Today's post is by Sandra Parsons, a freelance writer and staff writer for Club Thrifty, a website dedicated to helping people dream big, spend less, and travel more.
Summer’s on the horizon—is anyone else excited?
If winter has dragged on and on where you live, you probably can’t wait to soak up some much-needed sun. I know that’s how I feel!
Adding to the excitement, summer is prime traveling season. If you’re planning a trip, you’re likely looking for ways to save.
You might be wondering if travel insurance is essential.
With most international travel, it is. All the same, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, and you need to consider your situation and priorities when you make that choice.
Before you decide, you need a firm grasp on what the best travel insurance policies typically offer.
The two main areas of coverage are trip insurance and emergency medical.
Trip Insurance Protects Your Investment
When booking a flight, do you usually choose the cheapest fare?
Something with a name like “basic economy”?
I’ll be honest: those fares are my go-to. They’re always the lowest price available, and even when you’re strategic about choosing cheap vacation spots, flying can be expensive (unless you’re using credit card rewards).
Those basic fares are no frills. That means no checked bags, no seat selection, and no refunds. Sometimes you can change your flight, as long as you pay a hefty fee.
So, what if something comes up and you need to cancel your trip? You’re out that money.
It’s the same thing with hotels: the lowest rates are non-refundable. If you want flexibility, you pay for it. Cancel a non-refundable booking, and you lose hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars.
If you put a deposit down on a cruise or an all-inclusive resort, it’s often non-refundable. If your plans fall through, you can kiss those funds goodbye.
This is where trip insurance can protect you. Trip cancellation refunds up to 100% of your non-refundable trip costs if you cancel for a covered reason.
What’s a covered reason? It varies by provider but includes things like illness, death in the family, and work obligations.
Some policies allow you to purchase “cancel for any reason” coverage, but it’s usually at a hefty premium.
Trip interruption protects you when you return home suddenly after departure. It covers costs you incur and refunds unused non-refundable deposits.
Again, only certain reasons are covered.
Do You Need Trip Insurance?
If you’ve made non-refundable deposits on flights, hotels, a cruise, or an all-inclusive location, you can benefit from trip insurance.
When deciding if it’s worth the cost, you need to consider the money invested and the likelihood that something will throw a wrench in your plans.
If you’re taking an inexpensive solo trip and don’t have family responsibilities, maybe you’re comfortable with the risk.
If you’re traveling with your family or another group, the risk of something coming up is higher.
If you’ve made large non-refundable deposits, you’re taking a gamble if you don’t insure them. In those situations, trip insurance is worth it.
Emergency Medical and Evacuation Coverage Protects Your Health and Your Wallet
A significant consideration when you’re traveling internationally is the cost of emergency healthcare.
No one wants to imagine getting sick or injured during a vacation, but anything can happen. The cost of healthcare for non-residents is staggering in many countries.
How will you pay for it if something happens to you?
Emergency medical insurance covers the cost of emergency treatment. Emergency evacuation pays for transport home or to another hospital if required.
In the worst-case scenario (your death), repatriation of remains coverage pays for your body to transport home.
Do You Need Emergency Medical, Evacuation, and Repatriation Coverage?
Unless you already have out-of-country emergency medical insurance, you should not travel internationally without protection.
Medical plans are inexpensive for travelers under the age of 70, and skipping it isn’t worth the risk.
Even if you have existing coverage, you should check the limits to make sure they’re sufficient. Less than $50,000 isn’t enough, and $100,000 is more reasonable.
Most medical plans include evacuation and repatriation. Evacuation coverage is essential, full stop. Repatriation is more for your loved ones than for you, so take that as you will.
Baggage and Travel Delay Coverage Make Travel Easier
Trip insurance and emergency medical coverage are the two main types of travel insurance, but most policies include several other features that protect you from the inconveniences that can occur while traveling:
- Baggage loss
- Baggage delay
- Travel delay
If an airline has ever lost your luggage, you know how annoying it can be to arrive at your destination without any of your things.
It’s also expensive because, inevitably, you will need to buy at least some of what you packed.
Baggage loss and delay cover some or all of that expense.
Travel delay can be inconvenient when you’re stuck at the airport, especially if it’s a long delay.
If you’re on your way home or if you’re on the second leg of your trip in either direction, you have nowhere to go to wait it out.
For lengthy delays, you’ll need to get a hotel room and be able to buy meals. Travel delay insurance covers some or all of these costs.
Do You Need Baggage and Travel Delay Coverage?
Baggage and trip delay coverage are convenient, but not essential.
Luckily, most travel insurance plans include it.
If you use a travel rewards credit card, you may already have coverage, so be sure to check your credit card terms.
Bottom Line: Should You Buy Travel Insurance for Your Summer Vacation?
The decision to buy travel insurance (or not) depends on your circumstances, priorities, and comfort level.
Everyone needs emergency medical coverage while traveling outside their home country.
If you have coverage in place, make sure you review it.
If not, shop for a policy that includes at least $50,000 in coverage (though $100,000 is better), plus emergency evacuation and repatriation.
Trip insurance depends more on your non-refundable trip costs and your comfort with risk.
If you’ve put a lot down, it’s worth insuring.
When you’re traveling with your family or a group, the chances of something coming up are more significant, and you should consider protecting your investment.
On the other hand, if your deposit costs are low, and you’re comfortable paying out of pocket if you need to return home suddenly, you can consider skipping trip insurance.
If you decide you want medical and trip insurance, you can buy a comprehensive plan that includes both plus other benefits.
If you decide to go with medical only, plans typically include baggage and travel delay, along with a few other benefits. These plans usually cost less than trip insurance.
This summer, I recommend protecting your health and your financial investment by choosing a travel insurance policy that meets your needs.
Sandra Parsons is a freelance writer and staff writer for Club Thrifty, a website dedicated to helping people dream big, spend less, and travel more.