Always buy travel insurance from a third party. Period!
Not from the travel wholesaler who arranges your escorted vacation or group travel tour to Europe.
Not from the travel retailer where you purchase your travel package for Europe.
Don’t buy travel insurance from an online travel agent where you book your hotel, car, or airline ticket.
And rarely from an independent agent, unless you’re 100% sure she under-stands the various types of travel insurance plans and can advise you in detail about overseas travel insurance and can offer you a range of low cost travel insurance options and rates.
Most travel suppliers can [and do] provide an opportunity for their customers to buy travel insurance in some form from them.
But in the case of travel wholesalers and tour operators [the companies who organize and sell guided tours, package tours, even cruise tours] the type of 'insurance' you buy is seldom real travel insurance coverage.
Travel suppliers and tour operators mostly self-insure.
This means, if something goes wrong, what you get for your insurance money is a voucher for future travel - with that company only.
This 'promise of future travel' often comes with specific limita-tions on time, money, and date restrictions for how and when you can use the voucher.
The primary focus of any travel company 'insurance' is a limited offer to protect you against the failure of their trip to proceed.
But if the tour company goes out of business, cancels your tour, leaves you stranded overseas, or fails financially and you don’t get to travel, what you’re left with is an empty promise.
And an empty wallet!
In the case of travel retailers [travel agents who sell deals put together by travel wholesalers, like airlines, hotels, car rentals, and tours,] most of these agents have barely a cursory knowledge of travel insurance plans and policies.
Many agents have no knowledge at all. Their job is to sell the policy and get the commission.
Retail travel agents make substantial commissions when you buy travel insurance of any kind. About 25% -35% of what you pay for the policy.
The total knowledge you receive about your insurance purchase is often based on a small, self-explanatory brochure, handed to you by the agent or included with your airline ticket or travel documents.
In general, retail travel agents know little about the travel insurance plans they promote and sell.
Unless they’ve bought a travel policy for their own use, they’ve probably never seen an actual policy or certificate of coverage for international travel insurance.
Both online travel agents and those working in storefront agencies are frequently required to proffer some form of overseas insurance coverage to their interna-tional travelers, in the form of vacation travel insurance or business travel insurance.
There are several travel insurance companies, who work hand-in-hand with travel agencies, offering them huge commissions to act as their primary distribution point for 'face-to-face' sales of travel policies.
Some states require agencies to have bare minimum licensing in place, before they can sell travel insurance.
This means the owner, manager, or a single lead agent has taken a limited course in how to promote and sell travel insurance plans.
But none are insurance 'agents' who can advise you on the pros and cons of buying travel insurance, and how it can impact your trip and your travel situation, if you do or do not buy.
The best place to find information for your travel insurance questions and to buy travel insurance is online at insurance aggregator sites.
These sites allow you to educate yourself about the kinds of travel policies, com-pare different travel insurance plans, and research the cost of travel insurance, based on policy and coverage options.
Do a search for travel insurance aggregators, where you'll find information on all types of travel insurance plans and the companies that offer them.
When you find a policy with the type of coverage you want, view the policy certi-ficate, read the fine print, and compare travel insurance plans, based on price, benefits, restrictions, and how easy or difficult it is to file a claim.
Do this as you're beginning to make your travel plans. Once you've chosen your travel dates, check aggregator sites to compare plans and determine which travel insurance coverage is applicable to your trip.
Do this before making a deposit or purchasing any non-refundable trip components.
Some travel insurance companies require you to purchase their policies within a specified time, which may be before you actually purchase the components of your trip or make a deposit on a tour.
The point at which you buy travel insurance can affect your eligibility for coverage options, such as the default of a travel supplier or coverage for a pre-existing medical condition.
In any case, educating yourself on the options for buying travel insurance should come early on in your travel-planning process.
Although you can sometimes purchase limited international travel insurance coverage up to a day or two before traveling, waiting until the last minute may exclude you from the best and most inclusive coverage.
A perfect example is the volcanic activity that occurred in Iceland several years ago, that grounded not only Europeans, but worldwide travelers for days, while they waited for the ash to settle and the skies to clear.
Those travelers who had purchased international travel insurance before volcanic activity began, had most of their out of pocket expenses for the delay covered.
Coverage depended on the type of coverage and the inclusions of their particular policy.
But for those travelers who did not buy travel insurance [approximately two-thirds of those stranded] whether traveling in Europe, or merely on an overseas flight with a European route, many were impacted by the cloud of ash, stuck wherever they were when the eruption occurred, and were simply out of luck.
All their costs for delay, accommodations, food, and inconvenience - some for up to a week or more – were theirs [and theirs alone] to bear.
The best aggregator sites to buy travel insurance online are:
Each site allows you to compare travel insurance policies with similar coverage and determine the plans and options best for your travel situation.
You can obtain instant quotes for buying travel insurance immediately. Or take your time to consider other options and buy when your plans are firmed up.
You can pick from a variety of leading travel insurance companies, as well as find online access to licensed travel insurance specialists, if you have questions or need help and further explanation.
Aggregator sites offer individual types of coverage, as well as comprehensive travel insurance plans incorporating multiple types of coverage, at a lower cost than buying plans separately.
Each of these sites is an incorporated company of the United States and has earned the Recommended Seal of the BBB [Better Business Bureau] as an accredited online business.
Choosing where to buy travel insurance is a decision you should base on your personal travel needs, health, and circumstance. It's up to each traveler to do the work to make sure the policy you buy is the best coverage for your travel needs.
Whether you buy insurance online or directly from an agent or carrier, take the time to compare several travel insurance plans, policies, benefits, and rates to know exactly what you're covered for.
For more about buying travel insurance, see the following pages:
Trip Cancellation Insurance protects you, when you pay up front but are un-able to travel. Learn which international trip insurance you need, if you have to cancel your trip.
Consider both Trip Interruption Insurance and Travel Delay Insurance for your overseas trip. Travel with peace of mind, for pennies a day.
Buying Travel Baggage Insurance is a smart move to protect your travel pos-sessions. While airlines offer meager coverage, you're only protected for your flight - not your entire trip.
Travel Insurance Cost is determined by what, when, and where you buy. Always compare travel insurance plans for need vs. value.