Travelers thinking ahead are smart to purchase "travel insurance." The term travel insurance is a bit of misnomer though because it's not really insurance per the law, it's actually trip protection and there are a few things you need to know about it.

Trip protection is considered a type of limited duration "insurance."  It begins when you purchase the policy and ends when your vacation ends.  The premium is based solely on the amount you spent on your trip. You get so much coverage for so many dollars you spend.  The more you spend for your vacation, the higher the premium.

What is the cost of travel insurance offered by your travel agent (TA) ? It makes a difference if you are after travel insurance for a single trip or an annual policy to cover a number of international trips (business and or pleasure).

Always start by asking your credit card provider whether your credit card provides complimentary travel insurance if you purchase your airline ticket with that credit card. Enquire about upgrading your credit card from bronze to silver, gold or platinum to gain complimentary travel insurance. What is the cost of the credit card upgrade? Is the cost justified in your eyes? Whether you are offered a no fee upgrade or not will depend on your status with your bank, credit history and other factors. You may or may not be charged an annual fee on your existing and on your new upgraded card. Make a list of a few simple questions and phone or visit the credit card provider (bank or credit union or ?) and  ask your questions. Online tool Credit Card Navigator can also help you find out more details about the medical travel insurance available through your credit card.

What is the cost of travel insurance provided by your existing household and or car insurance provider? Are you a member of a road service organization ? These are some examples AAA or CAA or NRMA. What will they charge you for travel insurance? You can also review visitor travel insurance comparison sites online.

As you decide where to get your policy, you should look for those that have the following benefits:

Trip Cancellation

This feature will allow you to be reimbursed a certain percentage of your trip purchase price (again depending on the policy) IF you meet certain conditions. Things like forgetting your passport, being denied boarding for any reason (passport damaged, missing documents etc), missing a flight (due to your negligence), missing a connection (due to your negligence) etc are usually not covered.  Things that are covered include death of a family member (which is usually specifically defined), sometimes job loss, your own illness or severe illness of a family member or travel partner. Additionally, look for pre-existing condition exclusion and how long the look back period is (some policies can look back 180 days some only 90 or 60).  Policies have very specific exclusions and you should check what they are before you buy.

Trip Interruption/delay

This benefit allows you to be reimbursed a defined benefit amount if you are truly interrupted and cannot complete your trip.  Additionally, if your trip is delayed the policy will often pay a daily rate for the days you missed or will miss up to a specified maximum. A good policy will often pay for you to travel back to your destination, should you be able to, by covering you for a new flight or other transportation to your destination.  Reimbursement will happen if the delay or interruption is caused by flight delay (of more than a certain number of hours), weather issues, documented theft of travel documents (passports, visas etc), and the illness, injury or death of family member or traveling partner, among a few others.

Lost/Delayed Baggage Benefit

Tthis benefit provides you with monetary compensation should your bag be delayed more than a specified number of hours (determined by the policy you purchase) or if the baggage is all together lost. Payments are usually calculated as 100% actual cash value of items if a receipt can be provided. Otherwise payments can be limited to between 50 and 75% of the cash value without a receipt.  Money, tickets, prosthetic limbs, eye glasses and things of that nature are often not reimbursable.  Additionally, there may be a limit on how much you can be reimbursed for lost or stolen jewelry.  Finally, bags that have normal wear and tear or that have been damaged by the airline do not qualify for reimbursement either.

Medical Benefits/Emergency Assistance Benefits

Most medical benefits are paid at usual and customary rates (meaning typical for the area).  The illness or injury must occur while the policy is in effect and cannot be pre-existing (unless you purchased a waiver). It should be noted that travel protection does not pay primarily if you already have valid insurance from another source (i.e. your employer or individual health policy).  Most travel protection plans provide emergency assistance benefits which will often pay for plane tickets for you to return home in the event of an illness or injury when it is doctor ordered.  It may also pay to fly a spouse or family member to a hospital where you are.   And it will pay for your (or your traveling companion’s) body to be flown back to the United States in the event of your (or your traveling companion’s) death.

Discuss with your Doctor GP (General Practitioner) what your travel insurance policy should cover based on your unique medical history and the daily cocktail of medications that you are prescribed to inhale, inject or swallow.

 

While considering coverage for medical issues that come up while away from home, one should also keep in mind pre-existing conditions and travelers would be well advised to carry their regular medication with them. While most plans have no coverage for the treatment of pre-existing conditions, some plans do offer some coverage, especially for the treatment of a sudden and acute onset of an existing condition. While comparing, it would be good to talk to an agent or look at the fine print for this coverage.  

Several visitor insurance plans are available from top-rated companies based in USA which offer visitor medical insurance with health coverage protection at affordable premiums. Fixed-benefit  plans limit the medical benefits for each covered service listed in the plan brochure (such as doctor office visits, hospitalization, prescription medication and surgery), while comprehensive plans cover up to the policy maximum selected. Below is a listing of popular plans that are classified as fixed benefit plans or comprehensive, do a Google search on the plan name and you will find them.

Comprehensive coverage plans: 

Atlas America Insurance

Patriot America Insurance

Liaison Continent Insurance

Liaison Majestic Insurance

Diplomat America Insurance

Visit USA Insurance

Fixed benefit plans: 

Inbound USA Insurance

Visitors Care Insurance

Immigrant Secure Insurance

For international travelers - consider carrying an international travel insurance plan that provides coverage for both travel and medical emergencies. To get an idea about the pricing and the benefits, refer to sites listed above or contact www.ustia.org for recommendations and assistance to obtain a suitable travel insurance policy.

Accidental Death & Dismemberment

Many policies cover death and loss due to air travel.  The schedule of benefits for what a policy covers will usually be the policy. A typical death benefit is $10,000 for loss of life with varying amounts for other losses.

Travel Advisory & Travel Warning (Limited Coverage)

It is important to be aware that most travel insurance providers do not cover regions or countries which the national government considers to be unsafe.  Thus, if you intend to travel to a foreign destination which has a travel advisory warning by your national government, it is very important to contact your travel insurance provider to understand what coverage you will or will not have if you decide to go there.  Generally speaking, if your government considers it dangerous to be in a certain foreign destination, your travel insurance provider may not cover you for any problems you encounter while there. 

Overall, travelers should purchase a policy that best suit his/her needs taking into account the benefits and the exclusions. Some policies are no-frills offering only limited coverage for the above items. 

It's also important to consider that even for uncommon incidents like a plane crash, providers may not cover unanticipated expenses like diverted flights to a new airport, even though you incur an additional expense, such as rental car fees. Allianz, which is offered in the U.S. by most major airlines, said a rental car extra charge due to traveling to a new airport quite a distance away, would not be covered.

Some policies ofter extensive benefits beyond what has been mentioned in this article.  Whether a policy is worth the premium is at the discretion of the traveler and it is always a good idea to call the travel protection company to get more details if needed before you purchase.