Is Travel Insurance Necessary? (Dull but Important)

This post on travel insurance might be a less exciting topic, but it’ll be worth a look. I never bought travel insurance until just a few days ago. Once I started looking into it, I was surprised and informed by what I found.

I always thought that travel insurance was only for medical needs, and I already had insurance, so why did I need it? I realized that my current medical insurance hardly covers anything where I live, so why would I think it could cover me in another country?

I started thinking about this because I wanted to cover my camera in case it got stolen. But I saw that there is much more it will do.

Things Travel Insurance Covers  

Policies differ on limits, but various plans and price points are available.

  • Medical coverage for illness or accidents; many plans cover dental as well
  • Coverage for lost or stolen property or lost baggage
  • Evacuation (they’ll fly you home) if you need medical care at home or following your medical care. Some policies will fly your body home (repatriation) if you happen to die while on your trip (hope not, but it can happen.)
  • Trip cancellation or interruption. This is if you’ve made non-refundable arrangements but someone in your family dies or you get sick and have to cancel or leave early.

So, you see, insurance covers more than just medical emergencies. If you had one, you’d think that was pretty important.

Here’s a relevant example in my own life. I made plans in January for a spring trip to Europe with a friend. Many of our arrangements were non-refundable (you know, the inter-Europe flights that are super-cheap but they want you to add $35 to each ticket for cancellation insurance.) In March, a family member was at the end of a long illness and I considered canceling my trip. That would have been very expensive for my friend and for me. If we’d had insurance, the loss of money due to nonrefundable flights, hotels, and excursions would have been eliminated.

The cost of the insurance was lower than what it would have cost to buy refundable tickets or cancellation coverage from the airline. In the end, we didn’t have to cancel, but it really made me think. Travel insurance isn’t very expensive and it could save you thousands if you have to cancel.

Things to look for:

  • Look at a few companies and their ratings. See how they measure up on the things that are important to you.
  • Is cancellation insurance most important? What are the limits?
  • How are coverages for a stolen suitcase or camera or iPhone, etc.?
  • Is the medical limit sufficient? At least $50,000? Is evacuation included?
  • Is the customer service good? Can you access someone on the phone and clearly understand what to do? Is there 24-hour assistance available?

When should you buy insurance?

Most companies will suggest you buy insurance after your first trip payment (deposit) so you have a clear idea of how much the total cost of the trip is likely to be. If you travel with a tour, cruise, or some other package arrangement, you’ll know the major costs from the start. If you opt for insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you might have stricter guidelines for when to buy. If those deadlines have passed but you haven’t left yet, you can still buy it. Anytime before the need arises! I bought mine 6 days before my departure date. It cost me less than $100. for a 3-week trip for basic insurance that covered what I needed.

What’s not covered

Usually, collision coverage for a rental car is not covered on a basic plan but can be added. I don’t usually get that, because my credit card offers coverage for a rental, as long as I use that card to pay for the rental.

Extreme sports is also a category that isn’t normally covered, but you can buy additional insurance to cover you for your hang-gliding off a Loire Valley château. (No, don’t try this!)

If you have an accident while drinking or taking drugs, chances are you won’t be covered, so do behave yourself on your trip! Also, avoid being careless or reckless with valuable items that end up disappearing.

A website that will help you compare plans is Insure My Trip or TravelInsurance.com.

Some companies (and there are many others!) that have high ratings and offer good basic plans at reasonable prices:

Travelex

Arch Roam Right

Generali

Geoblue (part of Blue Cross)

World Nomads

Since you’re probably paying a lot for your trip, paying just a little more for an insurance plan will solve a big problem for you if you need it, and give you peace of mind if you don’t.

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