I strongly recommend that families buy travel insurance before they depart on a trip. It doesn’t cost much and it’s worth every penny.
(If you’re already traveling World Nomads is one of the few quality companies that will sell you a plan after your travel has started.)
When I was a single traveler I occasionally went overseas without travel insurance. But now that I travel with my family there’s just too much at stake to risk it. And it really isn’t that expensive in comparison to your flight and hotel expenses.
There can be some big differences between insurance plans. Not all travel insurance plans are the same, so be sure to read the full description of coverage (yes, all the fine print) as there are always limits and exclusions on every travel insurance plan.
Here are 9 questions you need to ask before you purchase travel insurance for your family.
1. What’s Covered?
These are the most basic treatments and procedures that most plans will cover:
- Hospitalisation and the services of a physician
- An ambulance or other emergency transport to evacuate you to the nearest or most appropriate medical facility
- X-rays and prescription medication as authorised by a medical practitioner
- Emergency dental work
- Additional costs to repatriate you, your travelling companion and escort your children home in the event of a serious illness or accident
- Repatriation (in the event of a death)
- Additional board and lodging for your family if you’re hospitalised
- Return of a rental vehicle if you’re injured and can not drive
- And sometimes, even the return home of a dog or cat
If you’re traveling to a rural place, a 3rd World Country, or any resort or destination that might be a long way from top-notch medical care, be sure to double check the emergency evacuation coverage. This can be a huge expense and any good quality insurance company should cover it.
Make sure you read the full description of coverage fully and refer to the schedule of benefits for any limits to coverage, circumstances where cover is excluded or defined events where cover is provided. All plans will have a maximum coverage available, which may be per policy or per person. Check with your insurer to be sure of any limits, conditions or exclusions that may apply.
2. What’s Not Covered?
Most travel insurance plans will not cover the following:
- Pre-existing conditions or conditions where you know you need treatment or have been treated for before you bought your policy
- Activities that deliberately put your life in danger
- Activities that involve alcohol or drugs
- HIV or STD’s contracted during your trip
- Where you have left your belongings in a public place and they’ve been stolen
- If you make arrangements or get medical treatment not approved by the
insurer, which is not considered medically necessary while away from home
3. What Procedures and Treatments Do You Need Pre-approval For?
Find out when you’ll need to contact your provider to pre-approve a procedure. Many companies demand to know (and pre-approve) non-emergency procedures in order to fully cover the expense.
4. How Do I Contact The Insurance Provider From Outside The Country?
Making a phone call sounds easy enough. Until you find yourself in Europe trying to phone your insurance company in California. Maybe the number you have only works inside the US. Maybe the California office isn’t even open at 12pm Paris time on a Sunday. What number should you be calling? Don’t ask this question when you’re waiting in an emergency room. Ask it before you leave.
5. What Countries Are Covered By Your Plan?
Not all plans cover all countries. Have you bought a plan for domestic travel only?Have you selected the right region of cover? Is it safe to go there? For example, if you’re a USA resident, going to Cuba, it’s unlikely your travel insurance plan will cover your trip. If there is a do not travel warning in place, you may be putting yourself at risk, so your coverage may be limited. Be sure to keep an ear on the local news and advice from your government’s travel advisory. If in doubt, ask.
6. Are Pre-Existing Conditions Covered?
The answer to this may be no, but double check. If you need coverage for pre-
existing conditions or if you have a family member at home who may currently suffer from an illness, then you should find a travel insurance company that offers pre-existing medical coverage. Different policies having different definitions as to what they mean by a “pre-existing condition”. Most will define it as an illness or injury, which existed before your trip, where you may have had some treatment; you knew about it or had symptoms when you bought your policy. Once again, insurers and policy wordings vary greatly, so be familiar with yours.
7. When Are The Start and Stop Dates On Your Plan – And Can They Be Changed or Extended?
First off, don’t try to trim a day off the start and finish dates of your vacation, “because we’ll only be on the plane all day.” You don’t want to be uncovered when the flight makes an emergency landing in Iceland because you’ve become ill.
Be aware the coverage for some benefits included in the plan starts at different times. There may be waiting periods for coverage if you buy while away from home or certain policy benefits may end as soon as you leave home (eg. Pre-trip cancellation). Some plans, like with World Nomads, allow you to extend your trip or buy more cover while you are away from home. Other plans have limits on the total trip duration. If you need flexibility in your plan or dates of travel, ask before you buy it as once the plan starts, you may not be able to change the dates or coverage easily.
8. What Are The Best Companies To Buy Travel Insurance From?
- World Nomads is probably the best and offers travel insurance for travelers from over 140 countries to travel around the world. They offer cover for a range of adventure activities and sports and you can buy it and claim online, even if you’re already travelling.
- I have used Travel Guard on several trips and they’re great. Getting claims paid was straight forward and painless.
9. How Can I Compare Travel Insurance Plans?
Insure My Trip is a very handy service for comparing different travel insurance plans.
One last tip: if you travel with expensive things like jewellery, watches, cameras etc., check to see if these are covered on your homeowners policy. Many home policies temporarily ensure your property while it is away from your home. The impact – financial and emotional – of losing valuable possessions like these can be greatly offset by knowing you have coverage once you return home.
And remember, insurance - whether it’s for your home, or your car, or your business, or your life – is peace of mind. When you’re travelling you don’t want to have that something niggling in the back of your mind that you should have picked up that travel policy before you left. What you want is to enjoy your trip, whether its relaxation, adventure or commerce that is your intention.