Don't procrastinate: Buying travel insurance early gives consumers better protection

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Do you buy travel insurance? AAA reported last year it was selling 20% more travel insurance policies.

Here in the Bay Area, InsureMyTrip.Com says younger travelers are the predominant buyers from its website; 45 percent of San Francisco buyers are between 21 and 40 years old. Nationwide, the number is about half that.

And when we buy is different too, says InsureMyTrip.com, a travel insurance comparison site.

"Bay Area travelers are procrastinators when it comes to buying travel insurance," says Ronni Kenoian of InsureMyTrip.com. "So, we typically see our customer buy travel insurance 120 days before the day of their departure, meaning the day they leave on the trip, but Bay Area travelers buy it within a week."

Buying late can cost you.

RELATED: Should you protect your vacation with travel insurance? How to find out if you need it

Jenny East is visiting San Francisco from the U.K. She says she always buys coverage and one time, she needed it.

"It was awful," she told 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney. "It was really difficult to claim on, yeah."

Why? Well in large part because she made the purchase just days before traveling.

"I was due to fly to Sri Lanka and I had an attack of appendicitis about three days before I was going to fly, and I had just renewed my insurance a couple days before that," she says. "So when I went to claim they thought I was being a bit fraudulent, which I wasn't. So I had to go get all the medical records; it took me a good six months, I think."

RELATED: Why you might want to consider travel insurance

A hassle, for sure, but there is more to it than that. Buying travel insurance early gives you protection before your departure date and it usually costs no more. It is like extra coverage for free.

If you want "cancel for any reason" coverage, then most policies require early purchase.

Ronni Kenoian says, "We recommend buying insurance as close to when you buy the trip as possible."

Most buyers say they choose policies for the cancellation coverage, but the out-of-country medical insurance can prove much more valuable, if less likely to occur.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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