To maintain your peace of mind, you don’t usually entertain the idea that something bad could happen while traveling for business or pleasure. Vacations and getaways of any sort are usually idealized in our minds. While planning where you’ll stay, eat, and what activities you’ll participate in, it’s rare to think about the less-than-pleasant scenarios that unfortunately do rain on many vacationers’ parades. In reality, disaster can strike anywhere in the world that you may be. Fortunately, your travels can be protected by insurance, and fortunately, an increasing number of travelers are beginning to accept this.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
If you’re taking a weekend trip to the next state, it’s unlikely you need travel insurance. If you’re planning a two-month jaunt around Asia though, keep reading. In recent years, the number of American travelers purchasing coverage has increased, and now about 30% of globetrotters are covered.
There are four main types of coverage you can purchase.
- Travel Health Insurance: Covers accidents and hospital/doctor visits.
- Medical Evacuation Insurance: Covers transportation to the hospital
- Trip Cancellation insurance: Covers unexpected cancellations
- Baggage/Property Insurance: Covers theft and damage to your personal property
Some travel insurance companies have strict rules on when you can purchase a policy (the latest a travel insurance plan can be purchased is before the first day of the trip), especially when it comes to medical insurance, so reviewing policies is crucial, but first, review any personal health insurance policies you have.
Travel health insurance is one of the most popular forms of travel insurance purchased now, in addition to property insurance. If you have a comprehensive health plan, your trip abroad is normally covered. But if you’re on a federally funded program like Medicare or Medicaid or have a private health insurance policy, you may not be covered. Also, if you don’t have a form of home insurance, which can cover you if your belongings are stolen or you cause some trouble, travel insurance might be able to replace that stolen laptop containing all the embarrassing photos you took on your vacation.
Understanding the risks of where you’re traveling might help you decide which policy to purchase. One thing is for sure — when something does happen, the travelers below were happy they had coverage.
10 Real Life Stories: When Travel Insurance Saved the Day
#1: An Aussie was enjoying a surfing holiday in Bali when he was rudely interrupted by a shark biting him on the arm. When he arrived at the hospital, doctors found that the shark had severed five tendons and most of the muscles. Travel insurance paid for his surgery, hotel costs, cancelled flights, and even covered the flight home. Here’s hoping they didn’t play Jaws on his flight home.
#2: A couple staying in Malaysia returned to their chalet on a hot day to find that monkeys had jumped through their open window. Before visions of Outbreak had time to form in their head, they noticed that all of their belongings were in odd places throughout the surrounding rainforest. When the couple contacted their travel insurance company, the loss of their belongings was covered and they were able to buy new clothes. I wonder if the monkeys wore ski masks…
#3: David and Jan were visiting Peru to see their son when late one night, David woke up with severe pain. He was taken to the hospital and after several hours of waiting, was diagnosed with kidney stones. David contacted his travel insurance company who took his claim and gave him advice on what to do next. Once the stones were passed, the couple continued their trip.
#4: While traveling in Israel, one man was exploring the city of Natanya and lost his wallet down a drain. His first reaction? Go digging for it. Turns out there was more than some spare change and lost keys and wallets down the drain, and what was down the drain didn’t want the traveler to get his wallet back — he ended up being stung on the hand by a poisonous scorpion who was upset about his home invasion. Travel insurance ended up paying for his medical bills as well as his lost wallet — fortunately meaning that although his wallet went down the drain, his money didn’t.
#5: Thailand can be a majestic place, but when you’re deathly ill, all you want is treatment. At first, it was only Kate who was sick, but then her partner Jason also became ill. They were hesitant to visit just any hospital, and thanks to their travel insurance policy, they had the option of consulting an advisor who directed them to a reputable hospital and paid for all the charges.
#6: Make sure you choose your napping spots carefully when traveling. One woman vacationing in Sri Lanka found this out the hard way in a story straight out of Gilligan’s Island or a cartoon. While relaxing under a tree, she was knocked out by a falling coconut, which cost her nearly $1K in medical bills. Her costs were reimbursed thanks to her travel insurance policy.
#7: Sometimes you need to use travel insurance to cover bad decisions. One young woman decided to dive headfirst into a pool at an overseas resort and ended up having to be airlifted out. Her travel insurance not only paid for all of her medical expenses, but also covered her family’s accommodation during her recovery. Talk about making travel arrangements a-head of time.
#8: Everyone likes to have a good time on vacation, but don’t lose sight of safety. Ironically, although Greece has been deemed one of the safest countries for women to travel alone to, one woman visiting Greece — who seemingly ended up there instead of Cancun during spring break —was so insistent on getting a drink that she ignored the fire alarm and crowd of people escaping outside. Just as flames took over, she escaped with third-degree burns. Travel insurance covered her expenses.
#9: Many a traveler has hoped they’ll serendipitously meet a Brazilian swimsuit model or a rugged Australian with the ultimate alluring accent while traveling. Although it’s nice to have attention from an attractive native, keep in mind that alternative motives may be at play. One traveler found that out the hard way when his cash, passport, and iPod were stolen by a temptress. His travel insurance helped him replace his passport and covered his loss of cash. He didn’t receive any compensation for the blow to his ego, though.
#10: Kerry experienced the worst of both worlds while on a cruise with her mother-in-law. Not only did she have her camera and video camera stolen, she was diagnosed with appendicitis. She had to leave the boat and undergo emergency surgery. Travel insurance not only paid for her medical expenses but also covered accommodations and flights that subsequently occurred because of the medical emergency. Although it wasn’t an experience of titanic proportions, the extra coverage paying for those incidental expenses and medical care at least gave her a jumpstart towards a new vacation.
Pictures of pristine, clear blue waters or sidewalk cafes in Paris don’t leave much room in the imagination for such emergencies, but they are a reality. Although we want the ideal of any situation — whether it’s buying a car or a home — life happens. Cars get into accidents, homes burn down, and unfortunately, just when you think you’re getting away from it all, disaster can strike.
Follow Desiree on Twitter @DesireeBaughman.