Can You Purchase Travel Insurance After Booking Your Flight?

Travel insurance has become a baked-in cost for many modern travelers. According to a 2023 survey by Business Insider, around 38% of respondents purchased insurance for their latest trip. Since vacations can be expensive, when considering flights, accommodations, and entertainment, it's understandably tempting to forgo travel insurance.

But, in a double-edged sword-esque way, vacations can be expensive. If something happens before your trip, then you'd lose your money on any non-refundable trip purchases. If something happens during your trip, such as an injury, then the cost could be astronomical to receive high-quality care, depending on your location.

Our point is that travel insurance can be a wise purchase for most larger trips. But many still aren't too sure about the process of buying it, travel insurance options, and the stipulations of those options. One of the more common questions concerns the timing of purchasing travel insurance and when it becomes too late to buy. Fortunately, the answer couldn't be clearer: It's usually not too late until it is. But, in most cases, booking a flight won't have much to do with timing thresholds.

Timing to purchase travel insurance

Sometimes the timing of purchasing travel insurance can be tricky. You may not really understand the total cost of your trip before making large, non-refundable purchases, such as flights, hotels, or theme park tickets. So, it's totally understandable that someone would wait until making a large purchase — such as a flight — before shopping for travel insurance.

In most cases, travel insurance companies actually allow you to purchase a cancellation policy up until 24 hours of departure. While that sounds good, in theory, here's the rub: You wouldn't have coverage between your first big purchase and your departure. Depending on how far in advance you booked, this could leave a lot of time for something to go wrong, such as getting sick or injured. At this point, a travel insurance company won't retrofit an insurance policy for you. On the other hand, you may not completely know what coverage you'd need until your itinerary is a bit more complete.

Travelers, an umbrella insurance company, suggests buying a travel insurance policy no later than 15 days prior to departure. By this time, you should understand what policy would work for your particular trip. However, there's a stipulation for this 15-day suggestion as well. Depending on the company, some benefits may be more time-sensitive.

Some benefits require advanced notice

Adding on time-sensitive benefits would be the only reason purchasing travel insurance after booking a flight would factor into a timing consideration. "Cancel for Any Reason" benefits and coverage for pre-existing conditions are both considered time-sensitive benefits. If you were to purchase a policy that included either of these benefits, then you'd typically need to do so within 14-21 days of your initial booking date, depending on the policy provider. Not 24 hours before departure. And probably not 15 days before departure, as your options may be limited.

In all honesty, most people probably do wait until booking their flight to shop for travel insurance. They'd have a better understanding of the cost, as well as the refund policies (or lack thereof) of the flights. Regardless of whether you choose to shop for travel insurance before or after purchasing a flight, we would recommend beginning to shop around the time you book a flight. As your departure nears, you may or may not be able to get insurance, depending on the circumstances. If you can grab last-minute travel insurance, then it will either be more expensive, limited in coverage, or most likely, both.