Each summer, my daughter and I travel with her dance company to a different U.S. city for a national dance competition. This time around, we are headed to Biloxi, Mississippi and, because I am a long-distance-drive weakling, I decided we would fly. Trying to maintain my reputation as an insightful planner, and knowing that the schedule for these events often changes, I decided to purchase travel insurance when I made our airline reservations. I have never done this before, but I thought it prudent at the time to cover all possible scheduling scenarios.
Unfortunately, even attorneys forget to read the fine print once in a while and my quest for planning perfection failed. Our plans did indeed change, and when I attempted to use my travel insurance to cover the cost of changing my airline reservation, I found that I was not as “covered” as I had thought. Upon calling my travel insurance carrier, I was informed that only changes in plans due to emergency medical conditions or the airline’s change in schedule are covered, only certain types of expenses are eligible for reimbursement, and the monetary limits of my coverage are less than the cost to change my reservation. Hmmpfh! Stuck.
My experience hasn’t soured me on travel insurance entirely, but I now realize that travel insurance is designed for very specific circumstances. If you are considering purchasing travel insurance, here are some things you should know:
You may already be covered. Some credit cards provide travel assistance and travel protection benefits, such as coverage for lost, stolen, damaged or delayed bags, for travel accidents, or for travel interruption or cancellation. Your health insurance policy may cover health emergencies while traveling, and your homeowners’ policy may cover theft. Your auto insurance policy may provide coverage for car rental in emergencies. Before you purchase travel insurance, find out what your existing credit cards and insurance policies provide for when you are away from home.
You just might find that the benefits provided by travel insurance aren’t needed. Travel insurance coverages are limited. Travel insurance will probably not cover you in the event that inclement weather affects your vacation, you change your mind and decide not to travel, your scheduled dates of departure and/or return are changed by someone other than the airline, or health problems related to preexisting conditions affect your plans. And even when you are covered, specialized limits often apply to certain types of personal property such as jewelry and electronics. Make sure you understand what is covered and what is not, and assure that the monetary limits of the coverage you are purchasing are sufficient to cover all possible expenses you may incur. If you are traveling outside the U.S., be certain you understand the costs involved in overseas travel.
When it comes to cashing in on your benefits, the devil is in the details. Some policies will pay your expenses up front in the event of an emergency, but some require you to pay necessary expenses out-of-pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement afterward. And some policies provide only secondary coverage, which requires you to seek benefits through your primary insurance provider first and provides benefits only in the event that you are denied coverage under your primary policy. Understanding the procedure for seeking benefits under your travel insurance policy is important.
As with any insurance, if you are going to buy, you should shop around first. It is often easy to add travel insurance to your reservation with the simple click of a button, but before you do so make sure you check prices, compare coverage, and understand your benefits.