Should You Pass on the Travel Insurance?

Every travel professional has a “horror story” from a client who decided they didn’t need travel insurance. Maybe it’s as simple as $1,000 in unexpected expenses from a travel delay, but far too often it’s something much bigger. People unable to leave a foreign country until a $10,000 hospital bill for a relatively small medical emergency is paid. Families left with a $30,000 bill for medical evacuation off of a cruise ship because someone had an emergency on board.

Despite all of the stories out there, many travelers decline to purchase travel insurance, thinking that it “wont’ happen to them.” The trouble is, no one ever thinks they’ll find themselves in need of insurance until the need is there.

I, like any travel professional worth their salt, offer travel insurance to all of my clients. Unfortunately, most travelers don’t understand what the policy covers and when they really should be spending the extra money to purchase travel insurance.

“We know we aren’t going to cancel so we don’t need cancellation insurance.”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a client say those words, I’d be jet-setting the world and probably writing this from a luxury villa on the beach in Bora Bora!

Let me be clear, travel insurance is so much more than cancellation insurance! In fact, as a travel professional, it’s my opinion that the “cancellation” part of your policy is one of the least important things to consider.

While there are simple cancellation insurance policies available, true travel insurance covers so many things that you probably aren’t thinking of when you book your vacation. Things like travel delays, lost luggage, lost or stolen valuables, medical emergencies (for a member of your travel party or a loved one at home), dental emergencies, evacuations, lost travel documents, and more.

“We have health insurance coverage so we’ll be fine.”

That’s another comment I hear often, and while that may be true if you are traveling within the US, more than likely it isn’t going to help for international travel.

It is unlikely that your regular health insurance will cover anything at all if you are outside of the U.S. Check your policy carefully before you decide to rely on it for international travel.

There are certain situations where I believe travel insurance should be considered a must.

It’s more than just cancellation insurance. Make sure you understand when you really need the travel insurance coverage!
  • International travel – A medical or dental emergency abroad can be financially devastating. Many hospitals will collect your passport at admission and will not return it until your bill has been paid. Do you have the financial resources to handle a medical emergency should one arise?
  • Cruises – While there is a doctor on board every cruise ship, the ship’s infirmary can only handle simple things. Should you have a medical emergency, you would need to be evacuated off of the ship by helicopter. Onboard a cruise ship, a medical emergency can be something as simple as a broken ankle. The cost of evacuation from the ship is typically in the tens of thousands of dollars… and it won’t be covered by your health insurance even if you are evacuated to a U.S. port.
  • You, a travel companion or someone at home has a chronic medical condition – Travel insurance can cover cancellation for illness or injury of a member of your travel party or a family member at home. The decision to stay home and lose potentially thousands of dollars in nonrefundable fees can make an already stressful situation even worse. Better to be able to get those fees reimbursed and plan your travel for a better time. (NOTE: make sure to check your travel insurance policy for any pre-existing condition terms. There are policies available that waive these clauses if purchased within a specified timeframe after booking).

I buy travel insurance for every trip I take, no matter how small. The peace of mind it offers is worth the insurance premium cost. I used my travel insurance just this past weekend. I flew to a tiny airport in Missouri for my daughter’s swim meet. My flight home was delayed three times, resulting in my departure taking place 15 minutes after I was to be on a connecting flight in Dallas. I tried calling the airline and was told there was a 50-minute hold time. I called the insurance company and they called the airline, got me rebooked on a connecting flight and then called me back – all in 10 minutes’ time and with no stress on my part!

Travel is an investment. You’ve likely saved for your vacation for quite some time. Be sure you are making a smart decision in how you want to protect that investment! Take the time to review your travel insurance needs before each trip. You won’t regret it.

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