6 types of travel insurance: for greater certainty in uncertain times


As the coronavirus has completely affected our lives, this pandemic has disrupted existing and future travel plans. Therefore, all of this has turned greater attention to travel insurance. Such protection provides a safety net so you can step out with confidence, covering big financial risks that you don’t want to bear alone.

Travel insurance provides a safety net so you can step out with confidence. It may not be needed for inexpensive trips, but it can provide a sense of security when you pre-pay for pricey reservations… think international trips, luxury travel and/or big family trips where you might plan on spending maybe $10,000, $15,000 or more – meaning this is something worth insuring.

Here are six of the most common types of coverage:

1. Medical travel insurance

Even if you think that your health is perfect, there’s always the chance of twisting your ankle while climbing the stone stairs of Machu Picchu? Or maybe you decide to take the chance of eating some street food in Bolivia, only to later find that it’s contaminated and requires treatment for dehydration? Such unpredictable scenarios are not uncommon when traveling internationally, which is why medical travel insurance is worth the investment.

More than likely, your home-country-based medical insurance will not apply for when you’re traveling abroad. Similarly, Medicare typically will not provide coverage outside the U.S. Therefore, if you plan on traveling internationally, purchasing travel medical insurance makes a lot of sense.

Note, though, that while most medical travel insurance plans provide coverage for accidents that might occur while participating in many recreational activities, such as trekking and horseback riding, these policies often exclude adventure sports such as mountain climbing and parasailing. You may need to buy a special travel policy designed for such adventure sports. Check with your tour operator for recommendations.

2. Trip cancellation, interruption and delay

Trip cancellation is when something happens that prevents you from going on a previously planned trip. Trip cancellation insurance reimburses travelers for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses if you have to cancel the trip for one of the reasons outlined in the policy. These situations often include your tour company or cruise line going out of business prior to your departure, you becoming ill prior to your trip, a family member not traveling with you becomes ill or dies, etc. If you do not purchase trip cancellation insurance and any of these situations occur, you run the risk of losing up to 100 percent of the money you’ve invested in your trip.

Trip interruption is when you are part way through your journey and something happens that cuts it short, such as a family member’s medical emergency back home or a workers’ strike at an airport. With trip interruption insurance, you’ll be reimbursed for the portion of the trip you did not complete, which could be a substantial amount – especially with international travel.

Exact circumstances are policy specific, so be sure to read a policy in its entirety before making a purchase so you know what situations it covers and what actions you’ll need to take to file a claim if your trip is canceled or interrupted.

3. Baggage and personal belongings

If you’re bringing valuable items with you in your luggage — such as electronics, photography equipment or jewelry — insuring your belongings will help protect you financially if something goes missing. This coverage usually provides reimbursement for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage and other personal items for your entire trip, not just flight-related activities. Some plans even reimburse you for extra expenses if your baggage is delayed for more than a certain period, such as 12 hours.

However, to avoid unnecessarily buying more than one insurance policy on your belongings, check to see if this coverage is already offered under your travel medical policies. Similarly, some credit cards also offer baggage coverage, and your existing renter’s homeowner’s policy may cover items valued over $1,000. Be aware of what coverage you have elsewhere prior to purchasing baggage insurance to determine the level of coverage it provides so you do not end up paying for a benefit you already have.

4. Evacuation and repatriation

If you are traveling to a remote area or a region without adequate medical facilities, it’s important that you purchase medical evacuation insurance or a travel medical policy with this coverage. This coverage pays medical expenses if you get sick or injured on a trip.

Medical evacuation coverage pays for transporting you to the nearest hospital, and medical repatriation pays for flying you to your home country. The cost of health care or of flying you home in the event that you are injured or become seriously ill on your vacation will be nothing less than outrageous – costing as much as $100,000. Don’t gamble with your health; be sure to purchase a plan that will ensure you access to a clinic where you will receive the care you need.

5. 24-hour assistance

Many insurers provide a 24-hour hotline that you can call 24/7, whenever you need help, such as booking a flight after a missed connection, finding lost luggage, or locating a doctor or lawyer. Some plans may even include concierge services, providing help with restaurant referrals, tee time reservations and information before the trip, such as required vaccinations.

Still, reputable tour operators offer many of these same services, so you will want to carefully read over the policy to know if it is indeed worthwhile for your trip.

6. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance

This coverage pays a lump sum to your beneficiary, such as a family member, if you die in an accident while on the trip. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance policies also pay a portion of the sum to you if you lose a hand, foot, limb, eyesight, speech or hearing. Some plans apply only to accidental death in a plane.

Note: This coverage may be duplicative if you already have sufficient life insurance, which pays out whether you die in an accident or from an illness. You may also already have accidental death and dismemberment insurance through work, so it’s best to check your policies to ensure you’re not overpaying.

Work with your tour operator and read your policy

Remember that the key to protecting yourself with travel insurance is to be informed. Always consult with your selected tour operator as well as read the entire policy of your insurance provider so that you fully understand each of its benefits and exclusions.

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.

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Comments (6)

  1. Daryl F. says:

    I admit I’ve never applied for travel insurance whenever I travel and always uncheck the insurance options when booking flights. However, some countries like those in the Schengen Nation require you to have travel insurance. I am all for being secured when visiting other places for my own peace of mind. But I can see why sometimes it’s a deterrent for some. Application can be tedious and costly for something that will secure you for like a couple of weeks. As uncertain times are here though, I am more inclined to buy insurance now when I get to travel, even if my destination doesn’t require one. Thanks for outlining all the different types of travel insurance I can get. Very useful information.

    • Jeremy says:

      There are some more modern options nowadays for travel insurance. You can just apply online and pay a premium based on your current health care or where you live. Just do some research and you’ll find out a few options geared toward “nomads”.

  2. Sam says:

    I’ve always had travel insurance plus the European Health Card when travelling in Europe. I must admit though I’ve always skimped a little to get cheaper coverage, keeping my fingers crossed the things I’ve not got included won’t happen. With the current situation I would much, much rather pay more for a comprehensive policy now, especially with possible cancellations and need for medical assistance. I’m lucky in never having had problems with baggage being lost but I don’t want to tempt fate there either so next time I travel I’ll be making sure all of these points get covered. Very useful post and a good reminder because it’s better to be safe than sorry with insurance.

  3. Wayne says:

    I agree with the ‘read your policy’ statement but the problem is, these documents tend to be so long and you never really know what eventuality you could be insuring yourself against. From my experience, the insurance companies will try every trick they can to wriggle out of any situation, however clear-cut it may be.

    • Lorraine Berry says:

      Who would want to be an actuary calculating the risks that need covering and the cost of travel insurance in 2020 or 2021? On the one hand you’ve got hefty claims coming in from those people who had to cancel travel early in the year or became stranded. Then as the situation developed you’ve got people too scared to leave their home or not having flights available to travel or worried about quarantine. You really need a crystal ball to know when people will get back to travelling as frequently as they did in 2019!

  4. Andy says:

    This sounds like being over-prepared but from my experience, you will eventually run into a situation where you need health care. Part of traveling is being ready for something to go wrong. I was in Thailand last year and my girlfriend and I were taking a walk at night and we went past an apartment building and out front there were two dogs. One of them ran up to her and bit her on the ankle. And we were very scared about rabies and went to the hospital immediately. Certain parts of the world have different health issues that you won’t be aware of until you go there. So it helps to play it safe when it’s one less thing to worry about.

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