Is Travel Insurance Worth the Cost?

National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: My friend had a heart attack while vacationing. He had to be medevaced home, which cost him $30,000—even though he had travel insurance. What gives?

My Answer: Most travel insurance policies cover only what they say they cover—typically, transportation to the nearest available medical facility.

Read the fine print: Look for clauses that address hospitalization and evacuations, pay close attention to when they’ll kick in, and make sure you have enough coverage, says Linda Kundell, a spokesperson for the trade group US Travel Insurance Association.

Alternatively, a “cancel for any reason” policy allows you to call off your entire vacation and receive 70 to 80 percent of your money back. Alas, such policies can cost between 10 and 12 percent of the price of your trip, versus 6 to 8 percent for a garden-variety policy.

Or, if medevac bills are your top concern, you could buy a membership in a company like MedJetAssist; an annual $260 fee generally covers up to two evacuations a year, with some restrictions for travelers over 75.

Christopher Elliott is Traveler magazine’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the February 2015 issue). Follow Christopher’s story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

Do you have a burning travel question? Share it with us in the comments section below for a chance to appear in Traveler magazine.


  1. 徐惠军
    March 20, 2015, 5:25 am


  2. Zain Jeewanjee
    March 18, 2015, 6:09 pm

    Airlift is not the only reason you should look into Travel Protection, I had to use Travel Trip Cancelation “Change your mind” and then Travel Medical on two separate trips six months apart. Both trips without Insurance would have cost me a loss of 18,000 . With Insurance my total loss was under $500 plus my premium. Zain Jeewanjee

  3. E. W. Hoelscher
    La Grange, KY
    March 18, 2015, 1:26 pm

    I just came off a 15 day cruise in the South Seas and I did not have travel insurance. I did have a medical care and evacuation insurance policy which I figured would care for me and get me home if need be. I arranged with the cruise line to do the air travel reservations assuming they would get me there and get me back since they did all of the bookings. However, the air they booked was abdominable, which made me question my original decision, after it was all over. The only risk I assumed was the risk of death before the cruise or a medical emergency that would keep me home. I have a personal history of heart disease but I am still an eternal optimist.

  4. Liz Hargis
    March 17, 2015, 6:38 am

    I need to buy some travel insurance for a European Cruise.
    What are the best Travel Insurance companies with affordable rates? Were primarily looking in case we have to cancel, lost baggage cover too!

  5. Steve Winer
    Boston, MA
    March 16, 2015, 5:17 pm

    and whatever you do stay away from AIG Tavel Guard. They will go every extreme to avoid paying a claim.

  6. Steve Wellmeier
    Providence, Rhode Island
    March 16, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Good advice from Christopher. Particularly for travelers heading off to remote destinations – the Arctic, Antarctica and so forth – it is vital to make sure you have adequate emergency medical, evacuation and repatriation coverage. For Antarctica, an airlift can cost $200,000 and more. Fortunately, it is easy to go online and purchase a one-off policy with great coverage, usually at a reasonable price that might surprise. But, if you really want or need cancellation insurance, be prepared to lay out some serious cash for the opportunity to cancel your trip and get your money back.