Though vacations and cruises often cost as much as vehicles or major surgery, travel insurance is often viewed as an unnecessary expense when, in fact, quality coverage can recover costly travel expenses or cover unexpected costs when things don’t go as planned.
AAA travel agency supervisor Chris Belcastro has never doubted the cost of travel insurance, compared to the cost of most vacations, is a bargain.
She was more convinced than ever, she notes, last year when a Medford couple found themselves stranded in heavy fog, missing a cruise for which they’d paid several thousand dollars.
“The airline could not get them to Puerto Vallarta in time and they would have missed half their cruise,” says Belcastro.
To the rescue, travel insurance purchased when the trip was scheduled reimbursed expenses paid for, and related to, the missed trip for a fraction of the total trip cost.
“I’ve done this for 28 years. The three most expensive things that people buy in a lifetime are housing, vehicles and travel,” says Belcastro. “You would never consider not insuring your house or your vehicle. When you’re putting anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 into a trip, travel insurance is a wise investment.”
According to the U.S. Travel Association, roughly a third of leisure travelers purchase travel insurance — compared to 10 percent before September 11, which resulted in an unprecedented grounding of planes around the U.S. and tens of thousands of stranded travelers.
Geared at covering everything from medical emergency to natural disaster, travel insurance offers a whole package approach ensuring replacement of prepaid travel expenses, emergency health issues and unexpected hotel, meal or rental car needs.
“A good policy covers the full value of the trip,” says Belcastro. “It covers if anything medical happens to you or travel companions, your house burns down and you can’t make the trip, a tree falls through the roof, you break an ankle… About the only thing it doesn’t cover you for is, ‘I’m having a bad hair day,’ or ‘I don’t want to go anymore.’”
When purchasing travel insurance, opt for an all-in-one approach to coverage, says Burgess Travel Company manager Jackie Silva.
Specific travel-based companies, like rental car companies or cruise lines, may offer specific policies for the service they provide, while third party providers, such as travel agencies or direct insurers, cover everything from packing and leaving home to arriving back safely.
Likewise, some policies cover trip cancellations due to major medical emergencies, while higher premium policies cover everything from unexpected jury duty to having to stay home and care for a sick relative.
When shopping around, check existing coverage to avoid duplication. For example, some homeowners insurance could cover missed travel due to issues at home while credit card providers, especially premium cards, offer certain levels of travel insurance for free.
On the flip side, some existing coverage may not extend to atypical circumstances, such as international travel. A final word of advice, read between the lines to ensure protection is adequate, though not unnecessary or unrealistic.
“Obviously, if you’re purchasing some type of travel that’s completely refundable it would not be worth the extra expense,” Silva says. “But most everything nowadays is not refundable, so travel insurance can be a really good idea if you know what you’re buying.”
In other words: Don’t leave home without it.