There are so many options for travel insurance, that trying to sort them out can be daunting. Traveling without a plan – or with the wrong one – can be financially disastrous. Where do you begin?
What does Insurance Cover?
Since I am self employed, finding good medical insurance is difficult. I have a basic plan that has no coverage out of network. My daughter has very good medical insurance through her work. It covers her worldwide, so she is less concerned about medical problems while traveling than I am. When I am looking for trip insurance, I want something that will cover medical expenses.
Travel insurance not only covers medical expenses while away, but also allows a certain amount to transport you to a nearby hospital or back home. If the worst should happen and someone dies while traveling, the insurance will also pay to return the body home.
Insurance for travel delays is common. If a late flight causes you to miss a second flight, a tour, or a cruise, a travel delay can be costly. For a cruise, it is recommended to arrive at the port of embarkation the day before sailing, but that is not always possible. If you have to fly the morning of your cruise, insurance may help recoup the costs of catching up to the ship.
Baggage loss and delay is usually part of a travel insurance package. One of my sisters traveled to the Dominican Republic for a wedding. Her luggage did not arrive in time for the event, so she had to shop for appropriate clothes to wear. Although it was a hassle, the extra expenses were covered.
What are my Options?
Travel insurance is available from many sources. Policies vary widely, so it is important to carefully read through the policy you have chosen.
Most premium credit cards (those with annual fees) provide some travel insurance. The benefit amount varies by card, as do the restrictions.
When you book an airline ticket, there is an option to add travel insurance. Although the insurance is reasonably priced, it doesn’t cover as much as you might expect.
Cruises and organized tours frequently offer insurance at an added cost. It is easy and convenient to purchase the coverage along with the vacation.
Independent travel insurance is available from several companies with a wide range of prices and coverage. In addition, annual policies are available for frequent travelers.
Credit Card Coverage
I have a premium credit card that offers travel protection for no additional cost. Although I’ve never had to use it, I’ve read that the claim process is not difficult. The same credit card also offers rental car insurance. Although I’ve never made a claim, I’ve felt comfortable in declining the insurance pushed by the rental car agencies.
I usually secure travel insurance in addition to the coverage available through my credit card. After reading through the policy, however, I realize that I may be adding an additional unnecessary cost to my trip. Depending on the trip and the available insurance, I may rely more on the credit card plan in the future.
One notable restriction on my card is that medical insurance is not provided for trips less than five days or more than sixty days. Although I don’t take extremely long trips, I do sometimes travel for just a weekend. If I’m traveling for just four days, I cannot depend on the credit card travel insurance.
In addition, the credit card insurance plan has a low medical benefit amount ($2500), so I need to consider that when planning travel. For a couple of my recent trips, I’ve purchased a policy that has higher medical benefits, but lower delay and baggage ones. This type of policy works well with my credit card insurance plan – it supplements the areas that need it.
Airline, Cruise, or Tour Insurance
Cruise lines, tour companies, and airlines offer insurance that covers a particular part of the trip – the flight, the cruise, or the tour. If you travel to the cruise port a day or two before the cruise begins, those travel days are not part of the policy unless the extra days are booked through the cruise company. Your flight to the cruise port has the same restriction – it is covered separately, unless it is booked as part of your trip.
It might seem like a good idea to book insurance along with the cruise or tour, but often these companies charge premium prices for insurance. Do some research into your available options to see what offers the most protection for the best price.
Independent Travel Insurance
If you work with a travel agency, your agent may have an insurance company that they recommend. Be sure to read the policy before you travel, so you know what is covered.
I usually book my own travel, so I need to find my own insurance. Many different travel insurance policies can be compared and booked online. SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip are the most popular. On each site, details are entered and submitted about your trip, and then appropriate policies are recommended. Policies can be compared side-by-side, so you can choose the one that best fulfills your needs.
On my sister’s recent cruise, she was diagnosed with strep throat. The ship’s doctor treated her and prescribed antibiotics. She had purchased an independent policy, rather than the one offered by the cruise ship. The $300 in medical bills that she incurred should be paid by the travel insurance policy.
For those who travel several times each year, an annual travel insurance policy might be desired. The cost for this type of policy seems very reasonable. Medical benefits may be capped at $20,000 per trip, so make sure you know what you are buying.
Even though I travel quite a bit, I haven’t yet purchased an annual policy. They are recommended for people who take at least three major trips per year. I usually take one large trip and several smaller ones. Next year, I plan to travel a travel a little more, so an annual plan may be the best option.
Read the Fine Print
I cannot emphasize enough, the importance of reading the insurance policy. Many travelers expect a trip cancellation benefit to reimburse fees for cancelling a trip for any reason. “Cancel for any reason” is an additional benefit that adds to the cost. Standard trip cancellation is applied when a traveler or family member becomes sick, dies, or cannot travel for certain other reasons.
Pre-existing conditions can also be a reason for insurance companies to deny a claim. If you have a medical condition that flares up, you might not be covered. There are different rules for how these restrictions work, so read the policy.
The insurance companies are not out to get you. Yes, they deny claims, but they deny them because they were not covered in the first place. The policy will state the benefit limitations and exceptions.
Again, Read the Policy
Recently, SquareMouth and the insurance company, Tin Leg, sponsored a contest, where the first person to respond to a note in the policy would win $10,000. USA Today reported that Donelan Andrews found the note about the contest on the seventh page of her policy. Read the story here. I guess it really pays to read the policy.
Do you insure your travel? Leave your comments below.