To be honest, before our yearlong around the world trip in 2013, I never thought much about buying insurance for a trip. I was young and naive and thought:

Nothing will happen to ME. Insurance is for old people.

It’s natural to think that life and your trip will go as planned…until it doesn’t.

Cancelled flights, lost bags, car accidents, medical evacuations, political unrest, natural disasters, medical emergencies for you or a significant other…

A work or personal emergency pops up and you have to shift your travel dates, you got pregnant and can no longer go to that destination with Zika, or you broke up with your girlfriend/boyfriend and no longer want to go on that trip you planned together a few months ago…

The list of possibilities is endless…and I’ve seen a lot of these situations arise. As a travel advisor, I always talk to my clients about buying travel insurance. Of course, it’s optional to purchase a policy. It’s a personal decision that really comes down to the level of risk you’re willing to take.

But ask yourself this question for your next trip:

Is it worth paying a few hundred dollars to protect your investment of a few thousand dollars if something were to happen?

Here are 5 scenarios when you should ALWAYS buy travel insurance:

 

1. Strict Cancellation Policies

If you have a trip planned with a non-refundable rate of a significant amount (i.e. an amount you would be really sad to lose if something were to go wrong), then buy insurance. Cancellation policies vary by hotel, tour operator, and cruise line, so be sure to check what the terms are before making your deposit and final payment.

A lot of suppliers will require the full payment 60 to 90 days in advance of your departure and after that it’s non-refundable. Buying insurance in these cases where the non-refundable window is long is particularly important. A lot can happen in two to three months, so don’t throw your money out the window if life doesn’t go as planned!

NOTE: If you place a deposit amount on your trip (e.g. for a tour, cruise, or package), most policies require you to purchase your insurance at the same time as the deposit or up to 14 days after your initial deposit date.

This is particularly true for a “cancel for any reason” policy, which means you could cancel for a reason other than the typical reasons covered by the policy. Please note that if you canceled for a non-covered reason you generally wouldn’t get back 100% of your investment, typically closer to 75%, but hey, that’s WAY better than 0% of your money back!

2. Traveling to Remote Areas

If you are going to places where the nearest hospital is hours away, and especially if you are doing a physical activity like hiking or climbing a mountain, then you should definitely purchase insurance that includes medical evacuations.

If you are in a serious accident, you may require an evacuation on a helicopter which can cost upwards of $100,000…you DEFINITELY do not want to pay that out of pocket!

3. Traveling to an Area with Civil Unrest

Similarly, if you are going to an area that has political unrest or State Department warnings that concern you, then you should look for an insurance policy that covers evacuations for civil or political unrest.

Political evacuations are not covered by all policies, so be very careful with choosing a plan that has the coverage you need depending on where you are going.

4. Frequent Travelers

Do you travel outside the US more than once a year? If so, you should definitely consider buying an annual insurance plan.

Unlike a policy that is tied to a specific trip and the amount you are spending on that trip, you pay one time for the year for a plan with annual coverage limits. It’s easy and can be great value when you consider the cost per trip.

5. You are Concerned about the Health of you OR a Loved One

This is the scenario that most people think of when considering travel insurance. Always buy insurance if you or a traveling companion has a pre-existing medical condition. If this does apply to you, be sure that you have the proper pre-existing condition waiver paperwork.

But what you may not know is that some insurance companies allow you to indicate someone that is not your spouse/domestic partner as “covered”, even if they are not traveling with you, so if that person have a covered medical emergency your trip would be covered in case you need to cancel it or go home early.

This scenario definitely requires a careful eye to make sure you’ve got the proper coverage for your specific situation. Not all policies are created equal!

Some people don’t consider buying travel insurance because they think they’re already covered by their credit card and existing medical insurance, however, before you assume you’re good to go, I always recommend you:

  • Check your credit card coverage
    • Your credit card may have some travel related coverage if you buy your flight/hotel/car rental with the credit card. For example, they may give you compensation for flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage.
    • However, be sure to check the coverage levels because the reimbursement amounts will most likely not be nearly as good as a separate policy that you get and may have certain restrictions in the fine print.
  • Check your medical coverage
    • If you’re traveling within the US, you may or may not have coverage out of state or out of network depending on your medical insurance policy.
    • For international trips, you likely would have no coverage or Emergency Room only coverage. If you have any coverage at all, you would have to front the costs incurred and file a claim later. Expect a long and likely painful process to get that money back!

Do you have any horror stories of when you WISH you bought travel insurance, but didn’t? 

If you have any questions about insurance, comment below or contact me!