“Couple headed to Jamaica…2 days before departure husband’s hand got caught in the electric garage opener…lost 2 fingers…Insurance covered them…. funny thing, HE did not want to add it to package…Wife insisted…. smart wife.” – Amy Schwartz, Imagine Travel
This has to be, without a doubt, one of my biggest frustrations as a Travel Professional. No matter how extravagant or low-budget your trip may be, there are many things totally outside of your control that could change your dream vacation into a nightmare faster than you can say “Hurricane Maria.”
For many years I, like many other travelers, was one who believed that once I had committed to a trip, I was going to go on it…NO MATTER WHAT! It just didn’t seem necessary to add another $79-$129-$249 (whatever the premium) to the cost of the trip for something as un-romantic as travel insurance. I have seen so many situations over the years that have affected my clients’ (and even my own) travel plans and my eyes have definitely been opened to the need for a good travel insurance policy.
Throughout this article, you’ll see quotes I sourced from my colleagues in the travel industry. So, if you don’t want to take my word for it, perhaps consider the word of all these travel pros!
“I had a very large group going to Europe. One couple, no insurance. They repeatedly denied insurance against my recommendations. She was hurt on the ship and was taken to the hospital in Italy. $1200 later that they had to pay up front, and separate hotel stay, we now have insurance purchasers for life.” – Phyore Montgomery, Just Get Up and Go Travel
I can go on and on with reasons you should buy travel insurance and you may still not want to listen to me. Practically speaking, I want to point out these very important points:
Your US Passport clearly states that Medicare and most US health insurance companies don’t provide medical coverage while abroad (p.6), so you should double-check your policies for coverage of medical evacuation, payments to hospitals/ doctors overseas, or future reimbursement for overseas medical care.
“I use this story for clients, because most think only old people need insurance. I was 26 staying at a Sandals in Jamaica, leisurely walking on the beach with my BF while some people were playing volleyball close by. All of a sudden, some guy comes and RAMS into me and I go flying and land in the sand. He was chasing the volleyball and running backward so didn’t see me. When he hit me, my sunglasses I was wearing cut into the corner of my eye and I ending up having to get stitches at the resort (they called in an MD). Thankfully it was just my eyelid and wasn’t too serious but if I had been cut just a bit more over it could have seriously damaged my eye. Insurance took care of the MD visit. And I still have the scar on my eyelid as proof. Lol!” – Christy Phillips Boyce, Soulful Journeys
Some people rely on their homeowner’s policy and/or credit card, but again these policies have limitations. You will want to check the deductible amount for things like lost or stolen baggage, which is usually higher with a homeowner’s policy. Most credit card policies do not cover any travel medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation, or trip interruption, which are often the highest costing types of claims.
“Clients missed connections for their overseas flight. Could not get out until the next day so missed one-night prepaid hotel and a ferry connection. 4 people costs of overnight on the east coast plus recovery of prepaid accommodations and ferry. Not a huge amount but you could say the insurance say paid for itself.” – Lois Wallace, Authentic Celtic Travels
Now let’s cover the kinds of things that can occur while you are traveling that travel insurance will help you out with:
Trip cancelation – When you’re sick and can’t travel, a relative dies, you’re required to work, or your house floods…
“My sister and I went to Morocco in March. Her bag got stuck in ATL on the way to Marrakech via Amsterdam. Delta and partners couldn’t get the bag to Marrakech for 3 days, but we were on an 8-day G-Adventures tour of Morocco and would be leaving the next day. The airline and airport couldn’t bring the bag out to the Sahara Desert (9+ hour drive) where we would be 3 days later, so she was going to be SOL for 7 days until we could swing back through Marrakech on the way to Essaouira. Luckily G-Adventures requires insurance and I am her sister, so she had insurance; therefore, she had $300 to buy essentials to get her through the 7 days without her bag!” – Ashley Metesh-McCoy, Kinship Vacations (See how I quoted myself there! wink-wink)
Missed connections – This happens all the time! Flights are delayed. Say you miss a connecting flight which leads you to miss out on a hotel stay, organized tour, airport transfer, a cruise departure
“While in Jamaica last year, my legs had a reaction to the sun. looked like a sunburn, but blotchy and swollen from above knees to toes. went to the MD at the resort. my primary insurance denied me because it was not an emergency, if I had gone to an ER it would have covered it. once they denied me, I filed a claim with travel guard and had a check within 2 weeks.” – Jean Andersen Caraluzzi, Boomerang Escapes
Flight cancellation – Weather or other unforeseen events cancel flights all the time. Rather than waiting forever to get re-booked by the airline, contact your insurance provider and get help getting to where you need to be quicker (new ticket) and more comfortably (hotel if needed) …
“(I had a) Client in DR (Dominican Republic) that got food poisoning and had to go to the hospital for IV fluids and antibiotics. Bill $1000 and fully covered by Allianz. That was the very first time that the client opted for insurance and needless to say, she was very glad I insisted on getting it. Now I don’t even have to ask them It’s automatically added to their package.” – Cheryl Frank-Jones, Lez Go Travel
Natural disasters damage your destination – Even though you saved all year for your trip to the Caribbean, a hurricane destroys your resort…
