Before I had children, only once do I ever recall purchasing any type of travel insurance. Now that I’m a mom of four children, who brings them along on every adventure, travel coverage in something that I think about each time I plan a trip. Travel insurance also sits at the forefront of my mind as my closest relatives age. Not long ago, I learned that one of my closest family members had passed away the evening I arrived at my destination, and while away on another trip a grandparent had a heart attack. In both instances, I had to cut my trip short and rush off to attend to those circumstances.
It’s not unexpected extreme weather, natural disasters, or lost luggage that worry me, but sickness of a close family member, myself, or one of my children, and/or the need for emergency medical, transportation, and evacuation. The idea of being in a position of needing to buy multiple airline tickets at a moments notice to fly home is a bit unnerving. I recall one time thinking that I might need an urgent flight from Europe back to the USA, only to discover that the purchase of five one-way flights to the USA would cost close to $9,000–the tickets I had did not permit changes. Thankfully, everything turned out okay and I continued my trip.
Why Buy Trip Insurance?
There are many reasons why you might want to consider buying trip insurance. Similar to the reasons you buy health insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or life insurance, trip insurance protects the underlying investment: your trip. Most trips are expensive. The last thing you want is to take on more expenses due to unexpected or unforeseen events, injuries, accidents, or loses. Trip insurance helps give you piece of mind. It’s usually relatively affordable too.
Possible Reasons to Buy Coverage
- A close family member or traveling companion gets sick or hurt–and a doctor has confirmed they can’t travel or needs to return home
- Work – you get laid off, you’re required to work
- You get called for jury duty
- You get hurt or sick on your trip
- You require emergency medical transporation
- A trip delay causes you to incur extra, unforeseen accommodation expenses
- You do not have private medical insurance or insurance that covers your medical expenses when you are abroad
- You have medicare and it doesn’t cover you beyond the USA
- Unexpected, unforeseen weather, natural disasters
- Terrorism at your destination
- Plane crash
- Cruise Ship Sicknesses
- Luggage mishaps – lost, stolen, damaged
- Provider of travel – e.g., airline, tour company – unexpectedly goes out of business or ceases operations
Types of Insurance Coverage
- Emergency Evacuation /Repatriation
- Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption
- Accidental Death / Dismemberment
- Property / Baggage Insurance
How to Find Travel Insurance?
You want to find a reputable insurance provider, preferably one with a known, global reputation. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association keeps a searchable list of members, so if in doubt, you can check to confirm that a travel insurer is the real deal. Consider doing an Internet search to find customer reviews or feedback about an Insurance company before you buy; if a company has a reputation for being difficult to work with when a claim is filed, that’s useful information to know in advance.
Travel insurance options are sometimes offered online when you purchase airline tickets, etc. You’ll want to read any fine print before purchasing those policies to ensure that those policies will actually provide the coverage you seek.
Credit cards sometimes also offer travel protections when you use a card to make an eligible travel-related purchase, such as airline tickets. Contact your credit card to see what, if any, travel benefits may be associated with your card. You may wish to consider applying for a credit card that provides travel related benefits.
What to Look For in Travel Coverage?
Look to see that any travel insurance you purchase gives you the coverage(s) you want. For example, if you are going on a cruise, you’ll want to ensure that the insurance policy gives you adequate protections, such as coverage for cruise ship sicknesses.
Keep in mind that travel insurance is not only for exotic or extreme destinations. Having insurance coverage may make sense even when you are traveling domestically, close to home, or to non-exotic destinations.
In choosing a policy, be sure to check to see if any of your existing policies, such as your homeowners policy or medical insurance, will cover you while you are away.
What will Travel Insurance Cost?
The cost of travel insurance varies depending on the coverage(s) you want. A comprehensive travel insurance package plan that provides coverage for medical expenses, emergency transportation or evacuations, trip interruption or cancellation, and loss of baggage may cost a bit more than if you only choose a partial or optional coverage policy (e.g., trip interruption or cancellation).
Costs may vary depending on whether you are qualify for discounts, such as student discounts, or are required to buy specific travel plans (e.g., a senior citizen with a pre-existing medical condition may be required to buy a specific plan). Costs also vary depending on whether you elect optional coverage or require specific coverage, such as “cancel for any reason” or “extreme sports” insurance.
A travel insurance policy may cost as little as $1.00/day, or it may cost upwards of 4-8% of your trip.
If You End Up Needing To Use Your Policy, Make Sure You Don’t Give the Insurer a Reason to Deny Coverage
Hopefully, it won’t happen, but should you need to use your travel insurance, you’ll want to do your part to ensure the insurer won’t deny any claims. Make sure you read the fine print on the travel insurance policy/documents, so that you are aware of terms, coverages, limitations, and any exclusions. For example, are you traveling to an excluded country? Does your policy only apply in an emergency? Are you required to see a doctor before canceling a trip due to illness? Does the policy apply in your home country? Must you get the insurance company to authorize medical care or transport in order to use the benefit?
You’ll also want to keep good travel documentation. Keep track of all communication with the insurance company, doctors, travel carriers, etc. Keep proper documentation of all of your expenses and trip costs, so that you have everything you need should you need to submit a claim. Keep hotel, resort, car rental, travel confirmations handy, in the event of a claim. Keep in mind that it may not be enough to submit a credit card receipt, as you will likely need original receipts and itemized bills for expenses. Keeping good records increases the chances that you will get trip expenses and loses covered.
If you plan an extended or open-ended trip, make sure you confirm that any travel insurance coverage you buy will work for your situation. For example, if you are a digital nomad with an open-ended trip wandering around Europe, you’ll want to double check that your policy covers you even if you don’t have a return date or ticket; after all, you wouldn’t want to find yourself in a situation where a claim is denied because you purchased a policy that wasn’t right for your travel plans.
Sometimes It’s Totally Worth It
Buying travel insurance is one of those things that I’d prefer not to buy. After all, I’d much rather put the money toward an amazing excursion or meal with my family in my destination. However, there is a bit of comfort knowing that we have extra protection when we travel. That added piece of mind is often worth the expense of insurance.
Do you buy travel insurance when you plan a trip? Have you had to file a travel insurance claim? How was the process? Share your experiences.