Travel insurance is crucial and more popular than ever, ensuring that you are adequately prepared and protected on your travels.

But just because you purchased a policy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in the all clear.

There are several common mistakes that we see all too often that can end up being very costly, but are thankfully avoidable.

From choosing the wrong policy and failing to disclose pre-existing medical conditions to overlooking policy limitations and waiting until the last minute to purchase insurance, we cover all the most common travel insurance mistakes that can and will cost you time, money, and stress.

1. Choosing the Wrong Policy

There are several types of travel insurance with varying policies, which is why choosing the wrong policy is by far the most common travel insurance mistake travelers make.

This usually happens for one of three reasons.

By Not Understanding Your Travel Needs

Each trip is unique, and travelers have different priorities.

For example, if you are a thrill-seeker who is embarking on a trip to engage in some adventurous activities, your coverage will differ compared to if you’re just planning on sitting on the beach.

If you take into account the nature of your trip, the destination, and potential risks, you can better choose a policy that aligns with your specific requirements.

By Not Reviewing Policy Details and Exclusions

Every travel insurance plan has policy details and exclusions that you need to look at more closely before purchasing.

You might assume that all policies offer the same coverage, but this will only lead to disappointment when it comes to filing a claim.

It’s therefore crucial to pay attention to the fine print and understand what is covered and what is excluded in your plan.

By Not Comparing Policies

Choosing the wrong policy often stems from a failure to compare options, largely due to purchasing the first policy you might come across or relying on price alone.

However, comparing policies from different providers allows you to understand variations in coverage, deductibles, and claim procedures, so you can purchase a policy that works for you and your needs.

2. Not Disclosing Pre-existing Medical Conditions

When purchasing travel insurance, you must be transparent about your medical history, especially any pre-existing conditions you suffer from.

This is because if you fail to disclose accurate medical information, it can have a significant effect on your coverage and may not result in a successful claim.

What Are Pre-existing Medical Conditions?

Pre-existing medical conditions refer to any health conditions or illnesses that you had before obtaining travel insurance.

These could range from chronic illnesses, like diabetes or heart conditions, to previous surgeries or ongoing treatments.

Why You Must Disclose Accurate Medical Information

If you fail to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions you have, your insurance provider may limit coverage in the best case scenario, or completely deny your claim.

Inevitably, this can result in having to deal with significant financial costs if you require medical assistance and treatment during your trip.

If you are as truthful as possible, your travel insurance provider can assess the risks associated with your condition and offer you appropriate coverage, ensuring that you are adequately protected in the event of any medical emergencies related to your pre-existing condition during your travels.

3. Not Reading the Fine Print

All travel insurance policies come with specific terms and conditions that outline the scope of coverage offered, as well as the responsibilities that both you and your provider must abide by.

These terms and conditions can mention travel coverage exclusions, policy durations, and cancellation policies.

Why You Must Read the Fine Print

You must read the fine print, so you are fully aware of coverage limits, deductibles, and claim procedures – and won’t be in for any unwelcome surprises.

In case you are unsure what these terms mean:

  • Coverage limits specify the maximum amount your provider will reimburse you for specific categories, such as medical expenses, trip cancellations, or lost baggage.
  • Deductibles are the out-of-pocket expenses you must pay before the insurance coverage kicks in.
  • Claim procedures inform you how to file a claim and the necessary documentation you need to submit when you do. Keep in mind that each insurance provider and policy may have different processes and timelines for submitting claims, too.

4. Buying Travel Insurance At the Last Minute

Waiting until the last minute to buy travel insurance is usually a terrible idea.

You may not be eligible for certain benefits, such as trip cancellation coverage, which can leave you unprotected if something unexpected happens before your trip, such as an illness, injury, or other unforeseen events, and you need to change your plans.

If you buy a travel insurance plan early, the peace of mind you will have knowing that you’re protected if anything unexpected happens before your trip is priceless, as is knowing you have the flexibility to make changes to your travel plans if necessary.

5. Only Relying on Credit Card or Existing Insurance Coverage

It’s a common mistake to only rely on your credit card’s travel insurance or your existing insurance policy.

While these can offer you some coverage, they’re unlikely to be sufficient, especially if you are only relying on coverage from your credit card provider.

Limitations of These Policies

  • Inadequate Coverage Limits: Credit card travel insurance is unlikely to fully protect you in the event of a significant loss or emergency. Any existing insurance policies you have, such as health or homeowners insurance, will also have several limitations or exclusions for travel-related incidents.
  • Poor Travel Benefits: Your credit card travel insurance may provide coverage for things like trip cancellation or baggage loss (though it will likely be limited), but other important benefits like emergency medical expenses, evacuation, or travel delay coverage are unlikely to be covered. Your existing insurance policies may not offer these benefits at all.
  • Coverage Exclusions and Restrictions: Your credit card travel insurance and existing insurance policies really are bare-bones, so definitely won’t take into account things like pre-existing medical conditions or certain high-risk activities. These usually come at a premium, even when buying insurance from a travel insurance provider.

It’s therefore essential that you assess your existing insurance policies and credit card travel insurance to identify any potential coverage gaps.

Maybe you will be satisfied with the coverage offered, but keep in mind that you won’t be getting anywhere close to full protection.

6. Not Keeping Documentation and Receipts

Another common mistake when it comes to travel insurance that we see all too often is not having the documentation and receipts you need if you must make a claim.

These receipts and documentation are vital if you want to be reimbursed, as travel insurance companies often require proof of expenses and supporting documents to process your claims.

Additionally, by providing the receipts and documentation you’re asked for when making a claim, you can streamline the claims process, so you can be reimbursed quickly and without any hiccups.

Organizing and Safeguarding Your Receipts and Documents

We suggest organizing and safeguarding your important receipts and documents by:

  • Making Digital Copies: Make digital copies of your important travel documents and store them on the cloud or email them to yourself, so you can easily access them.
  • Using a Travel Document Organizer: Using a travel document organizer to keep all physical copies of your receipts, tickets, and other relevant documents is always a good idea to keep everything in one place.
  • Creating a Document Checklist: By creating a travel document checklist of all your essential documents that you need on your trip, you can have peace of mind at every step of your trip.

7. Failing to Notify Your Insurance Provider in Case of an Incident

When it comes to travel insurance and making a claim, taking action on time can be key.

If the worst happens, and you experience an illness, injury, or theft on your trip, it’s crucial that you notify your insurance provider immediately, so your claim can be handled efficiently.

If you need to file a claim, we recommend that you describe the incident, date, time, and location in full detail, while providing any supporting documentation required by your insurance provider.

It would be wise to keep your insurance provider’s contact information easily accessible, too, so you can reach out to them in case of an emergency or to report an incident as easily and quickly as possible.

Why You Must Report a Claim as Soon as Possible

You must report a claim as soon as possible for three reasons:

  1. Coverage Denial: It’s common for travel insurance providers to have deadlines for reporting incidents. If you don’t notify them by their deadlines, it can result in a denial of coverage, leaving the financial burden on you.
  2. Limited Compensation: Even if your coverage isn’t denied, it can result in reduced compensation or reimbursement.
  3. Lengthy Claim Settlement: If you don’t report any incidents promptly, this can prolong the claim settlement process as your provider looks to investigate the claim further and ask for additional documentation.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).