We were struck the other day by the realization that for a travel-insurance company, we don’t spend a lot of time in our blog talking about travel insurance.
Now, most people would not consider this to be a bad thing, when you consider our fallback position has been to create travel-themed graphic novels (including one coming this Wednesday!) and write about doughnuts.
However, our business is predicated on the idea that travel insurance is a good and important thing, and we probably need to make more of that fact.
If you’re one of the skeptics who disagree with the idea of travel insurance, that’s fine, though we do wonder what you’re doing reading a travel-insurance blog. But let us make a few counterarguments.
First, to very loosely paraphrase Monty Python, perhaps you’ve misunderstood the purpose of travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected travel circumstances and expenses. Maybe you’re the type of traveler who never has unexpected travel circumstances, but to again badly paraphrase Monty Python, no one expects unexpected travel circumstances.
The other issue might be that you’ve bought the wrong kind of travel insurance. Full-featured travel insurance should do 10 things for you. If you don’t need all 10, you should consider slimmed-down plans like BHTP’s AirCare.
Here are those 10 things, so you can decide for yourself.
- Travel insurance should cover your (emergency) medical expenses. The No. 1 reason people buy travel insurance is to cover emergency medical expenses in a foreign country. To ensure your plan has adequate emergency medical coverage, download and read the policy documents before you buy. Look for terms like “Medical Expenses” or “Medical-Expense Benefit” and see what their maximum is, as well as how much they’ll pay for dental expenses.
- Travel insurance should cover your (pre-existing) medical expenses. Many travel insurers (including BHTP) provide coverage for people with a wide range of pre-existing conditions. However, you have to find and read each insurer’s policy to see whether they cover pre-existing conditions, which conditions they cover, and how they define “pre-existing.” Also, realize that if you don’t fully disclose your pre-existing conditions, the insurance company can deny your claim.
- Travel insurance should get you home. If you’re going somewhere dangerous and/or exotic and/or foreign (however you choose to define that), you need travel insurance that’ll arrange and pay for getting you back home for medical treatment. Fortunately this coverage is relatively inexpensive, so if you have the opportunity to “buy up” and add more coverage, and you’re headed to a destination that’s difficult for reasons ranging from political instability to inaccessibility, you should definitely opt for the extra coverage.
- Travel insurance should help you if you have to cancel your trip. Life goes on – even during your trip. Maybe you’re called for jury duty, or your National Guard unit is deployed, or, worst of all, you lose your job. Most airlines and hotels won’t reimburse you if you cancel your trip. If there’s even a hint of a chance something might come up to scotch your trip, you need travel insurance. The important thing to do here is – again – read your policy. Not all insurers define “covered reasons for trip cancellation” the same. In general, the more covered reasons for trip cancellation, the more you’ll pay for a policy – and you’ll pay the most for “cancel for any reason” coverage.
- Travel insurance should help you if you have to cut your trip short. The same thing applies here. Covered reasons for trip interruption are usually the same as reasons for trip cancellation … but not always. Most travel-insurance policies spell out these reasons in detail in your policy – yet another reason to read your policy.
- Travel insurance should protect your flight(s). Being stranded in a foreign airport because of a missed connection is one of the worst feelings in travel. Travel insurance can pay you when you miss a connection or experience unexpected flight delays due to weather or accidents, and help get you rebooked. Check policies online and compare their flight-delay and flight-cancellation coverage; look for how much you’ll be paid for flight cancellations and delays, and how their travel-assistance services work. Alternatively, pair up a traditional travel-insurance policy with AirCare, which pays fixed amounts for flight delays and missed connections.
- Travel insurance should cover your baggage. Airlines and hotels lose around 1.8 million bags a year. While technology is helping things both on the airline side (with online luggage-tracking updates) and on the luggage side (with the use of RFID technology), bags still get lost. Most travel insurance covers lost and delayed luggage. However, you have some choices to make. Most policies will pay up to a specified limit for the contents of your luggage, but require receipts for maximum reimbursement. In addition, your coverage may limit the amount it’ll pay for a single item, like a camera or a piece of jewelry; you’ll want to cover those items with a separate theft policy (not travel insurance) before embarking on your trip. Finally, if you don’t have a lot of expensive things in your luggage and don’t want to mess with receipts, AirCare pays a fixed $1,000 for lost luggage and doesn’t ask for receipts.
- Travel insurance should cover where you’re going. Believe it or not, travel insurance doesn’t cover every location you could possibly visit. Some countries may be excluded from coverage for a variety of reasons, ranging from a poor transportation system to political instability. Before you purchase a specific policy, we recommend ensuring that your target destination is covered. If covered countries aren’t listed in the policy, call the insurer and ask.
- Travel insurance should cover what you’re doing. Travel insurance might not cover everything you do on your trip. In fact, something as simple as horseback riding may be excluded from coverage. If you’re planning an action-filled vacation, make sure that your policy will cover you when you go skiing, bungee-jumping, or scuba-diving. Some companies offer active-sports coverage that expands the amount of covered activities. However, if your vacation includes auto racing, BASE jumping or free climbing, plan on being on the hook for any injuries or trip modifications you’ll have to make if you get hurt.
- Travel insurance should pay your claim. Any reputable travel insurance is going to pay a legitimate claim … if it’s filed correctly. Here the burden’s on you. Report your loss accurately and completely. Report it promptly; depending on the policy, you may have to report losses within 24 to 48 hours. In case of theft, your insurance policy may require a police report. If you buy things specifically for your trip, save receipts. Photograph items in your luggage before you leave. The better you are at reporting your losses to an insurance company, the more money you’ll be paid – and faster, too.
- And one more time: read your policy carefully. If you didn’t get the message earlier, read your policy carefully before you buy to make sure it meets your needs.
Obviously, we think Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s insurance products are the best. But whatever travel insurance you choose, it’s there to give you the peace of mind you need to travel happier. And happy travel is what it’s all about. Well, that and doughnuts.