“I’m Canadian – 4 years ago we went skiing in Park City Utah and my 42-year-old healthy as can be husband, skiing triple black diamond hills felt like he pulled a muscle and had some intense back pain. Next day he had a massive heart attack (the “widow maker”). I knew my Visa card covered medical insurance so called them. They were pretty good and just told me not to worry and call them back when we were out of the woods (as it was a dire situation). 8 hrs. later I called when we were in ICU – luckily, I HAD called earlier, and they documented my call, but they then said they wouldn’t have covered it if I had not called (lesson – ALWAYS CALL them and make sure they document). However, they kept him in hospital a few days and then wanted to discharge him. Medically he was not allowed to fly because he needed cardiac rehab and they wouldn’t clear him to fly home. However, Visa insurance said unfortunately they only cover “emergencies” and this was no longer considered an emergency!!! Hence why you always buy separate insurance and don’t rely on the credit card only!! Again, lucky for us, his work had travel insurance for us (I had forgotten in my panic when he had the heart attack otherwise would have called them – lesson – always have that info at your fingertips) and they picked up the remaining tab and eventually flew us home. Final bill: over 70,000. Interestingly, (I’m Canadian so this could be standard) the insurance cut a deal to pay hospital less, then hospital tried to chase us for difference. We fought them for two years and finally got it all settled! (So also, a lesson to not pay up front on your own as they often want to cut deals). Do not leave home without it!” – Leah Davidson, Leah Davidson Travel
Acts of terrorism – Weeks before heading to your destination an act of terrorism occurs, leaving the country in chaos…
“The biggest “aversion” to purchasing travel insurance that I hear most often is that they have the coverage on their credit cards. Quite often, travel insurance suppliers will have a credit card comparison tool that allows us to see where the shortcomings may be on their cards so that we can fill the void. If someone says no because of a card, I always offer to confirm the coverage for them so that they can make an educated decision. One client in particular was hellbent that she had premium coverage on her card. No need to check. She was covered. Because she was so determined that there was no need to check, that made me more determined to confirm that she would be ok. I convinced her after TWO days to give me the exact brand of her card, so I could confirm for her. Low and behold, she did have coverage, however medical coverage was only to age 59…and she was travelling with her daughters to celebrate her 60th birthday. Of course, she indignantly argued that my findings didn’t sound right at all, so I encouraged her to contact her card company “to ease MY mind”. I got a call a few minutes later…asking to issue a policy for her and thanking me so much for my concern!” – Dorothy Beaton, Roam the Globe Travel Company “
You get sick or injured on the trip – Even the young and fit can get injured or sick enough to have a trip ruined! Food poisoning, sprained ankles, influenza – though not emergencies, necessarily, these conditions can be enough to cause you to miss some parts or the entirety of your vacation…
“A couple weeks ago I had a dear client trip on a tour bus on a dream 15-day trip in Spain, messed up her leg to where she couldn’t travel. The tour left her in a hotel room and went on…she didn’t even have a cell phone. Totally alone. Trip insurance found a private local hospital and insisted she go to a place with an international department. They arranged transportation from her hotel and checked on her daily until she had her fit to fly forms from the doctor. Even after the doc messed up the forms, they used their own documentation to secure permission to fly. They packed up her stuff at the hotel and checked her out. They took care of the hospital financial guarantee, so she could be released. They were even working on getting her an escort home (she was alone). $25,000 in medical bills for a severe sprain not to mention return flights from Europe in first class for her leg…plus all the trip she missed. They also offered to do medical translation when she talked with her doctors. Her entire family are Travel insurance customers for life.” – Mandy Horn, The Traveling Compass
Your baggage is delayed or lost– Again, this happens all the time and its totally out of your control. You may still have to live without your bags for duration of the delay, but at least you can get reimbursed for the essential items you need to carry out your trip…
Your passport is lost – With insurance you can often get help expediting and paying for a replacement passport…
“I took my father and aunt to Costa Rica about 7 years ago to visit my brother. While transferring from the coast to San Jose we stopped at the bridge over the crocodiles. While crossing from one side of the bridge to the other I fell and crushed my wrist. We were still about an hour from San Jose. The transfer operator took me to the hospital and stayed to translate – especially with all my allergies. The day before I left I renewed my travel agent policy with Travel Guard. I didn’t want to have surgery in Costa Rica, so they helped me get home. They assisted with me to get home. And Delta was awesome to me and watched me all the way home. My husband took me to the doctor the next morning and I have surgery the same week. Little did the doctors know that I was allergic to titanium and had to have second surgery to remove the plate. Travel Guard paid the access that my husband’s insurance did not pay which was about $10000. Fortunately, his insurance covered out of the country. I am a true believer in travel insurance and have the scar to prove it.” – Terrie Cassidy, Terrie’s Travelers
You need medical evacuation – This is where an unfortunate accident or illness gets EXTREMELY expensive without coverage! If you are located in a remote location or a foreign country with sub-standard medical care and medical evacuation is required, this typically costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars….
