Is Travel Insurance Worth It?


I grew up accompanying my mom on trips back and forth to Paris because of her ownership of a French children’s clothing store named Jacadi. Our love for The City of Lights grew with each trip and in our daily sometimes mundane lives we always claimed that we’d, “rather be in Paris.” Because these Parisian adventures were always deemed to be “girls’ trips,” my younger brother and father were never included. So as a Christmas gift to my brother and his girlfriend at the time, my mom planned a trip to Paris for the three of them. His girlfriend had never been to Europe, so planning the trip had an extra special feeling to it. But in the months leading up to their departure, our family got some devastating news– my grandfather had been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. The trip was put on the back burner while hospital visits, doctors, surgeries and precious family time filled our days.

My grandfather passed away just three months after his official diagnosis. It also happened to be the day my mom, brother and his girlfriend were supposed to leave for Paris. Thankfully, my mom is a huge proponent of travel insurance and rarely takes a trip without it. Thanks to the $100 she paid to insure the trip, all of their flights and hotel accommodations could easily be changed to a later date or refunded.  (Note: You can always cancel a flight free of charge if a family member dies but it will require paperwork, i.e. “Proof of Death”. Each hotel will treat the situation differently.)

We strongly suggest considering travel insurance if anyone in your family is ill or even just “getting up there” in age. My grandfather showed no signs of slowing down, in fact ,we always joked he would outlive us all, but we were wrong. You can never be too careful. Travel insurance policies may protect you against certain types of hazards such as getting sick or having a trip canceled. You can purchase travel insurance from insurance companies, travel agents, tour operators, cruise lines, rental companies, or travel assistance companies. Coverage, cost, and terms vary widely.

Types of Travel Insurance

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance protects you in the event that your trip is canceled or interrupted due to some unforeseen event, such as bad weather; the financial failure of the cruise line, airline, or travel agency; illness; or death. Under the policy, you will be reimbursed for nonrefundable travel-related expenses. This type of insurance usually costs about 5 percent to 7 percent of the price of the trip. This is the type of insurance my mom used on their trip to Paris.

Coverage offered varies from policy to policy. Before purchasing trip cancellation/interruption insurance, check the exclusion section of the policy carefully. Some policies cover more situations than others. Your definition of an unforeseen event may be different than the insurance policy’s definition. For instance, some companies don’t consider pre-existing medical conditions to be unforeseeable and often require you to purchase the insurance within 24 hours of booking your trip for pre-existing conditions to be covered. Whether you need trip cancellation/interruption insurance depends on what other protection you have and how much money you could afford to lose if your trip were canceled or interrupted.

Before purchasing this type of insurance, check the terms of your travel agreements and find out what guarantees the carrier, travel agent, or tour operator offers. Policies vary widely. Cruise lines, for instance, may allow you to receive most of your money back if you cancel several weeks before you travel, but they will give you less (or none) back if you cancel within a few days of travel. Airlines often sell nonrefundable tickets but usually allow you to rebook the trip for a fee (usually $25 to $75 per ticket) as long as you can travel within one year of your original departure date. If you rent a vacation house at the beach, you may be able to cancel your trip ahead of time, depending on the terms of the rental arrangement. But if your trip is interrupted by a hurricane, you may not get any money back unless you’ve purchased trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Temporary Health Policies

Most health insurance policies will cover you if you travel within the United States. However, some health insurance outlets (notably, Medicare and some HMOs) won’t cover you overseas at all or may provide only limited coverage. If you find out that your health insurance coverage is inadequate, consider purchasing a short-term supplemental health insurance policy. This type of policy covers you against accidents and/or sickness and usually pays for medical treatment, all or part of the cost of medical evaluation, and other related expenses. Policies usually offer a choice of deductibles and may be tailored to suit your needs. You can purchase these policies separately or as part of a travel insurance package that includes other types of travel insurance.

Deciding whether to purchase a temporary health policy hinges on determining what medical coverage you already have. If you are traveling domestically and are adequately covered by an existing health insurance policy, you may not need extra protection. However, if you are traveling overseas, you should thoroughly investigate the terms of your health coverage and consider buying a supplemental policy.

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