Planning a vacation isn’t always easy. There are flights and hotels to book, itineraries to organize, and of course the fun of packing.
While many travelers put a lot of time and energy into planning and preparing for their vacations, they often leave thinking about travel insurance to the end or simply forgo purchasing it altogether.
Life often has a funny way of delivering us the unexpected, and because of this it is imperative that all travelers regardless of age, gender, race, or health consider investing in a travel policy to ensure financial protection should an unfortunate incident occur.
Having a travel insurance policy in place well before your trip can end up saving you thousands of dollars if you sadly need to cancel your trip for an unexpected and covered reason, need costly overseas medical care, or run into instances of lost or stolen bags and cancelled flights.
Travel Insurance is an Essential, Not a Luxury
Why Travel Insurance is Important
You can protect the money you invest in a vacation by purchasing travel insurance. You can also safeguard yourself against getting hit with a potentially expensive bill should you experience an accident overseas and need medical treatment.
Many travelers plan their vacation well in advance, meaning there is a lot of time for unforeseen events to occur which can change those plans. Travel insurance can provide coverage for a number of events that can force you to cancel or alter your travel plans such as when you become seriously injured and cannot travel or there is a death in your immediate family.
Things like accidents, natural disasters, and travel delays can happen to any traveler no matter how well they plan things. We are also often presented with unfamiliar situations when traveling internationally and this makes it much easier for accidents or mistakes to happen.
Travel insurance companies can often provide coverage for individuals whether they are 1 or 100 years old, offering policies specially catered towards families, pregnant women, solo backpackers, and others.
Travel Insurance Coverage Options
Travel insurance policies can be tailored to your individual travel needs, ranging from quite basic policies to fully comprehensive options.
This allows you to purchase a policy that provides coverage only for the things or circumstances you think you may face.
You can purchase travel insurance for both domestic and international vacations. While polices can vary, these are some of the most important coverage options to look for in a quality travel insurance policy.
It’s often impossible to predict circumstances that may lead to you needing to cancel your trip, but should an unfortunate event occur and you can no longer take your long awaited vacation, travel insurance may be able to help you recover the money you paid for your trip which can oftentimes be a substantial amount of money.
Covered reasons for needing to cancel a trip may include an unforeseeable death, injury, or illness that you or an immediate family member experiences.
You may also need to cancel a trip due to an unforeseen natural disaster that prevents you from leaving home or arriving at your intended travel destination. Note that you may need to purchase additional coverage for natural disasters as not all policies automatically come with this protection.
International Medical Expenses
This is often the number one reason why people traveling internationally purchase travel insurance.
Medical treatment can be expensive in many countries and although you may have health insurance or medicare in your home country, that often will not protect you while travelling abroad unless there is a reciprocal health coverage program in place between nations.
A good travel insurance policy will offer unlimited international medical treatment should you require it during your travels. It can also include things like emergency medical evacuation if you require it on a cruise or when engaging in a remote trekking experience.
I should note that you will need to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions at the time of purchasing your policy, as failing to do so may see claims associated with medical treatment denied by your insurer.
You will also need to make sure your policy covers you for all the sports or travel activities you plan on enjoying during your trip.
Missed, Cancelled, and Delayed Flights
If you miss your flight due to an unforeseen incident like your taxi being involved in an accident or you being deemed by a doctor to be unfit for air travel, travel insurance can cover you for the costs associated with canceling or arranging a new flight.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to something like poor weather or mechanical complications with the plane, travel insurance can help you pay for essential items like food, toiletries, and accommodation needed before you can get on another flight.
Delays usually need to be longer than six hours for your travel insurance to kick in and some policies may only cover you for cancelled or delayed flights that are associated with departing and returning to your home country.
Lost or Stolen Bags and Personal Belongings
Most if not all travelers will travel with at least some personal belongings. While most bags get safely delivered to your destination and can be picked up quickly form the airport baggage claim carousel, the sad fact is some bags are delayed and others simply never turn up.
While airlines often have their own policies that will assist you with costs associated with lost baggage, travel insurance can provide much more comprehensive coverage.
Having travel insurance that provides coverage for lost or stolen baggage and personal belongings means your items will be financially protected during your travels regardless of whether it happens on a flight or not.
This means if your bags are stolen at the resort you’re staying at or certain items become damaged while travelling the compensation may cover the cost of replacing those items.
There are often limits to how much protection you will have for certain items. You may need to purchase additional coverage for expensive items like jewelry or expensive electronics. You will also often need to prove you did everything in your power to keep your belongings safe and secure during your travels.
Additional Coverage Options to Consider
While many travel insurance policies provide coverage for a wide range of activities like bungee jumping, hiking, and snorkeling, you may need to purchase additional coverage for certain sports like winter snow skiing.
Certain adventure sports may require additional coverage or may not be able to be covered by your insurer so it pays to know what activities you can safely enjoy without worrying about whether your insurer will cover medical expenses should you get injured.
