Elaine Karlson is planning a vacation to Cooperstown, N.Y., to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and to watch her grandson compete in a baseball game. And she's worried.
First, there's the price difference between the refundable airline tickets and the nonrefundable ones -- the refundable ones are three times as expensive. There's also the question of what to do if she and her husband have to cancel.
Instead of paying extra for the less restricted ticket, she's considering travel insurance.
"But where do you buy travel insurance?" she asks.
Good question. You can buy a policy directly through an insurance company or a travel agent. I've discussed both of those options in previous stories. But there's a third and more popular option: consulting a third-party website that allows you to compare and buy a policy.
There are benefits to this choice:
- You can compare multiple policies across several companies, finding the coverage that you need.
- You can find the best price and value since the sites offer policies from several insurance companies.
- If something goes wrong, you have an advocate -- that third party -- to help you with a claim or an appeal.
"It’s important for shoppers to compare policy costs and coverage before they buy," says Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO of Policygenius, an online insurance marketplace that works with Squaremouth.com, one of the sites featured in the story. More on them in a minute.
So where to shop?
One of the most established travel insurance sites, Insuremytrip.com offers more than 50,000 customer reviews to guide the purchasing process. The site also allows you to compare benefits, get quotes and buy policies from a single source. As a bonus, the company's "Anytime Advocates" can help with your claim and say they've put $1 million in coverage "back in travelers' pockets," presumably resulting from a wrongful denial. Insuremytrip.com maintains a squeaky-clean image with customers. It also offers a low-price guarantee. I've received very few complaints about policies purchased through the company, and they're usually resolved quickly and in the traveler's favor.
Another mainstay online, Quotewright.com sets itself apart by selling quality, not quantity -- "offering only the plans and companies that meet our exacting standards," it says. Like Insuremytrip.com, it offers a warranty that "you won't find a lower price for any plan we quote." John Cook, Quotewright.com's president, is a leading authority on travel insurance and often contacts me after I publish a story on the industry to offer additional insights. When it comes to travel insurance experts, Quotewright.com is the real deal.
Squaremouth may be the big-box store for travel insurance, currently with an impressive 108 travel insurance policies from 24 providers and 50,620 reviews. Among the reasons to consider Squaremouth.com: A more powerful search engine for finding the best policy, a company philosophy to "downsell," or find you the least expensive policy, a promise to sell insurance from financially stable companies, and a "zero complaint guarantee." I can speak to that last point. Whenever I receive a grievance that involves a policy bought through Squaremouth, it's fixed quickly. (Disclosure: Squaremouth is an underwriter of my consumer advocacy site.)
TravelInsurance.com is another useful source for helping you compare plans. "Our comparison engine allows you to easily decipher plan benefits and coverage while choosing the right travel insurance policy for your trip," it says. Its claim to fame is speed. You can quote, compare and buy in just a few minutes and receive your policy confirmation and documents via email instantly after purchase, it promises. Like the others, the company stands behind the policies it sells and complaints are rare. "TravelInsurance.com was founded by consumer-focused internet executives and not by insurance executives," says co-founder Stan Sandberg, "Everything we do starts with the question, 'Is this good for the consumer?" and not, 'Is this good for the insurance company?'"
The story behind TripInsurance.com is inspiring, at least to this consumer advocate. Dan Skilken, the site's founder, created TripInsurance.com when he ran into his own frustrations trying to navigate the insurance options for his travels. The result: A site that offers lower prices on the same coverage as the brand-name travel insurance companies and ease of comparison. When you shop for a policy, it divides the options into "good," "better" and "best" policies, so you can easily figure out which one is right for you. And like the others, it has 24/7 support and a promise to stand behind its policies.
Where should you shop for your policy? I recommend bookmarking all of these sites and spending a few minutes comparison shopping between them. But don't forget your travel agent or your travel insurance company's direct website. With these sites, you should be able to find the best travel insurance policy for your needs, whether you're going on an around-the-world cruise or to a baseball game in upstate New York.
After you've left a comment here, let's continue the discussion on my consumer advocacy site or on Twitter, Facebook and Google. I also have a newsletter and you'll definitely want to order my new, amazingly helpful and subversive book called How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle).