Do you really need travel insurance? Maybe – maybe not. Trouble is, you won’t know that you need it until something goes wrong.
Imagine that you’ve dreamed, saved and planned for the trip of a lifetime. You’re on your way, and something goes terribly wrong. It can start as something minor – like a delayed flight that causes you to miss your ship’s departure. Or it can escalate from a circumstance no one could foresee, like a natural disaster or an injury along the way. What if your mother-in-law becomes seriously ill the day before you leave and you need to reschedule?
Will the airline understand, and do something about those non-refundable tickets? Can you reschedule – if so, at what cost? Who will pay for all of the incidental costs associated with cancelling or rescheduling a trip? Will your U.S.-based medical insurance company cover the bills halfway around the world?
Here are some things that travel insurance can cover. Each kind of coverage is purchased separately, according to Insure.com
- Medical coverage covers costs if you get sick or are injured during your trip.
- Emergency evacuation coverage takes care of airlifts from a mountain due to a skiing or hiking accident, rescue at sea, or a long-term stay at a foreign hospital. It also covera a flight home if you require special help or flight conditions.
- Trip cancellation insurance will reimburse you if your cruise line or tour operator goes out of business, or if you must cancel a trip due to sickness, a death in the family or another event that would prevent you from going on your trip. The policy also reimburses you for the unused portion of the vacation if you or an immediate family member becomes seriously ill.
- Travel delay/trip interruption insurance takes care of the costs incurred due to weather-related travel delays (meals, hotel, taxi, etc.). Note: Named and predicted hurricanes and tropical storms are NOT typically covered by the weather clauses in policies. Specilized hurricane insurance is required if you’re traveling to the Carribbean in hurricane season — and those policies have to be bought 15 days ahead, and don’t go into force until 24 hours before a trip is due to begin, with specific restrictions. Also, not all policies cover so-called carrier-caused delays, such as aircraft mechanical issues or delayed flight crews. Check before you buy a policy so you know what you’re getting.
You can also purchase insurance to cover baggage delays, or the cost of replacing lost, stolen or damaged belongings, dental insurance, and comprehensive travel assistance for things like legal assistance, kidnapping and terrorism, escort/return home of children if a parent is injured or killed, and a host of other specialized services. There’s also specialized coverage that takes care of the cost (and red tape) that can happen is someone dies abroad, including flight insurance in the unlikely event of a plane crash.
There is even “cancel for any reason” insurance for travelers who want the flexibility to scrap their trip for any reason, no matter how minor, and recoup most of their money. (This comes in handy sometimes – say there’s an outbreak of swine flu in the city you were planning to visit, and you don’t want to risk contracting it, or you have some other personal reason to cancel the trip.)
Of course, the more insurance coverage you have, the more it will cost. Most travel insurance is based on a percentage of the total cost of your trip – so two people taking a $10,000 adventure trip might spend another $700 for basic coverage, and up to $1,500 more for a comprehensive travel policy.
What coverage you purchase (if any) and how much you budget for it boils down to a personal choice. But doing your homework before you go can (literally) be a lifesaver if the unthinkable happens.
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