If waking to birds chirping and being handed a glass of green detox juice on your way to the first yoga class of the day is your idea of a great trip, you just may be a wellness traveler. Wellness travel is a multi-faceted term that’s recently come into vogue in the travel industry. It essentially refers to trips taken by people who are seeking to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Reportedly, India is the fastest-growing wellness travel destination with a projected 22% annual growth rate. Several upscale destination spas in India have become very popular among wellness travelers, and more are cropping up across the country to accommodate the growing demand for holistic health-based travel. Wellness tourism has even created a new niche for travel agents who want to expand their business.
Wellness travel means different things to different travelers. For some travelers it means disconnecting from their electronics and reconnecting with themselves, for others, it means taking a retreat filled with healthy activities and food in an attempt to detox their lives. As you may have guessed, what constitutes wellness travel is subjective.
When you come right down to it, however, wellness travel is still travel and just like any other trip, the traveler is exposed to risks that they may or may not be prepared to handle. Insuring your wellness travel – especially a trip to a foreign country – is essential.
Skip the Compromised Medical Treatment
According to the U.S. State Department, the quality of medical care in India varies considerably and it’s limited or unavailable in many areas. Ambulances are typically not equipped with life-saving medical equipment and traffic does not yield to emergency vehicles. Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.
Most hospitals in India require advance payment or confirmation of insurance prior to treatment. Payment practices vary and credit cards are not usually accepted for medical care.
A traveler with travel health insurance has options that the uninsured traveler does not, including the ability to:
Pay for their medical treatment in a foreign hospital
Get an emergency medical evacuation to the nearest qualified hospital
Have a family member or friend brought to their bedside
Ensure that their minor children will be safely transported home
Something as simple as a severe case of ‘travelers tummy’ can lead to dehydration and the need for qualified medical treatment, but without travel health insurance you could be exposed to inadequate medical care.
Wellness Retreats Aren’t Cheap – Cancellations are Expensive
When it comes to wellness retreats the options can be overwhelming: yoga, silent meditation, spa packages, detox retreats and more, but all of this pre-planning for pampering and adventure has to be paid for upfront ahead of time.
As an example, a week-long yoga and fitness retreat in Costa Rica that claims it will “take the stress out of planning for you” has a per-person price of $2,325 (single suite) plus the retreat cost of $900. The terms for the retreat indicate the fees must be paid for in advance. Your deposit is fully refundable if your cancellation is received 30 days prior to your arrival date; after 30 days, it can be used toward a future stay. These terms are common for most retreat packages.
If you have to cancel your wellness trip, there are likely to be costs in addition to the retreat payments – airfare and other transportation being the biggest ones. If the entire pre-paid wellness trip costs for the stay, the retreat, and airfare cost $3,925 a U.S. traveler from California could cover this trip for cancellation, emergency medical care, evacuations, and hazardous sports (for the water sports) for between $180 and $241 (see the image below).
With trip cancellation coverage, a traveler also has access to trip interruption protection in case they must end their trip and return home to handle an emergency.
Missing Yoga Mats, Grounded Flights, and Other Travel Mishaps
While cancellations and the need for medical care are the most expensive risks for a traveler taking a wellness trip, travel insurance delivers a number of additional benefits that can be useful to the wellness traveler:
Baggage coverage – in case your checked bags are lost, stolen (a common problem in some foreign airports), or delayed. The coverage provides replacement value for the items in your bag as well as replacing the bag itself (up to the plan limits). Arriving at your hot yoga retreat without yoga clothes, a mat, and other necessities could make the wellness retreat difficult to enjoy.
Travel delay coverage – in case a weather problem stalls your connecting flight and you have to miss the first day of your retreat spending the night in a Chicago hotel room you hadn’t planned on paying for. This coverage reimburses you for unexpected expenses when your travel delay reaches a certain number of hours. So you can spend that money on your retreat rather than trying to get to it.
Security evacuation – in case you encounter an unsafe situation due to local political events, civil uprisings, or impending natural disasters and want to escape to safety. Some travel insurance plans include security evacuations and it’s a good idea to have this coverage for trips during certain times of the year or to particularly risky areas of the world. Knowing you’ll have the support to get home can give you the peace of mind to enjoy your wellness retreat even more.
Car rental coverage – even if you have coverage with your credit card, it may not be enough or it may not cover car rental in some countries. If you have to rent a car to reach your wellness destination, it’s a good idea to cover the cost of repairs and rental charges should you get into a traffic accident.
Travel assistance services – in case you need multi-lingual support to locate medical care, arrange for emergency transportation, track lost luggage, replace a stolen passport, and more. This benefit ensures that you have the support you need to handle tricky travel situations when they occur.
Medical Tourism is Different from Wellness Travel
Medical tourism – specifically, the act of taking a trip to another country where a patient can receive medical care that is not available or too expensive in their own country – is different from wellness travel. The travel health coverage included in travel insurance plans is intended for unexpected emergency medical treatment and the treatment of sudden illnesses and injuries and not for medical treatment the traveler expects to receive.
Medical tourism is excluded from nearly all travel insurance plans although one travel insurance company: Seven Corners, offers a medical tourism insurance plan to cover travelers who are traveling to get a medical procedure.