I’ve mentioned travel insurance in previous tips, but it seems worth diving in a little further. I don’t buy travel insurance for every trip, and the utility of it has potentially decreased a bit over the past few years, but there are times when it’s still worth considering.
What does travel insurance cover?
Travel insurance can cover a wide range of situations and concerns, from mild hassles to life or death situations. Before you even begin thinking about travel insurance, it’s worth taking stock of what kinds of coverage you might already have through your homeowners insurance, auto insurance, medical insurance, and your credit cards. These will often cover (to some extent) things like lost baggage, rental car damage, and sometimes even overseas sickness or injury.
Travel insurance can come into play when your travel plans are disrupted and you’re facing additional costs related to rescheduling flights or nonrefundable bookings like tours or cruises. You can do some basic math for any given trip to understand those risks. Airlines have gotten much more flexible in allowing for changes to flight schedules, so insurance is often less important in those cases.
Where travel insurance plays its most crucial role is in dealing with severe medical situations, up to and including medical evacuation. A good insurance company will provide not only the cost coverage, but the logistical assistance to figure out how to handle these types of situations – finding medical assistance, organizing the evacuation flight, and so on.
When should you buy travel insurance?
Every traveler is different, and every trip is different. For me, I think about the types of activities I’ll be doing, the risks incurred, and the potential difficulties getting help if something goes wrong. If you’re traveling in western Europe, you’re generally in good health, and you’re doing Normal Tourist Stuff, travel insurance probably isn’t necessary. If you’re doing an adventure sport in a remote part of Southeast Asia, it’s worth considering. And if the peace of mind of knowing that most situations are covered no matter what will let you have a more relaxing trip, do it regardless.
There are a few countries that actually require proof of travel insurance in order to enter (Israel being one), so that’s another consideration. This is almost always a pretty laxly enforced requirement, where you’ll flash a printout (if even that) but make sure you read up on any specific requirements. Some tours also require proof of travel insurance to participate.
How do you pick a travel insurance plan?
Fairly or unfairly, in my mind travel insurance isn’t too far removed from the world of extended warranties. You need to do your best to research reputable companies, and even then you still have a bit of concern about whether they’ll cover you, and whether it’ll be a hassle.
I’ve purchased travel insurance through both Allianz and World Nomads, but I’ve never had to make a claim, so I can’t comment on the process. In either case, you provide some details about your trip, and the types of coverage you’re looking for. In some cases, specific addons need to be purchased for riskier activities like cave diving or ski jumping. And I’m afraid you won’t find any insurance plan which will cover your BASE jumping escapades. Travel insurance will usually be a couple hundred dollars.
Many of these companies also offer annual plans, which could potentially be a good deal for frequent travelers who want the peace of mind.
Wrapping it up
So that’s what I know about travel insurance. It can be a (literal) lifesaver in some situations, but it’s certainly not an every trip / every destination kind of product. What about you? Have you purchased travel insurance in the past? Was it worth it? You can always reply to these messages, I’d love to hear from you.