How Important is Travel Insurance?
There is nothing glamorous about travel insurance. It ranks at the bottom of the travel planning fun list, boring to anyone other than an insurance salesman. But adding the right travel insurance to your trip is one of the most important decisions you can make.
No one wants to think about getting sick on a trip, about canceled flights, missed connections, or lost luggage. Never mind the unexpected illness of a family member that means canceling that trip. Unfortunately, these things do occur, and without trip insurance you can lose all that money invested in your dream vacation. And now the pandemic—something we haven’t had to contend with for more than a hundred years—further complicates travel insurance decisions. Read on to learn more about travel insurance and why it’s such an important aspect of planning your dream adventure, especially now.
What is Travel Insurance?
We never want to think about the unimaginable when we’re busy dreaming about the perfect vacation, but that’s the thing about emergencies—they don’t often happen according to schedule. When overseas, you cannot rely on your home-owners policy, your regular medical insurance, your credit card, or Medicare to help you in an emergency. You cannot cancel and expect a refund for those non-refundable airline tickets and hotel bookings. You can’t get help for the hotel room you need when your flight is unexpectedly cancelled, nor reimbursement for the toiletries and t-shirts you had to buy when you luggage didn’t make it.
What does travel insurance cover? How has that changed with Covid dominating our travel decisions?
What is included in most travel insurance plans coverage varies from policy to policy, but often includes:
Cancellation for specific reasons, primarily illness of the insured or a family member, but other conditions may apply
Expenses due to trip delay
Missed connections due to weather
Medical expenses incurred while traveling
Emergency evacuation due to illness or injury
Remember, the amount of coverage varies. All travel insurance companies offer a range of policies with varying degrees of coverage—and cost. And every policy has pages of fine print detailing their “Description of Coverage” and “Schedule of Benefits. Unfortunately, there is a lot of information in those pages that most people never read. These overlooked pages of fine print can cause a lot of anguish for underprepared travelers.
One “fine print” item that caused a lot of anguish (and confusion) during the early months of the pandemic included coverage for unforeseen events. Most people purchase travel insurance in case a trip must be canceled, expecting their expenses will be reimbursed. That is true for “covered” reasons, such as illness of the traveler or an immediate family member, military duty, and “unforeseen” events like a terrorist attack or a natural disaster making the traveler’s residence uninhabitable.
However, once the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, it was no longer “unforeseen.” That meant no coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption or trip delay—even if the airline wasn’t flying or the ship was no longer sailing. If you became ill with COVID, you could cancel for medical reasons and be eligible for reimbursement. However, if you cancelled because you were afraid of getting sick (or refused to abide by COVID travel regulations), you had no coverage.
New Policies & COVID Coverage
In the aftermath of the March 2020 lockdown, travel companies have since adjusted policies and added new options for additional coverage. A policy holder still cannot cancel for fear of getting COVID but can possibly move the insurance coverage to another date. A policy holder is not covered if the airline, cruise line, or tour operator cancels due to COVID, but you may be eligible for a refund of your travel insurance. Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) policy add-ons are still available (at a significant cost), but you will only get a portion (50-75%) of the trip expenses reimbursed. On the other hand, there are new policy options dealing with pandemic-related issues. For example, Travel Guard offers a Lodging Expense package for passengers under forced quarantine. I expect to see more innovative offerings as passengers insist on new types of coverage.
Budgeting for Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is the one part of a trip no one wants to talk about. No one accounts for the expense in their travel budget; no one wants to actually buy it. While I know it can seem expensive, and the options overwhelming, when properly chosen, it is the security blanket you need to truly enjoy your trip stress-free. Take it from me and my unfortunate first-hand experience. One fateful trip to Florence (of course, without travel insurance) found me tripping on a cobblestone, fracturing my elbow, and waiting to get treatment until I was back in the states. Two surgeries (and recoveries) later, and I vow to never travel without my insurance policies.
Wherever you are going, whatever your dream trip involves, there is an appropriate plan at an affordable price. Talk to a travel planner who is licensed to provide travel insurance. She can help you make that decision that just might be the most important one of your entire trip. It’s just too important to ignore.
Donna Zabel and her agency are licensed by the State of Ohio to provide travel insurance assistance under the designation of Resident Limited Lines/Travel. For more information about available travel policies and how they can impact your trip, contact DreamMaker Destinations.