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The idea of buying travel insurance is simple enough: Once you’ve shelled out thousands of dollars for your special trip, you don’t want to lose money if you have to cancel. Or you don’t want to pay thousands more if you have a mid-trip medical emergency.
Although purchasing travel insurance can be complicated, experts say it’s helpful when you do it right. If you look at these policies, you’ll understand why Robert Hunter, insurance director emeritus for the Consumer Federation of America, says virtually no one reads them. There are enough riders, waivers, exceptions, limitations and disqualifying events to baffle even the most expert interpreter of foreign-language train schedules. “The terminology is confusing,” Hunter says. “People can’t understand what the policies mean.”
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How do you figure out whether you need travel insurance, what coverage you need and what to look out for when you buy it? This Q&A guide will help you choose coverage — should you decide to buy any at all.
Do I need travel insurance?
For starters, if you’re traveling abroad, ask your health insurer if it covers international medical bills. If not, you want to buy a travel policy that includes travel health coverage. (With rare exceptions, traditional Medicare doesn’t cover health problems when you’re traveling outside the U.S., but some Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans do.) Matt Kepnes, of nomadicmatt.com, a travel website, recommends $100,000 in emergency medical coverage and at least $300,000 in coverage for a medical evacuation.
“I never travel abroad without travel insurance,” he says. “I’ve had bags lost and stolen, my camera broke, my eardrum popped while diving, and I’ve even been mugged and stabbed. While you’re likely going to be fine 99 percent of the time, the risk just isn’t worth it. Moreover, emergency evacuations can cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The past is not prologue, and it’s important to have coverage in case anything happens.”
Is travel insurance worth it?
Seasoned travelers know that regardless of how well you plan, and even if you packed for any type of weather, life happens.
Meghan Walch, director of product for InsureMyTrip.com, says she hopes you never have to use travel insurance, but without it, you might be out a lot of money.