Tips for Traveling Abroad: Do You Need Travel Insurance?

travel insurance_couple with rolling suitcasesTravel insurance has become more popular in recent years as catastrophic damage from extreme weather and natural disasters has mucked up travel plans. Travelers are left with an empty wallet and no memories or souvenirs.

Unfortunately, travel insurance is an enigma to many travelers. As we head into the busy holiday travel season, now is the time to get wise about what it is, when you need it, and how to best protect yourself and your family, particularly when traveling abroad.

Ask Yourself Five Questions to Determine Your Travel Insurance Needs

There is no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to travel insurance, so it’s best to start with a comparison site, like, to determine whether you need coverage and what kind of plan is best for you. urges travelers to start by asking themselves five key questions:

1. What do you want to protect?

If something unexpectedly goes wrong, do you want to be able to cancel and recoup the costs of your vacation? If you get sick or hurt while traveling, do you want to cover medical expenses or evacuation? If you travel with pricey clothing or electronics, you might consider extra coverage for your luggage.

2. Where are you going?

If you’re traveling to a remote location without state-of-the-art health care and medical capabilities, consider coverage that allows for emergency medical and evacuation coverage. Cruise-specific coverage is an option to consider for those bound for open waters.

3. What will you be doing?

Consider a travel insurance plan that offers an add-on for high-risk activities protection if you consider yourself an adventure traveler. Activities like surfing, rock climbing, SCUBA diving, parachuting, and kite surfing all fall into the thrill-seeker bucket, making a travel insurance plan with hazardous sports coverage a smart idea.

4. How long will you be gone?

Are you jetting out of town for the weekend or spending the summer trekking abroad? The majority of travel insurance plans are made for vacations less than 30 days. A daily surcharge may apply for every day beyond the plan’s limit.

5. Are you traveling alone or with a group?

If you’re traveling in a group, as part of a family reunion, or taking a multi-generational vacation, ask about group travel insurance. Groups of 10 people or more on the same itinerary could be covered by the same policy.

Read the Fine Print in Your Travel Insurance Policy

Once you’ve answered the questions above and guided yourself to what may be the right travel insurance policy, read every word of the fine print⁠—as in, coverage details, exclusions, and limitations, even definitions of policy terms, like pre-existing conditions.

You never want to find yourself in a travel mishap abroad that you assumed was covered, but in actuality, is not covered at all. Some exclusions typical insurance policies may not pay for include:

  • Mountaineering (even with hazardous sports coverage, some sports are excluded)
  • Elective cosmetic and dental procedures (including complications from these procedures)
  • Being intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance
  • Piloting or learning to pilot an aircraft
  • Participating as a professional in a stunt or athletic event

Before you purchase a policy, carefully read every word to ensure you are acting within the guidelines of the policy. You’ll also want to review deductibles, payouts, and coverage inclusions for each plan as they relate to trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage loss, accidental death, medical emergency, and emergency evacuations.

Health Concerns

Many of us have a trusted doctor at home that we can quickly reach in case we fall ill or are in need of medical attention. We may drive to the doctor’s office, show our health insurance cards, then pay a co-pay before or after our visit. Abroad, it’s a different story. Here’s a quick primer on how travel insurance can you help you with medical concerns.

1. It can help you quickly find local medical care.

Navigating an entirely different health care system outside the U.S. can be scary and confusing. It can be reassuring to know that you have easy access to an emergency response team that can help you quickly find a doctor with credentials that have been verified wherever you are.

2. It can help you manage medical costs.

Many doctors and hospitals outside the U.S. require full payment (not just a co-pay) before starting medical treatment. What if the fee is more than you have or exceeds the limit on your credit card? With travel insurance, a moderate deductible can help manage up-front costs.

3. It can get you home in an emergency.

With travel insurance, a team can evaluate your medical needs, identify the best way to get you home, make travel arrangements for your family, and help set up appropriate care for when you return home.

4. It can help with non-medical problems.

The emergency response team could also help with non-medical problems, like lost or stolen passports. They could also provide referrals if you need legal help while abroad. It’s relieving to have someone on your side to navigate a different country on your behalf.

Travel Insurance Costs and Claims

More than a few people skip travel insurance because they’d rather spend their hard-earned cash on flights, hotels, sightseeing, and dining. However, travel insurance only runs 5-10% of your total trip cost, depending on the plan you choose. That’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

We all hope that our trips will go off as planned and everyone will have a vacation filled with memories. However, if you do need to call on the policy and file a claim, that’s relatively simple and painless to do too.

Start by calling the travel insurance company before submitting a claim to ensure you have all necessary documents (e.g. receipts, police reports, diagnosis explanations, etc.), know the proper claim steps, and know where to send a claim. No need to inadvertently delay a claim because you’ve failed to provide all required documents or sent them to the wrong address.

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