If you have purchased a trip through an online travel agency recently, you may have noticed a button at the end, offering to protect your trip with travel insurance. At first glance, these policies may seem appealing, but they are rarely in your best interest as the buyer.
Online travel agencies, also known as OTAs, are online platforms for comparing and purchasing flights, accommodations and rentals for your trip. In recent years, big-name OTAs like Expedia and Priceline have begun to offer travel insurance at the end of their purchasing process. Often, what they offer is trip insurance. This means that they’re offering some financial protection in the event that you must cancel or change your plans. OTAs very rarely include travel medical insurance.
What this means is that the insurance offered by these agencies can only cover you for a very specific set of circumstances and do not offer any coverage if you are injured or become ill while abroad. Furthermore, they usually only provide one plan to everyone, rather than customizing the options for the customers’ needs.
This can leave you in an awkward situation. You want to protect yourself and your trip, but you want to be sure that you’re getting the best insurance plan for your needs. The best thing to do is to get more information so that you can make informed decisions. The good news is that you’ve already found a great resource to learn more.
What Are Trip Insurance & Travel Medical Insurance?
Let's explore the differences between these two often-conflated terms:
- Trip insurance refers to a policy that covers a percentage of nonrefundable costs like airplane tickets and hotels, should you need to cancel or postpone your trip. This type of insurance is great if you are spending a lot of money on prepaid, fixed costs including first-class tickets and expensive reservations. The cost of these plans is determined by the overall cost of the trip you are insuring.
- Travel medical insurance is used to cover you for accidents, injuries and illnesses while you are abroad which your domestic health insurance plan will likely not cover. This type of insurance is important if you are traveling internationally, especially to countries where medical costs are high. Some visa applications also require applicants to have travel insurance including U.S. J-1 and J-2 visas and the Schengen visa. The cost of these plans is determined by the amount of coverage purchased and the age of the policyholder.
The next step is to find all of the insurance plans that will meet your needs and compare them so that you can pick the ideal plan for you. Travel insurance aggregators like VisitorsCoverage can be great resources at this stage. Sites like ours have the best plans from a variety of insurance providers, so you can easily compare plans from multiple sources.
Top questions when purchasing travel insurance
When compiling your options, here are a few good questions to keep in mind:
- Is this trip a major investment? If you are spending a lot of money on your trip, you do not want to risk losing your deposits and nonrefundable costs if your plans are changed. In this instance, trip insurance can be very helpful.
- How long are you traveling? If you are planning to be abroad for months, or even years, you are more likely to have an illness or injury during that time. If you or a loved one is going to be outside of your home country for a long time, travel medical insurance is even more important.
- Are medical costs particularly high in your destination country? Certain countries have higher medical costs than others. Some popular destinations including the United States and Japan have notoriously high medical bills. If you need to visit the hospital while in one of these countries, bills can easily climb into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you don’t have travel medical insurance, you will be responsible for the entire bill.
- Do you need a visa that requires travel insurance for your trip? If you are traveling to Europe and need a Schengen visa, to the U.S. on a J-visa, or to any country where you need to apply for a visa, you may be required to show proof of insurance. The Schengen visa has some very specific requirements for what kind of plan you must have. Be sure to check these requirements carefully before you settle on a plan.
- Are you traveling to a destination that requires travel insurance? Certain countries and destinations including Costa Rica and Jamaica require all visitors to have travel insurance before entering the country. If you are planning on visiting one of these locations, you will need travel medical insurance.
- Are you planning to do anything that could result in injury during your trip? If you are considering a more adventurous trip, such as a safari, ski trip or scuba diving excursion, there are specific plans and add-ons that can cover potential risks.
- Are there circumstances outside of your control that might lead you to cancel or postpone your trip? In 2020, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic made us all hyper aware that our plans can be impacted by global events. Millions of travel plans were changed due to COVID-19, but other circumstances including natural disasters like hurricanes, family illness and strikes can force you to rearrange your plans. Trip and travel insurance allow you to stay protected if something like this forces you to cancel or postpone your trip.
- Are you traveling with elderly relatives or children? The young and the elderly are often more susceptible to illness and more likely to need medical care if injured. If you are traveling with people who may have an increased risk while abroad, travel medical insurance is even more important, and you may want to consider plans with lower deductibles and higher amounts of coverage.
- Are you visiting a remote area where health care might be limited or hard to find? If your explorations are taking you on a cruise, to mountaintops or anywhere else that medical help might be limited or nonexistent, you could need an emergency medical evacuation or “air ambulance.” If you are ill or injured in a remote area and need assistance, a helicopter evacuation may be the only way to get you to the health professionals you need. These types of flights routinely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so this type of coverage is crucial in an emergency.
Once you narrow down your options, all that remains is to pick the policy that best suits your needs. VisitorsCoverage enables you to compare plans directly and receive free quotes. If you'd like assistance finding the right plan for you, our Customer Success Team is happy to help.