Travel insurance has always been promoted as a thing highly recommended to have when going overseas. However, like many people, you might view this as a marketing tactic to encourage you to spend on something that costs a lot but is less likely to be useful for your trip. But in reality, a good plan can be your life-saver, especially during emergencies.
This article will discuss what travel insurance covers, how much it costs, why it is important to US and non-US citizens, and which are the best plans for global travelers.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a type of policy that reimburses you for money you lose from non-refundable deposits and payments when something goes wrong on your trip. These problems can range from lost baggage to flight delays to medical problems.
The more you’re spending on your trip, the more you likely need travel insurance. This is especially true for international trips and cruises, where travel problems become more expensive to solve.
Global Plans for International Travelers
“Do I really need to buy travel insurance?”
This is a question I hear most often, and the short answer is a big resounding yes.
The best international plans are designed specifically for the person traveling away from home, filling the gaps in their current plans and insuring them where they currently are uninsured. The most important benefit is that the policies you get will cover what is not included in your domestic plan. For example, global insurance plans have an international network of doctors, emergency assistance services, and translators who will help you in a crisis.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
Here are some reasons you may need travel insurance:
You stand to lose a lot of money in non-refundable deposits if you cancel the trip. Trip cancellation is the coverage you want. It will cover 100% of the pre-paid money you’ll lose, as long as you cancel for a reason listed in the policy,
You’re traveling overseas and your health plan doesn’t have global coverage. Many health plans lack robust global coverage, or impose high out-of-network deductibles for care outside the U.S. Check your health plan details to see what it provides. Travel medical insurance fills the gap.
You’re going to a remote area. If you won’t be near any quality medical facilities, even a small injury could turn into a major medical event. Medical evacuation coverage will pay to medevac you to an adequate facility.
You want emergency backup. The 24/7 travel assistance lines that are included with travel insurance can assist you with finding a pharmacy, language translation, replacing a lost passport and much more.
Travel Insurance Options
Although most of the plans listed on this site are for those traveling outside of their home country, either for a short trip or an extended stay, some specific plan types fall into the general “Travel Insurance” category.
Purchase Travel Insurance with Trip Cancellation Benefits
Imagine having saved up for your vacation and you’re all ready to head off when disaster strikes and the airline you are flying goes bankrupt! Or having invested thousands of dollars for your dream to travel overseas when you are suddenly laid off from your job!
These and a wide variety of calamities can happen, and we can never plan for all eventual outcomes. However, if you purchase a travel policy, you can protect your investment if you need to make changes and cancel your plans under any unfortunate circumstances.
How Much Does International Travel Insurance Cost?
Estimated costs of international travel insurance for a 40-year-old traveling for 30 days (outside of the USA) with an entire trip worth $5,000:
- Including Trip Cancellation: $250
- Excluding Trip Cancellation: $60
The cost of a quality international insurance plan will vary based on several factors. As outlined above, policies that include trip cancellation will be more expensive. The cost for a good trip cancellation plan will be approximately 5% of your overall trip cost – more if you are older, less if you are younger.
There is also an option to buy coverage on a daily or monthly basis. Costs range from $1 – $5 per day, or more, depending on your age, your trip details, and the overall benefits package you select. Plans with a lower medical limit and high deductible will cost less (the opposite is true as well).
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
There are two main types of travelers insurance plans: trip cancellation, and travel medical insurance plans.
Trip cancellation insurance protects you if you need to cancel your trip. These policies usually cover the cost of the trip, with some additional benefits (lost luggage, trip delay, etc.). With trip cancellation insurance, you can recoup most of the money that you spent on the trip for “covered reasons”. These plans are short-term insurance solutions, usually available for a period of between 1 to 90 days.
Travel medical insurance is designed to fill the gaps in your existing domestic insurance and health care plan that are not covered when you travel abroad. Having short-term international medical policy gives you access to a global network of doctors, emergency assistance services, and translators who will help you in the event of a medical emergency.
Travel medical plans will cover your expenses for illness and medical emergencies that occur while traveling, along with the additional benefits like trip cancellation mentioned above. This type of coverage is usually available for between 5 days and one year and can be renewable for additional periods up to a maximum of 3 years.
What’s Not Covered by Travel Insurance?
There are common things not covered by travel insurance. Make sure you read a policy’s exclusions so you’re not caught by surprise later.
