Have you tried to buy travel insurance lately for international travel? Do you know if you even need it? Has the pandemic affected your travel insurance needs? Here are a few considerations that might help you to make a more informed decision.
Emergency medical travel coverage and straight cancellation insurance isn’t too expensive, but the interruption and cancellation policies can be quite costly. More recently, some insurance companies started offering COVID-19 protection insurance, as well. Regardless of what you’re thinking of purchasing, there are important cautions to be raised before you buy travel insurance.
To begin, before you add that coverage to your trip in a “do you want fries with that?” moment, first check what coverage you have with your employer or with your credit card. You may not need additional coverage at all, especially for short trips. Why not save your money and spend it on something lovely on your trip if you are already well covered?
Assuming that you don’t have enough coverage, if you want emergency medical insurance, this is pretty straightforward, and less of a worry, because it’s not as expensive if you buy coverage that you don’t really need. That said, you need to look at the exclusions of the policy, for pre-existing health conditions, among other things. Policy exclusions also exist for riskier activities like adventure sports or speed-related activities. For example, you may not be covered, or may need a specific rider, if you decide to go parasailing, mountaineering or rent a motorcycle.
COVID-19 is a new wrinkle, and it might be the most important of the coverages right now. Some insurance companies consider COVID-19 a known event, and you will only be covered if you need medical attention. Only very select policies cover your accommodations and meals if you can’t fly home for a length of time because you are in mandatory quarantine, or if you can’t get on a flight back home due to a positive test.
Trip interruption and cancellation insurance has specific pitfalls as well. First off, if the travel package you bought will give you a credit upon cancellation, you will not get any money from insurance anyhow. Even if you will never travel with that company again, you have no recourse through insurance to get a refund. Also, some travel providers void your trip cancellation insurance as soon as you start your trip. That means that if you get COVID-19 on your trip and end up in quarantine and can’t take your flight home, you will get nothing back for your return flight or to replace it. When cancellation is bundled with travel interruption insurance, you have better coverage, but given its hefty cost, you will want to really consider whether you need the coverage or not.
Where does this leave travellers? It may be worth paying slightly more for refundable flights and hotels instead of paying for trip cancellation/interruption insurance, because you’ll probably get other perks with the higher fare, like premium seating and baggage inclusions that will save you money later. You also won’t have to hold onto travel vouchers that you may never use, nor fill out forms, submit receipts, nor have to wait three to four months for insurance claim money.
For my next trip, I’m only paying for a COVID-19 protection plan, because, having gotten COVID while travelling and having been in quarantine for six days, the costs piled up, and that coverage saved me. My flights and accommodations offer travel credits or refunds.
At the end of the day, you can always roll the dice and not get any insurance, but if you do buy travel insurance, caveat emptor.