Travel insurance: Is it really necessary?
Travel insurance does more than cover lost baggage or trip cancellations. Much, much more. If you’ve considered it an extra or unnecessary expense, it’s time to rethink the cost…and benefits.
Of course, whether or not you choose to get travel insurance depends on several factors:
- Cost of your trip: Bucket-list Africa Expedition vs. weekend jaunt with bargain airfare
- Type and cost of airline ticket: Is it refundable? An expensive international flight?
- Your age and health: Under-50s tend to have fewer chronic conditions
- Your financial situation: Are you able to pay for anything that could go wrong?
- Where you’re going and for how long: Possible medical attention
- Other coverage: Health insurance through work? Coverage from credit cards?
No one intends to encounter problems or become ill during a trip. But stuff happens. You stumble on a curb (or tree root) and break an ankle. You’re in a car accident. Your parent has a heart attack while you’re away and you need to get home. Or you have the heart attack and need medical evacuation. Not to be gloom-and-doom, but everything becomes more complicated when you’re in a different place.
The Travel Insurance Menu
What kind of travel insurance should you get? There are four basic types that cover the needs of most travelers:
- Trip cancellation or interruption: If you’ve prepaid or put down a hefty deposit for a tour, or purchased a non-refundable air ticket, this can be a worthwhile expense. The policy covers the non-refundable portions of the trip. Cancellation happens when an event (illness, missed flight, tour company goes bankrupt, etc.) prevents you from starting the trip. Interruption is when something occurs that brings your journey to a screeching halt: accident, injury, terrorism. NOTE #1: Sometimes the tour company includes this with your trip. Ask! NOTE #2: Read the policy carefully and understand the terms. For example, what is the definition of “family” in order to be reimbursed?
- Medical: This is a biggie and worth your attention. Start by finding out if your employer’s health insurance policy covers travel, especially international travel. Even if it does, think about adding a supplemental policy that covers big-ticket items, such as medical evacuation. For people on Medicare, there is no coverage overseas. (Exception: some Medicare “Medigap” supplements do pay some expenses, but you can’t just sign up any time.) Travelers over 70 years can expect to pay more for medical coverage, but as they say, “Don’t leave home without it.”
- Baggage: This is usually included in a comprehensive travel insurance policy. It covers delays, lost, and damaged luggage. Really, no one buys this separately. And you shouldn’t be traveling with expensive items (or luggage, for that matter) anyway. Also, your home or renter insurance may cover some of the belongings. Think long and hard before you pay for this.
- Other/Supplemental: Depending on your itinerary and needs, you can buy special types of travel insurance. An example is the Evacuation insurance, that gets you proper medical transportation to the nearest appropriate medical facility, or even back home.
With today’s world situation, it’s just smart to get at least a trip cancellation/interruption policy. Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com says, “For example, when the U.S. State Department recognizes a terrorist attack — as it just did recently with the Manchester bombing — policyholders are able to cancel the rest of their trip and return home at no additional cost,” he said. “They are also eligible for the reimbursement of any unused, non-refundable costs they had already paid, plus the additional fees, if any, of returning home early.”
Why get travel insurance from an independent company?
Peter Greenberg, Travel Detective, offers a warning about cancellation/interruption policies. When you book your trip–or cruise–you’ll be offered the opportunity to purchase your travel insurance. Don’t do it, says Greenberg. Always buy from a third party; this covers you in case the tour or cruise company goes out of business…and takes your policy with it.
Three places to start–all three let you compare companies and costs. They sell travel insurance, too.
Any specific travel insurance companies to know about?
If you read any of the well-known travel experts, each recommends the insurance companies that support them and advertise on their websites. If you have a favorite guru, go ahead and see who they like. These companies are solid, but I want to give you a list of the ones that have been around for awhile and have a good record. As Rick Steves says, “For extensive travel insurance coverage, go with a big-name company.”
Costs can vary widely, so shop around. It’s also a good idea to get your policy as soon as possible after you book your trip and flight, although some companies will let you buy up to a week before departure. This is especially important if you are getting a medical policy and have a pre-existing condition.
In alphabetical order:
Reviews.com also lists travel insurance companies and helps sort choices according to needs.
Why travel insurance? Because it’s YOUR trip! You saved and planned, probably for a long time. You even know what medications to bring. But something as simple as breaking your glasses, or painful as a sudden tooth abscess, or as random as having a tree fall on your house two days before your departure, can ruin the best-planned trip.
Pay the money…then relax and enjoy your journey.