For example, injuries from high-risk activities may not be covered, such as scuba diving. Nor are problems that happen because you were drunk or using drugs.
Medical tourism is also a common exclusion, so if you’re going abroad for a face lift or other elective procedure, travel insurance won’t cover hospital bills or aftercare.
If you lose cash, or it’s stolen, that is typically also excluded from reimbursement under most travel insurance plans.
Keep in mind that travel insurance is designed to protect you against unforeseen events and emergencies. For instance, if you want to cancel a trip because you’re afraid of flying, that’s not covered under standard trip cancellation insurance.
How Does it Work?
With both types of policies, you can receive a quote, apply, and purchase online. Costs will vary depending on the age of the applicant, the cost of your trip, the total amount of coverage selected, and any deductible chosen. Once you are confirmed with the coverage you will receive your plan documents with instructions on how to use the policy if the need arises.
Pros and Cons?
With trip cancellation insurance you can recoup most of the money that you spent on the trip. Travel medical plans will cover your expenses for illness and medical emergencies that occur while traveling along with the additional benefits listed above.
Best Travel Insurance for US Citizens Going Abroad
After reviewing some of the best travel insurance companies, we are confident in recommending specific options for your trip. The following plans are selected for a combination of great service and affordable pricing. There are less expensive options out there that do not offer the same level of service. The options below offer the best value.
Debunking Travel Insurance Myths
To help dispel misconceptions about the need for travel insurance, here are some common myths explained.
Myth 1: I don’t need to buy it because I’m already covered
People often think their health or homeowners insurance, credit cards, and other means will fully cover them in case of travel emergencies. However, neither health, homeowners insurance, nor most credit card insurance policies reimburse non-refundable travel payments if you need to cancel a trip because of illness.
Likewise, domestic health policies may not cover medical evacuation, especially abroad, nor will other types of insurance help reimburse emergency expenses for accommodations and incidentals if your travels are interrupted or delayed because of a natural catastrophe.
According to a survey conducted by the USTIA, no other single source provides the full spectrum of coverage and services that comprehensive coverage will.
Myth 2: Nothing will happen to me.
One in six Americans (17%) say their trip details and schedules have been impacted by medical conditions, natural disasters including severe weather; or mechanical or carrier-caused problems, according to another survey for USTIA.
When unforeseen events – from medical emergencies to a lost passport to being caught in a storm – derail a trip, a good plan will provide financial coverage and medical services. Consider that a medical evacuation alone could cost up to $100,000 or more.
These plans also provide a support network to assist travelers, from coordinating emergency medical care to helping locate overnight accommodations, obtaining paperwork for lost or stolen passports, and more.
Myth 3: My pre-existing condition won’t be covered
Many policies cover pre-existing conditions if the policy is purchased within a set amount of time – usually two weeks – following the initial trip payment. Since requirements may vary, UStiA suggests travelers check with their travel insurance company.
Myth 4: Travel insurance won’t cover me if something happens to my family or traveling companion
Most policies cover trip cancellation or interruption due to an unforeseen family illness or injury back home. Likewise, policies usually cover trip cancellation, interruption, or delay due to illness or injury of a traveling companion.
Myth 5: I can always get a refund from my travel supplier
Refund policies among travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, resorts, cruises, and tours vary. Many low-cost airfares, for instance, are nonrefundable. Resorts, hotels, cruises, and tours have a non-refundable deposit and payment rules for reservations not canceled within a certain time.
Without trip insurance, travelers risk losing all or part of their deposits and payments if they have to cancel for a covered reason. Some travel suppliers provide a waiver allowing travelers to rebook their trip within a given time frame.
However, the right policies will refund unused non-refundable payments without requiring the traveler to rebook their vacation arrangements.
Myth 6: Travel insurance is only cancellation coverage
Policies typically cover far more than cancellation. It covers the entire trip from beginning to end, including interruptions or delays due to illness, injury, severe weather, and more. Travel medical insurance covers medical expenses for emergencies during the trip. It provides assistance services, such as locating legal help, help in replacing lost or stolen documents, finding emergency hotel accommodations, and more.
Is there travel insurance for multiple trips?
While standard travel insurance plans are meant to cover one-time trips, frequent travelers should consider an annual travel insurance plan. These plans cover the same issues as a single-trip plan, such as trip cancellation and emergency medical situations. But they also offer the convenience of a one-time purchase for multiple trips.