Traveling Thursday – Upgrades, Add-ons and Travel Insurance

Yes, I’m going back to the topic of travel insurance. Forgive me but I haven’t written about it in quite some time and there is more to share.

If you make any travel plan upgrades or add services or extensions to your trip, don’t forget to update your travel insurance coverage. Yes, it will take some extra effort on your part and will involve an expense but if there are problems, you want to get your full refund.

If you purchase a $300 upgrade to your accommodations, you will likely pay $25-35 to have this added to your plan. Isn’t it worth that amount to ensure that you will get a full refund?

If your original plan had features (like cancel for any reason) that had to be purchased within a certain number of days after booking the trip, the same rules apply to your add on.


Traveling Thursday – Considerations when buying travel insurance

After reading last week’s post, you decided that buying travel insurance might be a good idea and now you need to know what to look for when buying travel insurance.

When traveling abroad, the two big categories that you want your insurance to cover are trip cancellation and medical emergencies. Other coverage (evacuations, trip interruption and loss/delay) are often included in these bundled package plans.

Let’s first look at trip cancellation. This is coverage that protects the money you have invested on prepaid expenses related to your trip. Almost every policy allows you to cancel for sickness or death (either your own, your traveling companion’s, or a family member’s). Of course there are a number of additional reasons that trips must be cancelled. Things like natural disasters are sometimes covered by a company’s standard plan; it is important to carefully look at the policy. You can almost always expect to pay more for “cancel for work reasons,” “coverage in the event of the travel provider’s financial default,” “terrorism,” and “cancel for any reason.” This is when you really need to think about your life and what kind of coverage makes sense for you.

If you are still working, I highly recommend “cancel for work reasons” coverage. This generally means that as long as your supervisor signs an affidavit saying that you were given the time off but can no longer be away, you will get your money back.

“Cancel for any reason” coverage might be a good idea but remember that you may only get a portion of your total trip cost back when using this coverage.

I have been told from a travel insurance representative that the “cancel for terrorism” coverage is often not what people think they are getting. Things that travelers see as terrorism may only be viewed as “civil unrest” by the insurance company.

Now let’s move on to medical coverage.  No one plans to end up in a foreign hospital but it happens and when it does, the fees can be alarming. Even people with good insurance in the US can find it to be inadequate when traveling abroad. Medicare doesn’t cover its participants when traveling abroad. The last thing you want to do is end up sick and in debt. The good thing about most travel insurance policies is that they will act as the primary payer if you need to seek medical treatment. This means that your own medical insurance would only be billed as secondary coverage to pick up any costs not paid by the travel insurance.

When looking at this coverage, it is also important to understand whether preexisting conditions are covered or not and how the company defines preexisting. In many cases, preexisting conditions are covered if you buy shortly after making a trip deposit or if you buy the most expensive level of coverage. Preexisting conditions are generally classified as any existing condition that you had to seek treatment for within X days before signing up for the trip. If you were treated for cancer but haven’t had treatment in two years, this would not be a preexisting condition for most providers. If you received your last chemo treatment 55 days before booking the trip, it would be. In some cases, even a change in maintenance drugs or other medications X days before signing up for the trip can trigger the preexisting condition exclusion. Look at the details and think about your life. My advice is to buy insurance immediately after booking your trip. By doing this, you can often get a waiver for preexisting conditions while avoiding the premium coverage cost.

If you are traveling in the U.S., you should still buy cancellation coverage but you may not need medical coverage depending on your own policy. If you own insurance is lacking or there are few in-network providers in the part of the country you are visiting, you might want to consider medical coverage as part of your travel insurance.

The cost of your travel insurance coverage will vary based on how much medical coverage you want. To determine what you’ll need, consider your health and what (if anything) your health insurance will cover. If you are going to Antarctica or another remote location, make sure the policy provides adequate medical evacuation coverage.

Next week we’ll wrap up with a look at what you should cover and go over some sites that offer information and quotes.

Traveling Thursday – You need trip insurance.

Many people see trip insurance as a waste of money. It’s something for overly cautious people but I’ve seen enough sickness and travel SNAFU’s to tell you that travel insurance should be purchased whenever you are making non-refundable arrangements.

Imagine you are in the airport on your way to the trip of your dreams. It’s almost time for your flight to leave and you want to make one last trip to the restroom before boarding the plane. You get up and start walking only to find yourself stumbling over a carry-on and landing with a thud on the floor. Your arm is broken in the fall; there’s no way for you to go on the trip.

The instance above really happened. If you don’t have travel insurance you will lose every penny you spent on the trip. With travel insurance, you will still have the disappointment of a cancelled trip (and the pain of a broken arm) but you can recoup the money you spent and put it toward a trip in the future.

Trip insurance can help pay for…
– Single supplements if your travel partner has to cancel the trip but you can still go. In the case of a cruise, the single supplement is almost as much as your original fare.
– Medical treatments needed during your trip. Even if you have great coverage in the U.S., most health insurance coverage is reduced when you are traveling abroad so you could wind up with a hefty bill even for simple treatments.
– Costs associated with trip interruption or delay. For instance, you are supposed to fly home on Tuesday but due to a transportation strike all flights are cancelled. The insurance can help pay for a hotel until you are able to get home two days late.
– The cost of medical evacuation. Depending on your destination and ailment, this can be a huge cost.
– The cost of bringing a family member to you if you become seriously ill during your travels. Generally, this coverage only begins after you have been hospitalized for several days but it can be a great money saver.

Travel insurance can cost between 5-15 percent of your trip cost depending on your age and the level of coverage you want to purchase. When you are spending a few thousand dollars on your trip, this can seem like a big expense for something you hope to never use but by now, I hope you are getting the idea that the insurance is well worth the cost.

Next week I’ll review the types of coverage available and what kinds of costs you should cover.