10 Reasons Your Travel Insurance Claim Will Probably Be Denied

It’s important to read the fine print on your travel insurance policy.

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Updated July 11, 2024
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When planning a big vacation, you may think it’s best to skip an insurance policy so you can save money on travel. However, foregoing travel insurance can end up costing you money in the long run.

From weather delays to unexpected illness or stolen valuables, a lot can go wrong while you are traveling, and a travel insurance policy can be a saving grace.

Travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip urges travelers to keep in mind that these policies do not cover everything, however. The company says these are the top 10 reasons travel insurance claims are denied.

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Missing bills or poor documentation

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In order to get a refund, it’s important for travelers to document their trip properly.

This means you will need to keep receipts and any other proof of the incident you are making a claim for — such as a hotel cancellation or a bill from a hospital visited abroad.

Keep clear records both before and during your trip to avoid trouble with your travel insurance agency and protect your financial fitness.

Policy exclusions/limitations

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In some instances, travel insurance claims are denied simply because the policy does not cover the incident.

This is why it’s so critical to read the fine print. Make sure you know what is and is not covered before purchasing a policy.

Undeclared medical conditions

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Failing to disclose a pre-existing health condition could create another reason for a travel insurance company to deny a claim.

Many insurance plans include coverage for health emergencies and sudden illnesses. But if a traveler doesn’t report a condition — particularly if they had a recent flare-up — they might be on the hook for any medical bills they incur while traveling. 

To avoid this, make sure you accurately report your health history.

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Engaging in adventurous activities without proper coverage

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Some plans do not cover injuries sustained during “high-risk” activities, such as climbing, skydiving, and skiing and snowboarding in certain areas.

If you are planning to engage in anything that may be considered extreme, consider purchasing additional “high-risk” coverage.

Trip cancellation for personal reasons not covered by the policy

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Some policies only reimburse you if you cancel a trip for specific reasons that the insurance covers, such as severe illness.

If you cancel because you forgot you needed to attend a wedding in your hometown that weekend, you are out of luck.

To avoid this, it is sometimes possible to book a “cancel for any reason” policy. Such coverage might be more expensive, but it will give you more leeway to cancel your trip.

Failing to report incidents in a timely manner

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Travel insurance policies typically mandate that you must report any incidents that occur as soon as possible. If you fail to do so, coverage might be denied.

If you want to avoid jeopardizing your claim, it’s important to be familiar with the deadlines associated with your travel insurance policy.

Injuries occurring while intoxicated

CarlosBarquero/Adobe couple celebrating rooftop party

Many vacationers plan on having a few cocktails to unwind while they are away — and that is OK. But if you unwind too much, you may be stuck with the bill for any damages that occur while intoxicated.

Many travel insurance policies have an “alcohol exclusion” clause. To avoid being stuck with a hefty medical bill, perhaps avoid booze in areas where accidents are common, like pool decks.

Events not classified as sudden and unforeseen

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When you purchase a travel insurance policy, it will cover events that are considered “sudden and unforeseen.” There are a few reasons a claim might not fall into this category, however.

For example, if you book a trip to the Caribbean and a hurricane appears, don’t expect that you can purchase a travel insurance policy at the last minute to reimburse you for any losses.

Unattended baggage and personal items

pixelrain/Adobe man waiting for luggage

Your travel insurance may also have a stipulation that you must take “reasonable care” of all belongings while traveling in order to be compensated for them.

That means you might be expected to lock up valuables in a safe at your hotel, for example. To ensure a claim is not denied, follow these rules.

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Failing to file a claim on time

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Failing to submit claims and documentation in a timely manner could mean your claim will be denied.

When you purchase a policy, include the precise dates of your trip and exactly where you will be visiting. Note if you are planning to visit a few countries during one trip, for example.

If something happens before or during the trip, make sure to report it right away. That way, you can eliminate some money stress by avoiding having a claim rejected.

Bottom line

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If all of this makes you unsure if travel insurance is worth it, know that there are some simple ways to avoid travel insurance claim mishaps. The key is to be familiar with the language in your policy and to gather all necessary documentation before and during your trip.

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Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.