Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Travel Insurance -- Why You Need It

The question is not whether you should have travel insurance when you travel, the question is which kind you should have.

This week, the India terror attack devastated the city of Mumbai, and the Bangkok Airport was shut down by political demonstrations, stranding more than 200,000 tourists for more than a week. Last year, a baggage snafu at London's Heahtrow Airport delayed flights for days and baggage for longer.

Missed connections, misplaced or damaged luggage, an unexpected accident or illness in the family before or during a trip, the unrest after a disputed election, such as occurred in Kenya recently, a strike or work stoppage by airline or train workers, even forgetting your passport for departure or losing it en route -- these are all reasons you should not leave home without travel insurance, travel medical insurance, or both.

So, which kind to get? Start with travel insurance that covers trip cancellation.
Without trip cancellation insurance, you are at the mercy of airlines, which can charge as much as ten times the price of your original, discounted, advance-purchase ticket for a replacement. Without trip cancellation insurance, your hotel might charge you a 'no-show' fee that's half the cost of the room, even if they rent it to somebody else.

Basic policies also cover delayed baggage, so you can buy yourself a toothbrush and a clean t-shirt and be re-imbursed.

And many travel insurance policies cover medical care away from home that is not covered by your regular health insurance policy. So, it is especially important for U. S. travellers over 65 to have travel insurance with a medical component, since Medicare does not cover medical care outside the United States.

Generally, travel insurance policies have a medical cap at $5,000 or $10,000, which -- generally -- is enough for a family reunion with grandma in Scotland, or the first ski trip with the grandchildren in Lake Tahoe. And, generally, travel insurance policies cover everybody travelling together on a family trip. But you have to read the fine print to be sure.

If you are going on that once-in-a-lifetime trip -- travel to see the penguins in Patagonia, or the blue boobies in the Galapagos, or hiking the rugged trails of the Caucusus -- you should consider a travel insurance policy that includes helicipter evacuation from even the most remote area. Such as what is offered by MedJet Assist, which will even fly you home in a special med-evac aircraft. Expensive? If you had to pay for it out-of-pocket, it could cost $15,000, or more. But your entire family is covered for $350 a year. Now that's green travel -- saving green!

Here are other travel insurance companies I recommend --

You can compare them by checking Travel Insurance Review, a non-biased industry organization. And be sure to check your homeowner's policy, even your auto insurance policy for hidden gems of coverage.

Another advantage of insurance is that it gives you one place to call to arrange all the details, including re-imbursement.