travel insurance basics

In a nutshell, travel insurance is protection against the unexpected bump in your travel plans, with unknown or unexpected being the operative word.

Just like trying to buy homeowners insurance after the house is on fire, you can’t buy travel insurance for a trip that’s threatened by a tropical storm or hurricane that’s been publicly named by the National Weather Service. That storm is now a ‘known peril.’ Travel insurance addresses unforeseen perils.

Travel insurance is offered for cruises, tours, flights and vacation home rentals and can cover:

·         Medical: pays for doctor visits and illnesses that occur during your trip, such as treatment for malaria or food poisoning, prescription drugs and laboratory work to diagnose illnesses. Policies cover local ambulance service and emergency medical situations that require surgeries (and often exclude pre-existing conditions). What it will not cover is a routine physical exam, mental health care or replacement of hearing aids, eyeglasses or contact lenses.

·         Emergency evacuation:  includes a flight home if you became seriously ill or injured, airlifts from a mountain due to a skiing or hiking accident, or a long-term stay at a foreign hospital. When traveling to a foreign country, bring copies of your medical records with you and consider an evacuation policy in case you develop a serious medical condition.

·         Trip cancellation: if your trip operator goes out of business, or if you must cancel a trip due to sickness, a death in the family or another event that would prevent you from going on your trip, trip cancellation provides coverage. This also applies for an unused portion of vacation after the occurrence of the disruptive event

·         Travel delay/trip interruption: not all companies cover so-called carrier-caused delays, such as aircraft mechanical issues or delayed flight crews. Trip-interruption insurance costs between 5 to 7 percent of the price of your trip.

·         Baggage delay: if your personal belongings are lost, stolen or damaged during your trip, this would pay to replace them.

·         Dental: if you chip a tooth during a trip, this covers all emergency dental procedures. You can purchase additional dental coverage to relieve acute dental pain and surgical procedures provided in a hospital. There may be limitations for the replacement of artificial teeth or repairing a crown.

·         24-hour traveler assistance, including hotlines and other support services: This provides 24-hour, 7-day-a-week telephone assistance for filing claims for lost baggage, emergency cash transfers, reporting credit card identity fraud to the right agency, message center services, legal assistance (on issues related to your passport, visa, or bail bonds), emergency translations and pre-trip assistance.

·         Accidental death: provides compensation if you die or are permanently disabled during a trip. It includes accidental loss of life, limb or sight during your trip other than while flying.

·         Collision/damage coverage for rental cars: provides coverage for physical damage to, or loss of, an automobile rented from a commercial foreign or domestic rental car agency.

·         Flight accidental death: flight accident and/or “common carrier accident” insurance pays your beneficiary (or your estate if you do not name a beneficiary) a lump-sum benefit that can range from $300,000 to $1 million when a flight accident or crash results in your death.

·         Repatriating a body: few travelers are aware of the complications and red tape involved in arranging a funeral or repatriating mortal remains should a relative or traveling companion die in a foreign country. Most travel insurance plans cover the cost of preparing a body for transport, a container, ground transportation, air transportation and administrative fees (for death certificates and other required paperwork), which can range from $6,000 to $15,000.

Coverage for weather-related trip cancellations and interruptions differs by insurance company and plan. The covered cancellation reasons can include:

·         Cancellation due to Weather: when common carriers such as airlines and cruise lines cease service due to weather

·         Cancellation due to Hurricane Warning: cancellation of your trip if your destination is under a NOAA-issued hurricane warning

·         Destination made Uninhabitable: if your hotel, resort, or vacation rental is devastated by a storm

·         Primary Residence made Uninhabitable: if your own home sustains destructive storm damage

·         Cancel For Any Reason– an optional benefit that allows you to choose whether or not to cancel.