Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Well, it depends...

Treating yourself to a well-deserved vacation in an exotic land provides a welcome break from the daily grind. Even the best-planned trips, though, can fall victim to unforeseen circumstances, problems, and accidents both before and after you leave. Many tourists find themselves weighing up the odds, asking, “Do I need travel insurance?” If you’re one of these, check out the benefits and features of this popular option.

 Protecting your travel investment

Lufthansa Boeing 747-430; D-ABVN@LAX;21.04.2007/466pq by Aero Icarus (CC)
Lufthansa Boeing 747-430; D-ABVN@LAX;21.04.2007/466pq by: Aero Icarus (CC)

Regardless of how long you prepare for a trip in advance, a nasty sickness, unfortunate injury, or emergency family situation can throw a wrench in the works before you even get off the ground. On the other end of your trip, flight cancellations, long delays, natural disasters, political unrest, and even terrorist attacks can require you to change up your plans. In such cases, travel insurance allows for reimbursement of most or all of your prepaid travel expenses, depending on the plan. Picking a travel insurance policy with solid cancellation protection can help refund the cost of your vacation-that-wasn’t, so you can re-book at a later date without losing out on your hard-earned cash. This is a particularly good idea if you’ve dropped a large amount (several thousand dollars or more) on your trip.

Basic medical coverage overseas

George Washington University Emergency Medical Response Group (EMeRG) by Lee Cannon (CC)
George Washington University Emergency Medical Response Group (EMeRG) by: Lee Cannon (CC)

Not all health insurance plans from your home country will cover you while overseas, making travel insurance a nice safety net should you get sick or injured during your travels. While serious injuries or life-threatening illnesses are another story, some basic medical coverage allows you to weather any little bumps in the road without derailing your vacation. If you have a preexisting condition that could cause a problem during your trip, travel insurance is definitely a must. Many plans also provide 24/7 online and phone support, so you won’t need to worry about knowing the local language should things go south. However, keep in mind that you’ll need special coverage if you’re planning to participate in extreme sports or other high-risk activities; heli-skiing, paragliding, rock climbing, skydiving, and the like are just a few examples of hazardous ventures that ordinary travel insurance usually doesn’t cover—read the fine print. First and foremost, though, be sure to consult with your regular health insurance provider before you travel to see if you’ll be covered automatically, as this can free you from needing travel health insurance for shorter trips.

Emergency evacuation for worst-case scenarios

travel by fdecomite (CC)
travel by: fdecomite (CC)

While this might sound extreme, choosing a travel insurance plan with solid emergency evacuation coverage is critical, particularly if your trip takes you through dangerous, underdeveloped, or isolated areas. Should you hurt yourself or fall ill to the point that you need to be rescued or taken back to your home country, the costs without insurance can be sky high, often in the range of tens of thousands of dollars or more. Keep in mind as well that it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a catastrophic injury; evacuation might be necessary if you end up stuck in a region where the medical care is not up to Western standards or if your condition is beyond the care of local medical facilities.

Credit cards may already give you some coverage

rainbow of credit by frankieleon
rainbow of credit by: frankieleon (CC)

Several major credit card providers offer cards equipped with automatic travel insurance benefits, so it’s certainly worth contacting your company to learn about any applicable features if you’re unsure. However, keep in mind that not all cards are created equal: some, like the Chase Sapphire, offer several thousand dollars’ worth in cancellation and interruption coverage, in addition to bonuses for long delays and lost baggage. United’s Visa Explorer and the Citibank AAdvantage card also offer solid coverage for cancellation, though be sure to check terms and conditions first, as certain cards only cover trips paid entirely through their respective issuers. Others, including those from Discover and Capitol One, feature a few minor benefits for lost luggage but don’t provide anything in the way of trip cancellation coverage. Shorter trips in particular may be best-served through a card that you probably already have in your wallet—convenient, without a doubt.

Better safe than sorry

Travel by Moyan Brenn (CC)
Travel by: Moyan Brenn (CC)

Of course, the best travel insurance option is the one you never need to use. However, the lead-up to and duration of your trip don’t always go according to plan, and travel insurance brings some serious peace of mind should the worst happen. When you take off on your grand adventure, whether you decide you need travel insurance or not, consider using Inspirock’s itinerary generator to see and do more along the way.

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