Travel Insurance Basics


Someday, maybe before long, it will become normal again to get on a plane, and the more daring of us might even decide to travel outside the United States. But as we ease back into long-distance vacations, there is going to be an uneasy period where there are greater than normal numbers of cancellations, delays, and (though we hope this never happens) the need for medical care in a foreign destination.

Enter travel insurance. A recent article on the NerdWallet website tells us that the price of a travel insurance policy ranges from 4% to 8% of the trip cost, depending on the length of the trip, the cost of medical care in your foreign destination, and your age. (The older you are, the more expensive the policy.)

The most common benefit is trip cancellation coverage, which covers prepaid, nonrefundable reservations like flights, hotels, and other bookings if the trip is cancelled because of an unforeseen event. The covered reasons might include extreme weather, job termination, jury duty, or incurring a serious injury or hospitalization before the trip. Due to the disruption in air travel, there may simply be situations where the airline has cancelled the flight.

These provisions are spelled out in the contract, but if you want more coverage, there are “cancel for any reason” policies that allow you to get at least a partial refund of your nonrefundable deposit no matter why you change your mind. Typically, you have to invoke the clause at least two days in advance of the trip date. The article suggests that some travelers might back out of an upcoming trip because they’re nervous about catching the COVID virus, which would not be a covered reason under a normal policy.

Some people already have cancellation coverage through a premium travel credit card, or they may have made reservations that are refundable. If they’re traveling internationally, they could purchase a supplement like standalone travel medical insurance, which specifically protects you in the event of unexpected injuries or illnesses while you’re abroad.

Which policies are best? The ConsumersAdvocate website lists policies for each state, with links to its top-rated providers, including travelinsurance.com, Trawick International, SquareMouth Travel Insurance, RoamRight and General Global Assistance. SquareMouth and travelinsurance.com allow you to compare plans from major insurers in one place; the others provide their own policies. You list the cost of your trip, your destination, number of travelers, ages, and your country of residence, and the sites give you a quote. And even if you’re not shopping for coverage, these sites also offer updated Coronavirus advisories on potential travel destinations.

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