Travel Insurance - The Best Thing You Can Pack
Traveling is educational and exhilarating and it can be expensive. When all goes smoothly, people rarely regret saving that money or splurging for the slightly more elegant trip package. But a dream trip can very quickly turn into an expensive nightmare when something goes wrong. Perhaps weather makes the trip impossible or someone has an accident on the trip and needs medical help. Even an emergency at home can cut your trip short.
It's no big deal. The hotel/airline/destination will understand and refund your hard-earned money, right? Don't bet on it.
If the reason your trip goes sour isn't directly their fault, they may not feel obligated to return your money. Even if it is their fault, you may have to fight for it.
That's where travel insurance comes in.
Travel Insurance Basics
This insurance covers unforeseen charges due to emergencies or other unexpected events. This covers events such as trip cancellations, disruptions due to inclement weather and medical emergencies. Premiums are usually around 5 to 6 percent of the value of the trip. The right travel insurance can protect what you've spent on a trip and keep you from shelling out extra money for surprise expenses.
A Brief History
Travel insurance has been around since 1864 when a man named James Batterson founded Traveler's Insurance Company. Mr. Batterson, a granite monument (headstone) designer from Connecticut, wanted a way to safeguard against the perils of traveling. Traveling was considerably more dangerous and less common at that time.
From there, travel insurance continued to grow. Today an estimated 30 percent of travelers purchase some sort of coverage before setting off to their destinations. An estimated $2 billion was spent in 2010; that number continues to climb. As the average traveler becomes more knowledgeable, thanks to readily available information online, the various options become increasingly appealing.
The Two Major Classes of Travel
Travel insurance is available for two types of travel, domestic and international. The reason for this is simple - the needs of someone traveling within the United States is quite different from those of a person who is traveling outside of the country. Infrastructure, healthcare availability and pricing is different and may or may not be readily available. However the one thing that is the same is the desire for safe travel.
You may not be taking that dream trip to the Himalayas, but you can make quite an investment traveling within our own borders. Domestic policies tend to focus mostly on providing refunds for cancellations and closures, such as weather-related flight cancellations. Since snow delays are common in the winter and storm delays in the summer, the security offered from this coverage continues growing in popularity.
Travelers without this insurance are likely to be charged for canceled flights and hotels.
Travel insurance companies presume you already have health insurance, therefore no medical emergency insurance is usually included. This makes domestic travel insurance more affordable.
International travel has its own set of concerns over and above those of canceled flights and hotels. From access to a local embassy to miscommunication due to language barriers, there are a lot of things for the traveler to consider. One of the most common concerns are those over healthcare. Some countries offer free healthcare to everyone, while many do not. Many health insurance plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) only cover emergency medical expenses in some countries. Travel insurance provides the security of knowing that in the event of injury or illness, you can get adequate care, or at least be flown back to the U.S. for treatment, without spending thousands of extra dollars.
General Coverage Levels
Cancellations and Delays
Cancellations that are not your fault are usually covered. A simple delay of one connecting flight can mean that your whole itinerary is thrown off.
You may miss that first night at the resort, or have your reservation canceled. You may need to reroute your flights. Just because weather or mechanical issues grounded your plane doesn't mean that you should have a new stack of unexpected expenses.
A basic travel insurance plan covers the costs of any complications that arise due to cancellations or delays that are not directly your fault.
Medical expenses (and access to medical care) are on top of many people's minds when traveling, especially internationally. Knowing that you can receive the treatment you need if you should become injured or ill can help put your mind at ease. There are different levels of coverage available, from basic to more comprehensive. And while most individual insurance policies do not cover medical expenses abroad, many will cover emergency expenses. Check your policy's benefit statement to find out.
Your destinations, as well as your age, will likely be a factor in the cost of this type of coverage. The length of time you plan to stay abroad will impact the cost as well.
Loss and Theft
Think of all the things you could lose or have stolen while traveling: your wallet, your passport or even (or especially) your luggage. Travel insurance helps replace those things that are replaceable and possibly help speed up the process for you. When applying for coverage, accurately list the items and their value. If you have to travel with cash (instead of credit cards or travelers checks), take only as much as needed.
While travel insurance helps replace these, it cannot erase all the procedures you may have to endure if you lose your identification.
It's a horrible occurrence when someone dies while traveling abroad. Death is difficult in the best of circumstances, but trying to figure out how to return the body of a loved one from a foreign country can be a monumental task, just when you don't need it.
The repatriation of a traveler who has died is a typical feature that no-one wants to use. However, having the insurance company handle these complicated procedures takes a huge burden off the loved ones involved.
Types of Travel Insurance
Vacation or Comprehensive
Vacation package insurance is the catch-all type of insurance. This usually includes medical, cancellations, theft, lost items, delays and other unforeseen expenses. These are usually your most comprehensive plans available and are quite affordable.
If you're not concerned about a cancellation or delay of your trip and you just want to be certain that you have adequate medical coverage, this type of plan is for you. Even if your regular health insurance has some coverage as you travel, a travel medical plan can fill in those gaps.
Doctor visits, routine care and emergency medical evacuations are usually covered under these plans. However, be sure to list your pre-existing conditions and make prior arrangements if you have any special health needs. Not all pre-existing conditions are covered.
Ala Carte (Specialty) Plans
Perhaps you're only concerned about a few things, such as lost or stolen possessions or needing to evacuate due to weather. Many companies offer specialty plans that can be catered to cover only what you need.
Should I Buy Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance doesn't necessarily make sense for every person and every trip. If you're just taking a weekend away across a couple of state lines, you shouldn't need to worry about insuring the trip. However, if you're going to spend 6 months in the Swiss Alps, it's probably a good idea.
Here are a few considerations to help you decide whether or not travel insurance is right for you.
Short trips typically have fewer opportunities for something to go wrong. Trips with several stops on the way to the destination have more chances.
Longer trips mean more expenses. Hotel stays, meals and entertainment costs can really add up. And there's more time for something to go wrong.
Are you traveling somewhere with snow storms? Is it hurricane season? Does the weather change every day? If you're planning on traveling to a location with questionable weather, travel insurance can really help ease the pain of transportation cancellations or delays. However, if you're traveling during hurricane season, you can only buy travel insurance before the National Weather Service gives the tropical storm a name. Once it's official, everything in the storm's path is off limits to new insurance policies.
This many seem simple, but how important is this trip? For the really big ones like your honeymoon or a big business trip, travel insurance can keep those little things from turning your trip into a nightmare and let you keep your focus where you want it.
How difficult is it to get where you're going? If you're headed to an out-of-the-way spot, finding replacement transportation can be tricky.
Are you traveling to a high crime area? Is there civil unrest or war? All of these are considerations when deciding if and what kind of coverage to apply for.
How to Find Travel Insurance
Finding a travel insurance policy is fairly easy, but should not be done without proper research. Many travel agencies and airlines offer their own small travel insurance policies, but they rarely cover everything that you may need.
Your first step is to decide what kind of coverage you want. Is it your honeymoon? For a major trip like that, you'll want to be extra safe and get a comprehensive plan. If you're just traveling for a short vacation during hurricane season, you may just want trip cancellation/delay coverage.
The next step is easy: Use our online form to find your free travel insurance quote. It only takes a few minutes and your information is safe and secure.
Traveling can be fun and exciting, but it pays to be protected against the unexpected.