The Odyssey

Getting a Handle on Travel Insurance
     At last we have a glimmer of hope. We can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and if you can believe the scientists, the news is good. Covid-19 cases (and deaths) are on a decrease and vaccination is on an increase. But we are still warned that we are not out of the woods yet. We should still practice good sense: wear the mask, social distance, and sanitize (wash) your hands and surroundings to prevent potentially  spreading the virus.
     And now people are beginning to feel the need to get out of the house or — in some cases — get out of town. If you are one of those who has planned a trip, especially if it is an expensive one, you must consider all the variety of inconveniences you might face.
     We all know that if you travel bad things can happen.  You can miss a connecting flight, or (worse yet) miss your cruise ship because the weather at the departing airport was bad, or the airlines can lose your luggage, or you can have a sudden turn in your (or another family members) health.  The weather could cause your trip to be cancelled (think hurricanes), or the company you booked your trip with could suddenly go bankrupt and you'd be stuck in some distant location with no way to get home.  (Although some might argue that this wouldn't be so bad.)  If you really believe that something like that couldn't happen to you, think again.  These things happen often to many a traveler with the opinion that they just couldn't happen to them.  Fortunately, there is a safety net that can protect you from these unfortunate circumstances.  It's called travel insurance.
     The best time to evaluate your needs for travel insurance is before you take your trip.  But for too many travelers, they don't think about this option until after they've lost a substantial amount of money on a trip that has gone sour.  Had they only bought a travel insurance policy, they could have recuperated (or at least greatly reduced) the financial losses of a canceled, delayed, or interrupted vacation.  Those non-refundable travel costs (such as airfare, hotel rooms, and tour expenses) might have been refunded after all. 
     Let's take a look at some types of travel insurances and whether or not you really need them.  There are several classifications of insurance, including travel interruption, health related, car rental, and baggage loss.  We'll cover each of these in turn.  Typically the travel interruption insurances include:

Trip Cancellation Insurance: If you or one of your family members becomes sick or dies, this insurance will reimburse your pre-paid travel expenses.  This is an insurance you should consider if the loss of your non-refundable payment would give you grief. 

Travel Delay: If a flight delay or cancellation causes you to forfeit your travel plans (say you miss a cruise ship), this insurance reimburses you for pre-paid expenses. 

Travel Interruption: This is a catch-all insurance that will reimburse you for pre-paid expenses if your trip is cut short because of any number of reasons, including the sudden sickness or death of you or a family member, bad weather, airline strikes, terrorism, bankruptcy, jury duty (you didn't think they'd let you get out of this, did you?), or damage to your home from fire or floor. 

    The medical and health insurances cover such issues as:

Accidental Death:  Typically broken down as 1. Air Flight Accident (covers death or dismemberment during a flight only), 2. Common Carrier (covers you from death or dismemberment while traveling on public transportation such as a train, bus, taxi, or ferry), and 3. Accidental Death (covers death at any time during the trip).

Medical Insurance: Fall into two general categories - Medical Evacuation and Medical/Health.  Medical Evacuation insurance provides emergency transportation to get you to either a hospital in the area where you are traveling or - if specified - back to a hospital near your home.  If you should suddenly take ill on a trip and need to be evacuated home, without insurance you might have to pay tens of thousands of dollars, so this is something to always keep in mind when planning any extensive trip overseas.  Medical/Health insurance is a policy that reimburses you for medical and/or dental expenses if you become sick or injured while traveling. 
     But be advised, because of the state of the current pandemic, some policies omit Covid related coverage. Read all policies carefully, or call and speak to a representative, and find out exactly what they cover.

     Our final two insurance types are the ones that you may not need.  The first is an insurance coverage you probably already have, and the second may not reimburse you for the fair value of your possessions.

Rental Car Damage:  This is an insurance we are probably all most familiar with; it reimburses you for damage or loss to a rental vehicle.  This is often referred to as the "Collision Damage Waiver" offered.  Check your auto insurance policy before considering a policy of this type - you may already be covered.  Keep in mind - this doesn't cover liability protection, and a waiver is not insurance by virtue of the fact that waivers are not regulated.

Baggage Loss:  If you think you'll need to protect your personal property from getting lost, stolen, or damaged, you may want to consider this insurance.  However, review the policy for a list of property not covered (it can be extensive!).  Your property may exceed the limits allowed, and if you fly this insurance usually won't cover personal items an airline might lose or damage.  Your best bet is to pack only what you can afford to lose.  Leave the jewelry, non-essential electronics, and expensive toys at home.

Six things to look for before you buy insurance.

     When you decide to buy travel insurance, get a quote from more than one company.  Some tour operators have their favorites and will recommend them.  While their coverage may be good, it may not give you the most bang for your buck.  Look at these six recommendations of what to look for to make sure you are getting the right coverage.

1. Ask for recommendation. If you have a trusted source, such as a travel agent you've come to trust, ask them about their experiences with travel insurance companies.  If you can find customers of that insurance company that have actually filed claims, ask how timely the insurance company was on processing those claims.  Planning an adventurous vacation that might include such things as skydiving or scuba diving?  Ask if the insurance will cover those activities.

2.  Review the policy!  Not all travel insurance policies are the same.  Pay close attention to the list of covered reasons for trip cancellation.  Look for specifics that could affect your travel plans.  If that conference you are traveling to attend is suddenly cancelled, will the insurance reimburse you?  Look for specifics. 

3.  See what the policy pre-existing health conditions and / or age limits are. Some policies won't cover pre-existing health conditions or will charge a higher premium.  Others may provide coverage, but only if you buy the policy within a week or to of booking your trip.  Also, older travelers may find the coverage costs more.  

4.  Does the insurance come with a refund policy?  Some policies will refund your money only if you cancel your trip months in advance, but a few offer refunds even if they are last minute decisions.

5.  Does the tour or cruise operator offer a cancellation waiver?  For a fee — usually paid when you book the tour or cruise — the travel operator may offer a cancellation waiver.  This means they will reimburse you a portion of your cost if you cancel (for any reason) up to 24–hours prior to departure.  Keep in mind that waivers are not insurance policies; they are not regulated.  Carefully read all restrictions and conditions before you buy a cancellation waiver.

6.  Check your existing insurance policies for coverage.  Look at your existing health, homeowners, live, and car insurance policies.  You may not need certain travel insurance coverage.  If you aren't sure, call your agent and find out what your policies cover while you are traveling.  Also, if you use a credit card to pay for your trip, ask what insurance benefits are available through the credit card company. 

Finally, don't base your insurance purchase on the price. Cheap is not good. If you spend $5,000 on a trip and miss out due to a missed connecting flight (through no fault of your own). The better insurance companies will reimburse you. However there are those that will weasel their coverage to reimburse you for only $500 of your travel costs. Research and ask questions. It is better to put these flim-flam operations out of business by avoiding them than to let them give you the business. 

Do your homework when it comes to finding the right insurance to augment your travel security.  When you know what you need, and know what questions to ask, the chore of finding, selecting, and buying the proper insurance coverage to meet your travel needs become a simple task.