the expense.

You’ll have to estimate the total trip cost you want to cover when you buy your travel insurance policy. If you’re not done booking everything before you buy travel insurance, you might estimate wrong. That means you could have too much or too little coverage for your actual travel costs.

Pre-Travel Insurance Benefits

When you buy travel insurance before your trip departure, you’re covered for cancellation due to covered reasons such as illness or injury before your trip, the death of a family member, job loss, or the airline or tour operator going out of business.

How Early You Can Purchase Travel Insurance

Timing varies between insurance companies, but you can generally get travel insurance up to 12 to 18 months prior to departure. On an annual plan, you can get 12 months of coverage before you need to renew.

You can buy travel insurance before you’ve made your final payment. Even if you’ve only made a deposit, you can enter the total trip costs when you get your travel insurance policy.

How Late You Can Purchase Travel Insurance

Generally, you can purchase travel insurance up to the day before your departure date, though some policies are available post-departure. When you purchase your coverage that close to departure, you generally can’t use your trip cancellation benefit. And you probably won’t be eligible for preexisting condition coverage or Cancel for Any Reason coverage. But you’ll still have the advantage of other coverages such as trip interruption and emergency medical benefits. 

Bottom Line:

It’s fine if you need to pick up travel insurance for last-minute bookings. You generally won’t pay more compared to paying weeks earlier, but you may miss out on coverage features.

What Happens if You Buy Travel Insurance After Departure

Some travel insurance companies allow you to buy a policy after departure. However, your coverage will be subject to waiting periods, conditions, and restrictions. For example, you generally have to wait up to 24 hours for your plan’s trip cancellation and interruption benefits to become active.

Is Credit Card Travel Insurance Enough?

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Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Travel insurance is available with many credit cards, but it’s generally less comprehensive than a travel insurance policy. When you consider whether your credit card travel insurance benefit is adequate for your trip, check the coverage limits, what’s covered, and how long it’s covered.

You might not need a standalone travel insurance policy if you’re traveling domestically, have health insurance coverage at your destination, and your major costs, such as air travel and hotel bookings, are flexible or refundable.

Final Thoughts

The timing of buying travel insurance can influence the value and coverage you get from your travel insurance policy. When you buy travel insurance early, ideally at booking or within 2 weeks of your first trip payment, you’ll get additional benefits such as maximizing your trip cancellation coverage period and access to Cancel for Any Reason coverage. Read our guide to find some of the cheapest travel insurance policies available.

Getting travel insurance closer to your trip departure — or even after departure — is still an option and will offer major travel insurance benefits, but you won’t get as much coverage as you could with an early travel insurance purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to buy travel insurance early or late?

It’s best to buy travel insurance as early as you can. The sooner you get travel insurance, the sooner your trip is covered, and you’ll likely be eligible for more benefits.

How far ahead should you get travel insurance?

You should get travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked travel. Generally, travel policies are available as early as 12 to 18 months before departure, but availability depends on the insurance company and policy.

Does travel insurance get more expensive closer to your trip departure date?

Don’t expect your travel insurance costs to increase or decrease as you get closer to your trip departure date. The cost of travel insurance generally stays the same no matter when you buy it, though the value differs because the later you book, the less value you’ll get.

Does it matter when I buy travel insurance?

The timing of buying travel insurance matters because the earlier you buy your coverage, the earlier your trip is protected. This early trip protection is especially important concerning trip cancellation, which reimburses your prepaid nonrefundable trip costs if you need to cancel your trip for a covered reason.

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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