Other types of additional coverage options include golf cover, business equipment cover, and high-value personal items cover which I touched on earlier. You will also need to make sure you purchase specific cruise travel insurance if you plan on taking a cruise at any point during your vacation.
Always read the full policy terms regarding your specific coverage. You want to make sure before you travel that you will be covered for the destination(s) you are travelling to and for all the activities you plan to do.
High risk countries which have been placed on a “do not travel” list will most likely not be covered under a travel insurance policy.
Mistakes to Avoid When Purchasing Travel Insurance
There are a few mistakes to avoid when purchasing a travel insurance policy and ways to make sure any claims you may have to make won’t get denied by your insurer.
Let’s take a look at the most common mistakes travelers make when it comes to their travel insurance.
Purchasing the Wrong Plan
It’s obvious that not all travel insurance policies are the same. This is why it’s important to make sure you are getting the policy that is right for you.
You don’t want to be left with too little of coverage but at the same time do not want to pay for coverage you are very unlikely to need as it will just drive up the premium cost and be a waste of money.
You want to make sure your policy covers everyone in your travelling party, all the places you are visiting, and for the entire length of your trip. Some policies are geared towards families to help them save money while other policies may offer protection for multiple trips taken within a single 12 month period so you don’t need to purchase individual policies that may cost you more.
If you are taking a cruise, make sure your policy covers your cruise and all the regions you are cruising to. This will provide coverage for things like missed cruise departure or ports, onboard medical treatment, cabin confinement, and reimbursement for shore excursions you may have paid for.
Purchasing a Policy Late
You should never leave purchasing a travel insurance policy to the last minute. The earlier you purchase a policy, the longer you will have coverage for in case circumstances occur that could affect your trip.
It won’t cost you any more to have your policy in place longer before your trip commences, as you are only paying for the trip duration.
Purchasing a policy early also allows you to really research the best plan for you and compare rates from a number of insurers. It allows you time to send any necessary documents to your insurer and read over the fine print to make sure you fully understand your policy.
Not Reading the Fine Print
And speaking of the fine print, you really do need to read it. While it may not be the most thrilling thing to read, it will clearly let you know what you can and can’t do while travelling in terms of having financial protection.
Having a travel insurance policy doesn’t give you a free ticket to be reckless or 100% carefree. There are limits to what and how much your travel insurance will protect you from.
Not Understanding the Claims Procedure
Travel insurers have a set system in place when it comes to filing claims. There are often requirements you need to adhere to in order to ensure your claim will be accepted.
You may be required to notify your insurer as soon as possible when a covered accident or incident occurs and be required to retain certain documents like medical bills or police reports.
Claims can be denied for many reasons such as if you consumed alcohol or took drugs, engaged in risky or illegal behavior, left belongings unattended, didn’t report incidents to local authorities, didn’t adhere to local government warning or restrictions, or didn’t disclose a pre-existing medical condition.
Most insurers can be contacted 24/7 so there is no excuse for not keeping your insurer in the loop. Reporting incidents to your insurer in a timely manner not only allows them to guide you through the process but will also help to ensure your claim is successful.
Buying Travel Insurance
There are many different types of travel insurance policies. There are also ways to save money on your insurance by doing things like increasing your policy’s excess which is the amount of money you are required to pay before your insurance starts paying in the event of an incident.
If you are a frequent traveler, you may also want to look into purchasing an annual multi-trip policy which will cover you for all your eligible trips you take within a twelve month period. You may be able to save with this type of policy even if you only travel as little as 2-3 times annually.
While it is always good to save money, make sure you really look at what you are getting. A cheaper policy may not always be so great if it doesn’t provide you with the basic coverage you will need. Make sure you always get coverage limits you are comfortable with.
While it may seem easier to simply purchase travel insurance from your airline or travel agent when booking a trip, this will often cost you a lot more as they will add commissions to the price. Instead, shop directly with an insurer and take advantage of promo codes or special online purchase discounts.
You may also save money by sticking with the same company you have your current car and home insurance policies with as you may be able to get a multi-policy discount.
Types of Policies
Travel insurance companies realize there are many different types of travelers and have therefore designed policies that are specifically meant for backpackers, seniors, expecting mothers, and families.
Decide which traveler category you fall into and start there. You can then add or remove coverage options that you think you’ll need or won’t need.
We touched on the possibility of saving with annual multi-trip policies, but you may need to get a special policy if you are planning a long duration trip.
These policies may be able to offer up to 18 months of continuous and comprehensive travel insurance cover
I hope I have been able to shed some light on the often confusing world or travel insurance.
While it may not be fun purchasing something that doesn’t really provide any enjoyment, travel insurance safeguards the life you currently have by financially protecting you from a range of incidents that could otherwise potentially see you going into a great deal of debt.
Regardless of how invincible you think you are or how broke you are, you really do need to always incorporate the cost of necessary travel insurance into your travel costs and budget accordingly.
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