The Cost of Delay: When Is It Too Late To Buy Travel Insurance?

Picture this: You’re leaving for a trip in two weeks. In the haste of your planning and packing, you just realized buying travel insurance would be a good idea. But now the question becomes: when is it too late to buy travel insurance? 

The good news is that you can buy travel insurance at any point–even if you already started your trip. However, you might not get all the coverage you were hoping for. Your coverage options become more and more limited the longer you wait. 

The price typically stays the same no matter when you buy travel protection. However, your coverage will be broader if you purchase it while booking your trip. In fact, many coverage types require advance purchase -–especially if you’re interested in cancellation coverage. Even so, there are policies you can buy, even up to the night before you leave.

Here’s what we recommend and the deadlines you need to hit if you want to get the best coverage in your travel insurance. 

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beautiful scenery of village in Austria

blue outline of arrow pointing right When is it too late to buy travel insurance?

Technically, you can buy travel insurance at any point -–even when you’re already traveling. However, the policy and the amount of coverage available will be more limited the longer you wait. 

The only time coverage becomes impossible is when an “unforeseen circumstance” becomes foreseen or evident. Let’s use car insurance as an example. Say you get in an accident without insurance to cover the damage or expenses. You can’t get insurance after the accident to cover it; that’s just not how insurance works. 

Likewise, you can’t get Trip Cancellation coverage when the hurricane already hit your destination. And you can’t get coverage for a medical emergency while traveling after the fact. 

chart outlining the travel insurance benefits available at different times of purchasing

blue outline of arrow pointing right When is the best time to buy travel insurance?

As soon as you make your first trip payment or deposit (considered your “initial trip deposit date”). Booking early is the best-case scenario, even if you’re not looking for any time-sensitive coverage. Buying early can give you the most comprehensive coverage, even if something bad happens soon after purchasing, making you cancel the trip. 

Even if you booked a last-minute trip, you can still get travel insurance. At this point, you can probably find coverage for certain events, like if you need to be hospitalized or your flight gets delayed.

Thankfully, most medical and general travel coverage isn’t affected by the date of purchase. Those coverage types are only active during your trip, and you can only purchase travel insurance before you depart. You generally need to purchase within 1-21 days of your initial trip deposit date if you want these coverages:

  • Cancel For Any Reason*
  • Pre-Existing Medical Condition*

*Requirements vary by provider.

To sum it up, most pre-departure coverage revolves around unforeseen circumstances affecting your travel. So the sooner you purchase travel insurance, the more likely your trip will be covered. 

Pro Tip: We don’t recommend purchasing travel insurance before booking your trip. Why? Because you might not get as much coverage as you need. Or you’ll pay for way more coverage than you need. We recommend increasing your travel insurance coverage as you make additional payments toward your trip. However, if you’re entire trip is paid for, by all means, insure the full cost! You can get started now by using our handy instant quote tool below.

green button that reads quote and compare travel insurance

blue outline of arrow pointing right Can I buy travel insurance right after booking my flight?

Absolutely! And if you know your total trip costs, we’d say this is the best time to buy travel insurance. This is also because you’re only eligible for many valuable benefits of travel insurance if you purchase early. 

Especially if you have concerns about pre-existing conditions, you’ll want to purchase travel insurance right away. This way, you can secure coverage even if your pre-existing condition worsens or flares up during your trip. 

For example, if your pre-existing medical condition causes you to seek medical care during your trip or come home early. Then you’ll want access to Pre-Existing Medical Condition coverage. This coverage is very time-sensitive; many policies won’t include a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver if you miss the specified time-sensitive purchase period. So, if this is a concern, get an instant quote below and compare travel insurance plans today.

Pro Tip: You might have some coverage with your credit card, airline, or cruise line. But their terms and conditions can be extremely limited. Their coverage also might not be enough for what you really need. Travel insurance through a travel supplier (like a cruise or airline) is usually quite limited and often more expensive than what’s offered by third parties. You can start comparing quotes from the best third-party options in the industry with the quote tool below.

blue outline of arrow pointing right Can I get travel insurance within 21 days of booking my trip?

