Whether you’re a circuit queen heading to an international White Party or a just-married lesbian couple en route to your honeymoon, chances are you’ll have the option to protect the money you’ve invested in planning your big adventure. But what exactly does travel insurance cover, and why would you need it?
Travel insurance can cover costs including medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost luggage, flight accidents and other unexpected expenditures. There are two main types of coverage:
- Basic trip cancellation protection covers lost bags and provides reimbursements if you incur costs from missing a connection or a refund if you can’t travel because you’re sick or hurt.
- Comprehensive travel insurance covers all that, plus any expenses related to medical or dental emergencies, disaster evacuations and even costs associated with accidental deaths.
The decision to buy travel insurance boils down to two major factors:
- Financial Risk: Are you worried about losing your money due to a canceled trip, an interrupted trip, a lost bag, a delayed trip, or an emergency medical expense?
- Medical Concerns: Are you traveling outside your home country, where your insurance from home won’t cover you in case of an accident or other health-related incidents?
Armed with the knowledge of what travel insurance is and what it covers, let’s discuss guidelines for why you might need it and when you can probably save money by skipping it all together:
Time to get coverage
- International trips
As someone who is clumsy and accident-prone, I always worry about needing medical care in a foreign country. I’ve fallen in London. I was bitten by a spider in Spain. I had an allergic reaction in Singapore. In those instances, travel insurance saved me time and money. As I have learned, if something goes wrong in a faraway place, medical help may be difficult to come by — and it can be expensive, too. That’s when a comprehensive travel insurance policy can come in handy, by helping you avoid out-of-pocket expenses and providing peace of mind while you are watching your foot swell from spider venom.
Keep in mind that some people’s medical insurance (with the exception of Medicare) will pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, especially if you’re in major city like London. But if you run into a serious issue, your bills can pile up pronto. Check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage.
- For cruises
Cruises hit all the major areas where comprehensive travel insurance is most recommended. You’re likely committing to a big, up front payment; probably participating in international travel; and possibly facing additional complications at sea or on excursions. It’s wise to insure this type of vacation with a comprehensive plan.
Time to skip coverage
- U.S. Travel
Travel within the U.S. is typically a less expensive up-front investment. Plus if you have medical insurance, you’re typically covered for any emergencies that occur. Double-check the fine print related to anything you might need to cancel, but experts generally recommend opting out of trip insurance for short trips within the U.S.
- if your Credit Card has you covered
Some credit cards actually offer travel insurance as a perk. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card offers built-in trip interruption insurance that reimburses up to $10,000 per person if your trip is cancelled or cut short by situations that range from an illness to severe weather. The Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier cards also offer baggage and trip cancellation protection. So even if you are traveling outside the U.S., if your credit card’s coverage is thorough, you won’t need to purchase anything extra.
- For Flights
It can be tempting to purchase trip cancellation insurance when a flight costs hundreds or thousands of dollars. But the basic policies are usually not worth your money to insure just your flight if you know your rights as a passenger. For example, if your flight is cancelled, you’re generally entitled to have the next available seat on the next available flight going to your destination. Having insurance is not going to make much difference in getting you re-booked faster.
Bottom line: Do your research. Check your medical insurance coverage. Learn your credit card perks. Consider if you are accident prone or if insurance will relieve anxiety. Then make your decision.
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Last modified: July 8, 2019