Some travelers think insurance isn't for them because they don't expect trouble. But imagine a fender bender on the Champs lyses, a stumble on the Great Wall, a lost wallet in Cairo: If something goes seriously wrong on a trip, you'll be glad you had protection.
Travel insurance isn't free, of course: Fees range from 4 to 8 percent of your total trip cost, depending on circumstances. For a $6,000 trip for two in an exotic location, that could be $510 or more. For a short domestic trip costing less than $1,000, insurance may not be worth it. But when big bucks or your health are at risk, it can be a wise investment.
The type of travel insurance and the price depends on several things: the cost and length of your trip, the destination, your activities, your age, when you buy the insurance and what you choose to cover. An experienced travel agent can be a great help in finding the right coverage for you. When picking a plan, you should consider how often you travel and how long you'll be on the road.
Some plans may cover you for a short time, but you can extend that protection if it makes sense. Consider adding more coverage if you are going to a remote area not easily accessible to medical care or if you're planning to combine adventure travel and sports. Extra insurance can be especially helpful for seniors, the disabled, people with certain medical conditions and pregnant women.
Tips for travelers
Read your policy before signing it. When shopping for coverage, it's important to read the fine print to see what's really covered. Don't take anyone's verbal promise: If it's not listed, it's not covered. Look at the policy in detail, especially the exclusions.
Deal with a major carrier. Buying directly from one of the top travel insurance companies is your best bet, as these are highly regulated and safe. In general, avoid buying from a cruise line or a destination resort that offers its own insurance. If they go out of business before you're compensated, you have no recourse.
Consider coverage if you're a student. Students are among the U.S. groups most likely to have something go wrong during travel. Many travel with credit cards, expensive computers, smartphones and other portable devices that tend to attract thieves, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Also, students may take more risks when away from home.
Even so, only slightly over half of student-age tourists carry travel insurance. Students studying abroad should check with the academic institutions at home and abroad to see what coverage is recommended or required, and look for policies that meet those requirements. You can shop for them among different providers on trip comparison websites.
Buy the insurance in advance. If you want travel insurance, be sure to buy it before you arrive at your destination. As soon as you've put down a deposit or purchased a ticket, go ahead and get the insurance, too. You'll be glad you did if the trip is canceled. (Check your policy before buying it to see how far in advance you have to buy.)
Don't count on the U.S. Embassy to cover medical care. Many travelers overlook insurance because they have misguided ideas about their options if something goes wrong. For example, some tourists wrongly believe that the U.S. Embassy or consulate will pay for their medical care and other problems abroad. Actually, the U.S. Embassy offers very limited help to travelers. The State Department does offer US Smart Traveler Enrollment, (STEP), a free service that can help put people in touch with good medical care, evacuation facilities and other resources during a major crisis. But it won't pay for their medical care or evacuation.
Don't rely on other types of insurance. Tourists may think their health and homeowner's insurance or credit card coverage will protect them, but this coverage is limited when traveling outside the country (a personal liability umbrella policy may cover your liability for an accident you cause, but it won't cover accidents in general.)
A traveler's health coverage may cover emergency medical coverage for an accident or illness during a trip, but in most cases it won't cover medical evacuation if someone needs to be airlifted to a hospital or home (costs that can range up to $100,000 or more). Furthermore, most health insurance policies charge high deductibles and co-pays for emergency treatment. Travelers generally have to pay for treatment up front first that could mean thousands or tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket while they wait for reimbursement.
Don't expect compensation from airlines. It's important to know that If a traveler is flying with a European carrier in Europe, they might get compensated for delays, but events defined as "extraordinary circumstances" may let the airline off the hook. In the United States, airlines aren't required to do more than get people on their next available flight to or near your destination, according to the Department of Transportation. Yes, there is a system for replacing lost baggage, but the amount is limited: United, example, caps liability at $640 a bag for international travel.
Travel insurance coverage compensates for delays, pays for meals, a hotel room and other needs. Baggage insurance will allow you to replace what you've lost and keep heading out on your adventure.
Savvy travelers pack insurance for their big trips. After all, no vacation goes exactly as planned, so it's smart to plan for the unexpected.
Travel Insurance. Insurance Information Institute (III). http://www.iii.org/article/travel-insurance
Travel Insurance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/insurance
Your Health Abroad. US Department of State. https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/health.html