“I had a sweet London/Madrid itinerary booked; three days out, I was playing tennis after work and tore my right calf muscle. I could barely walk but was willing to try to tough it out (I get super angry at disappointment), but my husband called it off. With a letter from my doctor, we were reimbursed for everything except our nights at the Westin Madrid…they had offered to let us move the nights for any time in the next 12 months and I felt like, since they had tried to mitigate the problem, that I couldn’t in good faith make a claim for it. We knew we would be rescheduling a trip so that wasn’t a problem for us, but it is a nuance to be aware of, I think.” – Kathleen Sullivan, Anthology Travel
Your travel company files bankruptcy – Without insurance protection, you are usually S.O.L. if your travel company declares bankruptcy, but with insurance, you can recoup your expenses and get re-booked on another vacation…
“(I had a) client on a humanitarian mission to a remote part of southeast Asia. Stupid airline cancels his flight at the last minute, after he’s already left on the first leg of his multi-day journey. The airline refused to re-accommodate him, refused to do anything. I had to rebook him on a different airline to get him to his destination, his travel insurance (that I recommended) covered the difference in fare to rebook last minute on a new flight. He made it to his destination on time and was able to carry out his humanitarian mission.” – Matthew Exline, Cruise Planners
You need emergency assistance services – This is particularly important when traveling somewhere that you don’t speak the language and you cannot find an interpreter to help you overcome whatever obstacle comes your way…
And, if taking care of yourself is not enough motivation, think of your trusty travel advisor! If you have to cancel a trip at the last minute and your insurance reimburses you, your travel advisor might also be able to recover the lost commission as well – so, she/he will not be totally out of a commission check due to the trip cancellation!
“This was my “biggest” saddest travel insurance story of my 31 years. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which insurance company it was because it was so long ago. Pardon the length but I use this one in my “speech” to those who ask me for a “story” Nice couple booked a Globus escorted tour of Austria, Switzerland & Germany. Once deposit done, I brought up the subject of trip insurance. The husband banged his fist on my desk “Nah, we don’t need that!” Wife gently patted his hand and says “Dearie, I’d feel more comfortable purchasing the insurance….” Husband, grumbles and caves in. Fast forward, I get a phone call at 2:00 am with a hysterical woman on the other end whom I can barely understand. After tears subsided enough, she tells me that they were at Neuschwanstein castle, they were walking the hill to enter the castle for the tour and her husband had a massive heart attack and dies on the walkway! Several MDs in the tour group tried CPR to no avail. The men in the tour group picked him off the ground and brought him to the tour bus until the police/morgue arrived. Distraught wife was brought to the hotel and called me for help. I told her (this is before cellphones and faxes!!!) I will go to the office to get her file with the policy # right away and get her help. Luckily, my office was only a 10-minute drive in my pajamas. Grabbed her file, called the insurance company and they took down the hotel information and phone number which I gave them. Called her on another line and said they will have assistance to her within 30 minutes. I told the insurance company to explain (again) that they will take over from here to help. I hung up, went home and cried for her. I did not want to interfere with her grief or the process of returning home without her husband at her side. I left it to the insurance company and God. About 2 months later, I walked into my office and there was a flower arrangement nearly the size of my desk! By then, I was wondering who it was from! It was from the widow whom I helped. She enclosed a card to thank me for talking them into the insurance, the assistance I gave on the phone and most of all, the thousands that she would have had to spend to get herself and her husbands’ body home. And I quote ‘I would have had to declare bankruptcy in order to repay the bills’” – Deborah Izenberg, Geoluxe Travel, LLC
Next time your travel advisor offers you insurance, think long and hard (and, do your research) before you turn it down. As a matter of fact, just get it! Consider it a part of the cost of the vacation and you can just relax!
What about you? Do you have any stories of when travel insurance saved you? Do you have stories of when travel insurance would’ve been a good idea? Honestly, I could write a Tolstoy-length novel filled with horror stories (and happy stories) related to travel insurance, but because “ain’t nobody got time for that,” hopefully, this was enough to change your mind about it!
If you are eager to get planning on your next trip with the new knowledge that you can cover yourself from uncontrollable events or circumstances, get in touch with us by filling out our trip planning form and we’ll get you scheduled for a complimentary Italy trip-planning session!
In the meantime….
P.S. If you have a group (10+ people) trip coming up and would like some help navigating trip-planning intricacies like travel insurance, consider yourself a group leader in the making! What does that mean? It means you can possibly earn free travel for yourself or others in the group, extra group perks, and/or potentially a share of revenue with Kinship Vacations. Is there an important charitable cause in you and your group’s life? We can share our revenue with you to donate to that cause. What a nice way to spend a shopping vacation, right? To get more info on our group travel opportunities, fill out our group trip leader form.
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