Having travel insurance should be a no brainer for those of us who travel. But most people don’t think of it until it’s too late.
Take my friend, Jessica, for instance. On her first trip to Africa, she arrived at her destination only to find that her luggage had not. For two weeks, all she had was the clothes on her back, a few items given to her by others on the trip, and some personal articles. Her suitcase went on its own adventure. Following her return home, she had to produce receipts for the contents but received a check from the airline that only covered the cost of a new suitcase.
In the grand scheme of things, a lost suitcase is a temporary inconvenience. But what if my friend had become ill and had to be hospitalized, or worse, evacuated home? Without travel insurance with appropriate coverage, her trip and her finances would definitely have been ruined.
Why then are we so cavalier about travel insurance?
One of the reasons we give so little thought to travel insurance is because we believe it will be prohibitively expensive. But at a cost of a fraction of the actual price of the trip, it’s a small amount to pay for our peace of mind.
There’s also, I suspect, the expectation that vacations will be perfect interludes where nothing bad ever happens. Ironically, it’s also the time when we’re most likely to venture way outside our comfort zones and engage in activities we’d probably never do at home.
According to Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), 10 Brits have been hospitalized abroad every day this year. Last year, the figure was 70 a week.
And so far this year, there have been 13 cases of young Brits falling from balconies while on vacation. Unfortunately, 3 lost their lives while others ended up with very serious injuries.
Because of this, the FCO along with the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA – The Travel Association) are now campaigning jointly to help prevent further incidents.
But it has to go further than that. Of 2,000 people surveyed by the Foreign Office, 48% revealed that they did not realize that they would be responsible for their medical expenses if they became ill abroad.
The situation isn’t better in America where the United States Travel Insurance Association (UStiA) found that since the summer of 2010, one in eight adults have had their travel plans changed because of natural disasters. Of that number, only 29% had travel insurance.
To further underscore the importance of having travel insurance, it is one of the requirements for obtaining a Schengen visa.
So how much coverage should you get? Whenever I buy travel insurance, I make sure to have medical coverage, including provision for evacuation in the event of an emergency; trip cancelation and interruption; lost, stolen, delayed, or damaged baggage or personal effects; missed connections and flight delays. I’ve also bought coverage in case my hotel or airline becomes insolvent while I’m on my trip.
Thankfully, I’ve never had to file a claim but knowing that I was protected was worth the additional expense.
So whether we’re making plans for that Caribbean vacation, the trip around the world or to take the kids to see their grandparents, we should always include travel insurance to the budget. Can you afford not to?