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Travel Insurance – Do I Really Need It?

do I need travel insurance?
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By Debra Kerper

Don’t Leave Home Without it!

I am a firm believer in the importance of travel insurance. I witnessed many clients file claims during my 29+ years in the travel business, and happily saw a 99% positive outcome.  Only one client did not receive coverage. In that situation, the denial could have been avoided if instead of submitting his claim for a mental health issue, he instead labeled it a “medical” issue (which was true as he did in fact have a medical situation too).  Mental health issues are unfortunately not typically covered by travel insurance carriers.

Make good choices

My role as a travel consultant is to guide people to make appropriate choices regarding their travel. In addition to helping clients choose the right type of vacation and destination to meet their needs, I also advise on the best travel insurance policy.  I make recommendations and provide general information on coverage limits and cost, but ask travelers to take an active role in these processes. As I am not an insurance expert, I advise clients to contact the carriers directly for answers to their specific questions. Private travel insurance companies calculate fees based on a combination of the total price of trip and age of the individual.  Insurance purchased through a travel supplier uses only the trip cost to determine pricing.

But I have Medicare (or other health insurance)!

Older travelers need to know Medicare does NOT cover them when traveling internationally.  And most people do not realize a cruise always involves international travel. Even the very popular Alaska Cruises include international travel. Here’s why: For cruise ships to open the casinos and shops onboard, they must sail out three miles from shore.  Once this happens, the ships are now in international waters. Medicare only covers you for unforeseen illness and accidents requiring medical care in the U.S.!  A word of warning to younger travelers as well; most insurance plans follow the Medicare model and apply similar rules to their policies.  Be proactive!  It is your responsibility to know what your health insurance does and does not cover.  Most likely, you do not have adequate insurance coverage in case of an emergency.  This also applies to many credit cards that claim they include travel benefits including medical and accident coverage.  Read the policies very carefully to understand the limits. Then you can make smart decisions about coverage you need to purchase for your trip.

So, what does travel insurance cover in addition to medical expenses?

Typically, policies cover the following:

  • Trip cancellation after making the final payment.
  • Trip interruption.
  • Change fees imposed by airlines and rail.
  • Fees to redeposit miles into loyalty programs.
  • Travel delay coverage (minimum delay is usually five hours).
  • Lost, stolen or damaged baggage (read the policy for imposed limitations).
  • Baggage delayed by airline, cruise line or other travel carrier for a minimum of 12 hours.
  • Emergency Medical Transportation (Repatriation).
NOTE: Repartiation, the return of a citizen to their own country, is one of the most crucial reasons to purchase travel insurance. The cost of repatriation can be exorbitant; it’s very important to check limitations carefully. A minimum of $50,000 worth of coverage is necessary, but I recommend more.  I usually sell policies that include $1,000,000 towards medical transportation.

Pandemic Coverage

At the start of the Covid19 pandemic in early 2020,  travel insurance companies included a clause in their policies that denied coverage for all claims related to the Covid virus. Pandemics and epidemics were not a covered expense at that time.  You can only imagine what a nightmare that was for both travel professionals and travelers. Many insurance companies amended this exclusion and now offer coverage for Covid related claims.  Once again, it is essential to understand the coverage and purchase the appropriate plan accordingly.

Still not convinced? 

In case you still don’t believe travel insurance is necessary, take a look at some real-life examples:

A seasoned traveler was recently in Dubai and about to fly to Cairo for a five day tour followed by a river boat cruise.  He lost his passport and could not travel until replacing it. The travel Insurance covered his hotel nights in Dubai, transportation to the US Embassy, meals and the cost of a new plane ticket to Cairo to meet up with his wife.

An elderly traveler using a mobility scooter tipped over a curb he did not see, breaking his hip. His travel insurance covered costs related to the airlift back to Florida for surgery.

A client suffered a stroke while onboard a cruise ship and needed to be airlifted back to the US for medical care. Fortunately, the expenses were covered by the travel insurance.

Another client came down with a very serious flu one day prior to a flight to Australia where he was to embark on a $40,000 cruise. His doctor advised him not to travel. Luckily, he recovered all his money and rescheduled the trip for the following year.

The list goes on and on including personal claims by yours truly. 

The bottom line

I reiterate…don’t leave home without travel insurance! Ask your travel professional agent for recommendations and general information, then review the policy in detail yourself before purchasing! Call the insurance company to ask questions specific to your situation. This is an expense many people think they can do without; we don’t think about the possible issues that might happen. Do yourself a favor and cut costs in another area. You’ll be glad you did!

About the author:

debra kerper

Debra Kerper, CATA, ACC, has helped people explore the world since 1993.  She owns Easy Access Travel, a Cruise Planners Franchise that is part of the American Express Retail Travel Network.

The goal of Easy Access Travel is to ensure that everyone, regardless of age or physical limitations, has the opportunity to travel.  Debra, an older adult, has lived with lupus since age 20 and is a bilateral lower limb amputee.  She travels extensively using various types of mobility aids (scooter, wheelchair, etc.).  Debra speaks nationally about “How to Travel with Special Needs” and loves to share her expertise with everyone. Learn more at easyaccesstravel.com or call Debra at 800.920.8989.

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