Why you should (almost) always get travel insurance:
On our link to this page we said "don't leave home without it". It is one of those things that you wish you had not bought if you did not need it, but you are really glad you did if it is needed. Let's face it, most of us don't really understand insurance policies.
Travel insurance is not just about health coverage, it helps to avoid some very expensive cancellation penalties imposed by airlines, cruise lines and tour companies in case you have to cancel your trip for certain reasons. And many of these travel insurance providers now offer a "cancel for any reason" option (for a higher premium, of course).
Some of the important reasons you should take out travel insurance:
Accident or illness: Most travel insurance covers illness overseas, which are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance companies. Here is one example:
True story: someone fell down and broke a hip in Jerusalem. After a hospital stay of over 10 days she was flown back to the U.S. The insurance covered the hospital stay plus the flight home.
Other common coverage is if there is a death or illness in your immediate family and you (and your traveling companion) need to cut the trip short and return home. Insurance will help cover the cost of plane fare, etc. Or the incident may occur just prior to departure and your cancellation penalties are already in effect.
You or a traveling companion become ill before the trip and have to cancel. Most insurance plans will cover all cancellation penalties. These penalties can be as much as 100% of what you paid depending upon how close you are to departure. So you stand a chance of losing everything that you invested in your trip.
Lost or mis-directed luggage: Most policies allow a certain amount should you become separated from your luggage. An example might be (true story) someone traveling on a trip from Fatima to Avila to Lourdes and on to Paris. Her luggage did not arrive in Portugal at the beginning of the trip and since they were only in the same place for one or two nights it took over a week to catch up to where she was. Travel insurance would have provided re-imbursement for clothing and other items she bought along the way. Unfortunately she did not buy insurance and was on her own.
There are many good travel insurance providers out there and we encourage you to shop around. Each company offers several different plans so do your research to be sure you get the one that fits your needs.
A note of caution on where to buy: when taking out travel insurance buy directly from the insurance company. If you buy from a tour operator or cruise line you have no way of being sure that your payment was actually submitted to the insurance company. If a tour operator or cruise line goes out of business and has not submitted the premium on your behalf you will not be covered.
Also, if you are booking a cruise we have found that most policies offered by cruise lines are more expensive and often do not provide all the benefits of plans purchased either from a travel agency or directly from the insurance company. For this reason we do not encourage buying insurance through the cruise line.
If there is a transportion strike, you may-or may not- be covered:
And, finally, an important word about transportation strikes: this especially applies to Europe, where strikes are often announced weeks--or even months--in advance.
In order to be covered, the rules are a bit different. If, for example an airline strike that is scheduled for July is announced in March, then you will have to have bought your travel insurance prior to March in order to have coverage for any travel delays caused by the strike. This is true for just about all travel insurance companies, so check with your company in advance.