Today: Why you should purchase travel insurance for your next holiday
Because of the unprecedented pandemic-related travel restrictions, the past 18 months have been a challenging and turbulent time for travelers from around the world. But despite a worrying surge of the COVID Delta variant in several countries, demand for trips is up significantly, with many people booking luxurious holidays to far flung destinations again. Since these trips abroad often include expensive tours, hotels and flights, it’s an absolute no-brainer to buy travel insurance, so you get reimbursed for your trip costs in case something unexpected happens. As a rule, the more pre-paid, non-refundable expenses you make, the more you need travel insurance.
When it comes to flight delays and trip cancellations, I’ve had more than my fair share in the past. I once had to cancel a dream trip to Fiji because of a family emergency, and a holiday to Florida had to be postponed because of illness of my travel companion. I’ve missed my connection in Doha, Qatar, twice because of sandstorms, resulting in a flight delay of 24 and 72 hours respectively (and a hugely unpleasant airport experience). I’ve lost my luggage twice, once with Brussels Airlines and once with United Airlines. And because of the pandemic, I had to cancel trips to Costa Rica, Namibia, and the Maldives. Fortunately, I had purchased travel insurance in all of these instances, which prevented these trips from having a significant financial effect.
Here’s why a travel insurance plan is essential to cover for trip cancellation, trip delay, trip interruption, medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation, and luggage loss. If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment below.
Nobody anticipates having to cancel their holiday, but something unexpected might always happen and that’s when travel insurance kicks in to provide a financial safety net. In this scenario, you might be reimbursed for your pre-paid and nonrefundable trip costs, which may include airfare, hotels, excursions and transfers, and can easily add up to several thousands dollars for a luxury trip. While not a comprehensive list (and remember all insurance policies are different), here are some standard cancellation reasons which are usually covered by an insurance travel plan:
- Sickness, injury or death
- Common carrier cancellations or delays
- Labor strike
- Car accident
- Hijacking or quarantine
- Jury duty
- Home uninhabitable
- Destination uninhabitable
- Travel document theft
- Medical evacuation
- Military duty
- Military leave revoked
- Job loss
- Terrorist act
- New vaccination requirements
- Civil disorder
When you are traveling to a far flung destination, your flight itinerary will most likely comprise one or more airport layovers, which always carries a risk of an unexpected, lengthy delay (for example when you miss a connecting flight due to bad weather, mechanical issue, or short stopover). In most instances, the airline will provide a meal and even a hotel (when the delays is more than 12 hours), but that’s not always the case. When you have a travel insurance, you can always file a claim to recoup any trip delay related expenses you incur (e.g. hotel, meals and transportation). Regardless of reimbursement of your unexpected costs via an insurance company, always be in the know that you do have several rights when you are confronted with a delayed flight (which I wrote about in this blogpost).
Trip interruption coverage kicks in when you have to cut your travels short due to an unexpected reason, on condition that this reason is covered by your insurance policy (e.g. sickness, death of a family member, or severe weather disruption). For example, when you are holidaying in a Caribbean luxury resort and you have to interrupt your trip because of an approaching hurricane, your travel insurance might refund the prepaid nights you did not stay at the property as well as reimburse the extra fees you had to pay to chance your flight ticket (or even buy a new one) in order to get back home earlier.
One of the most disturbing events that can happen during a trip is to end up in a hospital in a foreign country due to illness or injury, a fear that has been magnified by the COVID virus (keeping many people at home during the pandemic). Unfortunately, medical issues on a trip are more common than you would think. For example: according to Allianz Travel, the most common overseas medical emergencies their policy-holders experience include: fractures from falls; trauma involving motor vehicles; respiratory problems such as a collapsed lung; and cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack. That’s why it’s of utmost important to always purchase a robust travel insurance plan that covers any possible medical emergency.
Not only will the travel insurance company help you find the nearest available doctor or best suitable hospital, they will also provide payment (or reimburse you) for the medical expenses, up to the plan limits. This might include dental care, ambulance service, doctor bills, hospital charges, X-rays, lab tests, drugs and medicines. In addition to these emergency medical benefits, an insurance company can also arrange (and pay for) an evacuation flight if deemed necessary. Needless to say that these hospital and flight related expenses can easily cost $ 100.000 USD or more, and financially ruin you if no proper insurance was purchased prior to your trip.
LUGGAGE DAMAGE & DELAY
Some travel insurance plans provide reimbursement for personal items if luggage is lost, stolen or damaged, which is a reassuring thought when you are traveling with expensive items like cameras, computers, and clothes (although I recommend to leave anything unnecessary at home). Baggage delay benefits are helpful if you arrive at your destination without your luggage. In the latter scenario, airlines are obliged to cover costs of essential items, like toiletries, underwear or laundry. This benefit is meant to tide you over until your luggage is delivered to your holiday destination. If that doesn’t happen within 21 days, your bag will officially be considered as lost. In some parts of the world, you are entitled to a compensation from the airline for lost luggage (e.g. up to about €1,220 in the European Union). However, it’s hardly ever this much in reality, and you’re likely to find the airline trying to pass the buck by suggesting you have to take it up with your travel insurer. Depending on your cover, you may get a higher level of compensation this way (hence why it’s always good to have complete travel insurance).
SOME IMPORTANT REMARKS
- Always consider your travel destination carefully. Even if you think you’re covered, your policy may be voided if you travel to a destination that your government has deemed unsafe (e.g. war zone or an area struck by a natural disaster).
- Before you pay for a (sometimes expensive) travel insurance plan, look into what coverage you might already have in your wallet (often without realizing it). For example, several major credit cards come with a travel insurance plan which will cover for certain unexpected circumstances, such as trip cancellations or lost luggage.
- Don’t assume a travel insurance plan will automatically cover you in all types of activities. That’s because many travel insurance policies exclude coverage for high-risk activities, like motorcycle racing, rock climbing or bungee jumping.
- Most travel insurance plans will not cover for a pandemic which is typically considered to be “foreseeable event.” In other words, the insurance company says that you should have known about the potential risks of a pandemic but still chose to travel, so the cost of travel and its consequences are on you. This means if your trip is affected by an outbreak, you won’t get your travel expenses reimbursed.
- Most travel insurance won’t cover you for a medical condition you have before your trip.
- Don’t assume 100% of your pre-paid and nonrefundable trip costs will be refunded as several travel insurance companies put a limit on the maximal amount of money that can be reimbursed (per trip or per year).
- Be sure to check the excess charge and the small print first as some insurance policies provide minimal or no cover for luggage while in the care of an airline.