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How to Choose the Best Travel Medical Insurance Plan

Travel medical insurance may appear overwhelming, but its purpose is simple: travel medical insurance provides coverage for unexpected accidents or illnesses when traveling outside your home country.

By Kate Ruddell | Nov 2, 2020, 15:14 PM

What is the best travel medical insurance plan? What exactly is travel medical insurance? Is it required for my international trip? What should I look for in a travel medical insurance plan to make sure I’m covered?

These are just a few of the questions travelers have been asking themselves as they plan their first vacation, family visit, or study abroad semester since the coronavirus pandemic began. Travel medical insurance may appear overwhelming, but its purpose is simple: travel medical insurance provides coverage for unexpected accidents or illnesses when traveling outside your home country.

Many domestic health insurance plans don’t provide coverage beyond the borders of your home country. Getting bit by a dog or falling and breaking your leg while traveling internationally could leave you paying thousands of dollars for proper medical care.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, most countries didn’t require travel medical insurance for entry, but many countries are now requiring proof of travel medical insurance (some even require COVID-19 coverage) to enter (yes, even for short trips).

Countries with longstanding travel medical insurance requirements for entry include:

  • Schengen Countries – Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain
  • Antarctica
  • Cuba

Countries with new travel medical insurance requirements due to COVID-19 include:

  • Aruba
  • Brazil
  • Costa Rica
  • St Maarten
  • Tahiti
  • Turks and Caicos
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates


Choosing the “best” travel medical insurance plan often depends on your reason for traveling as there are many plan and benefit options available. IMG has been a leader in the travel medical insurance industry since 1990 and offers several different plans to fit every traveler’s needs. Let’s take a look at some of the most common scenarios for travel and the best travel medical insurance plans for each.

International Travelers on Vacation or Holiday

2020 has everyone dreaming of their next international vacation. Maybe you’re planning a heritage trip to Italy with your family to explore your Italian roots for two weeks. A week into your trip, you notice a little sniffle, but nothing too serious; you chalk it up to allergies. The next morning, you wake up with a fever and a sore throat. You think it could be a dreaded sinus infection, but you need to find a doctor to get the appropriate care and medicine to get you back in action as soon as possible.

IMG's Patriot Travel Medical Insurance provides coverage for physician visits, urgent care clinics, and prescription medications.* Use the MyIMG portal to find a doctor and let IMG’s Customer Care team help you navigate the language barrier. Schedule a same-day appointment at an urgent care clinic, get all of your necessary medications, and then get on your way back to see your family without paying a fortune for international medical care.

Consider another example: you’re an adventure junky and can’t wait to hit the slopes. On your first day out, you hit a huge rock while and damage your skull and fracture your spine in four different places requiring you to be airlifted from the mountain to the hospital, where you spend 12 days recovering after surgery. This was a real-life scenario for one IMG member who was glad to have purchased a Patriot Travel Medical Insurance plan. Without a travel medical insurance plan, this event would have cost the member tens of thousands of dollars.

There is travel medical insurance, and then there is travel insurance (or travel protection insurance). It can be confusing, but travel insurance is meant to protect your trip investment in the case of unexpected cancellation or interruption of your trip. IMG’s travel protection plans also include medical benefits, which make them a great option if you have a large amount of pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs that you’d like to insure for your upcoming trip (e.g. cruises, safaris, or guided tours). Learn more about travel insurance here.

Visiting Family in the U.S.

Visitor insurance commonly refers to travel medical insurance for non-U.S. residents visiting the U.S. for a period of less than two years. Receiving medical care in the U.S. can be much more expensive than other areas of the world. Due to these higher medical costs, IMG has specific travel medical insurance plans designed for U.S. visitors such as Patriot America Plus and Patriot America Platinum travel medical insurance plans. While a travel medical insurance plan isn’t currently required for entry into the U.S., it is highly recommended.

Grandparents play a very important role in families and it’s common for grandparents of immigrants to travel to the U.S. to help care for their grandchildren or spend a few months visiting. While they’re in the U.S., it’s important to protect their health. Before choosing the proper level of visitor insurance coverage, consider these factors:

  • Health Status – if the traveler is in good health, does not get sick often, and does not have pre-existing conditions, then you may explore a plan with less coverage such as Visitors Care. If the traveler is the opposite, it is safest to purchase a plan with higher maximum limits and the most benefits available such as Patriot America Platinum (this plan also includes COVID-19 coverage if contraction and treatment occur after the effective date)*

  • Activities – When family comes to town, it’s a celebration! Perhaps your family has additional trips planned like a group ski or hiking trip, or maybe they’re looking forward to staying local and exploring your hometown with the children. For more active travelers, consider adding the Adventure Sports Rider to a Patriot Travel Series plan
  • Length of Stay – The longer the traveler stays, the higher chance that that the traveler may get sick or have an unexpected injury, so a Patriot America Plus or Patriot America Platinum plan would be ideal for longer stays

Overall, IMG’s most popular visitor insurance plan is Patriot America Plus, which provides coverage for acute onset of pre-existing conditions.** Additionally, IMG recently updated both their Patriot America Plus and Patriot America Platinum visitor insurance plans to include COVID-19 coverage (if contraction and treatment occur after effective date). To learn more and read about real life examples regarding IMG’s visitor insurance plans, check out our “How To Choose The Best Visitor Insurance Plan For You” blog here.

**Acute onset of pre-existing condition is defined as “a sudden and Unexpected outbreak or reoccurrence that is of short duration, is rapidly progressive, and requires urgent medical care.” Pre-existing conditions that are chronic or congenital, or that gradually become worse over time are not covered under this benefit.

International Students

Studying abroad can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times of a student’s scholarly career. International student health insurance is one thing you don’t want to leave off the school supply list. Many schools and universities require proof of health insurance before enrolling for the semester and IMG’s student health insurance plans meet most university requirements.

After enrolling, most universities will offer a group insurance plan with the option to waive your participation if you can provide your own plan. Oftentimes, students opt to purchase their own plans due to finding more affordable plans outside of the university’s offered group plan.

For international students that are healthy and budget conscious, our Patriot Exchange plans meet the U.S.’s J-1/J-2 visa health insurance requirements and most schools’ waiver requirements U.S.'s J-1/J-2 visa health insurance requirements and most schools' health insurance requirements (for F-1/F-2 and M-1/M-2 visa holders). The Patriot Exchange plan is the most budget friendly option, however, if the student becomes sick or injured, they are responsible for any remaining cost that goes above the selected maximum limit.

If you are looking for a student health insurance plan that covers younger and older scholars with dependents, Student Health Advantage (SHA) may be the plan for you. SHA is designed for students from kindergarten to graduate school and offers an enriched benefit schedule and more in-depth coverage (e.g. mental and nervous disorder coverage and organized sports coverage). To learn more and read about real life examples regarding IMG’s student health insurance plans, check out our “Choosing The Best International Student Health Plan” blog here.


For those spending a longer or indefinite period of time outside of their home country, you may be interested in one of IMG’s international private medical insurance plans designed specifically for expats.

At the end of the day, it’s important that you choose the best insurance plan that fits your needs. Not every traveler is the same age, has the same budget, is going to the same destination, or even traveling for the same amount of time. If you have questions or are looking for more information about any of our plans, we encourage you to reach out to our Sales Service Center. They would love to hear from you and can be reached at (866) 368-3724.

*This is a summary of a selection of plan benefits offered only as an illustration and does not supersede in any way the Certificate of Insurance and governing policy documents (together the “Insurance Contract”). The Insurance Contract is the only source of the actual benefits provided.

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