Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?
The short answer to that is … Yes, you do!
You probably started planning your vacation by researching your destination, finding a good hotel or resort and saving up some money for your trip. Then you made reservations, bought flight tickets, planned your vacation activities, and reviewed restaurants and things to do on TripAdvisor. You may even have gone shopping for that great new bikini to show off the tan you’ll get.
But if you don’t have travel insurance, all your plans will have been a waste of time and money. No matter how prepared you are for your trip, there are things you just can’t prepare for. Accidents happen, weather turns bad, and unexpected illnesses occur at the least convenient times.
Types of Travel Insurance Coverage
Travel Insurance is a pretty broad term, so here is a breakdown of the two types of travel insurance you need and why you need them. Baggage Insurance is usually covered by a comprehensive travel insurance plan and isn’t necessary to purchase separately. If your baggage is lost or damaged, much of the contents will be covered by the airport, or by your homeowners insurance. Flight insurance is generally covered by Trip Cancellation if your flight is canceled.
Trip Cancellation / Interruption
No one plans on canceling a trip at the last minute, but neither do we plan on losing a family member, becoming too sick to travel, or watching our cruise ship sink in a hurricane. But those things unfortunately happen. Trip cancellation covers you if you have to back out at the last minute due to circumstances beyond your control. So if on the eve of your departure, you get news that Aunt Betsy suddenly passed away, you won’t feel guilt ridden about making the decision to skip the funeral so that you won’t lose the money you spent on your trip. Trip interruption covers you if your trip is cancelled before it’s over. If you get sick in the middle of a two-week vacation, or if the cruise ship breaks down mid-ocean, you’ll be reimbursed for the whole trip, or the part of it that you missed out on depending on the coverage.
With some companies, evacuation/repatriation is included here. That means that if you’re in a country where war suddenly breaks out, or if some sort of natural disaster occurs, you will be evacuated and given safe passage back home.
You may think you’re healthy as a horse, but even health nuts can come down with a sudden illness. Some illnesses can be easily contracted from improperly cooked food, tainted water, or viral pathogens passed on by other travelers. You could also experience an accident. Even if your medical issue is a small one, a simple trip to the doctor could result in a hefty bill you hadn’t planned on. Medical travel insurance can cover you for up to millions of dollars in medical fees and, depending on the plan, can also cover you for evacuation, medical transport, and transportation fees for your family or traveling companion.
You may think that paying a hospital bill is no big thing, but remember, you’re in a foreign country. Hospital fees and quality care aren’t like at home. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated hospital costs in countries all over the world. One night in an American hospital can cost more than $628. Nordic and North European countries cost upwards of $787 per night. These estimates were for lower level hospitals. Hospitals with higher quality of care were, of course, more expensive. A Windsor, Ontario man who fell at a gym in Michigan, ended up with a bill for $168,000. He’s still trying to figure out how to pay it. A Saskatchewan couple vacationing in Hawaii were handed a hospital bill for nearly $1 million as a result of the early birth of their daughter.
Think you can sneak home without paying the bill? Think again. In some countries, hospitalization can result in the seizure of your passport. Authorities will not allow you to leave the country until you pay the bill. Even if you do manage to leave the country without paying, those medical expenses can follow you around the globe.
When You Don’t Need Travel Insurance
There are circumstances when purchasing travel insurance might be a waste of your money, but you really need to read the fine print to be sure. If you have medical health insurance other than OHIP, you might be covered for medical expenses abroad, but there may be a cap on how much, and how long you can be away. Some credit cards offer similar insurance, but are usually limited to 15 days abroad or less, and may be limited to travel within certain countries. If your credit card offers supplemental travel insurance for extended travel, you may be eligible for discounted fees. Also, credit card-based travel insurance may limit who is covered – the cardholder only, legal spouse and/or offspring only. Romantic partners, friends and traveling companions won’t be covered.