When Should I Buy Family Travel Insurance?

Some people purchase family travel insurance religiously for each trip, while others have never considered it, and I often get questions about whether trip insurance is a good idea or not. Because we tend to travel independently and rarely cancel, we use trip insurance only infrequently, and I have thought long and hard about when it is appropriate for us and when it is not. Here are my tips to help you decide whether travel insurance makes sense for your family vacation.

Road from Santa Fe to Taos
Road from Santa Fe to Taos

What Would Happen if You Canceled?
If you purchased deeply discounted airfares and your hotel rooms are can be canceled without penalty, you might want to forgo travel insurance and "self insure." Over the long run, the rare times when you pay out of pocket for a different airline ticket or a last minute cancellation may add up to less money than purchasing trip insurance for each trip.

On the other hand, if you've just booked a non-refundable all-inclusive cruise or resort package, you stand to lose a lot of money, and travel insurance might be a great choice.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What is the refund policy on the airfare and hotels you've booked?
  • How much money would you lose if you canceled the trip before leaving home?
  • How much money would you lose if you had to book a different return ticket due to illness?

How Likely are you to Cancel?
In our years of frequent traveling, we've only canceled a handful of trips, but every family's situation is different.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Does someone in your family have a medical condition?
  • Does a parent's work situation makes cancellation likely?
  • Are there other circumstances (e.g. potential job loss) that could cause you to cancel or return home early?

Do You Need Medical Insurance?
Your home medical insurance may not give you the coverage you need while you are traveling abroad. Check your policy carefully to understand your coverage and limitations when you are traveling.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Do you have medical insurance?
  • Does your medical insurance cover you at your destination? (note that cruise ships with a foreign flag are sometimes considered foreign territory)
  • Will your medical insurance pay a foreign provider directly, or are you expected to pay and then get reimbursed?
  • Will your medical insurance cover the activities you plan to do (e.g. sports)
  • Are you visiting a destination where evacuation insurance is important (e.g. a remote or undeveloped area)

Lost Baggage
The standard coverage, should an airline lose your bag, is very low - and of course it doesn't cover you at all if your luggage is stolen out of a hotel room or rental car. Still, lost baggage insurance may or may not be a good choice for your family.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Does your homeowners insurance cover items stolen or lost from your luggage?
  • Does the credit card you charged your tickets on cover lost luggage?
  • Are you bringing anything expensive on your trip (e.g Golf clubs? Camera Gear? Medical Equipment?)

Other Tips
If you do decide to buy travel insurance, make sure that you thoroughly research the insurance company. Insurance sold by the same company you booked your cruise with, for example, probably won't help you if the cruise line files for bankruptcy. In other cases, unscrupulous or unknowing travel agents might sell you travel insurance that isn't travel insurance at all. Just as with everything else, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

 Subscribe to our feed

Subscribe by email:


  1. Ghanimatrix on March 2, 2009 at 9:20 a.m.

    Thanks for this useful, simply explained and informative post!

  2. Amie from Ciao Bambino on March 2, 2009 at 3:17 p.m.

    Great post Debbie! Definitely an important topic. For families renting an independent condo, home and/or villa, cancellation terms tend to be very strict. In Italy for example, it is not usual for terms to say that cancellation within 6 months means you lose your entire deposit (may be 30-50% of the rental fee). Cancellation insurance is really a must in those cases unless you can stomach losing a few thousand dollars ...

  3. Lestat on July 13, 2009 at 2:55 a.m.

    The tips for purchasing a family travel insurance provided were really informative and helpful. Now, it would be easier to decide upon the matters concerning buying a family travel insurance I want.

  4. Alex on September 18, 2009 at 11:50 a.m.

    Thanks for the tips! Buy they way - really nice photo! Do you have more Santa Fe to Taos pictures? If so, can you upload to Flickr? I simply loved that one and want to make a desktop background. Thanks!

  5. Rockstarbabu on October 10, 2009 at 2:44 a.m.

    Thanks for post. It’s really informative stuff.
    I really like to read.Hope to learn a lot and have a nice experience

    here! my best regards guys!