Are you planning a big trip or getting ready to travel? If so you may be thinking about travel insurance and whether or not you need to purchase a policy. Is it money wasted or is it an investment in your trip?
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1. When Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Personally, I buy travel insurance for every international trip I take. From luggage going missing to flights being delayed to something going wrong before the trip and forcing me to miss it, there are so many things that can happen.
Overseas travel normally involves a substantial financial investment and I want to make sure that A) I don’t lose that investment and B) the trip doesn’t get ruined by me not having clothes when I get there.
For domestic travel I don’t normally buy a travel insurance policy unless I have significant expenses attached. If I’m just flying to the opposite coast for a few days it is an expense I will do without, but if I’m flying to Hawaii for a vacation I will insure the trip.
You need to weigh out how drastic your financial loss will be if something major happens.
2. When Should You Buy Travel Insurance?
I have my Glam Italia Tour travelers purchase travel insurance as soon as they have paid their deposit and booked their flights. You need to get covered as quickly as possible.
Most of us buy the less expensive airfares that have zero allowance for cancellation or changes to be made. (Read the fine print on your airline ticket) This can leave you with no recourse if something happens between buying the ticket and flying out. As with many boutique travel services, deposits and payments on my tours are non-refundable, which could add up to a significant amount of money lost should something go wrong prior to leaving.
Many travel insurance policies don’t cover you until 14 days after purchase, so you want to purchase your policy as quickly as possible.
In life, anything can happen. You could break your leg, have a heart attack, lose your job – the list is endless. Of course we hope none of these things do happen, but should something major go wrong you want to be past that 14 day window and be able to get some financial relief.
3. Should You Buy Travel Insurance From Your Airline?
Do your homework on this one.
When you are purchasing your airfare the airline will offer you an insurance policy. I have never bought one of these so can’t speak to their value. Make sure you do your due diligence before clicking that purchase button. My feeling is that the policy probably will serve the airline better than it will serve you. (I could be wrong though.)
Your insurance policy needs to cover more things than just the airfare and lost bags though, so really read up on that policy as well as any you may consider buying. It seems to me they don’t want you to spend time making comparisons as you will see a timer clicking away, warning you that you only have minutes before you lose the price on your airfare. I always buy a separate, freestanding policy.
Three years ago on a flight from Charlotte to Rome I sat next to a couple who were supposed to fly from San Francisco to Rome two days prior, to go on a cruise. The airline had cancelled their flight while they were at the airport. They were stuck in San Francisco (along with everyone else from their flight) for 2 full days before American re-routed them to Charlotte and from there onto Rome, costing them not only 2 nights in a hotel in a very expensive city, but the first 3+ days of their cruise as well.
4. Does Your Credit Card Offer Travel Insurance Coverage?
Depending on the credit card you used and whether you charged your entire trip to it or not your credit card may offer international travel insurance as part of your membership.
I had a situation a couple of years ago where my son and I were flying back from New Zealand with United (I seriously do not recommend flying United) The tickets had been purchased months prior, but shortly before our trip United decided to cancel our Los Angeles-Phoenix flight, leaving us stranded at LAX overnight. United being United basically just said “sucks to be you”.
Our flights had been purchased through American Express who said “no problem” and put us in a nice hotel overnight and paid for dinner. The moral of that story is that AmEx is good and United is bad.
Before booking your trip find out what type of travel insurance your credit card offers, if it does offer travel insurance.
5. Read The Fine Print and Trip Cancellation Policy
Before buying a travel insurance policy be sure to read all the fine print, including the trip cancellation policy. You will only get your money back if the reason for cancellation falls within the reasons listed on the policy.
Reading the fine print is really important as you need to know ahead of time about any exclusions and what documentation you need to have to make a claim. For example, your stolen handbag may require a police report, your medical claim may require additional documentation, your asthma attack may not be covered.
Also an act of terror, an act of God like a hurricane or earthquake, or the outbreak of war may not be covered. Obviously we aren’t planning for any of these things to happen, but you need to know what to do, and what is covered in the event that something goes way off the rails.
6. Should You Buy Evacuation Coverage?
Medical transport coverage is in my opinion one of the most important thing to consider when purchasing travel insurance. Should something catastrophic happen – you get hit by a car, have a heart attack or aneurysm or stroke, break a leg or break your back, you need a travel insurance policy that will bring you home on the appropriate type of plane, with a nurse.
Of course the chances of something like that happening are incredibly slim, and of course you would be stabilized and treated in hospital wherever you are, but the getting back home factor could potentially be a huge deal. How would your family get you back home if you were incapacitated?
I recently read a post from a travel blogger whose friend slipped and broke 2 vertebrae somewhere down in South America while they were hiking. They not only had a travel insurance policy that provided medical escort home, but also had an evacuation policy. This covered being heli-vac’d out of the rain forest. I have never purchased evacuation cover but I don’t do any trips that involve hiking or high danger sports. The most dangerous sport I engage in is drinking a spritz while looking over the Grand Canal in Venice.
Evacuation policies normally only cover heli-vac to the nearest hospital, not to the hospital of your choice. They also don’t cover getting you from that hospital to the next, or back home. A helivac is incredibly expensive, and can run more than $100,000 depending on where you are.
Always make sure you have a travel insurance policy that gives you between $50,000 and $100,000 medical travel home.
7. Pre-Existing Conditions
Before purchasing a travel insurance policy be sure to find out what their policy is on pre-existing conditions and if your pre-existing is covered or not. You may have coverage from your medical insurance policy at home, but be sure to check first as most medical insurance policies are not likely to cover you overseas.
8. Check The Travel Insurance Help Options
Before purchasing a travel insurance policy check to see what help the company will give you should something happen while you are out of the country. Some companies have international help lines or toll free help lines, others have nothing.
I got sick while traveling overseas 2 years ago. My travel insurance company was able to not only find me English speaking doctors in the places I was traveling, but also facilitate the appointments. They were incredibly helpful.
Another time one of my travelers’ luggage didn’t make it to Italy with her. The airline was about as much help as a bar of soap, but the insurance company got on it and chased after the suitcase as it made its way around the world. It saved my client hours of being on hold with the airline (at international calling fees) and also meant she didn’t have to waste vacation time trying to chase her bag down. The bag didn’t get to us until day 8 of an 11 day tour, but in the meantime the travel insurance company covered the purchase of new clothes, shoes and toiletries.
Ideally you want to use a multinational travel insurance company that offers you proper help when you need it.
Have you read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) ? In it I talk about my Free Resources, a set of PDF’s including trip planning guides and pre-travel checklists that you can use over and over. Download your Free Resources HERE