You just booked your dream honeymoon or destination wedding to an island paradise. You are so excited! It will be perfect...or will it? Heaven forbid, what if something goes wrong? Usually it doesn't, but are you covered if it does? What is travel insurance? Do you need it? What does it cover?
One of my first experiences with travel insurance happened several years ago when I planned a whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon for our extended family. We were required to purchase emergency evacuation trip insurance. Once you are in the Grand Canyon the only way out in the event of a medical emergency is by helicopter. As you can imagine that could end up being pretty pricey and most health insurances won't cover it. Since then I have often wondered myself about whether or not travel insurance is worth it. Even the most seasoned travelers sometimes feel confused about travel insurance — what’s out there, what it covers, whether or not they need it.
While coverage and policies vary from state to state, of course, here are some basics of travel insurance to get you started:
What are the different types of travel insurance?
- Trip cancellation and interruption (full or partial reimbursement for a trip you need to cancel prior to departure, a trip that gets cancelled because a tour company or resort goes out of business, or a trip that gets cut short for a wide variety of reasons)
- Medical (for health issues that occur outside of your normal coverage area) and evacuation (due to disaster, dangerous weather, political emergency, or medical emergency) Just because you have health insurance at home does not mean that it will cover you on your trip. You need to check the ins and outs of your particular health insurance policy. It may cover you while you travel, but many do not. In fact, some insurance policies don’t even cover health emergencies experienced on foreign-flagged vessels — which is what most cruise ships are. If your honeymoon or destination wedding is outside of the United States, especially on an island where evacuation would cost thousands of dollars it is advisable to purchase travel insurance.
- Baggage (reimbursement for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage)
- Flight insurance (also called “crash coverage,” this is basically a life insurance policy that covers you while you’re on the plane, in the event of a statistically-rare crash)
- Special adventure coverage which waives the exclusions for adventure activities that most plans have; if you’ll be spending a lot of time climbing, diving, or participating in other adventure activities, it’s a good addition to your coverage.
- Cancel for any reason, is the most comprehensive type of insurance. It provides reimbursement if the trip is cancelled for any reason—even reasons not covered by usual trip cancellation coverage. This insurance is typically more expensive but if you stand to be out significant amount of money, and you think that you’re most likely to cancel for a reason not covered by general cancellation insurance (you can’t get the time off work, the region you are visiting experiences political unrest, or you simply change your mind) this kind of insurance may be worth the extra cost.
Do you need it?
A good rule of thumb is if you’re spending more than $5,000 on a trip (or any amount you consider more than you can afford to lose) then you should get insurance. Insurance is also a good idea if you have any kind of medical condition that might mean a last-minute cancellation or if you’re worried about other trip disruptions (like taking a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season).
What's not covered?
- Over indulging in alcohol or drugs - Travel insurance doesn’t cover any kind of risky or reckless behavior, so any medical expenses associated with recovering from a night of getting drunk are on you.
- Mental health - On a standard policy, mental health issues are excluded from coverage. And that’s true even if you had no mental health problem before your trip.
- Extreme, high-risk sports - Some policies cover Scuba Diving so make sure you check what is covered.
- Bankruptcy of an airline, cruise line or tour operator - Sometimes buying through a tour operator is fine, if they have a long standing business. Independent insurance providers like Allianz will cover you for trip cancellation if your tour operator, airline or cruise line ceases operations due to financial default. Specific requirements apply, so read the fine print.
- Zika of any epidemic or pandemic - most travel insurances do not cover these. If you could possibly get pregnant and you are traveling to a place where Zika is confirmed it is best to purchase a CFAR policy (cancel for any reason).
When should you purchase travel insurance?
You can buy travel insurance any time, even until the day before you leave, but it’s best to buy as soon as you book your trip. Some coverage is only valid if the the policy is purchased within two weeks of the initial payment. Additionally, the sooner you buy insurance, the sooner you’ll be covered if, for example, the tour company goes out of business or if you develop a medical condition. Most travel insurance companies offer a refund within a certain amount of days if you change your mind. Better to be safe than sorry.
I have to admit that the other night I woke up in a panic because clients of mine had not purchased travel insurance when they booked their honeymoon to Jamaica for August (the beginning of hurricane season). They were trying to save money. They are both young and healthy and didn't think they needed any. It was too late to purchase through the tour operator so I contacted Allianz and got a quote for them. It will cover any medical needs that arise including an emergency evacuation and in the unlikely event of a hurricane they will be covered for trip cancellation or interruption. Peace of mind for less than $200!
Where can I compare travel insurance policies?
There are several websites and companies that offer travel insurance comparisons. Two of these are SquareMouth or InsureMyTrip. You can also ask your travel professional for advice on whether or not to purchase an independent policy with a company like Allianz or Travel Guard or use the one offered through the tour operator. Whatever you do, always read the fine print and look for loopholes.
So before you take off on that dream getaway let me share a few more personal experiences with travel insurance or lack thereof.
Our fairytale destination wedding was in Punta Cana. Our travel designer offered and recommended travel insurance to all of our guests. Some guests purchased and some did not. My mom is elderly so she purchased travel insurance for herself and my brother, who was going to travel with her to assist her. A month before our wedding my brother found out he could not get the time off work. Fortunately my mom's travel insurance covered the cost of cancelling his flight and changing his room accommodations to his daughter's name so she could accompany my mom on the trip. One of our best men was not so lucky. He lost his passport while traveling and they had to spend a night in Miami, missing the rehearsal and one of the three nights they had booked for our wedding. Our travel designer was there for moral support and assistance but they did not have travel insurance to cover any of the added costs.
What does peace of mind cost?
If you’re looking to maximize your fun and minimize your risk, travel insurance might be just the right option for you. Take your time, ask tons of questions, and find what works best for you. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you may have or to book your honeymoon or destination wedding.