How to Choose a Family Travel Health Insurance Plan
When you purchase family travel health insurance for your next international vacation, you’ll want to compare different providers and policies. This will help you customize a policy with the coverage your family needs – and at the best price you can find.
You may find yourself thinking, “There are so many different insurance companies, and each of them has so many insurance plans – it’s overwhelming. How do I filter to choose the right plan for my family?”
That’s why we’re here. We’ll walk you through the process of choosing a family travel health insurance for your concerns and travel circumstances.
We share how to:
I. Pick the Type of Plan for You
What’s the Difference Between Trip Cancellation Insurance and Travel Medical Insurance?
Trip Cancellation Insurance
Sometimes referred to as travel insurance, this type of plan provides coverage for unused and nonrefundable expenses for a trip canceled or interrupted due to a covered reason. Covered reasons often include sickness, injury, hospitalization, death of a traveling companion or family member, delay or cancellation due to weather, and more.
Many travel insurance plans also provide additional coverage for other trip-related expenses like Travel Delay, Missed Connection, and Baggage Damage or Loss. Some travel insurance plans even include a limited amount of coverage for Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses and Medical Evacuation.
Some travel insurance plans with these emergency medical benefits exclude pre-existing conditions that exist during a specific time prior to coverage – usually 90 days. However, some plans offer a waiver for this exclusion for policies purchased near the time of the initial trip payment – usually within 21 days. Check your plan’s policy documents for specifics about pre-existing conditions and potential waivers.
When deciding on a type of plan, it’s important to note that many trip cancellation plans are only available to a specific countries’ residents, though the insured may be traveling domestically and/or abroad. Because these plans include a Trip Cancellation benefit, they’re typically more expensive than travel medical insurance plans.
Looking for a trip cancellation plan? Consider a comprehensive plan like Atlas Journey for your next trip.
Travel Medical Insurance
This type of plan covers expenses related to health care for unexpected illnesses and injuries that occur on an international trip. Some expenses that may be covered include hospital room and board, ambulance charges for a ride that results in hospitalization, physician fees, surgery costs, and more.
Like some trip cancellation plans with emergency medical benefits, many travel medical insurance plans include a pre-existing condition exclusion that exists during a specific time period prior to coverage – usually 90 days. Waivers to this exclusion may also be available to those who purchase closer to the time of the initial trip payment – usually within 21 days.
What Is a Pre-Existing Condition?
The exact pre-existing condition definition varies among insurance providers and travel health insurance policies.
The general definition of a pre-existing condition is any injury, illness, disorder, disease, or other physical or mental condition that exists during a defined period of time prior to the date your policy goes into effect. This period of time varies from plan to plan and may range from 180 days to 5 years.
A condition may count as a pre-existing if a doctor can determine, with reasonable medical certainty, that it existed before your policy went into effect – even if you did not experience symptoms or receive a diagnosis or treatment for the condition.
Carefully read the policy documents for any plan you’re considering to see how a pre-existing condition is defined for that specific policy.
Some travel medical insurance policies, like Atlas Travel, also include travel benefits such as Trip Interruption, Lost Checked Luggage, Travel Delay, and Personal Liability.
Travel medical insurance plans are available to citizens and residents of most countries who are traveling internationally, but coverage only applies while you are outside of your home country. Because it doesn’t include a Trip Cancellation benefit, there are many budget-friendly options available.
Look at these scenarios where family travel medical insurance would help save your health and money.
You can read more about the differences between trip cancellation insurance and travel medical insurance here. If you’re interested in trip cancellation insurance, learn about the three different Atlas Journey plans available to you from WorldTrips. If you’re interested in learning more about family travel medical insurance, keep reading!
Different Types of Travel Medical Insurance
Most travel medical insurance providers offer a wide variety of plans. The number of travelers you wish to insure and the length of your trip (or trips) determine what policy you’ll need.
In general, there are three common policy types:
Travel Medical Insurance Type
Choose This If…
Provides coverage for a single trip abroad lasting up to a year*.
You are taking a single trip with fewer than five people.
Multi-Trip Plan (Sometimes Referred to as an Annual Plan)
Provides coverage for multiple trips abroad throughout a one-year period.
Your family will be taking multiple trips over the next year.
Provides coverage for an entire group of people (usually five or more) traveling abroad. Typically offers a discounted rate.
You need to insure at least five family members for a single trip.
*You have a different set of needs if your travel is going to last longer than a year at a time. Research multi-year plans or expatriate health insurance to learn more.
