While not included in the cost of your trip because it is a highly individualized cost for travel, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance.
The Case for Insurance
Travel insurance is a necessity, because, as we have all learned over the last year or so, things sometimes happen that are beyond our control. Lockdowns, weather, volcanos, illness–any or all can put an abrupt stop to your plans, after the point where you can be refunded the money you have already paid for your trip of a lifetime.
A great deal of planning goes into group travel. Our tour guides put in many hours of preparation on our behalf. Before you even hear about the trip, they have been on the phone arranging rooms, scheduling classes, and planning menus with restaurants. Not to mention all the communication with me, poor souls, to make sure that the trip lines up with my goals. This is why deposits are non-refundable. All that preplanning needs to be covered.
But in addition to that, after a certain point in the process, we are holding on to hotel rooms that could have been booked, but can’t be filled on short notice. Restaurants will have purchased ingredients. Teachers will have scheduled their time to the exclusion of other opportunities. Experiences will already be booked and paid for. Each of the businesses involved with these aspects of a tour may be able to offer a refund, but some of them can’t, and some can only refund part.
While my travel partners will work with you as best they can if you need to cancel, they may not be able to refund the full amount. It’s best if you protect yourself with insurance.
What Does It Cover?
Depending on the policy, travel insurance can cover emergency medical costs, lost or stolen goods, interrupted or cancelled trips, and more.
Berkshire Hathaway has an excellent primer on what travel insurance may or may not cover. Please note that I am not endorsing BH as your insurer. You need to do the research on the coverage you require. What I hope you take away from the article, though, is that it really is wise to insure your trip, and your specific needs are going to vary from other people who are joining us. Plan to spend an evening deciding on the appropriate policy for your trip. (Once you’ve done it, it gets easier the next time!)
How Do I Know What Coverage I Need?
You may be one of the lucky individuals who is already covered through your credit card company. This isn’t always complete travel coverage, though. One of my family’s credit cards, for instance, covers us for emergency medical care and evacuations when we are on a trip if we used the card to purchase our plane tickets. It will also cover lost or stolen items. But it won’t cover the cost of the trip itself or cancelled plane tickets. So even if your credit card offers travel insurance, be sure that you know exactly what is covered, because you may need to purchase supplemental insurance.
You may also be covered in whole or in part through your home insurance or auto insurance. Call your broker or the companies you purchase from and ask specifically about what, if any, coverage they will offer while you are traveling.
Once you have a sense of what coverage you already have, you can shop responsibly for a policy. I recommend starting at a travel insurance marketplace, like Aardy.com. Insurance marketplaces allow you to enter some details about your trip and get some preliminary results that include the basic information of what is covered and an estimate of the policy’s cost. From there, you can weigh the benefits, cost, and reputation of the provider before actually contacting them.
Please note that Aardy.com only includes insurers based in the United States. For travelers outside of the US, google Travel Insurance Marketplace and the name of your country. If there are marketplaces available in your country, they should come up in the search results, otherwise, you should see listings for the more popular travel insurance companies in your country.
Deciding on a Provider
Once you have narrowed down your options to a few providers, reach out and ask questions such as:
- What state are you regulated by and what is your registration number? (This protects you from fly-by-night operations! Confirm their registration is legitimate using the state’s license look up tool linked on this page.)
- Who underwrites your policies? (Check the underwriter’s name on Ambest. If they aren’t rated or are rated poorly on Ambest, go with a different insurer.)
- Do you have a 24-hour help line I can use while I am traveling?
- What costs will your company pay for directly, and what costs will I have to pay and be reimbursed for? (In other words, if you break your leg on your trip or your hotel closes down while you are traveling, will they pay the healthcare bill or the new hotel directly, or will you have to pay first and wait for them to pay you back?)
- What is the average time it takes for a claim to be paid?
- Do you offer a “cancel for any reason” option, and how much does that add to the cost?
- What exactly does your covid-19 coverage entail?
Make sure you get any other questions you have answered, too.
Once you have all the information from your options, you can make an informed decision as to who to use as your insurer.
One thing to keep in mind is that the closer you get to the trip itself, the more expensive the coverage tends to get. Once you are sure of the trip itself, book it. And if you can, book your insurance the same day.
Life is full of uncertainty. Travel insurance is an extra expense, but it can make the difference between you getting to reschedule a once-in-a-lifetime trip and missing out completely because you couldn’t travel or ended up with a medical bill you can’t afford.
I am looking forward to traveling with you! Please make sure you’re covered so even if something comes up, I can still see you on a later trip!