How Do I Find the Best Travel Insurance?

Choosing a travel insurance policy requires research and, in many cases, working with an insurance professional to determine the right plan for you and your family. It's important to take into consideration the level of coverage that you might have with other insurance plans as well as your credit card companies before making a choice. It's also important to understand that most insurance reimburses you for losses during a trip and may not provide you with the cash you need to address a problem while traveling.

Sep 1, 2021

Travel can be expensive, particularly if the unexpected happens. Getting travel insurance can help you avoid unnecessary expenses and can also assist you in getting help if things go wrong while you are away from home.

What Is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance provides financial protection while you travel. These policies are specifically tailored to provide coverage during travel-related activities. Examples include:

  • Coverage for the costs involved in missing a flight or a flight cancellation.
  • Coverage for medical bills
  • Reimbursement for the costs of a canceled or interrupted trip
  • Medical evacuation
  • Emergency evacuation or extraction in case of civil unrest or another disaster
  • Coverage for personal property that is lost or stolen
  • Rental car damage
  • Baggage loss or delay, including an allowance for purchasing necessary toiletries or clothing
  • 24/7 emergency support that can provide assistance and referrals in case things go wrong during a trip.

It should be noted that travel insurance policies vary significantly in the level of coverage available. It's important to review policies to ensure that you are getting the protection that you need.

What Kind of Coverage do You Already Have?

Many people don't realize that they already have some level of travel coverage within the insurance policies or financial products that they already have. Here are some examples:

  • Many banks offer some level of travel protection when you use their credit or debit cards to pay for your travel. The amount of protection, as well as coverage exceptions, will vary between financial institutions, but the coverage provided may be adequate to your needs, particularly if you are taking a short trip.
  • Your homeowners' or renters' insurance policy may cover loss or theft of your personal property while you are traveling.
  • If you own a car, your insurance policy may cover claims due to accidents or other issues with a rental car.
  • Some automobile clubs, such as AAA, offer travel benefits for members who are on road trips either in a car or an RV.
  • Medical insurance may provide coverage if you are out of the country, but it is important to check the details of your policy. Medicare, for example, does not provide coverage for international travelers.

Travel Insurance Limitations

As is true for any type of insurance, there are limitations and restrictions on the coverage provided by travel insurance. These include:

Caps on claims: The amount of any claims that you file against your ensure are limited by caps. Check your policy carefully. You may find that there are caps for different types of coverage. For example, while you may have a medical cap of $1,000,000, your cap for lost luggage may only be a couple of thousand dollars. Pay particular attention to the caps on things like medical evacuation: These costs can vary significantly by region, so it is important to do your research and know what your expenses may be before settling on a policy.

Conditions: Most travel insurance is conditional. For example, if you get a plan that covers the cost of canceling or interrupting a trip, you'll need to understand the circumstances under which you can file a claim. In some cases, you may have to prove that extenuating circumstances force the cancellation or interruption. Extenuating circumstances may include the death of a family member, a serious illness or an injury that would prohibit the trip or require you to stay home to care for a loved one. If you have other concerns, such as the possible need to change your plans due to business or childcare issues, you may need to pay for a policy that offers coverage for any reason.

Exclusions: Insurance plans often exclude coverage in extreme circumstances, such as a Civil War or war breaking out at your destination. Any plans also excluded pandemics and epidemics, although that has changed in recent years. Review your policies carefully to learn about exclusions. In addition, medical treatment for pre-existing conditions may be excluded or severely limited under most travel plans.

In addition to these limitations, there are some other travel insurance quirks that you should be aware of:

  • Travel insurance typically operates on a reimbursement basis. This means that you will be responsible for covering the cost of unexpected expenses, including things like rental cars, hotel rooms, clothing, toiletries and even medical bills, while you travel. You will then need to file a claim with your travel insurance company and receive reimbursement. Practically speaking, this means that you should travel with sufficient funds to cover potential emergencies.
  • If you purchase a travel protection plan along with travel package, check to see whether you are entitled to an actual refund of your payments in case of cancellation or interruption, or whether you are simply entitled to a credit on a future vacation.