Use the chart above to get an idea of the type of plan your family needs.
Next, you’ll determine the individual benefits levels you need.
II. Prioritize Benefits
It’s easy to feel lost when you’re looking through long lists of insurance benefits. So…. let’s break down the process.
Here are important factors to consider:
The ages of everyone who will be traveling
How many adults are traveling
Your destination country or countries
Your planned activities
Next, use that information to make a list that prioritizes common insurance benefits into three categories.
Must Have – important medical benefits that provide basic coverages
Should Have – benefits that offer extra security related to specific situations
Nice to Have – mostly non-medical benefits for travel-related inconveniences
Now let’s put those lists together and explore each of the prioritization categories.
1. “Must Have” Benefits for Family Travel Medical Insurance
Families traveling internationally need to make basic emergency medical coverage a top priority. Consider adding the following benefits to your “must have” list:
Eligible Medical Expenses – This is the core benefit of any travel medical insurance plan. It covers eligible expenses resulting from covered unexpected injuries and illnesses.
Emergency Medical Evacuation – Transportation from a facility unable to provide the needed life or limb-saving care to the closest medical facility that can provide the treatment you need.
Hospital Room and Board – Coverage for overnight hospital stays.
Local Ambulance – Coverage for transportation in an ambulance when you are hospitalized as inpatient.
Intensive Care Unit – Coverage for ICU expenses related to a covered injury or illness.
*Extreme Sports – Most travel health policies have extreme sports exclusions. Look for what coverages may be provided within the base policy or through an extreme sport add-on (often called a “rider”) if you plan to participate in these activities.
*Extreme Sports coverage is a “must have” only if you plan to participate in activities that are generally excluded from standard plans.
Add the following benefits to your “must have” list if there will only be one adult traveling:
Return of Minor Children – If traveling with kids, it covers the cost of getting your kids back home if you are hospitalized.
Emergency Reunion – This covers the cost of bringing a relative to you if you are medically evacuated to a different location.
Bedside Visit – This covers the cost of bringing a relative to you if you are confined to a hospital intensive care unit.
2. “Should Have” Benefits for Additional Risk Control
To help alleviate burden on family if the worst-case scenario happens, add these “should have” benefits to your list:
Repatriation of Remains / Return of Remains – This covers the cost of transporting your body back to your home country.
PRO TIP! Some countries include this benefit as part of their visa requirements. This would make the benefit a “must-have” if that’s the case for the country you’ll be visiting. Make sure you read through your destination country’s visa information.
Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D)– A predetermined amount is paid to you for dismemberment or to your beneficiary in the event of your death.
Local Burial or Cremation – This covers the cost of burial or cremation in your destination country.
Look for the following benefits for extra security-related coverage:
Terrorism – Treatment for terrorism-related medical expenses is not standard with some travel-related insurance policies. Make sure you understand a policy’s exclusions before you buy, particularly as terrorist events in certain high-risk countries may be excluded.
Crisis Response / Kidnap & Ransom – This is coverage for both lost money & items as well as an experienced, multilingual crisis response team who will assist in the recovery of the kidnapped person.
Political Evacuation – This covers evacuation from the country if there is political unrest that meets the policy’s requirements for evacuation. Make sure you understand a policy’s exclusions before you buy, as certain high-risk countries may be excluded.
Natural Disaster – Replacement Accommodations – This is reimbursement for replacement accommodations if yours become unusable due to natural disaster.
Explore the 20 safe travel destinations your kids will love.
3. “Nice to Have” Benefits for Family Trips
Other benefits fall into the “nice to have” category. There are no bad benefits because each benefit provides coverage for a specific unfavorable scenario. The more benefits you have, the less risk you have to manage on your own.
Listed below are a few benefits that may be useful to your “nice to have” list:
Lost Checked Luggage
Then add other benefits that stand out to you during your research.
Review Your List
You should now have a list of benefits separated into three categories. Review your list to make sure you’re comfortable with the priority you assigned to each benefit.
III. Evaluate the Price/Benefit Balance
It’s time to shop! The most important fact to remember when you compare prices:
The lowest price does not mean it’s your best option. Instead, aim to get the best value.
You probably didn’t pick the cheapest family vacation you could find. Otherwise, you might end up in a bug-ridden motel in a dangerous area after a 26-hour flight with three long layovers.
It’s the same with insurance – get what you need at the best price you can find. Don’t just look for the lowest cost plan, which may or may not meet your needs.
