Posted: 5/28/21 | May 28th, 2021
I’ve written about buying travel insurance a lot. I’ve talked about how to find the right policy, shared a list of the best travel insurance companies worth checking out, and answered a few of the most common questions on the subject.
But while I’ve talked about the practical “how-to” part of getting insurance, I’ve never really focused on the why of travel insurance.
So let’s talk about that today.
Why should you buy travel insurance?
Why is it important?
What’s in it for you?
Well, for starters: Peace of mind.
Also, the potential not to go broke and the ability to get care when you need it.
Many of us believe we’re invincible: we think we’ll never get sick on the road, robbed, or be involved in an accident. As someone tweeted to me “I’ve traveled extensively for more than a decade and never once ever *considered* buying travel insurance. Still no issues.”
But the past is not prologue.
I also never thought I’d get knifed in Colombia
My friend never thought he’d break his back. My other friends didn’t plan on bike and car accidents or getting their stuff stolen, or their dad dying and having to suddenly fly home.
But all those things did happen.
You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. You can’t fight off criminals, bend steel, or fly. You can’t fall from the sky and walk away.
When you’re a budget traveler, spending a few hundred extra dollars on something that only might be used can be a hard pill to swallow. When every penny counts, the temptation is to just roll the dice and hope nothing happens.
I can give you thousands of examples of people who bought travel insurance and were thankful they did.
I can also give you thousands of examples of people who didn’t buy it and regretted it when something went wrong.
Travel is all about the unknown — and that unknown is a double edge sword bringing exciting adventures or disaster.
Don’t fall for the logical fallacy that because something hasn’t happened before, it’s not likely to happen in the future.
The past is NOT prologue.
Just because you haven’t gotten sick on the road doesn’t mean you won’t get sick in the future. If you’ve never had something stolen from you, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.
Getting sick happens all the time.
Getting robbed happens all the time.
Getting injured happens all the time.
Getting delayed in transit happens all the time.
Breaking something happens all the time.
Travel insurance will be there in all those situations. It is comprehensive coverage that will protect you when you get sick or robbed or hurt, suffer an accident, have your flight delayed or canceled, or need to cancel your trip because of an emergency.
Travelers also often think, “Well, insurance is cheaper in other parts of the world, so I can just pay for it out of pocket. It’s all socialized health care, right?”
U.S. health insurance doesn’t cover you overseas. Neither do all those socialized medical programs in other countries.
Plus, even if you are covered by a foreign medical program, that only covers you for medical care. You won’t be covered if there is a lengthy flight delay, cancelation, theft, or lost luggage. And those happen way more often than injuries.
When you travel, you’re not covered. You’re still going to have to pay out of pocket, and if you’re seriously ill or have to go home, those costs will add up!
When you need casts and airlifts and serious medical attention, it’s not cheap. I mean, here are just emergency medical evacuation costs in some popular destinations around the world:
- Mexico: $25,000-$60,000
- South America: $100,000
- Germany, France, or other developed European nations: $50,000-$100,000
- Russia: $90,000-$150,000 (weather conditions can dramatically increase costs)
- Asia, Australia, and the Middle East: $220,000
That’s a ton of money! Who can pay that?
Travel insurance, that’s who!
While many credit cards offer insurance on things you buy with those cards (like flights and hotels), their service and coverage is very limited.
For example, if you used the Chase Sapphire Reserve, they will reimburse up to $10,000 per trip (for nonrefundable expenses like passenger fares, tours, and hotels) if it’s canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather, or certain other situations. They’ll also cover up to $3,000 for checked or carry-on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, and they’ll cover up to $500 for delayed flights over 6 hours (for things like lodging and meals). If you are injured or become sick during a trip far from home that results in an emergency evacuation, you can be covered for medical services and transportation up to $100,000.
But most cards will not pay out if you get sick while on the road. The less premium Chase Sapphire Preferred card has the same delay and cancellation reimbursements (however, they kick in after 12 hours and not 6 hours) as well as coverage for lost or damaged luggage but there’s no reimbursement for medical treatment or an emergency.
Not everyone has premium credit cards and, even then, most are stingy about paying out medical claims. (Also, premium cards are really only available in the US).
Contrast that with Safety Wing (my favorite company), which covers everything that happens while you’re on the road. Their plans include:
- $250,000 USD in emergency medical coverage
- $1,000 USD for emergency dental care
- $100,000 USD for medical evacuation
- $10,000 USD for an evacuation due to political upheaval
- $5,000 USD for a trip interruption
- $200 USD for a travel delay
- $12,500–25,000 USD for death or dismemberment
Additionally, travel insurance covers trip delays caused by and nonrefundable tickets that you can’t use because of a death in the family, a strike, or a natural disaster. Only 80% of flights arrive on time, and there are around 100,000 flights per day. That means the odds of there being a hiccup during your trip are surprisingly big.
In short, travel insurance is far more generous and comprehensive than your credit card’s insurance.
When we travel, we embrace the unknown.
But with that unknown comes the increased likelihood that something could go wrong.
Travel insurance is your hedge against that.
Because you don’t want to end up like my friend who broke her arm after deciding that, since she never got hurt on the road, it was pointless to renew her insurance plan….and then immediately regretted her choice.
At just a few dollars a day, it’s the peace of mind you need to know that if something does go wrong, you won’t be out of pocket even more money and that you can get the help you need.
I never leave home without travel insurance. You shouldn’t either.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.