Flexible, affordable, travel insurance should always be on your itinerary
Planning a grand tour to Europe or a tropical vacation in paradise? Or is this the year that you do that round-the-world adventure that you’ve always dreamed about? If you’ll soon be hopping on a plane or embarking on a cruise down an exotic coast, congratulations. But, before you go, don’t forget to buy travel insurance.
Stuff happens in life: job loss, an unexpected illness, a death in the family, an international crisis. An unforeseen event may force you to cancel a trip or, while away, you may need to go see a doctor. Don’t go uninsured!
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is temporary insurance that you buy to protect yourself for the duration of your trip. It can include coverage if you have to cancel a nonrefundable plane ticket or cover the cost of prepaid hotel stays and tours; reimburse you for lost or stolen possessions; or pay for hospital stays if you get injured or sick abroad.
Can you obtain travel insurance through AAA?
Yes, AAA is a partner with Allianz, which provides four coverage options. All the options include insurance against trip cancellation or interruption, medical coverage (including for preexisting conditions), baggage loss and damage, emergency transportation and travel delays.
Tip: AAA members and non-members can obtain travel insurance through AAA for the same cost. However, AAA members will receive the added benefit on three of the available plans of receiving $100 if a cruise ship misses a port of call appearing on the original itinerary, up to a total benefit of $300.
Who needs travel insurance?
Anyone investing a significant amount of money in travel plans should consider travel insurance. This applies both to vacations within the United States and international travel. If your trip costs thousands of dollars, it is a good idea to get trip protection that will refund you for any tickets if you have to cancel your vacation or if the trip is interrupted. Also, anyone who is traveling to outside the U.S. should have emergency medical/dental coverage. At the least, you should review your personal medical coverage carefully to determine if you are covered while abroad.
What are the main types of travel insurance?
Travel insurance normally is sold as a bundled product that provides medical coverage and trip protection. However, you can usually select from a menu of options, which includes or excludes certain coverage, or adjusts the coverage limits. Travel insurance has three major types:
1. Medical/Dental Coverage
Emergency medical/dental will cover you for illness or injury, as well as any medications that you might require. Say, for example, you break your leg or get ill while in a foreign country. In most cases, your normal medical insurance won’t cover you for hospital stays or doctor’s visits in another country. Just as in the United States, a protracted stay in a foreign hospital can bankrupt you. So, you need to make sure you have medical insurance for everyone in your family while you are away.
Do I need medical/dental insurance if I am taking a cruise?
Yes, most cruise ships have their own medical staff on board; however, if you do seek treatment from the on-ship clinic, you will be billed separately. Typically, your regular medical insurance provider will not cover those claims, but travel insurance can reimburse you.
Tip: Emergency medical coverage will typically not pay claims if you are injured because of reckless behavior or you take unnecessary risk. Travel insurance also may not cover injuries from certain activities, such as scuba diving.
What if I have a preexisting condition?
In many cases, travel insurance will cover a preexisting condition if that condition is under control at the time of the trip. So, in other words, if you have been treated for a certain condition and it is stable when you take out the policy, that condition will tend to be covered.
Will travel insurance cover COVID?
That depends, some insurance policies will cover medical expenses caused by COVID-19 and some will not. Unfortunately, while COVID restrictions have eased in most countries, COVID itself has not disappeared, so it is important to obtain a policy that will cover COVID.
2. Trip cancellation/interruption
This is a standard part of any travel insurance policy. Trip cancellation insurance kicks in when you buy the policy, and will reimburse you for any bookings you have to cancel before you leave, such as plane tickets, cruise bookings, tours, hotel stays, etc. Meanwhile, trip interruption coverage begins when the trip begins, and will cover the costs of unused pre-booked tickets, stays or tours should you need to end the vacation early. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance are usually sold together.
Tip: Trip cancellation and interruption insurance will pay a claim only for a covered reason to cancel or end a vacation early. For example, most policies will cover an international incident, such as severe weather, the death of a family member or if you are too sick to travel. If you simply no longer want to go, however, that wouldn’t normally be covered. However, it is often possible to upgrade this coverage to allow you to “cancel a trip for any reason.”
3. Baggage loss/damage or delay
Travel insurance will provide coverage for the loss, theft or damage to your baggage and personal items, such as laptops, cell phones, clothes, etc. You can also get compensated if your baggage is delayed, so you can purchase essential items, such as clothing and toiletries.
Tip: Consider leaving expensive jewelry and electronics at home or explore getting specialized insurance for jewelry or high-end items. While travel insurance will cover for loss, damage and theft, normally the insurance will only reimburse you for a fixed amount for each item, such as $500 maximum per item up to a total loss of $2,000.
Other types of travel coverage
Travel insurance also can cover a number of other items, such as:
- Emergency transportation to a hospital in the event of an illness or injury
- Travel delays to cover additional travel and the lost prepaid expenses if your trip is delayed
- Change fee coverage to reimburse you for any fee that you are charged for changing an airline or rail ticket
- Rental car loss to cover the cost if your rental car is stolen or damaged in a covered accident
- Sports equipment coverage to cover the cost of any lost, damaged or stolen fishing and sports equipment
What if I am planning to travel all year?
If you’re planning several trips this year or going away for a long time, you might consider an annual travel insurance policy. While most travel insurance policies are short duration, an annual policy will cover you for the entire year regardless of what country you are traveling to.
How much does travel insurance cost?
Travel insurance is broadly affordable, with a robust policy costing on average about 5% to 12% of the total cost of the trip. The cost will vary depending on the age of the traveler, the cost of the trip and the types of coverage that you choose. Normally, the cost is not affected by the destination or your prior medical claims history.
Before you go on your dream vacation this year, it would be wise to seriously consider getting travel insurance to protect yourself and your family in case of the unexpected. Call a AAA travel agent now to book your vacation and buy travel insurance.
—Written by AAA Washington staff
—Top Photo: ONYXprj/AdobeStock
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