Many people think of travel insurance as only useful for those once-in-a-lifetime cruise or safari trips, but accidents happen everywhere and the worst thing you could experience this holiday weekend might not be indigestion.
These are the trips where you want to consider your travel insurance options:
If youâ€™re traveling a really long way
Some people travel a really long way to be with family for Thanksgiving – so far that they travel outside their health insurance network. Most health insurance plans donâ€™t cover their members outside the border of the U.S., and Medicare stops at the border too (although some Medicare supplement plans have a little travel medical coverage outside the U.S.).
If youâ€™re traveling outside your health insurance network, know that any accident or illness will be covered at out-of-network rates which are much higher than in-network rates. If the entire family is stricken with salmonella, a group trip to the emergency room could mean a hefty hospital bill to pay later. A family of four can get as much as $25,000 in emergency travel medical coverage (per-person) for less than $50 – a great value for the money, and it includes $500,000 in medical evacuation (highly recommended if youâ€™re traveling outside your home country).
If winter weather strikes
A weather-related travel delay is considered a free pass by the airlines. They have no responsibility for seeing that youâ€™re comfortable and sheltered, only that you get on the next possible flight out.
If snowy winter weather strikes your Thanksgiving travel plans, travel delay coverage can help by reimbursing you for unexpected hotel rooms and meals (up to the daily limit) if your trip is delayed for a covered reason and the delay is a minimum number of hours. A hot shower and a hot meal beats camping on cold, dirty airport terminal floor any time. Some plans even cover the kidsâ€™ movie rentals!
If the parents/grandparents are coming to you
Call and verify your parentsâ€™ coverage if they are coming to you instead. Pre-existing medical conditions are defined as any medical condition – including changes in medication – that occur during the planâ€™s the look-back period.
So, if they have recently visited the doctor or had their medication changed, be sure their travel medical coverage waives the pre-existing medical condition exclusion. If they experience any medical problems on their visit, you want to be sure they wonâ€™t head home with a fat medical bill to pay.
If everyone comes down with the flu and you have to cancel
Add up the cost of your non-refundable airfare, lodging, and other pre-paid costs and decide if you can comfortably wave that money goodbye if you suddenly have to cancel your Thanksgiving travel plans. If one person in the family gets the flu, itâ€™s likely that others will soon follow. Unless the illness is severe enough to warrant hospitalization or a doctorâ€™s orders to stay home, youâ€™ll need â€˜cancel for any reasonâ€™ coverage to protect your trip costs.
A family of four spending $3,200 in non-refundable airfare and lodging to visit family during the holiday could cover those trip costs for just $146. That coverage includes trip interruption, travel medical, and a lot of other benefits as well.
If your bags get on a different plane
The Thanksgiving travel week is one of the busiest of the year and extra-busy people make mistakes. If your bags get routed onto a different plane than the one youâ€™re traveling on, it could take days (or longer) for your clothes and personal items to catch up to you. You may collect them just in time to return home.
If that happens, youâ€™ll need some cash to get some replacement items to get you through the trip. Baggage coverage and baggage delay coverage gives you a certain amount of cash (depending on the plan) to purchase the essentials. Just before the Christmas shopping season, that extra cash could be a welcome benefit.
If youâ€™re delayed and Buster needs extra kennel time
Travel insurance plans donâ€™t isolate their protection solely on your outbound travel but also when youâ€™re coming home. If a flight cancellation and other delay extends your trip, your coverage extends for a limited amount of time to protect your return travel.
A few travel insurance plans even include extra benefits for pets. When their parent is delayed for a covered reason, reimbursement for extra kennel time is included.
If you decided to skip it all and go skiing instead
Itâ€™s important to note that many travel insurance providers consider skiing a high-risk sport and as such, your medical care isnâ€™t covered if youâ€™re skiing on your Thanksgiving trip unless you have the right protection. Again, that may not be an issue if your health insurance coverage is adequate, but itâ€™s important to check.
A holiday trip to the emergency room is no fun at all, but itâ€™s even less fun if it costs you a big bundle of your savings.
When not to buy travel insurance
Weâ€™ll be very honest with you – there are a number of trips where travel insurance just isnâ€™t useful:
- If you get a really cheap flight and are staying with family, then you donâ€™t have that much money at risk
- If youâ€™re driving your family vehicle and have reservations that you can cancel at the last minute
- If you used your frequent flier miles to book your flight, then you donâ€™t have much money at risk
If you can afford to lose the little money youâ€™ve spent and your medical emergencies are covered, then skip the insurance and have a great time!
If you decide to buy travel insurance, skip those quick purchase plans offered to you by the online travel suppliers. In nearly every case, the insurance is not what youâ€™d expect and many, many consumers have been left paying for the costs they thought were covered simply because they didnâ€™t take the time to review the plan. Buying your travel insurance from a third-party comparison site (like ours) is the best way to be sure youâ€™ll have the coverage you need when you need it.