As travelers, we always tell ourselves: “It’ll never happen to me.” It’s a comforting thought! But thousands of travelers each year experience some kind of trouble overseas, whether that be dealing with lost luggage, last-minute trip cancellations, or something more serious which requires emergency medical treatment.
Yet still many travelers question if travel insurance is worth it; some people dismiss the importance of travel insurance and think of it as an unnecessary expense. They make arguments such as, “I don’t worry about things which haven’t happened yet,” or, “If you’re worried about losing your bags, just travel with things you can afford to replace!” Or our favorite: “I never get sick!”
Thankfully, in most cases, travel goes off without a hitch. And hopefully you’ll never be put in the unfortunate position of learning the value of travel insurance first-hand. But if you do, you don’t want to regret having brushed off its importance. You could end up being forced to pay a hospital bill that’s 10 times the cost of your trip!
Nobody wants trouble during their adventure abroad. But it’s important to recognize that something could happen and plan accordingly. So is travel insurance worth it? The answer depends largely on your aversion to risk and the value you place on your peace of mind.
How Travel Insurance Works
The purpose of travel insurance is to cover you for any unexpected expenses or financial loss that might occur during your trip.
For instance, let’s say you arrive at the airport at 11pm, only to find out your connecting flight has been cancelled. Travel insurance will pay for your hotel stay so you can catch another flight the next day. Or maybe your bags were lost by the airline and you need to buy clothes and essential items until they find it; travel insurance will cover you.
In a more serious scenario, let’s say you’re walking down a street in Central Asia and trip on the cobblestones; you’ve twisted your ankle and need to pay for a doctor’s visit. Or perhaps you slip and take a nasty fall on a boat in the Galápagos Islands, and have to be medically evacuated by helicopter to the nearest hospital.
In each of these scenarios, travel insurance steps in to make sure you don’t have to deal with the expense. Some companies will coordinate everything for you and make payments directly so that you’re not out of pocket at the outset; others will have you keep receipts and compensate you for your expenses after you’ve paid.
Is Travel Insurance Worth It? Examining The Benefits
It Covers Medical Costs & Evacuation
If you need medical treatment while traveling and you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to pay for everything out of pocket. So if there’s one primary reason travel insurance is worth it, it’s this.
In many countries around the world, health care for visitors can be obscenely expensive. And if your condition is so bad that you need to be evacuated for emergency care, you should make sure you have access to around $100,000.
Even in developing countries, hospital stays can be outrageous and put you into serious debt. For instance, the cost of hospitalization in Southeast Asia regularly exceeds $800 a day. Your domestic health coverage usually will not reimburse you for medical expenses you incur overseas, so you need to take out a travel insurance policy instead.
When you take out your insurance policy, take the time to read this section of the agreement in detail. Pay particular attention to the areas of coverage for emergency evacuation, any limits imposed on medical expenses, and if there is coverage included for emergency dental work. Also, make sure you’ve read the description for any general exclusions. Some policies won’t cover snow sports, so if you injure yourself skiing or snowboarding, travel insurance won’t step in.
It Compensates You for Disruptions to Your Trip
Travel insurance also acts to compensate for disruptions to your trip, whether your flights are cancelled and you miss boarding a non-refundable cruise, or if you need to return home because an emergency has occurred.
Some trip disruptions might only put you back a couple of hundred dollars, however it could also end up costing you a fortune. In most cases, you lose the money you have already paid, and you have to pay for new bookings too.
Most travel insurance policies step in for incidents which are out of your control, for instance natural disasters, unforeseen illness, or the death of a close relative. So if, for example, a volcanic ash cloud means you can’t fly to meet your $10,000 cruise, you can claim for the expenses of your holiday you can’t use.
It Reimburses You for Losses and Expenses
Travel insurance reimburses you for losses or expenses if your luggage is lost or stolen, or your property is damaged overseas. If you don’t have travel insurance, you’re responsible for the cost of replacing your items.
So just think, how much are the contents of your luggage worth? Even having your bag stolen at the beach could end up costing you thousands of dollars. Sound farfetched? Not when you consider that a beach bag might include a cell phone, a wallet with your driver’s license and credit cards inside, passport, and maybe an iPad or Kindle.
This is one of the main reasons many people purchase travel insurance. But keep in mind that you’re usually expected to take reasonable care of your belongings. For instance, an insurer might choose to deny your claim if you leave an expensive camera in the hotel lobby or in your car and it gets stolen.
If you’re traveling with your laptop, camera equipment, and other valuables, you can usually include these items on a travel insurance policy to cover a higher value. Check the description of coverage and benefits on your plan and make sure you understand the limits on this coverage, particularly for cash, sporting equipment, and high-value electronics.
What to Look For in a Travel Insurance Policy
It’s important to understand that not all travel insurance is the same. Make sure that your plan includes basic coverage for the above benefits. You’ll also have an opportunity to choose different premiums, paying extra for things that aren’t normally included, such as cruise insurance, winter sports, water sports, etc. But don’t pay too much for a premium if you don’t think you’re going to make the most of it. For instance, premiums for people engaging in extreme adventure sports often double because of the risk involved.
If you’re renting a car, look for travel insurance that includes personal liability. This means if you’re involved in an accident that causes damage and are found liable, it will cover your legal expenses. You should also look for a policy which includes repatriation (transportation of your body home if you pass away), terrorism, and manual labor if you plan to work while you’re away.
You should try to purchase your insurance as soon as you start putting money down for travel arrangements, just in case you need to cancel and make a claim. Also, some travel insurers will only cover you if you buy a policy before you leave; organizing insurance once you’ve left is usually quite difficult.
ALWAYS read the fine print! There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re covered for something, making a claim, and finding out you were never covered in the first place. Keep in mind that a claim may be denied if you take excessive risks, including any accidents related to alcohol or drug use. And once you’ve purchased your insurance, keep the details printed out with you, leaving photocopies with friends and family back home.
Travel Insurance with Travel Guard
Zegrahm Expeditions works closely with Travel Guard, America’s leading provider for travel insurance plans and assistance programs. Their range of policies is extensive, covering virtually every unforeseen circumstance. So, regardless of which expedition you take, you can easily find a travel insurance policy that suits your needs.
Their plans go beyond regular coverage, including unique features like Bag Trak® (to track your luggage) and services to help find the right doctor or pharmacy on top of covering your medical bills. And they’re always happy to help—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In the end, only you can decide whether travel insurance is worth it. But our recommendation is, if you’re willing to invest in a once-in-a-lifetime trip like the kind Zegrahm offers, don’t leave home without it!
Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe. She travels with her husband Mike, an American photographer who focuses on nature and wildlife.