Demystifying Travel and Trip Insurance

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Travelers should expect the unexpected to happen - and that’s precisely what insurance is for. But there’s a lot of confusion about Travel Insurance, Travel Medical Insurance, and Trip Cancellation Insurance.

Trip Insurance, also sometimes referred to as Trip Cancellation Insurance, is designed to protect you from financial loss due to trip related issues, such as:

  • You (or in some cases your spouse or traveling companion) get sick and can’t go on a trip
  • Death of someone traveling with you or of a family member
  • Trip interruption, delay, missed flights, missed transportation like a boat departure, baggage loss
  • Cancellation for any reason (offered by some plans)

So what will trip insurance do for you? Let’s say you book an African Safari, over a year in advance. Over that year, you pay your deposit, and further payments, and you’re typically fully paid up some months before the trip. Now you get sick a week before the trip, and your doctor says you cannot travel. This type of coverage is designed to reimburse you for the (now) not refundable money you’ve paid to the operator of the trip (in our case, a photo workshop). If you’ve paid for a plan that includes that “cancellation for any reason clause, you could even be fully reimbursed for something like a work project that comes up, and you have to cancel.

Many policies offer other benefits: coverage for weather-related cancellations, coverages for your rental car (damage and liability), additional coverage for lost or delayed baggage, and even replacement of lost items on your trip.

Travel Medical Insurance is a whole different thing. Understand one basic thing first. Your personal medical insurance in your home country will most likely not cover you for medical expenses when traveling outside of the country.

Travel medical insurance is designed to cover you for unforeseen medical and health issues while traveling, especially abroad, and can include the following:

  • Medical treatment at nearest hospital facility
  • Medical evacuation from your location to another hospital (example, from a small town to a larger city)
  • Medical evacuation to your home via special medical flights
  • Medical evacuation to your home via commercial flights
  • Dedicated assistance from customer service to help with getting local medical care
  • Death repatriation
  • Life and / or disability insurance benefits
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Now to complicate matters a little further, these insurances can be bundled together or they can be sold separately, so it’s very important to read the plan descriptions and the fine print.

Where do you get it? Many airlines and airline booking sites are selling insurance right before you checkout and pay - and this may be a good choice, but be aware that these policies typically cover you for the cost of the flight tickets, some baggage benefits, and some medical coverages (plans vary, read the fine print!). They typically will not cover other expenses like the cost of a trip with Muench Workshops. For this, we like and recommend Ripcord. Ripcord sells complete packages including Trip Cancellation Insurance and Travel Medical Insurance together, and they also sell Travel Medical Insurance separately as well as all-important Medical Evacuation coverage. This is good flexibility, especially if you sign up for a trip very close in to the trip departure date, and have a high expectation of making the trip–so you really only need the medical coverage.

How much does it cost? It’ll be different for everyone, based on your home state, your age, the cost of the trip, the timing of when you buy it and the coverages you want. But here is an example:

A $9000 Trip to Iceland (trip costs including airfare), Male, aged 53, purchasing between 60-90 days ahead of the trip which starts June 2016. Coverage can be had for $300-400 USD. Same plan for a trip that is 11 months out, between $450 and $600. Includes: full coverage for trip cancellation or interruption; coverage for sickness, injury or death of you/traveling companion or family member; waiver of pre-existing conditions; coverage for termination of employment; travel delay coverage up to 50% loss on the trip; terrorism, strikes, inclement weather; damage to your home by fire or weather; missed connections; $50,000 in medical expenses, $1,000,000 in emergency evacuation; $1,500 for lost baggage; $50,000 accidental death and dismemberment; travel medical assistance by dedicated assist line.

What if you only need Travel Medical Insurance? For the same trip outlined above, you can purchase just the medical insurance for roughly $60. At the very least, you shouldn’t take an international trip without taking out this extremely low-cost coverage which will give you and your loved ones peace of mind.

To buy or not to buy? Only you can answer that, but we as workshop leaders strongly encourage trip cancellation and travel medical coverage. We do offer refunds, under certain conditions - but there are no guarantees on us being able to fill your spot if you have to cancel, so take the risk away and get coverage! Many of our workshops require Medical Evacuation Insurance at a minimum. 

Travel smart, and travel safe!

Thanks to Harry Behret and Kate GIlbert for their images.