Where Can I Get Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is available through a range of providers, including:

  • Travel vendors: Many travel vendors, including resorts, cruise lines and group tour operators offer their own co-branded travel protection and insurance policies. These are usually available at an extra charge and offer coverage specifically tailored to the type of travel product that you've purchased. For example, if you purchase a cruise line's travel insurance policy, it will often include coverage in case of travel delays that cause you to miss the departure of your ship.
  • Insurance agents: If you already have an insurance agent who is handling your auto, home or renters insurance, ask if he or she sells travel insurance. You may be able to get a better deal and you will have an insurance agent to guide your selection of policy and provide advocacy in case you have troubles with a claim.
  • Travel agents: Many travel agents sell standalone travel insurance policies, as well as add-on policies for vacation packages. A travel agent may be able to provide unique insight into the level of coverage that you may need. He or she may also be able to go to bat for you in case you have any issues with your insurer.
  • Direct purchase: Many travel insurers sell policies directly to consumers.
  • Corporate travel insurance: If you are traveling on business, your employer may have you covered under a corporate plan.

Getting the Best Insurance for You

One of the most important things to understand about any kind of insurance is that coverage is highly personal. Individuals and families are unique why insurance plans need to be tailored carefully. Here are some things to consider:

The Nature of Your Trip

The type of insurance coverage that you'll need will depend in part on whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, whether you are traveling in an area that has a developed economy and infrastructure and whether you will be able to get modern medical care in case you fall ill or have an accident.

You also want to consider the types of travel products that you are purchasing, as to and whether or not your trip will have multiple destinations. For example, if you plan to fly to Orlando for a trip to Disney World followed by a Caribbean cruise, your travel insurance needs will be different than if you were flying to London to stay in a hotel for 10 days.

How Often do you Travel?

Some travel insurance plans offer coverage for a single trip. Others provide coverage for any trips undertaken under a specific period of time. If you are a frequent traveler, you may save money with a long-term policy.

Your Fares and Costs

The terms of your airfare and other purchases. If they are refundable or it is possible to get credit for your purchase price, the level of insurance coverage that you need may not be as great as if you are paying non-refundable fares.

Who are you Traveling With?

Some insurance plans will cover immediate family groups (spouses and their children) who are planning a vacation together. In some cases, you may be able to get coverage for your family even if you are traveling separately. This can be helpful if you and your adult children are planning on a reunion or group trip in which you were all staying at the same hotel or resort but everyone will be responsible for their own transportation.

Budget Concerns

Insurance is all about protecting yourself against losses. If you can ill afford to lose what you are spending on a trip plus expenses in case things go wrong, travel insurance is important. On the other hand, if you are only taking a short trip and won't experience financial hardship if your flight is canceled and you have to rent a car to get home, the coverage provided through your credit card company may be more than adequate.

Medical Needs

Medical coverage is an important consideration when purchasing travel insurance. This is because even good health insurance doesn't always cover the cost of medical treatments outside its networks. In addition, hospitals, clinics, ambulance companies and doctor's offices often do not accept international insurance. Instead, you will be expected to pay out of pocket for costs and file a claim with your insurer when you get home.

Comprehensive medical coverage in a travel insurance policy is tailored to common travel scenarios. The best policies provide you with the opportunity to contact the insurer directly where are your case will be handled by a specialist who can contact ambulance services and medical providers in the country where you are located. Payments will be handled directly with the hospital and, depending on your level of coverage, you may also qualify for medical evacuation.

Final Word

Travel interruptions and disappointments happen. There often isn't that much you can do about this, but you can minimize the impact by choosing a travel insurance policy that offers both coverage and services that meet your needs.

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