I’m going on a cruise in a few weeks and once again, there’s the question of do I need travel insurance? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple yes or no answer because so much depends on what coverage one already has, where one is traveling, how much money has been spent, and more. Here are the questions I had to answer for myself before determining whether or not I should purchase travel insurance.
Have you spent a lot of money or would you have to pay expensive cancellation fees if your trip had to be cancelled or interrupted? Balance out what you would lose if you couldn’t travel for some reason. Be sure to look at everything from airplane change fees to prebooked tours (which are often nonrefundable) to hotel and rental car deposits.
Do you have enough money to extend your trip should someone be ill or injured and unable to travel? This seems like an unlikely scenario, but it’s actually pretty common. Here is the perfect example (and it has happened to me twice). It’s the day before you’re supposed to go home and your child or your traveling companion has a terrible earache. You find a doctor who tells you that they have an ear infection and cannot fly until it is healed. You suddenly realize you now are going to have a few extra nights of hotel costs and $200 (more or less) per person to change flights home.
Does your medical insurance cover you everywhere you’re traveling? This can be a tricky one. The insurance company may say they do, but there may be limitations such as only covering you at an in-network location, but not out-of network even in cases of emergency, which is fine unless you’re in an ambulance and have no choice which hospital you go to. Think of different scenarios and ask about them to see how much coverage you will have. No one wants to get sick or injured while on vacation, but even worse would be getting sick or injured and having huge expenses on top of it.
Will your medical insurance cover you if you’re injured when participating in certain activities? Many people are surprised to find that their medical coverage doesn’t cover illnesses or injuries caused by skiing, scuba diving, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, etc. I’ve even heard of one traveler whose insurance didn’t cover her injury from a jet ski accident.
Will you be traveling somewhere without major medical facilities? Would you have to be airlifted to medical facilities? Sometimes this is an obvious answer. If traveling to Chicago, one will have access to good medical care, but if one is going on an African safari, it is likely one would have to be airlifted to a good hospital. There’s more to it than that, though. What if you’re traveling in a remote area of Yellowstone National Park? What if you’re on a cruise ship or on the cruise line’s private island? The truth is that often medical insurance does not cover these flights and they are very expensive. Travel insurance may also cover if the worst should happen and a traveler’s remains must be transported home, which is also expensive.
How much luggage will you have, what are you packing in it, who is handling it, and where are you going? Most airlines and other travel carriers will cover luggage losses up to a certain dollar amount. For example, both American and Southwest Airlines cover up to $3,500 if traveling in the U.S. British Airways limits their coverage to £1,000 (about $1,300 at the time of this blog post) for most international travel. Flights to some South American countries are only required to cover up to around $500. Note that these limits are per person, not per bag. Add up what it would cost to replace the luggage itself and all of its contents to determine if the carrier’s coverage is enough.
Do you have enough money for transportation home mid-trip should an emergency arise? No one wants to think about it, but if something happened at home, would you be able to get there? Many travel insurance providers will cover expenses if you need to go home for various reasons including a fire or break in at your residence, the serious illness or death of a family member or business partner, or in the cases of a traveler’s illness where a doctor recommends that the traveler goes home.
Depending on how you answered these questions, you may want to look into travel insurance. For our cruise, I did purchase it for several reasons. First, we had to prepay the flights and the cruise so we’d be out a lot of money if we had to cancel. Second, while our medical insurance will cover us on the cruise ship and in all the countries we are visiting, it will not cover some of our activities including my scuba dive in the Bahamas nor would it cover a medical flight from the cruise ship or the cruise line’s private island. Third, I simply like the peace of mind that if something happens on our trip, we can head home if needed. In shopping around, I also found that annual insurance was a better value for my family since we travel a lot so now we’re covered on all of our trips for the next year. For your family, though, travel insurance may not be worth it. Answer these questions, see what insurance costs, and make a knowledgeable decision to see if it’s right for you.