Travel Insurance: what I know and what I don’t know

One of my friends from our Rotary Club here in Anchorage is a financial planner. She asked me about travel insurance.There are some things I do know…and a lot of things I don’t know. Here are some things that happened to me:

1. I bumped into a big cement pole underneath Whole Foods in Seattle. The folks at Enterprise were very nice—no handcuffs were involved. My agent at Allstate advised me that because I charged the rental on my Alaska Airlines Visa card—they would pick up my $500 deductible. Which they did.

2. We had all of our stuff stolen out of our car in Italy. Laptops, backpack, camera gear…the works. Our homeowner’s insurance from Allstate covered everything after the $1,000 deductible. They were easy to work with—and we still have our policy with Allstate.

These days, most travel arrangements are non-refundable. Because of that, I purchase a separate travel insurance policy that covers trip cancellation, lost baggage, medical insurance—even emergency evacuation.

I have a policy through Allianz.com which is designed specifically for travel professionals. That includes crew members, travel agents and other members of the qualifying group. It costs about $120 per year. But before that, I was buying a separate policy for each trip. For one trip, we went to central Europe. For another trip, I went to the Cook Islands. Based on the value of each trip, the cost was about $100 for each journey.

Typically, the policy covers cancellation fees if you get sick. It does NOT cover you if you change your mind. There are, however, some policies where you can elect to cancel your trip for ANY reason or NO reason. They just cost a lot more.

After talking with a couple of insurance professionals, both recommended a specific website: INSUREMYTRIP.com. This is a site where you can plug in the value of your trip and you will get some competitive bids from both Allianz and BHTP.

If you are going on an expensive or an exotic journey, they may require you to purchase their pre-selected insurance. You may be wise to do so. For example, if you’re going on a safari in Africa, there are some policies that will cover your evacuation on scheduled airlines. There are others that will provide for a chartered medevac jet. That’s more expensive, of course.

In most cases, you’ll find that comprehensive travel insurance for medical, lost luggage and trip interruption/cancellation is more affordable if you purchase it independently. But there are some cases where it makes sense to buy it through your tour operator (for a cruise to Antarctica, for example).

Travelers would do well to inspect the particular terms and conditions of the insurance policy they select. Keep in mind that you may already be covered for some routine issues like medical, car rental and trip interruption insurance through your credit card or your homeowner’s insurance.

I hate to say this, but it’s the truth: you have to read the fine print. Have a great trip!

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