What Is Travel Insurance? Determine If It’s Worth It Or Not

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What is travel insurance? And do you really require it? If you're taking a flight from Tucson to Atlanta, should you get travel insurance?

Or maybe you can go without it once in a while?

We sat down and took a hard look at what travel insurance is, and whether or not you need it. Let's jump right in.

What Is Travel Insurance?

So, what is travel insurance? At its root, travel insurance is an insurance policy you purchase to protect you financially while you're traveling.

While you can buy all sorts of different travel insurance policies covering many different risks, they all have a few basics.

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No matter which policy you decide to get, all travel insurance works on the premise of unforeseeable events.

Think of it like this:

If it's announced that a named hurricane is heading towards the Caribean, and then you book a trip there, you won't be covered by travel insurance. Why? Because there were easily foreseeable risks that you took before you left home.

Guess what? You probably shouldn't go on vacation in the path of a hurricane.

In addition to unforeseeable events, travel insurance mostly covers named perils. For instance, the airline loses your luggage which also had a $5,000 MacBook Pro in there. Thankfully, your policy specifically covered lost baggage, so you'll be reimbursed for that expensive MacBook as well as your clothing.

However, if you passed on lost baggage coverage to save a few dollars on your travel insurance, then you're out of luck.

What use is travel insurance without lost luggage coverage? That's not something we recommend.

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Another thing that most consumer policies cover, although not all, is health insurance. If you end up in an accident or having a heart attack or who knows what, and you're in a foreign country, you'll definitely want that health coverage. Many developing nations won't even treat you unless they know they'll get paid.

And if you travel to Europe or Canada or another highly-developed nation, they'll treat you with first-rate medicine, but the bill will be astronomical. And it will go on your credit rating.

So make sure you have health coverage in any policy you look at.

How Does Travel Insurance Work 

When researching what travel insurance is, it's good to get an idea of how it works.

Most of the time it involves the insurer reimbursing you for any covered losses during your trip. So for instance, if you ended up going to the hospital with a sprained ankle, you would need to pay the hospital out of your own pocket and then submit receipts to the insurer for reimbursement.

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That could take a while, and you may not have that much money in your bank to cover the upfront cost.

Some policies can do direct billing. These usually cost a little more, but there's another problem with this. If you're going off the beaten path, such as central America or throughout Africa or South-East Asia, then you can forget direct billing. Cash is king.

If you're traveling in developed lands, then direct billing may be an option if your insurer is well-integrated. For instance, you can use a Canadian insurer's partner in the U.S. for direct-billing, such as RSA, which is a partner of Sun Life Financial.

Do You Really Need Travel Insurance?

Once you have an answer to the question "what travel is insurance," it's time to figure out if you really need it. After all, not all insurance policies are the same, and not all travel is risky.

Take, for example, a road trip in your car.

You don't need travel insurance for this. Not only will your automobile insurance cover you, but you're not straying that far from home. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, like if you're leaving the Unites States.

On the other hand, you may want travel insurance anytime you fly, and especially if you're leaving the country.

 When It's Worth Protecting Your Trip

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What is a travel insurance that you NEED, and what is a travel insurance that you can skip?

For starters, you'll want to protect your trip, and yourself, anytime you head to a foreign country. Also, you'll want to make sure you're covered with great health insurance if you have any pre-existing health issues.

Keep in mind the whole "unforeseeable events" thing, because if you're pregnant and planning on traveling during your third trimester, you probably won't receive coverage if you go into labor.

So, what is the travel insurance that you should get?

Any International Travel

Make sure it covers the basics such as lost luggage and health. Add in some flight cancellation coverage too, because the last thing you want to happen is for your airline to go bankrupt and leave you stranded in some foreign place.

It's not only airplanes you need to worry about. Even if you're hopping across the border to Mexico for good tequila or popping over to Canada to catch a hockey game, get travel health insurance.

If You Have Pre - Existing Medical Conditions

​Do you have asthma? Diabetes? Ehlers-Danlos? Bad allergies?

If so, you need travel insurance. Any type of pre-existing condition makes it worth the cost. You'll probably pay more, thanks to the condition, but it's worth every penny.

You'll also want to make sure of a couple of things.

  • Your health coverage can be direct-billed, and;
  • It specifically covers your health condition in addition to accidents and other illnesses

When You Can Skip on Travel Insurance

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On the other hand, there are some times when you can forget the whole travel insurance thing.

So what is travel insurance that you don't need?

You're Traveling In The U.S.

If you're traveling at home, anywhere in the USA, then you don't need travel insurance.

Any health coverage you have will cover you, and luggage really doesn't go missing that much. Besides, keep your MacBook Pro in your carry-on like a normal person.

The only risks you face are flight cancellations and lost luggage, but thankfully there are strong domestic laws to mandate what the airline should do in those cases.

Your Card Covers You 

​​​Did you know that most major credit cards offer travel insurance when you use the card to book your trip?

It's true!

In many cases, simply booking a vacation with your credit card automatically enrolls you, and you don't need to do much. You may want to contact the card issuer to make sure they know you're going on vacation and are expecting to be covered, just to avoid confusion.

Also, double check what your card covers. Remember those named perils? Well, if your pre-existing medical condition isn't named, it might not be covered.

Don't Assume Anything 

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Many people assume that since they bought travel insurance, or that they have auto insurance, then they are completely protected.

That's just not the case.

You see, your auto insurance may not cover anything if you leave the country, or only in specific countries.

For example, if you drive to Canada, then your insurance will most likely cover collisions and theft and liability. But not health care. On the other hand, if you drive to Mexico, it may not cover anything.

The same can be said even with travel insurance.

Make sure that the policy you sign up for will actually cover you in the country you're traveling to. Many policies exclude a lot of countries.

Take many middle-Eastern nations, or North Korea, for instance. You won't find many policies that will protect you there.

So double check your named perils, billing options, and destination coverage before you buy.

Stay Safe, Stay Covered

If you're traveling outside of the U.S., then stay safe. What is travel insurance, and what is the best kind to get?

Travel insurance is peace of mind. You know you're safe if the unforeseeable happens. And the best kind of insurance to buy is the one that covers you when you need it.

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And don't take anything for granted, no matter where you are. Sure, Stockholm seems a lot safer than Los Angeles at night, but if something happens, you won't like getting a massive bill in a month. Keep yourself covered with travel insurance and avoid the unforeseeable.

Get your travel insurance lined up while you're planning your trip. That's just the smart way to travel!

Has travel insurance saved the day while you were on an adventure? Tell us your story in the comments below!

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