What you need to know before choosing coverage


Before Stefan Mitrovic booked his vacation flight from San Francisco to Miami, he asked: Do I need travel insurance?

And then he remembered his luggage.

“I’m bringing some valuable Christmas presents,” says Mitrovic, who runs an internet consulting firm in Los Angeles. “I was afraid they would get lost in flight.”

This holiday season will be unlike any other, said Harding Bush, manager of security operations for Global Rescue, a provider of travel risk management services.

“More people travel,” he said. “Airlines are having staffing problems. And it’s a challenge for them to cope with the increase.”

In other words, your holiday trips will be canceled or postponed sooner than last year – and perhaps ever before.

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Do you need travel insurance for your holiday trip? Now is the time to find out. Travelers usually buy insurance to protect their expensive international travel. But since the pandemic, they’re buying more policies than ever. Is holiday travel riskier this year? And what kind of insurance should you buy?

Mitrovic just wanted to cover his luggage. The U.S. government limits your airline’s liability for delayed baggage to $3,800 for domestic flights. But the claim process is difficult, and airlines exclude many items from coverage. Through Travelinsurance.com, he found a policy that covered his checked baggage up to 75% of its current market value.

Experts say Mitrovic did well. He weighed the risks of holiday travel and then bought a policy that covered him.

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“When it comes to travel insurance, there is no one-size-fits-all policy,” said Daniel Durazo, a spokesperson for Allianz Partners USA. “It’s all about your individual specific needs and concerns about where you’re traveling and what financial investments you want to protect.”

Those concerns can range from minor inconveniences, such as a delayed suitcase, to major problems, such as a last-minute trip cancellation or a medical emergency.

Do you need travel insurance for your holiday trip?

The conventional wisdom is that travel insurance isn’t necessary for fast-paced domestic trips – the kind most often taken out during the holidays. The insurance only covers prepaid, non-refundable travel components. So driving to your aunt for a holiday weekend is most likely not insurable.

But for other trips you may need a policy. Usually people consider insurance when they spend more than $2,000 on their trip. But insurance can also cover unexpected costs, such as a flight cancellation.

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“The cost of last-minute flights can be 10 times the original purchase,” said Manny Fernandez, vice president of global operations at CAP Travel Assistance. “Having peace of mind when interrupting or canceling trips is important as trips are canceled more often.”

Dan Skilken, president of TripInsurance.com, said if the holiday season is a repeat of this summer, insured travelers will have an edge. Be aware of weather delays. Airlines are not obliged to assist travelers. “There is no reason to spend the night at the airport as the costs of your delay are covered,” he said.

Weighing the risks of holiday travel

Holiday travel is also more dangerous than in recent years, according to experts. Geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe, Israel and Asia are making travel to those areas riskier, said John Gobbels, chief operating officer of medical air transportation and travel security company Medjet.

But also think about what you are going to do at that destination. A beach vacation in Mexico may be less risky than heli-skiing in Canada.

“When choosing your travel insurance policy, you should consider several factors, such as whether you are traveling domestically or internationally, your travel expenses, whether you play adventure sports, and whether you are bringing your own equipment,” said Christina Tunnah, general manager for America at World Nomads.

Travel insurance companies now offer you the option to customize your policies. Sites like InsureMyTrip.com and battleface.com let you add or remove coverages until you get the exact policy you need. For more information on the best policy, check out my free guide to buying the best travel insurance.

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What should you pay attention to when choosing insurance for your holiday trip?

During the holiday season, the two main areas of coverage for travelers are medical care and trip cancellation, said Pallavi Sadekar, chief of operations at VisitorGuard.com.

“Medical insurance, especially HMO plans, may not cover you for out-of-country medical emergencies,” she said. “Travel insurance can protect you if you get sick or injured.”

She said trip cancellation plans can reimburse you for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses if you need to cancel for a covered reason. This way you get your money back and you can book your holiday for another day.

That is what Harry Wenkert is looking for when he takes out travel insurance for his holiday trip. “The coverage we’re most interested in is medical services, medical evacuation, and trip cancellation,” said Wenkert, a retired Pittsburgh pharmaceutical industry marketer. He’s going to the Canadian Rockies later this year and has already picked out his policy.

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What kind of travel insurance should you take out for your holiday trip?

With a regular travel insurance you are insured for the duration of your trip. If you think you need to cancel, you may also want to consider a “cancellation for any reason” policy, which allows you to cancel your trip for any reason and save 50% to 75% of your prepaid, non-refundable costs. get back.

But for Mark Beales, a retired mortgage banker from Mill Creek, Washington, the uncertainty of the past two years led to a New Year’s resolution to get travel insurance.

A friend was on vacation with her family in Canada. She has no travel insurance. “She fell and ended up in the hospital and then in a rehabilitation center,” he recalls. She then had to pay for medical transportation back to the United States.

“The costs were ridiculously high and not covered by Medicare since it happened in Canada,” Beales recalled. “So our friends paid those costs out of their own pockets.”

He decided never to be without travel insurance. So instead of buying a policy for every trip, he decided to buy annual travel insurance.

You may not need travel insurance for your next trip. But for this upcoming holiday travel season, you should probably consider it.

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Avoid these travel insurance mistakes

Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance, said travel insurance can be a smart purchase for your next trip, but many travelers make mistakes when buying their coverage. “It’s still a foreign concept to many,” he said. “The most valuable advice I can give travelers is to do a little research and not make assumptions about who and what is covered.”

► Don’t wait to take out insurance: “It’s a good idea to purchase appropriate travel insurance well in advance of your trip,” says Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage, an insurance marketplace. For example, some policies require you to purchase travel insurance within 14 days of making your initial deposit to get coverage for a pre-existing medical condition.

► Do not forget to read your policy: Many travelers are unaware of the common travel scenarios in which they are eligible for benefits if they have travel insurance. “That includes flight delays and lost luggage,” said Lauren Gumport, a spokeswoman for Faye travel insurance. “Make sure you read your policy and if it’s not clear, call your travel insurer before you go to find out.”

Read it all the way through. Lauren Gumport, a spokeswoman for Faye travel insurance, said her company has seen many customers who don’t understand their policy. “I’ve noticed that many travelers don’t know what common travel scenarios they’re eligible for when they have travel insurance,” she said.

► Do not buy the cheapest insurance: It can be tempting to skip travel insurance or buy the cheapest policy for your vacation trip. “But by doing this, you risk not having the right travel insurance when you need it,” warns Angela Borden, a product marketing strategist at Seven Corners. “During the holiday season, when the likelihood of flight cancellations, lost luggage and other unexpected events increases, it becomes even more important to protect the money you spent on your trip.”

Christopher Elliott is an author, consumer advocate and journalist. He founded Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps solve consumer problems. It publishes Elliott Confidential, a travel newsletter, and the Elliott Report, a customer service news site. If you need help with a consumer issue, you can reach him here or email [email protected]

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