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Do I Need Travel Insurance?

When my niece was just a few months old, our family of four traveled to Portland, Oregon, for her baptism. We enjoyed several days of sightseeing, many family meals, and ultimately a large and lovely gathering at the church. 

After the baptism, my husband received a call from his mother. His father who had been struggling with cancer had been hospitalized and the prognosis wasn’t good. Jason needed to go home right away. 

Rebooking four flights is no easy feat, so we decided that Jason would return home immediately and we would wait for our originally scheduled flight two days later. We were all able to spend time with Jason’s dad before he died, but this situation made us aware of how quickly circumstances can change.

Due to that fateful trip to Oregon we now purchase travel insurance. With two kids and aging parents we know that anything could happen either during our travels or back at home. 

This travel blog is intended for couples 50+, a demographic like us that often balances the care of children and parents. A vacation can be a nice break from the usual stress of daily life, but it can also be interrupted due to emergencies. We’ve found that insurance gives us some peace of mind when we travel.

Concerned about safety while traveling? Here are 8 Tips For Travel Safety.

What Is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is a short-term policy purchased prior to a trip that may reimburse you in the event of;

  1. Cancelled, delayed, or interrupted travel
  2. Medical and dental emergencies
  3. Lost luggage
  4. Rental car damage.

Travel insurance policy costs are always based on the age of the traveler, but other factors like the cost and length of the trip may also apply. Policies are often offered at different levels like “Gold,” “Silver,” and “Bronze.” The higher the level, the greater the benefits, but the higher the cost as well.

Cruise insurance is the same as travel insurance, but will reimburse you in the event of a cancelled or interrupted cruise as well as emergency medical expenses. I have been on a cruise and watched as a man was evacuated to the closest hospital. These are the types of costs that can be covered by a cruise insurance policy. 

Since cruises are typically all inclusive, the up front, out of pocket costs can be significant, so insurance is particularly wise in this situation.

Who Needs Travel Insurance?

Technically, anyone could benefit from travel insurance since travel delays and medical emergencies can happen to anyone. However, I’ll share my approach in making the decision of whether or not to purchase a policy.

If I’m traveling by car in the U.S., I never buy travel insurance. I have excellent medical and auto coverage already and if there is some issue during a road trip, expenses like hotels and tours can often be cancelled or rebooked. 

If I’m traveling internationally however--which is usually by plane--I always buy insurance. International flights are expensive and my medical insurance will do me no good abroad. 

I also recommend that anyone with children strongly consider family travel insurance, especially when the trip includes flights. It would be no small expense to fly an entire family home in the event of an emergency. And likewise, if you are dealing with aging parents that have health concerns, then knowing you can return home if needed and recoup some or all of your expenses is helpful. Be sure to look out for companies that offer discounted or free insurance for children under 18 traveling with their parents.

How Do I Insure My Trip?

Fortunately, there are plenty of reputable insurance companies offering travel policies as well as great websites that allow you to compare costs.

Recently I’ve started using World Nomads Travel Insurance because I like their simple two option approach--the Standard Plan and Explorer Plan. I’ve also found that their description of benefits is straight-forward and without insurance jargon. To secure a policy with World Nomads answer six questions, then select Standard or Explorer, and then purchase with a credit card. To get a quote, use the box below.

To compare travel insurance across a number of different companies I like sites like InsureMyTrip and SquareMouth. Here you’ll find dozens of options from several companies. There’s an added benefit of user ratings which I’ve found helpful. Securing a policy on these sites also involves answering a few questions, making your selection and then purchasing with a credit card.

If you have a travel rewards credit card like Chase Reserve, you may have some travel insurance benefits included. However, only items purchased with that card will be covered. I have taken international trips and charged everything on our Chase Reserve card in order to guarantee coverage. However, when I’ve paid with another card or a check then I always purchase a policy.

I’ve often been asked what is the best travel insurance, and the answer is “it depends.” It will depend on your age, budget and family situation. A young, healthy couple can get away with a cheap travel insurance policy. And frankly, if traveling domestically they may not need any coverage. But as we age and have family responsibilities, a thorough policy is needed so we can respond to whatever may happen.

Classic cars in Cuba

What’s Not Covered in Travel Insurance?

One of the most common exclusions in travel insurance is pre-existing conditions. If you have a chronic condition and it flares-up during travel, a travel insurance policy may not help. There are some companies however that waive this exception if the policy is purchased far in advance. Be sure to read the policy benefits thoroughly before purchasing, and call customer service if you have specific questions.

Not all items in a lost bag will be covered. There is typically a maximum dollar amount given for a lost bag regardless of what was inside. 

Risky activities like skydiving and bungee jumping are usually excluded, but some policies have a long list of unallowed adventure activities. If you are an adventure traveler, do a careful policy review. World Nomads does include some of these adventure activities, so be sure to check them out if you fall in this category.

A boat ride in Vietnam

What Else Should I Know?

Always travel with documentation of your policy. If you have it electronically, just be sure you can find it quickly. Within the policy documentation is a 24 hour number to call if you need help finding medical care while traveling, or have questions about coverage. 

Next, know that documentation is needed for any reimbursement. If you were treated at the Hospital of Timbuktu, you are going to need written proof. Trying to get in contact with them after returning home can be difficult. 

Finally, as soon as possible after an emergency be sure to call the insurance company and discuss the type of documentation they will require. When our son was treated for an illness in Iceland we failed to have the doctor complete a specific form provided by the insurer. We were able to do this via email when we returned home, but it was a hassle.

An airplane on the tarmac in Kigali, Rwanda

Travel Insurance Is A Wise Investment

My travel planning process includes first booking the flights, then the hotels, then purchasing a travel insurance policy, and finally reserving tickets and tours. A few days before I leave, I review all of my reservations and check that I have printed a copy of my insurance policy, or can find it easily in electronic format. 

Fortunately, we’ve only had to file a claim once, but from that experience I know how a serious illness can change the trajectory of a trip. We were grateful to be refunded for the parts of our trip that were cancelled.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. You’ve done a thorough job of considering all types of situations when it comes to travel insurance. I always have it when I travel internationally and I’ve used it once. I recommend having it printed out on clean pieces of paper. The one time I used insurance, I printed it out on scrap paper thinking it would be acceptable, but the hospital had a hard time figuring it out. Lesson learned: Always make sure your materials are clean and easy to read!

    1. Wendy

      That’s a great point that I never considered! While I did have to make a claim, I did not have to show anything to a hospital or medical provider. Thanks for reading.

  2. Bree

    Travel insurance yes all the time…book the holiday pay the travel insurance. we were booked on a holiday to Europe in 2016…7 weeks before we left my friend had a terrible accident. At the dog park and 3 dogs knocked her over. Several breaks in her leg. Found out she hadn’t got travel insurance. It was a cruise on the Rhine. All paid for air tickets were done. The company eventually even though they didn’t have to gave her a credit of half the money she paid for another trip. Lesson learnt for anyone who thinks they don’t need it. When we left 7 weeks later she had just got into rehab. She did have a lovely holiday a year later though.

    1. Wendy

      Yikes! It’s bad enough to have an accident, but then to lose money on a trip. I’m glad she got some of the money back, but travel insurance would have been a good option for that situation.

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