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Should I Get Trip Insurance? Advice for Knowing When It’s Worth It

Are you asking yourself “Should I get trip insurance”? The answer isn’t an easy yes or no. There are many reasons why people buy travel insurance, so use this resource to see if your circumstances fit.

Why buy travel insurance

I’ve been a traveler for 43 years and have used travel insurance on a trip-by-trip basis for many years, usually for more expensive non-refundable trips and tours. When I committed to a travel writing career, I began doing more and longer trips, and so transitioned to an annual plan with Allianz.

You may not be gallivanting around as much as me, but travel insurance can still be a smart hedge for your travel investment. The advice I’m providing here is informed not only by my own experience, but that of other travel writers and regular travelers who shared their experiences with me.

Here’s the nut– every traveler is a snowflake and your own personal circumstances will dictate whether or how to get travel insurance. The questions below are designed to help take you through a decision tree to help you figure out what will work for you.

This post is sponsored by Allianz Travel but all opinions expressed are my own. This article also contains affiliate links, which means that if you chose to purchase, I’d make a small commission.

Magdalena Bay, Baja Mexico sand dunes. Woman in purple coat walking

What is Typically Covered by Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance covers a variety of circumstances that can befall you on a trip. Look for plans that provide at least some level of the following:

  • Trip Cancellation: Reimbursement for prepaid, non-refundable expenses due to a covered reason. This does not mean “just because you now don’t want to go”, but rather for specific circumstances like an unexpected illness or injury, death of a family member or travel companion, your tour operator or airline ceases operations, you are terminated from your job, trip cancellation due to a natural disaster or labor strike, etc. The list is long and my policy covers 20 specific things.
  • Trip Interruption: Covers the remainder of your trip if a covered reason happens during the trip.
  • Emergency Medical: Covers a sudden unexpected illness or injury while on the trip.
  • Medical Transportation: Can include transportation to the nearest hospital or repatriation home if necessary.
  • Baggage loss/damage: Cost to repair or replace lost, stolen or damaged baggage.
  • Baggage delay: Cost to replace essential items due to baggage delay.

Some premium or executive plans will also cover:

  • Change fees
  • Business equipment coverage
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Rental Car Damage and Theft Coverage

“I’ve used Allianz insurance because they have a very affordable and extremely comprehensive expat medical insurance for Canadians. It’s great for Canadians who live outside of Canada and are no longer eligible for their provincial health insurance.“

Tia Nyirongo of The Caffeinated Expat
Camino de Santiago portrait. Red jacket and backpack

Should I Get Trip Insurance?

I surveyed a group of enthusiastic female travelers from the Women Who Travel Facebook group. The dialogue surfaced four main reasons why getting travel insurance makes sense.

1. Avoiding Expensive or Catastrophic Medical Expenses

Medical coverage varies wildly from country to country or state by state. You shouldn’t assume that just because your plan gives you good coverage in your home state, it will pay out while you’re abroad. Nor should you assume that when you travel to a country with government subsidized (or socialized) medical care, the coverage would extend to you as a non-citizen.

When I became ill while hiking the Camino de Santiago, my previous insurance refused to cover my doctor visit. I now use Kaiser Permanente and they will cover an emergency situation when I’m out of coverage area or overseas. But they won’t cover emergency transportation or repatriation.

When my Mom got hit by a taxi in Nairobi, the hospital patched her up, but she and her travel companion were on their own when it came to getting her broken legs home.

Among the Women Who Travel, Elizabeth shared that her US insurance won’t cover accidents at all and Colma’s government-subsidized insurance from New Zealand won’t cover her abroad either. Cher now purchases travel insurance because of the tragic death of her cousin, who had become ill while overseas and couldn’t get treatment because of the lack of insurance.

I’m not trying to scare you, but accidents do happen and travel insurance can help.

Pro Tip: Call your insurance provider and ask them pointed questions about what happens if you are injured on a trip. ie: “What happens if I break my leg while in Rome?”

2. If You Have Uncertainty in Your Employment or Family Situation

I got the annual Allianz Plan in 2017 because I had a heavy travel schedule that year and my Mom was nearing the end of her life. I knew that if she died while I was abroad, I would need to ditch immediately and head home. The plan meant that I didn’t have to worry about the lost trip investment while I was also mourning.

Perhaps you are worrying about your employment situation. Maybe your company isn’t doing well or you fear layoffs— you should consider the insurance as a hedge against what you can’t control.

“I have an elderly mother and unexpected things happen.”

Cate
San Andrés Colombia woman in water walking to Haynes Cay

3. For Peace of Mind In Case Things Go Sideways

When the large travel agency Thomas Cook collapsed in September of 2019, they stranded 600,000 air and package tour customers. When 9-11 happened, the entire global air network was shut down for three days. When Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano blew, the ash drifting over Europe disrupted travel for over a week. (Although, I heard that since the wind was blowing east, it was actually quite nice in western Iceland during that time, and I do recommend that you visit in the winter.)

“My parents were stuck in Venice back during the volcano in Iceland incident and it was a lifesaver.”

Laurie

4. Because Some Tour Providers and Countries Require It

Do you have to get travel insurance? Sometimes, because in certain circumstances, it’s required.

The Schengen zone in Europe is made up of 26 nations, including popular tourism countries like France, Iceland, Italy and Spain. (It also includes Estonia, which isn’t super popular, but should be because exploring Tallinn’s old town and cold war sites is worth it.)

US Citizens don’t need a Schengen vista, but many other people do and the visa now requires that you carry enough insurance for at least €30,000 of medical coverage. This is to prevent you from receiving medical care and then skedaddling on the bill.

The insurance is also required for Cuba, Ecuador, Qatar, Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates.

Also, many tour providers require travel insurance for some or all of their trips. I’m off on an Intrepid Travel adventure to Jordan in March and they are requiring me to send in proof of insurance with my final tour payment. Many Antarctica cruises also require the insurance. So, if you are doing a group tour, be sure to ask them if it’s required.

Street art in Belleville Paris France

What Travel Insurance Should I Get: Annual Plan vs Individual Trip Plan

Doing this calculus is tricky because it depends upon how much you will be traveling and how much non-refundable spend you are budgeting for.

If you have a complex travel schedule, I would suggest opening one browser window for the Allianz annual plans and a second for their individual trip plans, run a few scenarios and see which option is more cost effective for you. But here is some general advice about which plan might be best for you:

  • If you have just one medium priced trip (>$2/k), get an individual plan.
  • If you do 2+ longer or more expensive trips per year, get the annual plan.
  • If you have an expensive “bucket list” type trip (like a $6/k trip to the Galapagos), you may as well get the annual plan, because for $50-75 more, the annual plan will cover any other trips too.

” I buy it on an annual basis so that it covers every trip even if it’s at impulsive last minute trip.”

Linda

You may be an intrepid traveler like me, jetting the globe in search of grey whales in Mexico and epic sunsets on the Great Ocean Road drive in Australia, but take care to protect yourself…and your travel investment with travel insurance coverage.

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