These factors will generally determine the price of a family travel medical insurance plan:
Number of people
Age of each person
Length of trip
Maximum coverage amount
Specific coverages and exclusions
For a primer on how much you could expect to pay, read "How Much Does Travel Medical Insurance Cost?"
Many travel medical insurance policies from different companies offer similar benefits. You’ll find the most differences in the overall coverage limits and the per-benefit coverage limits (we’ll discuss what those mean later). Also, review for specific coverages you may need or excluded conditions.
The number of people you need to cover, their ages, and your trip length are already established, so start your comparison by determining your deductible level.
How to Choose Your Deductible
A deductible is the dollar amount you have to pay before your insurance plan starts covering eligible expenses.
In general, a lower deductible will increase the price you pay to purchase the plan, which is known as the “premium.” Likewise, a higher deductible will usually result in a lower premium.
PRO TIP! Travel medical insurance deductibles work differently than your regular health insurance. Generally, there is NO family deductible. In those cases, the deductible level you choose is a per-person deductible.
Determine how much you can comfortably afford to pay out of pocket for medical expenses. This is the highest deductible level you should select. Including this amount in your trip budget will also help you accurately estimate your potential trip costs.
With that said, you may not see a significant difference in price when you compare the lowest and highest deductible levels. You may want to choose a $0 deductible for the extra financial protection without a significant increase in up-front cost.
Consider a family of two 33-year-old adults and two kids (ages 6 and 4) on a 14-day trip to Europe. They’re deliberating between an Atlas Travel plan with a $1,000,000 maximum limit and a $0 deductible versus an Atlas Travel plan with a $1,000,000 maximum limit and a $5,000 deductible.
The cost for the $0 deductible plan (with no add-ons) for this family of four would be $121.80* while the cost for the $5,000 deductible plan (with no add-ons) would be $59.64*. In this case, the difference in premiums between a $0 deductible plan and a $5,000 deductible plan is $62.16.
However, if you end up with several thousand dollars in eligible medical expenses, a lower deductible could provide significant cost savings.
*Prices valid as of February 2023.
PRO TIP! Regardless of your deductible, medical providers in foreign countries may still require up-front payment for treatment. Make sure you have payment options available until your insurance reimburses you for eligible expenses.
Expand your knowledge of what to expect from healthcare abroad.
How to Choose Your Maximum Coverage
We’ll say it plain and simple – we recommend going for the highest amount offered. You’re getting insurance to manage your health and financial risk.
Insurance is a funny product – you don't want to get sick or hurt, so you hope you never have to use it when you buy it. And typically, you won’t end up using it.
Insurance is all about exceptions. You’re preparing for the potential loss that comes from an out-of-the-ordinary illness or injury.
Selecting a higher overall maximum coverage may not cost much more than lower coverage amounts. Compare prices to see the cost differences for you.
The maximum coverage amount for an Atlas Travel plan goes is $2 million. Consider the family of two 33-year-old adults and two kids (ages 6 and 4) from the example in the How to Choose Your Deductible section above. They’re taking a 14-day trip to Europe.
For their family of four, choosing an Atlas Travel plan with the lowest coverage maximum available ($50,000) and a $100 deductible would cost them $61.32*. Choosing an Atlas Travel plan with the highest coverage maximum available ($2,000,000) and a $100 deductible would cost them $111.16*. In this case, the difference in premiums between the lowest coverage amount and the highest coverage amount is only $49.84. And that extra $1,950,000 of coverage could be vital if you were to face a high-cost emergency abroad.
*Prices valid as of February 2023.
Per-Benefit Coverage Limits
Very few – if any – policies allow you to customize those limits independently. Instead, you’ll likely choose between a few different categories:
“Budget” – These are the lowest-cost policies that also offer the most limited benefits and coverage limits.
“Standard” – These are the most popular policies. They strike a balance between offering more benefits and a budget-friendly policy cost. (Example: Atlas Travel)
“Premium” – These plans offer the most benefits with the highest coverage limits. They can be a good option for your family if you are taking a shorter trip outside the U.S. The policy cost may still be comparable to that of a standard plan, and you get the advantage of having the most coverage available. (Example: Atlas Premium)
It’s up to you which of these categories best meets the needs of your family. Compare your prioritized benefits list – your “must have,” “should have,” and “nice to have” categories – to the benefits offered for each of the plan levels.
REMEMBER! Think in terms of “value.” The lowest-cost plans have lower coverage limits and fewer benefits in comparison to higher-cost plans.
Also pay close attention to per-benefit coverage limits. Make sure the benefits important to you offer acceptable limits.
