The Truth about Travel Insurance
When I was preparing for my backpacking trip through Europe, I got conflicting advice on whether or not I would need or use travelers’ insurance. Some people (my parents) believed it was very dangerous to travel and I would no doubt be using travel insurance. Others (veteran travelers) believed that you very rarely ran into issues while traveling so it wasn’t that big of a deal. But both groups did agree the insurance would be a good idea, especially since I was traveling alone for 3 months. After making a decision to purchase insurance, I looked around a bit to see what was out there.
If something were to come up (like you are offered your dream job) right before your trip is scheduled to depart, you would be able to cancel your trip and get the money back. Read the fine print to see what reasons the insurance company is willing to accept for cancellations. I actually did get a job offer but I decided an opportunity to do a Euro Trip is much harder to come by so I traveled instead – I don’t regret it for a second.
When something comes up that causes you to start your trip a little late (your connecting flight was delayed), your travel insurance can not only cover the new ticket fare, but can even cover accommodations, local transportation, meals, clothing and supplies while you wait for your travel to resume. There is a daily cap to the amount they’ll pay for so budget your stipend wisely.
When you injure your foot while gawking at the sites in the Netherlands and have to pause the trip or cut the trip short, Travel Interruption will come in handy. It will cover your transportation to either go back home or to rejoin your traveling companions if you had to pause the trip. They may also reimburse you for some of your pre-purchased tickets or lodging that you didn’t use because of the interruption.
Everyone knows the anxious feeling of waiting by the luggage carousel to see if they managed to get your bags to the same destination as you. Should that not be the case because they sent it to Zimbabwe, things got damaged or just they plain lost it, the insurance will help cover the cost. They will cover the cost by either replacing the luggage entirely or will cover the cost of purchasing enough clothes and supplies to get you by until you and your luggage can be reunited. They will also help with the cost of “administration fees” to replace any lost or damaged tickets, passports, or visas. I suggest reading the fine print on this, not only to see what is covered but because the list of items can be both shocking and humorous.
Hopefully, this one won’t be used but is certainly fantastic to have should you need it. This helps with problems like lost or stolen items, emergency fund transfers, medical notifications, interpreting, legal help, and prescription and eyeglass replacement. It also connects you with the embassy or consulate if needed, and even helps with pet emergencies.
This is the big one for me since I did need medical care while traveling abroad (remember the injured foot I mentioned earlier). Some insurances have a hotline that will help you find the right medical centers and doctors, so I was quickly directed to the nearest doctor. Insurance can also cover transportation, medications, office visits, dental procedures, and hospital stays. It will also cover your special medical transportation back to your home if need be.
For all of the adrenaline junkies, you may need to supplement your insurance if you plan on jumping off of cliffs or scuba diving. Many of the regular insurance plans do not cover any injuries or damage done while performing “extreme activities”. When I found out my plan did not have this coverage, I had to keep that in mind when I was asked to bungee jump off of a questionable bridge.
In the event that your rental car should get stolen or is damaged from a collision, inclement weather, vandalism, or natural disaster, your insurance should cover the repairs, rental fees, and even the whole cost of the car. This is, of course, barring you didn’t leave the keys in the ignition or crash it going 200 MPH on the Autobahn. Many insurances provide roadside assistance as well, providing towing and helping out with lock-outs and gas delivery.
Some insurances include services that help you find restaurants, hotels, rental cars, and even pet services and lodging. They also provide information about the area’s weather, social customs, events, festivals (such as Oktoberfest), attractions and tours. It’s a great resource to utilize for planning your trip, and they might even be able to find good deals. I’d shop around a bit to make sure you’re getting the best price though.
While I felt it was a little silly to be purchasing insurance, the reassurance and peace of mind I had really made it worth it. I was still anxious to make sure my backpack survived every trip and frustrated when my flights were delayed, but I knew my back was covered either way. When I did injure myself, it was so nice to have everything taken care of for me without much effort. The biggest thing is to read the fine print to determine if the plan is right for you and covers your unique needs. There are some pretty inexpensive yet comprehensive plans out there that you can find if you look for it.