A recent article in a popular magazine suggested that travel insurance might be an unnecessary expense for most travelers. The article mentioned that since most travelers would not experience a claim, the expense of the insurance policy was unnecessary.

This advice, in my opinion, was a bit reckless and stemming from unfamiliarity with today’s traveling realities! These days, more and more hotels and car rental companies are offering deeply discounted “Buy It Now” rates that are unchangeable and incur a full penalty if cancelled. Most airlines institute a hefty change fee. Cruise lines, tours and package wholesalers levy high fees when trips are cancelled. Even a hotel that is simply guaranteed with a credit card will charge a one night’s stay if not cancelled within their stated cancellation period.

I am a great believer in “self-insuring” my risks but even I have my limits. A family vacation can easily cost $10,000 and that is much more that I am willing to risk!

We cannot control the unexpected. Even trips that are “set-in-stone” on one’s calendar are cancelled or delayed for a variety of unexpected reasons such as severe illness with an aging parent or with the travelers themselves, traffic accident en route to the airport, involuntary employment termination, weather, strike, and airline delays or cancellations. A traveler cannot expect a tour company or cruise line to offer a refund if a cancellation was not the fault of the cruise line or tour operator itself.  For example, if your flight from your departing city was cancelled, the cruise line is not at fault, therefore a reimbursement of the cruise fare is unlikely. 

The article suggested that the travelers’ health insurance would cover them while traveling and their credit card companies would cover car rental insurance overseas. While every policy is different, I would strongly recommend that travelers call their health care insurance provider to determine if they are indeed covered while outside the United States as many policies do not. Travelers should not assume that they get the same insurance coverage with their credit cards while traveling internationally as they do while traveling within the United States. Call your credit card company for details.

The following is a list of actual events where our clients have used insurance to cover unexpected expenses or cancellations in the past year:

  • Stepping off the curb the wrong way while in the UK and breaking a bone on the last day of their trip.  The family had to stay an additional week in London while their traveling companion had surgery to repair the break.  The travel insurance covered their medical expenses, the airline change fees, the extra nights of hotel and flight arrangements to get the patient back home in a way that did not compromise the broken leg.
  • A broken wrist and a trip to the emergency room while in Spain. 
  • Being diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition weeks before departure.
  • A death in the family that resulted in an unexpected, early return from their vacation. 
  • A client injured his knee three weeks before departing on vacation.The injury required surgery and his doctor would not clear him for a tour where long walking tours were a major component.The trip had to be postponed.
  • While rafting in Costa Rica, a woman was hit in the mouth by a flailing paddle and required a significant amount of dental work.
  • Icy conditions causing airline cancellation during a holiday travel period.  Flights were full for days and our clients could not get to their destination for almost a full week.  The vacation was involuntarily called off. Our clients had such a disappointment that their vacation was called off – having to pay 100% of a trip not taken would have added insult to injury.

Our list goes on and on and on.The purpose of insurance is to protect you in case of an UNEXPECTED emergency and as your travel agent, I can honestly say that I hope you NEVER have to use it, but I want you to have it in case you NEED it.