If you’re one of those people who never buys travel insurance, it may be time to rethink your attitude. Travel can be a significant investment, and the cost of travel insurance is minimal when compared with the potential loss of the money you’ve paid for your trip.
We’ll tackle some common travel insurance questions here, but you should consult your travel agent to ensure you’re purchasing the best policy for your particular situation.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY?
Comprehensive travel insurance policies typically cover two basic elements: the cost of the trip itself if you need to cancel for a covered reason, and the cost of any emergency medical care needed while you are on the trip, including emergency medical evacuation. There are other coverages as well, but these are the biggies.
The first element—insurance for trip cancellation—will reimburse travel costs if you need to cancel before departure. Say, for example, you or your travel partner falls ill, but you’ve passed the point when you are eligible for a refund. With no travel insurance, your airline, hotels, or tour provider can refund your expenses—or not—according to their terms and conditions. But if you have travel insurance, you will be reimbursed for all covered expenses.The second element of travel insurance—emergency medical coverage—is vital, particularly if you are going to a remote destination, to an area where the health care is not comparable to U.S. standards, or to a country that requires proof of health coverage while abroad. You’ll also want to ensure that you’re covered for medical evacuation if necessary due to accident or illness.
Also, note that Medicare and Medicaid insurances only cover you in the U.S., so if either of those is your health insurance, it’s imperative to buy medical coverage while abroad.
HOW MUCH DOES TRAVEL INSURANCE COST?
The cost depends on a number of factors, including the age of the traveler, the destination, the cost of the trip, and the type of coverage desired.
WHEN SHOULD I PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE?
If you want a comprehensive plan, it makes sense to purchase the insurance as soon as you book your travel, says Randy Osborne, travel product manager at AAA. If you later make add-ons and the cost of the trip increases, you can acquire additional coverage then.
If you have a preexisting medical condition, you’ll need to buy trip cancellation insurance within 14 days of making your first trip deposit and prior to making final payment for the trip in order for that medical condition to be covered (other restrictions apply). If you’re procuring medical-only coverage, it can be purchased up to a day before you leave, says Deborah Lilly, AAA senior travel agent in Manassas, Virginia.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Look into the reputation of the insurance provider and the services it offers. Also, be sure to read the fine print in your policy, including whether the insurance company will refund cash or provide credit toward future travel if you need to cancel.
If you want the insurance company to pay any emergency medical costs while you’re traveling instead of reimbursing them later, be sure to select a policy that guarantees that arrangement.
IS COVID-19 COVERED?
It depends on what coverage you select and from which company. Although many companies did not cover the novel coronavirus early on, some have revised their trip cancellation policies to include COVID-19, at least temporarily.
In addition, some destinations now require that travelers have medical insurance that will pay their medical expenses if they contract COVID-19 while in that country. Make sure that your insurance policy also includes medical evacuation back to the U.S.