While planning your trip in your pajamas in the comfort of your home, travel insurance might seem unnecessary—and an easy cast off from your trip budget. But in certain circumstances, coverage could save you thousands of dollars and perhaps even your life. It’s an individual choice, so here’s what to consider when asking the question: To buy or not to buy?
First, consider the types of insurance coverage you currently have. If your medical insurance already includes out-of-network fees and care in foreign countries, medical evacuation, and a nurse escort to administer medications along the way, you won’t need travel insurance for that. If it doesn’t, travel insurance covers all these items. Keep in mind that many countries require payment up front for medical services. Those without applicable medical insurance will be asked to provide a credit card and/or provide proof of bank funds prior to receiving treatment.
Second, decide how much you’re prepared to pay if something goes wrong. Travel insurance generally includes reimbursement in the event of illness, weather, or unforeseen circumstances. If a $200 airline flight change fee is pocket change, you may not need insurance. If fees such as that one will put you under, the coverage might be worthwhile.
Third, contemplate your destination and planned activities. If you’re traveling to a destination or during a season prone to severe weather, trip insurance will reimburse you for your trip if it’s cancelled, interrupted, or delayed by bad weather. It will also pay for additional hotel nights, the difference in airline fees, and incidentals to get you home or back on your itinerary. If you’re making two or three connecting flights and your bags are delayed, insurance will pay for tracking your bags, or if they are lost, will pay to replace missing items.
“The more remote the location, the more important travel insurance is going to be,” says Linda R. Kundell, spokesperson for the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. If you, for example, have a rafting or hiking accident, the bill for medical evacuation from the field can run $100,000. And, if you’re traveling to a country where the medical infrastructure is less advanced, trip insurance is more vital. Coverage includes 24-hour assistance hotlines that can direct you to facilities that have met minimum standards. As of May 1, 2014, Venezuela, which doesn’t require tourist visas for U.S. citizens, began requiring proof of insurance for tourist entry; many countries require proof of insurance for tourist and extended travel visas.
If you’re buying coverage, be sure to read the policy (or call a customer service representative who can put the jargon in laymen’s terms) to make certain it covers your planned activities. If you’re travelling to a marathon or other amateur sporting event, ensure the policy covers athletic participation—and trip cancellation in the event you’re injured during training prior to your departure.