Political turmoil, blizzards and snowstorms that shut down airports in winter, hurricanes that shut down airports in summer and fall, computer outages, an injury or family emergency that prevents you from taking the trip you paid for, and more. These are all reasons to have travel insurance.
Travel insurance protects you against losses from missed connections, missing baggage, cancelled tours, cancelled flights, even losing your passport and emergency medical evacuation.
What kind of travel insurance you should have, and how much that policy will cost, depends on may things, including how much protection is built in to your homeowner’s policy or your credit card agreement, and the length and cost of your trip. You can buy policies that cover a particular trip.
Others — like the one I have myself — will cover you for a year at a time, just as your homeowner’s or auto insurance does.
An overlooked benefit of travel insurance is that it gives you one central place to contact online or on the phone to help you, including re-imbursement. The largest and best travel insurance companies have toll-free help centers that operate 24/7.
What type of travel insurance to get
Even the most basic travel insurance policy covers the most important three travel problems — baggage, flights and medical.
Then, you can add value or clauses to cover specific concerns, such as cancellation for any reason, including political unrest, or medical treatment at the hospital of your choice, even if that requires helicopter evacuation.
Basic policies cover delayed baggage, so you can buy yourself a toothbrush and a clean t-shirt and be re-imbursed.
But that’s not enough for complicated itineraries like cruises or tours involving internal flights, especially to isolated destinations.
Many tour operators require you have travel insurance, since it protects them, too.
What to look for in a travel insurance policy
Trip interruption – Without this, you are at the mercy of airlines, which can charge as much as ten times the price of your original, discounted, advance-purchase ticket for a replacement. And your hotel probably will charge you a ‘no-show’ fee that’s as much as the full cost of the room, even if they rent it to somebody else. Trip interruption coverage is a basic part of travel insurance.
Trip cancellation – This is different from trip interruption coverage, and usually is included in more expensive policies. Or, buy it as an add-on to your basic travel insurance coverage. Cancellation insurance “for any reason” covers you if you decide not to take the trip at all — because you lost your job, an illness in the family, your dog sitter quit, or because you heard there would be political demonstrations near your hotel.
Medical coverage – Many travel insurance policies cover medical care away from home that is not covered by your regular health insurance policy.
Medicare does not cover medical care outside the United States, so it is especially important for U. S. travelers over 65 to have medical travel insurance with a medical component. Generally, travel insurance policies have a medical cap at $5,000 or $10,000, and usually cover everybody traveling together on a family trip. But read the fine print to be sure. For a once-in-a-lifetime ‘bucket list’ trip – to see the penguins in Patagonia, hike the rugged trails of Bhutan, or ski the Alps – consider a travel insurance policy that includes helicopter evacuation from even the most remote area.
MedJet Assist will even fly you home in a special med-evac aircraft. Expensive? If you had to pay for it out-of-pocket, it could cost $15,000, or more. But your entire family is covered for $350 a year.
Other travel insurance companies I recommend include —
- Allianz Travel Insurance
- TravelGuard International
- Programs offered by American Express, Visa, MasterCard and the AAA.
Compare them by checking Travel Insurance Review, a non-biased industry organization, or Insure My Trip, which also sells travel insurance. .And be sure to check your homeowner’s policy, even your auto insurance policy for hidden gems of coverage.
Travel safer with travel insurance. #ecoXplorer