I’ve traveled to more than 20 countries, and thankfully I’ve never had a serious emergency (knock on wood). But I’m still glad I purchased travel insurance for some of those trips, just in case.
Trip insurance reimburses you if something bad happens. If the airline loses your luggage, a bout of food poisoning sends you to the doctor, or you break a bone whitewater rafting, travel insurance could pick up the tab.
Your exact coverage depends on the insurance plan, but you’ll be protected in an emergency. Because of this, some people believe travel insurance is necessary every time you travel.
As a budget traveler, I wouldn’t go quite so far. If you’re wondering whether travel insurance is worth it, ask yourself these six questions.
1. How much are you investing in your trip?
If you’re shelling out big bucks for your vacation, you might consider getting trip insurance. That way, you won’t get hit with a major financial loss in case of an emergency. Without an insurance policy, all your deposits could be lost for good.
“I tell my clients the only time you do not get travel insurance is when you can walk away from the amount you spent without being mad about losing the money,” said travel agent Suzanne Haire.
Of course, what constitutes a major expense is different for everyone. If you’re investing thousands of dollars into a vacation, you might want to insure yourself against the worst. But if you’re taking a cheap flight and crashing on a friend’s couch, you might choose to forego a trip insurance plan.
2. How long are you traveling for?
The length of your trip can also help determine whether or not to buy trip insurance. When I traveled for five days to Iceland, I didn’t worry about getting a comprehensive insurance plan. But when I spent five months backpacking around Southeast Asia, I made sure to purchase coverage.
The major reason for this was that my regular health insurance wouldn’t have covered overseas expenses. If you’re also traveling abroad long-term, it’s financially risky to do so without health coverage.
Anyone spending weeks abroad — or even living in another country — should consider getting a travel insurance plan with health benefits. You don’t want to get stuck footing a hospital bill you can’t afford.
3. Do you plan to bike, ski, or jump out of airplanes?
If you’re an adventure junkie, you might opt for some coverage, especially if you’re traveling out of range for your regular health insurance plan.
“When my British boyfriend traveled to Canada on a working holiday he was very glad he had travel insurance, because he fell off a bike and broke both of his wrists,” said Kelly Dunning, travel writer at Global Goose.
“If he had not had travel insurance coverage, his medical treatment would have cost us nearly five thousand Canadian dollars! Fortunately, he was covered and we were reimbursed for the cost.”
No one wants to spend their vacation in a hospital. But if you find yourself there, you’ll be grateful you’re insured.
However, you might not be as concerned if you’re planning to stay on the beaten path. “My rule of thumb is, if we’re going on a trip just to do the usual touristy things like shopping, sightseeing, and eating, then I won’t get it,” said JB Macatulad, travel blogger at Will Fly for Food. “But if we plan on doing anything remotely physical like skiing, bungee jumping, or even going on a city bike tour, then I think it’s a must.”
As much fun as adventure activities are, they also open up a greater risk of injury. Trip insurance can cover hospital visits and treatments. Plus, many plans come with 24-hour medical assistance to help you locate the best services.
4. Does the weather report look grim?
You’re probably not a storm chaser, but you might be traveling to an area where the weather report looks iffy. Travel insurance can provide coverage in case of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or snow storm. Some plans even cover emergency evacuation in extreme circumstances.
“I got stuck in a blizzard during a trip to Iceland and could not continue down the road to my hotel, so I had to book another hotel to have a place to stay,” said writer and traveler Lindsey Danis. “The insurance company I worked with reimbursed us for the last-minute hotel booking, our international phone calls, and our meals while our trip was delayed.”
If you’re worried about inclement-weather, look for a plan with this type of coverage.
5. Do you already have the coverage you need?
Travel insurance companies aren’t the only ones that provide coverage for incidents that happen during vacation. Some health insurance plans offer reimbursement for medical costs incurred while overseas.
Select credit cards also offer protection for trip cancellations, lost bags, and rental car insurance. The Capital One Venture card, for example, offers lost luggage reimbursement, travel assistance, and collision coverage on qualifying rental cars.
Before purchasing trip insurance, check with your domestic insurance plans and credit card companies. You might find you’re already adequately protected.
6. Will you stress out without trip insurance?
Although you can weigh the pros and cons of trip insurance, sometimes the decision comes down to one simple factor: peace of mind. If you’re going to worry without trip insurance, purchasing a plan could be worth it. It will relieve your concerns so you can enjoy your vacation.
“I’ve purchased travel insurance for three trips,” said Danis. “While I’ve only used it one time, it was worth the expense for peace of mind … you never know what could happen.”
Is travel insurance worth it?
The cost of a vacation can add up quickly, and you might not want to add another expense. But a small cost upfront for trip insurance could be worth it, especially if the worst does happen.
If you run into an emergency in another country, you could end up thousands of dollars in debt. What started as a fun vacation could turn into a financial nightmare.
Since there are lots of insurance plans, you can choose the policy with coverage options that meet your needs. If you’re looking to keep costs down, check out these six affordable trip insurance plans for budget travelers.
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