Let’s define what we mean. A per-benefit limit is the maximum amount the insurance will cover for a particular benefit, while the overall maximum limit is the total amount of money the insurance company will pay for all eligible claims you incur during your policy term.
One claim may have multiple types of expenses. For example, a fall where you break your leg, get a concussion, and are hospitalized as inpatient could activate the Local Ambulance, Hospital Room & Board, and Eligible Medical Expense benefits. Each could have their own per-benefit limit, but they all would contribute to the overall maximum coverage amount.
Some benefit limits are quite a bit lower than the overall maximum coverage amount for your policy.
Insurance companies will list these limits as:
Lifetime maximum (maximum amount the policy will pay toward your expenses in your lifetime)
Maximum per day
Maximum per certificate period (maximum amount the policy will pay toward expenses incurred during your coverage period)
Some benefits are not subject to the deductible or coinsurance, meaning you do not have to pay your deductible or meet your coinsurance before the policy will begin to pay for eligible expenses under that benefit.
Review Atlas Travel insurance to see an example of what these per-benefit maximums look like. The name of the benefit is on the left, and the per-benefit limit is on the right.
Most companies, and certainly comparison sites, will allow you to see a side-by-side list of benefits for the different plan levels. Use that view to see how each plan level measures up to your prioritized benefit list.
IMPORTANT! Keep in mind not all travel health insurance plans are created equal. Different plans can vary in their offered benefits and coverage amounts. Also, some plans may feature different benefit requirements or exclusions. Make sure to read the specific wording in the policy documents before purchasing a policy.
IV. Compare Family Travel Health Insurance Providers
You’ll also be comparing companies, not just insurance plans.
Consider the following factors to choose a trustworthy company:
Company Story – Read through the company’s about page to get a sense of its history, culture, and service.
Financial Ratings – Look for strong financial ratings for the underwriting insurer.
Customer Service – A quality plan should offer multilingual travel assistance services 365 days a year to help you in time of need.
How to Interpret Online Insurance Reviews
You’ll likely come across a number of different review sources as you shop. When reading reviews of insurance providers online, keep these facts in mind:
Research shows unhappy customers are more likely to write negative reviews than happy customers are to write positive reviews. Take into account the whole picture – not just the negatives.
Every business has unhappy customers. If you see a company with hundreds of positive reviews and no negatives, make sure to read between the lines to understand why.
Quality companies care about customer feedback, both positive and negative. Look at how a company reaches out to dissatisfied customers as an indicator of their customer service quality.
Final Words of Wisdom When Purchasing a Family Travel Health Plan
Your most important objective when you purchase a family travel health insurance plan is to customize it to fit your family’s specific needs.
Know what type of insurance plan best fits your trip.
Prioritize the benefits that are important to you and your family.
Define the coverage limits, deductible, and policy cost that fit your family’s specific risks and budget.
The most satisfied insurance customers are those who understand exactly what their policies do and do not cover – before they need to use it. In other words, actually read through the policy wording itself – often called a description of coverage, certificate, or policy documents. You should see a link on the insurance product page. (You can see the Atlas Travel Description of Coverage here.)
And very important – READ THROUGH THE LIST OF EXCLUSIONS. We can’t emphasize this point enough.
You can avoid major headaches and frustrations if you know ahead of time what isn’t covered. Travel medical insurance is NOT regular health insurance – so it’s important you understand the differences.
Choose family travel health insurance for your next family vacation.
WorldTrips is a service company and a member of the Tokio Marine HCC group of companies.
WorldTrips’ Atlas Travel Series and StudentSecure international travel medical insurance products are underwritten by Lloyd's. WorldTrips has authority to enter into contracts of insurance on behalf of the Lloyd's underwriting members of Lloyd's Syndicate 4141, which is managed by HCC Underwriting Agency, Ltd.
WorldTrips' Atlas Journey, Atlas Cruiser, and Atlas On-The-Go trip protection insurance products are underwritten by Tokio Marine HCC's U.S. Specialty Insurance Company (USSIC). USSIC is a Texas-domiciled insurance company operating on an admitted basis throughout the United States. Coverage is available to U.S. residents of the U.S. states and District of Columbia only. This plan provides insurance coverage that only applies during the covered trip. You may have coverage from other sources that provides you with similar benefits but may be subject to different restrictions depending upon your other coverages. You may wish to compare the terms of this policy with your existing life, health, home, and automobile insurance policies. Coverage may not be available in all states.
In the State of California, operating as WorldTrips Insurance Services. California Non-Resident Producer License Number: 0G39705