Almost anytime you book travel online or over the phone, websites or agents will ask whether you would like to purchase travel insurance for your trip. The pitch for travel insurance is usually a hard sell. Companies warn that failure to purchase travel insurance could leave you responsible for cancellation fees and other expenses.
The reality is that most people are not sure whether it is necessary or not. They may add it on blindly (or fail to buy it) without fully understanding what it offers or how it might impact their travel plans. It is essential to weigh the pros and cons of purchasing travel insurance for your particular situation since there are many factors to consider and exclusions to take into account.
What is Travel Insurance?
In a nutshell, travel insurance is designed to protect you, the traveler, from financial losses that could occur during your travel. However, only certain situations and benefits are covered, plan coverage varies, and there are many exclusions.
When Should You Take It?
One of the prime times to consider travel insurance is when you are traveling out of the country. When traveling abroad, choose a robust travel insurance plan and understand the intricacies of offerings for things like:
- Medical expenses while traveling (most U.S. insurance companies exclude expenses while traveling out of the country).
- Medical evacuation costs (if you need to be transported back to the U.S. under medical supervision the costs can be astronomical without this vital protection).
- When you have expensive non-refundable tickets that are more than you can easily afford to lose.
- When you are taking a cruise. Cruises are different because they are widely vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms and are fairly high-ticket items. Make sure when you book that you purchase travel insurance and that hurricanes are not excluded from this protection.
Even in these situations, you might want to check to see if you have coverage and protection elsewhere, such as through your credit card provider, first.
When Should You Skip It?
The short answer to this question is “some of the time.” That is the case when traveling domestically on a short trip where the cost of the trip is minimal.
Another time to skip the travel insurance is when your credit card company offers protection already. No one wants to pay for the same service twice. More importantly, most credit card companies provide more robust coverage than the average add-on insurance plan when booking flights and hotels.
Also, some airlines offer no change fees, which allows you to change your flight without incurring a cost to do so. If you book your trip through an airline offering this perk, then considering skipping travel insurance for this portion of your itinerary.
Further, many of the items “covered” by flight insurance are available to airline passengers automatically. Some of them allow airlines to get out of what they owe to passengers, according to Smarter Travel.
Lastly, consider the exclusions in the travel insurance plan. A recent NBC news report states that travel insurance protection is actually very thin, and the exclusions make the coverage somewhat sketchy. Those inclusions include things like delays caused by the following common reasons for flight delays and/or cancellations:
- Natural disasters (like hurricanes and earthquakes)
- Air, water, or other pollution
- Civil unrest
- Terrorist events
- Nuclear disasters
It also excludes things considered pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy and childbirth or “reasonably foreseeable” problems resulting in delayed or canceled flights from protection.
Considerations Concerning Travel Insurance
The next time you are faced with the question of travel insurance when booking your travel, consider these points before clicking to buy.
- Does your credit card company offer better protection for free?
- Are you traveling domestically are abroad?
- Does your airline offer “no change fees”?
- Are you taking a cruise?
- Are you traveling to an area affected by hurricanes and it is hurricane season?
- How much are you willing to lose for the flexibility your travels require?
Most of the time, the answer to these questions will answer your questions about the necessity of travel insurance.