Okay, you’ve got the plane tickets, the hotel reservations, the travel guide, and the extra toothbrush…but have you remembered travel insurance? You may have never bought travel insurance for a trip before, but if you’ve ever experienced a trip cancellation, lost luggage, theft during a trip, or—God forbid—injury or illness while you’re away, you may see the need for it. Here’s a summary of what you need to know about travel insurance.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is insurance that you can buy to cover expenses you accumulate on a vacation. You can buy travel insurance at the time you book a trip, to cover only that one vacation period, or you can buy more continuous coverage to insure all trips you take within a given period.
What does travel insurance cover?
A typical travel insurance policy covers cancellation of the trip, loss or damage to personal possessions, money or travel documents, costs incurred as a result of delayed departure, lost or delayed baggage and replacement items, medical expenses, funeral expenses, emergency evacuation, accidental death or injury, and legal costs incurred during the trip. Additional coverage can usually be bought to cover higher-risk activities, like extreme sports or trips to war zones.
When should I buy travel insurance?
Most travel agencies will tell you that it’s a good idea to buy it the moment you book your trip—not the day you leave. That way, if your trip is cancelled or reservations fall through at any time before your trip, your costs are covered.
What kind of trips should be covered?
If you’re taking a weekend road trip, you probably don’t need travel insurance. But if you’re planning a trip of a week or longer, going overseas, going on a cruise, or planning to take expensive equipment—such as a laptop—or participate in high-risk activities—like rock climbing or scuba diving—you may want to consider buying travel insurance.
What should I look for in a travel insurance policy?
Make sure it’s appropriate for what you’re planning to do, as well as your medical history. Your travel insurance policy should, at the very least, cover unexpected expenses related to theft or damage to property, cancellation of reservations, and medical expenses—including the price of plane tickets for your family to come out and see you if you get in a serious accident. If you have a medical condition, your policy should take it into account.
Won’t my health insurance, credit-card insurance, and other policies cover these expenses?
Not usually. Your health insurance probably won’t cover expenses incurred overseas, in non-American health systems. Depending on your health insurance coverage, you may not be able to have coverage even on a trip within the U.S.—particularly if you have an HMO or preferred-provider plan that restricts which hospitals and doctors are covered—chances are, if you break your leg during your vacation in the Florida Keys, you won’t fly back home to your covered hospital in Connecticut to get your leg set—you’ll need it set right there. Your credit card has accident insurance, but that usually only covers rental car accidents, train or plane accidents paid for with that card.
What’s a better deal—single-trip or multi-trip insurance?
It depends. How many trips do you take a year? Where are you planning to go? Typically, travel insurance for trips within the U.S. cost more than trips to other countries—because of the high cost of medicine in America. Typically, if you take more than two trips a year, multi-trip insurance may be a better deal.
What coverage gaps should I be aware of?
Most travel insurance policies have a list of reasons you can and can’t cancel your trip—and these depend on individual companies and policies. For example, most policies will cover your trip cancellation or interruption due to illness or a death in the family. Some policies also cover you if you have to cancel for business reasons or because you’re called to military duty. Most policies won’t cover you if you change your mind at the last minute and decide you don’t want to go. In addition, if you’re on a cruise or group trip and your cruise operator or guide changes your itinerary, your policy may not cover it.
Travel insurance can be a worthwhile way to give yourself peace of mind during your trip. The investment is typically not large, and can save you a great deal of money if something unexpected happens during your trip. In some cases, travel insurance can make the difference between a minor inconvenience and a disaster.