When I first started traveling internationally, I never really gave travel insurance much thought. I thought “I don’t need it. I don’t plan on canceling my trip.” Looking back, I now understand I was taking a huge risk.
Travel insurance is important. I mean seriously important. On it’s face it may sound like it will just give you the ability to get a refund if you cancel your trip. In reality, based on the coverage you select, it is so much more. Much, much more! As a travel consultant, I can tell you that travel insurance is a very wise investment that protects you on many levels.
When you think of going on vacation, chances are you imagine beautiful tropical beaches or European destinations steeped in history. What you don’t think about is the risk of illness, injury, or worse.
Several years ago a friend of mine traveled to Cozumel and had an accident on a motorized scooter. He received a closed head injury in that accident and needed extensive medical care. Medical insurance from the United States doesn’t help in that situation but travel insurance that includes medical coverage does.
When selecting a policy, please consider coverage for medical emergencies. Even a simple ankle sprain can interrupt your trip and cause you to have unplanned medical expenses for which you are not prepared.
One thing to note is that dental emergencies are a completely different animal from medical emergencies. Dental coverage, if it is included in the policy, is usually much lower than the benefit for medical emergencies. When I say lower, I’m talking $750 - $1,000 total.
Flight Delays or Cancellations
How many times have you been the victim of a delayed or cancelled flight? Personally I have experienced several delays and a few cancellations. Fortunately my trips were eventually able to continue without much fuss but it can create a huge mess depending on the circumstances.
How do you define a flight delay? That is something you need to think about when you start shopping for a policy. Some provide coverage for a delay of 6+ hours, 12+ hours, or longer. I choose policies that provide coverage for 6+ hours because than can easily result in an overnight stay somewhere if the delay occurs at night.
We went to Cuba in October 2017 and, on our return home, our flight from MIA to DFW was delayed due to mechanical issues. We sat on the tarmac for 4 hours. Yes, 4 freaking hours and it was freaking hot too. We finally got off (they had no ETA for take off) but then we had to find a place to spend the night. The plane eventually left a three hours later but, by that time, I was comfortable in bed in a posh hotel nearby.
If flight delays are the result of Mother Nature or some other act of God, the airlines are not required to assist with overnight accommodations. They may provide a voucher but, if they don’t, you are on your own to either sleep in the terminal or find a hotel on your own. Depending on your policy, you can get reimbursed for those expenses.
Lost or Stolen Bags
Have you ever had to deal with lost or stolen bags? I have never had my bags stolen but I can tell you that delayed bags suck the big one. When I say delayed, I’m not talking about for a few hours…..I’m talking a day or two or more.
It taught me a lesson about keeping a change of clothes, trial size toiletries, and medications in my carry-on. It also taught me a lesson about having coverage in case I have to purchase replacement items until my bags are found. Pay attention to the covered circumstances because, similar to flight cancellation coverage, you may be covered for bag delays of 6+ hours, 12+ hours, or even longer. I typically go with 6+ hours to give me the maximum coverage.
One of my greatest fears is getting into an accident in a rental car. Can you imagine what that would be like in a foreign country? Personal liability coverage provides protection in this situation and at a more affordable rate than adding it to the cost of your rental car.
If you have a credit card designed for travelers, you may already have coverage in place if you use that card to rent your car. If you don’t have a credit card like that, a policy that includes personal liability is a GREAT idea!
You may not have thought about this but what if you actually need to cancel your trip? Seriously……it can happen! You get sick, can’t get time off from work, lose your job, or maybe you get a subpoena and have to be in court. These are all just a few of the possibilities that are in the realm of possibility.
Depending on the type of coverage you get, you may be able to cancel and get your money back! Get “cancel for any reason” coverage and you could cancel even if you get mad at your BFF and change your mind about your girls’ trip. Life isn’t always fair and things do come up. Isn’t it a good idea to be prepared?
Death & Disability
So much like a life insurance policy, some travel insurance policies offer benefits for death, disability, or dismemberment. Usually the benefit amounts are $25,000 or $50,000 but you may be able to increase it if you feel it is necessary.
Generally the loss has to occur as a direct result of an incident that occurred during the trip, and it has to occur within a specific window of time from the time of the incident. For example, the loss has to occur within 365 days of the incident.
Do you have any idea what to if you lose your passport or if it gets stolen? Many of us probably don’t. Imagine being in another country, not fluent in the language, and with no ID! Most insurance policies have some kind of benefit whether it be a toll-free number to give you directions on what to or maybe even a monetary benefit to cover the costs of emergency replacement of your passport.
Before you go on your next trip, research where the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate is so you know where you can go to get help. Take a photocopy of all forms of identification you have. That will help you prove your identity if you need to get replacements. Have a plan for the worst case scenarios JUST IN CASE.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if an airline or hotel went under and you were booked with them on a future trip? I know I never thought about it before. Truth is that it can and it does happen.
A few years ago my daughter and I were on a 2 week trip in Europe. We were returning home from Dublin and had a hotel booked on the coast for the last two nights of our trip. The hotel we had booked and pre-paid suddenly closed down. We ended up staying near the airport because I couldn’t find anything appropriate on the coast, and fortunately for me I did get my money back. The risk to me was low overall—a few hundred dollars—but it could have been much worse.
If a company goes bankrupt you might think the company would make good on what they owe you, right? They are bankrupt so they have no means of making good on anything. That means you could be left with no trip and no reimbursement. So you would be out of pocket and nothing to show for it.
So let’s take a minute to think about the natural disasters that have occurred in the last few years: hurricanes, floods, fires, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Sounds like a movie plot doesn’t it? The chances of anything extreme like that happening is small but the truth is that it does happen.
You may not have thought about this but what if you need to evacuate a destination due to an act of terrorism? Or what if an act of terrorism occurs the day before your departure and you want to cancel your trip?
What about medical evacuation? Remember my friend that I mentioned above? He had to be taken to the United States for ongoing treatment and it was not cheap.
Yes, there are policies that offer coverage for each of those situations. You have to make sure you select a policy that offers that type of coverage AND you need to make sure the coverage amount is adequate. It is not uncommon to see coverage for evacuation ranging from $250,000 - $1 million.
Concierge and Emergency Assistance
The last benefit is one that has no sense of urgency to it however it can be very helpful. Some plans offer a toll-free number to call for help finding a doctor if you become ill. Some help arrange train tickets if you flight is cancelled. Some offer assistance finding tours and attractions.
While this service may not seem like much to some people, having the added benefit and convenience can be a huge asset. I like to wing it sometimes and having a little assistance is really nice.
I hope this article has convinced you that travel insurance is an investment in protection. It is protection for yourself, your money, and even your assets. The only other recommendation I can make to you is, if you are a frequent traveler, is to look at annual insurance policies. You can get coverage for all the trips you take in a year, usually as long as they are less than 30 days in duration. If you plan on visiting any destination for more than 30 days, contact your travel professional for assistance.
Make this beautiful day count!