The whole topic of travel insurance is one that most people try to avoid as much as possible. For cruise travelers, about the only part of it all that is more boring is the passenger contract, something we found out recently, after the Concordia grounding is indeed worth reading. (We won’t say “I told you so” even though we have been for over a decade. Oh wait. I just did. Sorry.) So now all of the sudden there is a new interest in travel insurance with travel agents reporting a ten-fold increase in those adding the valuable coverage offered by a good coverage policy.
Some travelers make it easy and just add it on right at the start, when the booking is first made. They take the option offered by the cruise line and get excellent coverage. Others are firm believers that a third-party source is a good idea, some sound company separate from the self-insuring cruise lines. Those people might have had their argument taken down a notch post-Concordia as the Costa organization has handled refunds, reimbursements, medical expenses and repatriation of passengers without a penny out of their pockets, insurance or not.
So we add another element into the argument for or against buying travel insurance: Travel insurance is really not for a major, tragic cruise event like Concordia, much like it is not for hurricanes when cruise lines step in and take care of booked guests. Travel insurance is always a good idea. Having it during a major, unusual event may give confidence too. But is it real or perceived confidence? That’s what we need to know and that’s what we want to go into today in ten thoughts about travel insurance, ten things to think about before you don’t buy it. If you bought it already, reaffirm your good choice with this information or double-check to see if your policy measures up.
Above all, seek the guidance of a qualified, licensed travel insurance agent. That’s not us. These thoughts are just some ideas help with the decision to buy and make sure we ask the right questions along the way. Every travel insurance company has a toll-free 800-number that is commonly given out by travel agents to call with those “What if?” questions about travel insurance, what it covers and any specific concerns you might have . We need to call that number and make sure the travel insurance we bought covers our concerns for sure. If we have a medical condition that could cause cancellation, we need to hear that it is covered. There are plenty of unknowns coming up down the road. Let’s be sure that if Aunt Becky’s medical condition worsens and you don’t want to be away or your aging father has a sudden illness that you can cancel and be reimbursed or that if something happens on the way to the cruise, during it, or on the way back that you are covered for that too
- Decide if you need it. You may or may not. We recommend it so if you fall of the ship you can’t come back here and say “Oh well you said I didn’t need it now give me your house”. Seriously though, it’s a good thing to have and you would be surprised at how many people actually do use it for one reason or another. More on that can be found on our website.
- Check Sources- If you graduated from a University, check out AlumniAbroad.com. They offer alumni access to their comprehensive Travel Insurance Select policy which may be less expensive than some other policies depending upon your age and total cost of your trip. Along these same lines, check out STATravel.com. They offer insurance to student travelers. Rates are based entirely on the length (number of days) of your trip.
- Pay With A Credit Card- Always pay for all of your travel arrangements (cruise, hotel, airfare, insurance) with a credit card. There are numerous benefits which include: (a) the potential ability to get back money if any of the travel arrangements failed to deliver, (b) some credit cards offer travel benefits when you use their card, and (c) a good paper trail when you need to make a claim. Check with your credit card company to get specific details on what they cover.
- Which Policy Is Right For You?- Many companies offer two different policies. A premium policy with all the “bells and whistles” and a less expensive alternative with a little less coverage. Buy the policy that fits your needs.
- Check The Coverage- Make sure your policy includes the following coverages: Trip Interruption, Trip Cancellation, Supplier Default (also known as “Financial Default“), a Trip Delay Benefit, and at least $25,000 worth of Air Evacuation in the event of a medical emergency.
- Primary Or Secondary?- Make sure your insurance coverage is considered “Primary”. This way if your problem is covered by the policy, the insurance company pays you. Period. You do not want “secondary” coverage wherein you have to submit your claim elsewhere first (like to your Homeowners, Health, or other insurance.
- You Get What You Pay For- Make sure “FREE TRAVEL INSURANCE” is actually insurance. It may not be or if it is, it may have less coverage than you need. Again, nobody gives away what they do for free and stays in business very long.
- Don’t Buy From The Cruise Line– If possible, do not buy travel protection or insurance issued by your travel agency, airline, or cruise line. There is bound to be some contention here from fellow travels, but think about why you are buying the insurance. What good is insurance if the airline, travel agency, or cruise line you are traveling with goes under? You never know. (The one possible exception to this rule is if you pay with a credit card that covers financial default). Now, this is not to say you shouldn’t buy your travel insurance from any provider, like your Travel Agent. Just make sure the insurance is independent of the provider. This is one to really watch out for when buying online. Often, the online cruise brokers are “self-insured”.
- Highly Rated- Make sure the insurer is rated “A” or higher by AM Best. The highest rating is “A++”. Note that A.M. Best only rates the company’s financial wherewithal to pay your claims. They do not rate the company’s level of service. Ratings and coverages can also differ from state to state.
- Pre-Existing Conditions Covered? Buy the policy within the first 14 days (or so) from when you make your first trip payment, so that all Pre-Existing Conditions are covered. Check your company’s policy on this time window. This way you never have to prove that a pre-existing condition didn’t exist. I used to think “Why buy it before final payment if we’re healthy?”
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