WHY SHOULD YOU PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Most travel agents recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to their clients and many will ask you to sign a waiver saying that insurance was offered and it was refused if you decide to travel without it. I am one of those agents. My mantra is, “Travel Insurance, Don’t Leave Home Without It”.
So why do I feel so strongly about this? Not only have I had many clients put in claims over the years but, so have I, both for myself and my husband. Not once has a claim been denied when filed in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth by the insurance company.
The main reasons to purchase travel insurance are:
1. You need to cancel your trip due to illness once final payment has been made.
2. Your flight has been cancelled.
3. Your bags are lost.
4. Your passport and/or wallet are stolen and you need emergency cash and a new passport.
5. Your airline, cruise line or tour operator goes bankrupt.
6. A terrorist incident occurs in the country you plan to visit and you want to cancel.
7. A hurricane forces you to evacuate your resort, hotel or cruise ship.
8. You have a medical emergency in a foreign country and require care.
9. You need to be medically evacuated in order to receive proper medical care. Also known as medical repatriation.
Let’s talk about item #1: Canceling your trip due to illness. Here is where the subject of pre-existing illness needs to be discussed. First of all, there are two major ways of purchasing travel insurance. You can purchase it through the cruise line/tour operator or you can purchase it through a separate company. Most cruise lines/tour operators insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. However, many will make provision for this by offering a 75 – 90% credit towards a future trip if your cancelation is for a non-covered reason depending on the level of insurance you purchased through them. You must consider this option when making a decision as to where to purchase your coverage….is a future credit a good solution for your situation? What about the airline tickets you may have purchased? Nowadays if you buy airline tickets online you are asked if you would like to also buy insurance in case you have to cancel non-refundable tickets. Another item to think about.
When you purchase trip insurance from an outside vendor, most will offer a pre-existing condition clause. You can often waive this clause and cover pre-existing conditions by purchasing your insurance within 14 days of your initial trip deposit. Understand that most trip deposits are fully refundable up till 60 -75 days prior to travel whereas trip insurance is never refundable. If you do not have a pre-existing condition to worry about, do not buy travel insurance until just prior to making your final payment for your trip.
Your next big consideration is to find out what your own medical insurance covers. Will it cover you in a foreign country or in foreign waters? Once the cruise ship leaves the dock and travels three miles from shore, you are in foreign waters. This is when the ship is allowed to open the Casino and when you are probably no longer covered by your insurance! This is especially true for those of you who are covered by Medicare or Medicare HMO plans. This brings us to the importance of item #9, medical repatriation. I personally believe that this is the most important reason for buying travel cancellation & interruption insurance. If you become seriously ill or injured on a cruise ship, at a faraway resort or in a foreign country, you are probably going to want to receive treatment in the United States as soon as possible. The cost of medical repatriation (flying you and your companion home when you are sick) can cost upwards of $50,000. You may even need a nurse or other medically certified person to escort you. How many of us can write a check or charge that amount and be able to comfortably cover it? Accidents and illnesses do occur at the most inconvenient times. I invite any of you to call me and I can recite many stories of how travel insurance saved the day.
It is also possible to buy medical repatriation insurance on a separate basis if you don’t feel you need everything else covered or have coverage through another source such as your credit card company. Two companies that offer this type of coverage are Travel Guard and Medjet Assist. Policies are usually purchased annually instead of per trip and are geared towards the frequent traveler. Before you buy, read the fine print. Be sure the company you choose will fly you to the medical facility of your choice, not theirs.
As the traveler, you are responsible for choosing the best policy for your needs. Definitely begin with asking your travel agent their opinion. A good travel agent will offer this information to you without you having to inquire but you should always be proactive. Besides knowing what is covered, you will also want to compare prices. Please note that private insurance coverage (those not offered by the cruise line or tour operator) is based on two factors: age of the traveler and total cost of the trip whereas coverage provided by the cruise line/tour operator just takes into consideration the total cost of the trip. You need to read the policies closely and call the insurance company and/or your travel agent to clarify items you don’t understand. Do not buy more insurance than you need! Don’t pay to cover portions of your trip that may be fully cancelable. An example of this is a hotel stay that can often be cancelled up to day of arrival. Rental cars are another example of an item that can be cancelled. Be sure to read and understand each vendor’s cancellation policy.
Following are some well-respected Travel Insurance companies as well as websites you can visit to compare several policies at once.