Is Travel Insurance Really Worth It?

 Dear Travel IQ: When is travel insurance absolutely necessary? I hate the additional expense tacked onto every trip and never, ever, have I had to use the policies I buy. I am thinking about not buying it next time and trusting to the gods of travel to get me there and back without a problem. My boyfriend says I am wrong and the one trip we don’t insure will be the one we will need it the most.

Talk me out of it because he isn’t going to.

Signed: Naked in Portland

Dear Naked:
Just last month, I had four clients who became ill or injured abroad and had declined travel insurance coverage. (Thankfully, all have recovered and are doing well.) One traveler – who agreed to share her story anonymously – slipped on a staircase and severely twisted her ankle. Her bill from the hospital was over $1100. The cost of her insurance would have been less than $90. In a follow-up email to our office, she wrote, “If I could, I would be kicking myself. I kept thinking about all the reasons to not purchase insurance, but you can’t prepare for the unknown!”

I often discuss the benefits of travel insurance, and the above referenced account  is just one more example of why. Check out any ombudsman section of a travel magazine or site and you will find that most complaints involve a financial reimbursement – or lack thereof. Although the experiences are frustrating, they are becoming all too common. And these days, airlines and tour companies have more regulated policies that can prohibit the traveler from receiving a refund.

The cost of insurance is generally based on three factors: Age, trip cost and duration of travel. There are also a variety of plans to select, from medical-only to comprehensive. Many travelers are unaware that most policies not only reimburse for the expenses of the insured, but their travel companions and immediate family members, as well. For example: Linda is traveling with her friend, Jane, to Hong Kong and Singapore. Both purchased travel insurance. Jane becomes ill in Hong Kong and needs to be hospitalized, resulting in a revised flight and hotel schedule to Singapore. Although Jane was ill, Linda will also be reimbursed since she was her travel companion. In the end, both travelers are covered for the flight change fee, extra hotel nights in Hong Kong, and missed hotel/touring in Singapore. (Jane will also be reimbursed for the medical services.)

For some passengers, travel insurance is no longer an option. Many companies now require travelers to purchase a policy as part of their tour package. Yet those with the option still mull over the question of cost vs. benefit: Is insurance worth it?

In my opinion: Yes. Not only do I recommend it to my clients, family members, and friends, but I also make sure to personally purchase coverage before each and every trip abroad.  Just like with auto or health insurance, the coverage is not for when things go as planned. The protection is for those unexpected and often costly incidents. And in my many years of travel – on a personal and professional level – I have found that often plans unexpectedly change, someone becomes ill or injured, and/or my flights are cancelled. The cost of my policy is usually only a fraction of what I finally pay (and am reimbursed) for airline change fees, hotels, and medical assistance.

Kirk Demeter, President of Down Under Answers and Africa Answers, also stresses the importance of choosing a reputable insurance company. He states, “Ask the travel seller to provide a copy of the coverage, and make sure all of your needs are being met.  Not all insurance is the same, so be sure you get the proper policy.” In the end,  Kirk also favors the peace of mind when traveling abroad: “I would feel completely uncomfortable to be traveling in some distant place without travel insurance.  Though most trips go off without a hitch, things sometimes do happen that make travel insurance an essential part of a trip.”

Some credit card companies, like American Express, offer insurance coverage to their members.  If you have supplemental coverage, I still recommend contacting your card provider to determine the policy inclusions and exclusions. Many plans only offer limited flight and baggage protection, and no coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, or medical expenses.

Here is my summary: The question really isn’t whether or not to purchase coverage, but which coverage is best for you and your travel companions. Be sure to ask your travel provider for the best options that fit your itinerary and budget. The peace of mind is worth its weight in gold!

About the author: Allison Sodha

Allison Sodha is an India Destination Specialist and the owner of Sodha Travel, a company that coordinates private tours to South Asia. She is also a Destination Expert for AFAR and has written features for Little India, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and various travel publications. Allison resides with her family in Portland, Oregon, but considers India her second home. Please visit:

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