by Marissa Horanic
When planning a trip, something like travel insurance isn’t usually something that pops into a traveler’s head right away. The excitement takes over — where to go, when to go, how to go… things to do, places to be, sights to see, where to stay, etc.
Exploring new destinations is invigorating and allows for a wonderful break from the day-to-day normality. Nobody wants to think about anything going wrong during their perfectly planned vacation, so it’s common for travel insurance to not even cross a traveler’s mind, or for a traveler to think purchasing it is unnecessary.
But, travel insurance IS important, especially for people with disabilities, illnesses, or pre-existing conditions that can often cause complications.
So, what exactly is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a plan you purchase before your trip which protects you from certain unplanned financial risks and losses that, unfortunately, could occur while traveling. Losses covered could include anything as minor as a delayed suitcase to anything more significant like last-minute trip cancellations or medical emergencies overseas. All providers and plans are different and cover different things; some plans may cover things like rental cars, while others may not. Regardless, any travel insurance plan certainly has its benefits. Financial protection is a huge benefit in and of itself, but one of the major perks of travel insurance is access to assistant/emergency services. Services often included are replacement of lost passports, rebooking cancelled flights, cash wire assistance.
The main categories of travel insurance are trip cancellation or interruption coverage, baggage and personal belongings coverage, medical coverage, and accidental death or flight accident coverage. Again, these are things we normally don’t even want to imagine happening with our trips, but as 2020 has taught us, everything is unpredictable.
For people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, a travel insurance plan with medical coverage can be a lifesaver (literally). Depending on your health insurance provider, you may not have medical coverage in another country; however, health can’t just be put on the back burner for everybody. Always check with your medical insurance company first to make sure you’re not purchasing a travel insurance package for something that is already covered. If you don’t automatically have overseas medical coverage (many insurance providers do offer coverage, finding a medical coverage insurance plan for your trip is important, especially if you or a travel companion are one to frequently end up in the ER or have implanted medical devices.
There are two primary types of medical travel insurance policies: short-term medical and major medical coverage. Depending on the chosen policy, short-term policies can cover a traveler for five days up to one year. Major medical coverage plans are for travelers planning to make a significantly longer trip, with coverage ranging from six months to a year or longer. A medical coverage plan can cover hospital fees or medical expenses, but that’s not all. Medical coverage can act as an aid to help travelers find doctors and specialists, locate hospitals and healthcare facilities, and find language translation services when there are language barriers that make receiving medical treatment more difficult. Having this extra help can take stress away from travelers and allow them to still enjoy their trip if a problem arises. As with all travel insurance policies, coverage will vary by price and provider. Some may even cover things like airlift travel, extended hospital stays in overseas facilities, and medical evacuation for care.
Also, if it applies to you, make sure the policy covers pre-existing conditions!
Besides medical coverage, another important travel insurance policy for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses is baggage and personal effects coverage. This policy protects any belongings lost, stolen, or damaged. Depending on the plan, this can include coverage during travel to and from a destination (flights, train rides, etc.). Most of the time, airlines and transportation companies will reimburse travelers for lost or destroyed baggage if the error lies on their behalf; however, there are often limitations on the amount of reimbursements allowed.
People with disabilities or chronic illnesses often travel with lots of medical supplies or expensive medical devices, and losing them can be detrimental. Feeding formula, IV fluids, insulin, pumps, monitors, syringes, medications, mobility aids… the list of possibilities goes on. Basically, we’re talking about things we really don’t want to lose or can’t afford to have damaged upon arrival in a brand new place. Because of the possible reimbursement limitations, a baggage and personal effects coverage plan provides an extra layer of protection and comfort for travelers. Unfortunately, it’s not unlikely to have personal items lost, stolen, or damaged as a traveler.
Just like medical coverage plans, it’s important to look at all other coverage options available to you when it comes to baggage and personal effects; many travel insurance policies will pay for your belongings only after you have exhausted all other coverage options. For example, your homeowners or renters insurance company may extend their coverage outside of your home, and credit card companies may have automatic coverage on things like delays, baggage, or even rental car accidents if the card was used for deposits or other travel-related expenses. Pretty cool, right? Again, just make sure to cover all your bases.
Disability and illness aside, travel insurance post-COVID is vital. As vaccines are distributed, more and more people will be looking to get back out into the world and continue exploring. This means that more and more people will be traveling, and you never know who you’ll be sitting by on your next flight or who you’ll pass in a shop or restaurant. If you or a travel companion contracts the virus and becomes ill, medical care or a trip cancellation may be necessary. If an outbreak occurs at your destination and you can safely evacuate the area, your trip may need to end early.
Without travel insurance, a lot of time and money could be wasted. It’s better to be safe than sorry.