Betcha didn’t know travel insurance covered that


Betsy Donley recommends travel insurance for all the reasons you’d imagine — and a few you might not.

It’s commonly known that travel insurance covers circumstances such as trip interruptions, delays and emergency medical transportation. And there are standard clauses for lost baggage and in-transit assistance.

But Donley advises travelers to buy insurance for the less known — and less expected — reasons. For example, did you know that health insurance may not cover you if you get sick while you’re out of the country? But travel insurance does.

Donley, a Phoenix-based travel consultant, has seen too many Baby Boomers face sky-high medical bills while they’re abroad.

“They are not protected by Medicare,” she says.

Actually, you might be surprised at what some travel insurance policies cover. The biggest open secret is car rental insurance. If you’ve got travel insurance, there’s usually no need to buy additional coverage from your car rental company. But there are other things, hidden in plain sight.

Sheila Berrios-Nazario, who runs a travel agency that focuses on senior travel, says she was surprised when she was leafing through an Allianz Travel Insurance policy recently. “It covered unexpected important family events such as the birth of your first grandkid,” she says. “That’s something most grandparents wouldn’t want to miss.

Berrios-Nazario still hasn’t had any claims for that benefit, but then, it’s an obscure one that many travelers aren’t even aware of.

“There are little-known things covered by travel insurance,” agrees Beth Godlin, president of the Aon Affinity Travel Practice.

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So what’s hidden in your policy? Here are a few of Godlin’s favorites:

✓ If your home becomes “uninhabitable,” that can be a covered reason for trip cancellation. It could be due to almost anything serious, such as a fire, flooding or weather damage·

✓ A lot of travelers don’t know that their travel insurance could cover them if they get into a car accident on their way to their departure flight.


✓ Travel insurance includes concierge benefits, such as assistance with a lost passport, finding appropriate medical care, or obtaining travel information while abroad.

✓ Many policies include medical evacuation not only for the injured traveler, but often also for a companion if they are traveling together.

✓ If the injured person is traveling alone, his or her insurance plan might also pay for flying in someone from home to meet the injured person and then accompany them back.

✓ Some plans provide cancellation for job loss; some have coverage if you get called to jury duty.

I was curious about my own annual policy from Allianz, so I decided to give it a closer read. Here’s what I found:

Transport to bedside
If you’re told you will be hospitalized for more than seven days during your trip, Allianz will transport a friend or family member to stay with you. It will arrange and pay for round-trip transportation in economy class on a commercial airline.

Emergency translation
Allianz will help you with interpretation service in the event you require help locally but are unable to communicate due to language barriers.

Meals, accommodation and transportation
Reasonable additional expenses for meals and accommodation related to your missed connection or cruise.

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Sheryl Hill, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Depart Smart, says one of her favorite unknown coverages is kidnap and ransom insurance.

“Some travel insurance also covers petty kidnapping, where they take your wallet and cash card and deplete them before they let you go, or extort your family for money,” she says.

I also talked to Phil Sylvester over at World Nomads, and one of their policies, WN Explorer, even covers sports gear rentals “if an airline loses or damages your own gear.”

“Until I began working for a travel insurance company I had no idea these things were covered, I figure many people still don’t know,” he says.

Well, that makes two of us.

Bottom line: Read your insurance policy carefully, because you might be covered in ways you can’t imagine. And that’s good, because you never know when you might need that coverage.


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • Attention All Passengers

    It might also be a good idea to advise a friend or relative prior to start of the trip that you have this insurance and the options for you and them should you need their assistance.

  • cscasi

    Good article on Travel insurance. Just remember, while most travel insurance policies cover the same basic things, it pays to review just what the travel insurance policy you are considering purchasing for your trip, to ensure it covers everything you want, before purchasing it (even though most have a free look period). And, prices vary. There are many good companies out there, so take the time to look at the coverages and get the one right for you.

  • jennj99738

    Chris, can you provide some details on your annual policy? I wonder how much you have to travel for that type of policy to make sense versus buying a per-trip plan. Thanks!

  • LeeAnneClark

    I still cannot not find any good reason to buy trip insurance. Unless you buy expensive “cancel for any reason” insurance, most policies won’t cover the types of things that actually have a high likelihood of happening. And even if something seems like it would be covered, I’ve read far too many stories in here of people unable to get their insurance to pay up.

    I’ve been traveling all of my adult life, and not once in any of my travels has a single thing happened to me that might have resulted in a successful trip insurance claim. So if I’d been buying insurance all this time, every penny would have been wasted.

    I go into every trip with the knowledge that, if something happens and I can’t go, I will lose all of my investment into the non-refundable costs. It’s a risk I take. And given the tens of thousands of dollars I HAVEN’T spent on insurance all these years, I’m already ahead of the game…even if I end up losing my entire investment on some future trip.

    There are some types of insurance that are of value to have, even if it’s likely that you’ll never use them. Trip insurance is not one of them.

  • LDVinVA

    I don’t follow your first sentence – the double negative seems to mean you think buying trip insurance is good. The rest of your message denies that. I somewhat agree – when we were younger we did not get insurance, and still do not for most trips within the USA. However, we are on Medicare and our supplementary insurance only covers $50k out of the country. And, as we age it is more likely we could need to be evacuated. So, we buy insurance now and are glad to have it.

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL! Typo! Thanks for pointing it out…DOH! I’ll remove the extra “not”. Sorry to confuse you! Busy day yesterday and I didn’t go back and read this comment before I posted it.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oh, and FTR – we buy DAN (Diver’s Alert Network) insurance every year. We’re avid scuba divers, and no diver should ever be without DAN. If we should suffer any kind of dive-related injury anywhere in the world DAN will take care of everything, including medical evacuation, transport to a medical facility with a decompression chamber, etc. They will manage our case from start to finish, including ensuring that we get treated by doctors who are trained in the unique medical needs of divers.

    Even better, they will cover most medical situations that might occur on any trip we take in which diving is an element – and most of our trips do involve some diving at some point. So that’s really the only trip-related insurance we buy. It’s super cheap too, for what you get!

    So I’m not opposed to insurance as a rule – I just don’t find standard trip insurance to be worth it.

  • Michael__K

    Note that one can purchase coverage for Emergency hospitalization and Medical Evacuation standalone, for substantially less than the cost of a full-fledged travel insurance policy.

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