It’s a good question, but when it comes to travel insurance, it might not be the right one.
I have to admit, before I started working as a travel planner, I often did not purchase travel insurance (also referred to as travel protection). If I planned a vacation far in advance, and especially if it was costly, then I’d take it, but for the many trips we’d decide on within a few weeks or months of going, I generally did not.
I rarely go without it now.
I always felt lucky! I was in good health, had no expectation of canceling the trip… why would I need insurance? Well, the truth is that insurance – for travel or anything else – is something you purchase with the hope, and intention, that you’ll never use it! I mean, really, when you insure your car, do you do so with the plan that you’re going to wreck it? Or buy life insurance with the expectation of dying? I hope not! That we don’t expect those events to occur, doesn’t mean they won’t. In the event the unexpected – and undesired – happens, having insurance helps get the problems fixed.
I really thought of travel insurance as trip cancellation insurance, and I suspect many people also have this short sighted view. Sure, it can be an important part of why you’d want to purchase travel protection, but it’s only a piece. The really complicated and difficult issues are those that arise after you begin your travels. When you’re traveling, even a small problem can cause a big issue. You’re far from home and all the people and resources you need. One issue can lead to another, turning a small inconvenience into a bigger loss.
Travel protection covers a number of different issues that can go wrong. Every company’s policy has it’s own combination and coverage limits, but here’s a brief explanation of the kinds of coverage you can expect to find in a comprehensive policy:
CANCELLATION, INTERRUPTION, DELAY
- Trip Cancellation – nonrefundable costs if you have to cancel
- Trip Interruption – nonrefundable costs and and transportation costs to return home or to rejoin your trip
- Travel Delay – the costs associated with delays in your travel for things like airline delays or traffic jams due to an accident
- Missed Connection – the cost of additional transportation for you to join a cruise or tour that you miss due to things like airline delays or weather
- Itinerary Changes – the cost of prepaid activities that you can’t reschedule If your travel company (like a cruise or tour) changes the itinerary
- Baggage and Personal effects – the cost of replacing or repairing lost or damaged property
- Change Fees – the cost of fees for changing airline reservations. May also cover the cost to rebank miles or points.
- Accident and Sickness Medical Expense – the cost of treatment for illness or injury that occurs during your travel
- Medical Evacuation and Repatriation – the cost of transporting you to a location deemed medically necessary for your treatment
- Dental – the cost of emergency dental treatment
- Accidental Death and Dismemberment – benefit payable for loss of life or body part
- Return of Remains – in the event of your death, the cost of preparing and returning your remains to your primary place of residence
- Rental Car Damage – may require an extra fee or premium policy – cost of rental company charges to replace or repair a damaged vehicle
It’s pretty simple, but bear in mind the following: every company and every policy has different, specific coverages which are detailed in their policy document. It will describe when each type of coverage applies, and the amount that is covered. In nearly all cases, when a covered problem occurs, you will need to pay your expenses, keep good records as to how much you spent and that they were deemed necessary, and then apply for reimbursement. Many policies also include Assistance Services which help you find the services you need. This is different than the actual insurance, which covers your costs.
There are many companies that offer travel insurance. Travel agents aren’t insurance agents, but most of us work with a few insurance companies that have a history of offering a good product at a good price and with good service. I know that my goal is to make sure that you have all the pieces in place to have a stress free vacation, and if something does happen, that we have the tools in place to take care of the issue in as smooth a manner as possible.
We might also offer you protection available from your travel provider. Often these policies offer less coverage than an independent insurance company does, but sometimes they offer a good value. If you’re buying all the elements of your vacation through one travel provider, like a cruise line or tour operator, they can make sense, but if your vacation is put together using different companies, then it is usually best to use an independent travel insurance company who can insure the entire trip as one unit. In any case, before you choose any policy, compare the coverages and costs to decide which makes the most sense for you.
In the end, it’s your decision to purchase or decline travel insurance. You can wait up to the day before departure to insure your trip, but there may be some consequences to waiting. Here’s some things to consider.
If you have been treated for a medical condition around the time you book your vacation, it will likely be considered a preexisting condition. Should the issue flare up, causing you to cancel or interrupt your vacation, travel insurance will only cover the expenses related to that preexisting condition if you purchased the insurance within a specified amount of time after the initial booking, typically 2 to 3 weeks. Most American medical insurance (your normal medical coverage) doesn’t cover medical treatment outside the country . If you happen to become ill, or have an accident, are you prepared to cover the cost of treatment? To be sure, there are a few medical insurance policies that do cover expenses internationally, but before you leave the country, check your specific medical insurance policy to determine if yours is one of them.
Some credit cards cover some aspects of travel, such as rental car damage. But these coverages tend to be very limited, and some coverages are not available everywhere. Be sure you understand what is and isn’t covered before you rely on it.
Airlines are required to get you to your destination – but they aren’t required to get you there at the time you need to be there. And if there is an issue that’s out of their control, like weather, they won’t feed you, or get you a hotel or anything else you need. If you are delayed, are you prepared for the extra expenses? And will it affect the activities you have planned when you get to your destination?
How much risk are you willing to take? How much can you afford?