Yes. In this timeframe, you can generally access most coverage benefits as well. Purchasing early can get you the broadest coverage in case you need to cancel your trip (for a covered reason). These coverages are typically only available if you buy within 21 days of your initial trip deposit date. If you’re concerned about travel advisories, travel supplier bankruptcy, or changes in your work schedule, you’ll want these coverages:

  • Natural Disaster Coverage: You’re heading to a destination where there’s any chance a natural disaster could hit.
  • Cancel for Any Reason Coverage: You can anticipate that there’s any chance you might want to cancel your trip.
  • Cancel for Work Reasons: You have an unpredictable job or work schedule.
  • Financial Default Coverage: You want protection if the travel company you’re working with (and already paid) shuts down for any reason.
green button that reads quote and compare travel insurance

blue outline of arrow pointing right Can I purchase travel insurance the day before my trip?

Maybe you’re going over the packing list the night before departure and realize you want to buy travel protection. Or you planned a last-minute trip and still want to insure it before you leave.  

Either way, you can buy a last-minute travel insurance policy. At this point, it’s still possible to get a plan that includes Trip Cancellation and trip interruption nsurance. Then you can get coverage if you have to cancel for an unforeseen circumstance or cut your trip short. This includes including death, illness, or injury, anytime up until the day before your trip departure. 

Purchasing the night before your trip works. That’s because trip insurance goes into effect the day after you purchase it. So if it’s midnight on the day of your departure, it’s too late to buy comprehensive travel insurance. Anytime before that works! 

The critical thing to know is you need to buy coverage before the bad thing happens. So if you get injured before buying travel insurance, you can’t buy it afterward, cancel your trip, and expect to get a refund of your pre-trip costs.

A church in Greece surrounded by green mountains and a deep blue sky

blue outline of arrow pointing right Can I buy travel insurance when I’m already on my trip?

If you find yourself on your trip and realize you forgot to buy travel insurance, you’re in luck. You can still buy travel insurance. However, at this point, you’ll want to look for an international medical policy, also known as a travel medical plan. 

Unfortunately, these travel medical plans won’t include trip cancellation coverage or benefit upgrades like Pre-Existing Condition waivers. 

On the bright side, this plan will likely have Emergency Medical and Medical Evacuation coverage, at the very least, should any unexpected medical issues arise. Plus, they usually include a 24/7 emergency assistance provider that can help in an emergency.

Some of these policies will also include Trip Interruption insurance, which will refund you any unused prepaid expenses if you have to cut your trip short for other unexpected reasons, such as illness, injury, or death. It might even cover additional Travel Loss and Delay expenses incurred as a result of those unforeseen reasons. 

Again, travel insurance generally needs to be purchased before a bad thing happens (while it’s still considered “unforeseen”) -–not after.

Providers that Offer Travel Medical Coverage For After Departure:

International Medical Group (IMG)

Trawick International

blue outline of arrow pointing right Where can I buy travel insurance?

Right here. Our travel insurance comparison tool makes it easy to compare the top travel insurance policies in the industry –all in one place. Comparing the plans side-by-side lets you easily find the most comprehensive coverage for the most affordable price. Our filters also let you narrow down policies with the benefits you need.

Yonder's Providers

blue outline of arrow pointing right What’s next?

When is it too late to buy travel insurance? Only when an “unforeseen circumstance” becomes evident. That’s why it’s best to purchase trip protection as early as possible. Then, you can have peace of mind and enjoy the planning process before your departure date. If you have other questions, check out the top travel insurance questions being asked right now.

You can compare the best travel insurance plans side-by-side with our quote tool below. This makes it simple to find the most comprehensive coverage at the most affordable price. Using our filters can help make sure you get the benefits you need added to your plan.

green button that reads quote and compare travel insurance

As a seasoned professional with over five years of experience in the travel insurance industry, Meagan has honed her expertise in marketing and operations working for Yonder Travel Insurance. Throughout her career, she's shown dedication assisting customers at every stage of their travel insurance journey, from the initial quote process to navigating the claims process. Her expert understanding of travel insurance equips her to provide unbiased and valuable insights, which help travelers find the best coverage and maximize its benefits.


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