Travel Insurance: Yes or No?
Every time I sit down to plan a trip somewhere, the subject of travel insurance comes up. To buy or not to buy? That is the question.
For years, I never even thought about it, but today, the older and the creakier I get, the more it seems to make sense. Because stuff happens. Several years ago, we got a taste of a bit of that stuff while my wife and I were on the east coast and she was hit with a really nasty flu. She was in bed for three extra days so we got stuck with additional room nights, plus airline change fees.
A good friend of mine had a much worse experience. While vacationing in France, his wife slipped and fell, breaking her leg quite badly. She got initial treatment there, but was required to keep her leg elevated during the three long flights back to Hawaii and that meant flying first class. Care to speculate what two short-notice, first-class tickets from Paris to Honolulu cost? Don’t ask.
Anyway, when it comes to travel insurance, here’s what I’ve gleaned from a bit of research and some consultation with experts:
It’s usually not a good idea to buy through a travel agent, the cruise line, or the tour company. The policy will almost certainly be a lot more expensive because they’re getting as much as a 30-percent override from the insurance company.
If you do decide to buy, go through one of the online brokers—squaremouth.com is one—where benefits and premiums for policies from different companies are all compared.
Don’t insure against the little stuff; do insure against the event, even if unlikely, that would cost you big money should it occur.
If you already have any medical issues, very carefully read the fine print under the heading “Pre-Existing Conditions” to be sure you’d still be covered if your problem occurs while you’re traveling.
Check with your insurance agent to see if any of your existing insurance policies might offer coverage that could apply to your trip.
Finally—and this is the important one—check to see if your credit card company will insure your trip if you put your major travel expenses on their card. My wife and I are taking a Mississippi River steamboat cruise this summer and we’ve paid the entire cost with our credit card. If we have to cancel for any number of valid reasons, or if one of us needs what they call a medical evacuation back home, MasterCard will reimburse us. No extra charge.
I have always worked on the principle “If you cannot afford the insurance, you cannot afford the travel” .
However I have lived all my life in Australia and then NZ with universal health coverage and am always terrified at the possibility of paying horrendous USA medical costs.