How to Choose the Right Travel Insurance: 7 Tips & Tricks

How to Choose the Right Travel Insurance: 7 Tips & Tricks

We generally love travel insurance: It gives you peace of mind, reduces hassles, and makes a crisis while abroad much easier and less expensive to deal with. Though you won’t necessarily need it for every trip you take, it’s a good option that you should always consider– especially when heading to a foreign country where your usual healthcare coverage won’t likely be valid. If you’re wondering how to choose the right travel insurance amid seemingly endless options, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll find that most providers offer the same base options, which can make choosing between policies quite a challenge. Here are our top tips to help you make an informed decision before you click “buy”. 

Decide whether you really need it

Some travel insurance companies present insurance as a one-stop option for all travel plans, but that’s really not the case. Travel insurance is best for longer trips that involves a lot of movement from point “A” to point “B”. We suggest insuring any trip that takes you more than 100 miles from home, and if it involves many pre-paid, non-refundable expenses or cancellation penalties. Essentially, travel insurance protects the investment you make into your trip, so if you’re only flying home for the holidays, you probably don’t need to go through the expense of insuring it. But if you’re taking a vacation across the world? It’s definitely  a worthwhile investment in that case. 

Read related: How to Stay Safe During Your Trip Abroad– But Still Have Fun 

Is travel insurance really worth the money?

How much of your trip is pre-paid and non-refundable?

If you’ve decided that travel insurance is right for you, the next step is to carefully consider your coverage options. Before you leave home, we recommend you do the following: Add up all your non-refundable costs to determine your insurable amount. Usually, this takes into account the cost of your hotel, rental car, flight, and attraction tickets. Don’t bother insuring any refundable tickets, as your package will almost never cover any losses from those. In brief, if you’ve pre-paid for anything on your trip (meaning it can’t be refunded if something goes sideways), you need to insure those items. If you don’t do so, it may invalidate some of the coverage of your chosen plan.

Read related: Our Top Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling 

Identify your most important areas of coverage

Though your pre-paid, non-refundable expenses are where you start, you also need to consider the other types of coverage that are most important to you. For example, heading to Disney World or another park? You’re definitely going to want a weather policy in case of a hurricane.

Wondering what typical policies cover? Most insure the basics: Medical emergencies, evacuation, cancellation, lost luggage, and so on, but here are some of the more specific coverage categories that you might want.

    • MEDICAL EMERGENCIES: If your medical insurance doesn’t cover overseas emergencies, an accident might cost you a small fortune. Travel insurance bridges the gap so you don’t end up bankrupt over an injury abroad. That said, if you’re staying domestic, medical insurance is probably redundant.
    • EMERGENCY EVACUATION: If you’re seriously injured, being flown out of one hospital to a different hospital for specialized treatment can be very expensive. Evacuation insurance covers the cost of a flight on a medical jet.
    • TRIP CANCELLATION, INTERRUPTION, AND FLIGHT DELAYS: One of the basics in travel insurance is trip cancellation insurance, because flights, hotel stays, and rentals are often the most expensive part of the trip; they’re also usually non-refundable. Build in some flexibility with a reimbursement package for cancellations or interruptions. Insurance will cover these if you get sick, have a death in the family, or if there’s a natural disaster. Many plans will cover the cost of a rescheduled ticket if your previous flight was delayed.
    • LOST LUGGAGE AND THEFT: The only thing worse than an airline losing your luggage or a theft stealing from you is having to pay to replace all the stolen goods. Travel insurance covers the cost of lost luggage or property damage done by airlines or thieves, which can be a real help if you’ve brought valuables with you.

Read related: Are RFID-Blocking Wallets a New Necessity for Safe Travel? 

 

The pros and cons of buying travel insurance

Choose specific policies for high-value items

Though the basic categories of travel insurance make sense for most trips, you should also consider specific supplemental policies for more specific circumstances. Bringing an expensive laptop along with you? Insure that item specifically, because many travel insurance plans only cover the value of up to $500 per individual item. The same goes for expensive photo equipment. 

Read related: Essential Travel Photography Gear For Your Next Trip 

If you’re bringing a lot of high-value items, you may consider a specific package for your industry. Photographers may want to purchase a travel insurance policy designed specifically for them, for example, especially if they photograph professionally and could lose substantial income from a stolen piece of equipment.

Don’t wait too long to buy

If you’re putting off buying your travel insurance, be aware that most policies require you to purchase your policy before or near the time of your first payment towards the trip- usually when you purchase your flight or tour package payment. This is why it’s crucial that you decide on your insurance plan before you buy your tickets.

Make sure to buy travel insurance well before your trip-- and to read the fine print

Read the fine print

While scouring through a lengthy contract is no fun, travel insurance is no different from any other sort of policy: there’s fine print and loopholes for every package. Know what you’re getting and do your research ahead of time, especially for your specific needs. This will keep you from finding out all too late that your policy doesn’t cover something important during your trip– an unpleasant experience, to say the least.

Read related: Why Traveling is Good For You (And 6 Reasons to Take The Plunge)

Check your credit card benefits

Surprisingly, many credit cards offer insurance for items such as rentals, lost luggage, and trip cancellations. Coverage can be iffy, so read through the details carefully. This is always a good step to take, as it ensures you won’t buy a separate policy needlessly or pay for coverage you already have through your credit card. 

Some credit card companies offer travel insurance coverage

Safe Travel: How to Stay Secure Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Safe Travel: How to Stay Secure Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Whether you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveler or a plan-and-fret-about-every-detail type, keeping yourself secure while you’re away from home is something even the most adventurous spirits need to think about. But just because you take some smart precautions doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in an iron fortress; safe travel doesn’t have to rhyme with excess worry, nor require expensive security devices.

Do your part to prevent an unfortunate accident or incident, and you’ll give yourself tremendous peace of mind while you’re on your trip. No fortress required! Here are our top tips to ensure you stay safe and secure on your next adventure abroad– and free your mind to really enjoy it. 

Bring Emergency Info & Contact Details Along

Irrespective of whether you’re traveling abroad or staying within your own country, bringing along a handy list of useful emergency information can save you a lot of panic if you find yourself in a scrape. Local police and ambulance information, the location and contact details of the nearest embassy, and identification information for your travelling party are all crucial details to have on hand. Don’t trust yourself to figure these things out when you’re in a panicked fog. An emergency plan on your phone and an offline hard copy that you keep with you can save you a ton of stress. 

Secure Your Stuff

Bringing expensive valuables on a trip is inherently a little risky, as your tourist status makes you especially vulnerable to thieves and pickpockets. But it’s inevitable you’ll want something like a camera, laptop, or cellphone with you, so take some precautions with the expensive items you can’t leave at home.

Before you arrive at your destination, check with your hotel or guest house about whether they provide secure locations for valuables. Are there safes provides in rooms? How about secure bike storage areas and enclosed parking lots?  Know the terrain before you get there. If you’re staying at a hostel, bring your own padlock in case they aren’t provided for you.

And although a TSA-approved suitcase lock can’t hurt, a determined thief can easily slash into a suitcase and bypass the zipper entirely. Without resorting to paranoia, your best bet is to keep your belongings where you can see them if you’re travelling with them outside the secure storage area at your accommodations.

Read related: Are RFID-blocking wallets a good option for travelers? 

Use your backpack as a pillow, for example, when you’re riding on a crowded train. Keep one hand on your purse. Use situational awareness to prevent theft.

How to Stay Secure While Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Get Travel Insurance

It might seem like an unnecessary addition, but travel insurance can make an unfortunate situation like a cancelled flight or a medical emergency far less stressful. Good travel insurance will replace stolen goods, help you to cover unforeseen medical costs, and give you the ability to speak immediately with a live person if you’re in a crisis. Plus, travel insurance gives you peace of mind, allowing you to really relax during your trip. Knowing you have a backup plan makes everything a lot more enjoyable.  

Read related: Top Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling 

A quick note: when you’re buying travel insurance, make sure you’ve read the conditions carefully so you know exactly what you can count on with your specific plan.

Register with the Embassy

An easy step to take before you leave home is to register with your country’s embassy in the area you’re visiting. This lets the embassy know you’re coming and ensures you’ll get the latest safety information when you get there. If you ever need to be evacuated, the embassy can get in contact with you and ensure you depart safely. The United States’ Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is free for all citizens, and Canada’s program is the Registration of Canadians Abroad program. Check with your own embassy to find out how to register: this list is a good one. 

Don’t Dress Like A Tourist

While you’re on your trip, make an attempt not to stick out like a sore thumb. No one wants to look like a stereotypical tourist, especially not when criminals are involved. Do your research before you go: What does the average person at your destination dress and act like? What are the local manners? Aside from helping you avoid being a target, the cultural research makes you a better and more respectful traveler, and blending in with the locals gives you a more authentic experience. It’s a win-win situation!

How to Stay Secure While Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Act Like You Know What You’re Doing

Dressing like you belong is only part of getting around your destination confidently and securely. The next step is to act like you belong. Body language is a powerful signal, and projecting confidence and authority as you move through your trip can reduce your visibility to criminals. Keep your head up and stay aware of your surroundings. If you think a pickpocket may be targeting you, meet their eyes to let them know you’re aware of them.

That said, your cultural research is important here, because in some conservative countries you’ll risk offending someone by making direct eye contact. Still, this might be preferable to having your pocket picked. Use your best judgement.

Be Cautious When Using Public Wi-Fi

Online security is just as important while traveling abroad. Be skeptical of public Wi-Fi networks, especially in tourist-heavy areas. Cyber security is a complex issue, and public Wi-Fi is especially vulnerable to attacks. Your hotel or hostel’s password protected network is a much safer bet than what you’ll find at internet cafes and free internet hotspots. No matter where you are, we suggest never loading and consulting sensitive information such as personal ID or bank statements on a public Wi-Fi network.

How to Stay Secure While Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Stay (Relatively) Sober

While savoring fine wines and beers might be on your list of priorities for an enjoyable trip, avoid becoming wildly intoxicated. It’s hard, if not impossible, to be situationally aware when you’re drunk, and your risk of getting yourself into danger goes up exponentially the less sober you are. While you might feel like you know the city you’re visiting well enough to navigate it at night, alcohol can quickly make even the best laid-out city feel confusing.

If you plan on drinking, always go with a group and designate a sober person to help keep everyone else out of trouble.

Bring some Medical Essentials

Finally, bring a few just-in-case items to pre-empt any medical issues commonly faced by tourists. Your doctor can prescribe medication for traveler’s diarrhea and motion sickness, and you should also pick up some other drugstore favorites, such as sunscreen, ibuprofen, and hand sanitizer. If you do get sick, the last thing you’ll want to do is navigate a foreign drug store or pharmacy, especially if labels are in an unfamiliar language. Trust us.

Safe travels!