Travel insurance is one of those topics that is under constant debate in the travel world.
Do I really need to buy expensive insurance? Will I really end up using it? Or will it just be a waste of money? Is it better to be safe than sorry?
I’m more in the mindset of the latter category. I’d rather have a fall back just in case something happens. Plus my mom works in the study abroad field and there’s no way she’d let me out of the house without it!
And of course you always hope that you’ll never need to use the insurance.
Until you do.
At the end of December my grandmother unexpectedly passed away. I was traveling in the Philippines at the time and wanted to return home for the services. Using Skype I contacted the people at World Nomads, the travel insurance company I use, to check on the eligibility of my return trip being reimbursed. Though my insurance says that it covers “trip interruption due to the death of a family member”, I wouldn’t know for sure if it was fully covered until returned home and filed a claim.
Regardless, I purchased my flight for the following day from Manila to Tokyo to Boston. Though to be fair, a flight that was purchased one day in advance and moves you literally half way around the world only costing $1,076.20 isn’t all that bad.
Plus I had this gorgeous view of Mt. Fuji out my window during the decent into Tokyo.
I also had several flights within the Philippines that had already been scheduled. One a round trip flight from Manila to Legaspi and back to Manila, and the other a return flight to Thailand. All three of those flights I had to cancel and received no refund for at the time of their cancellation.
Filing a claim
Upon returning home, I began the process of filing a claim. And let me tell you to file a claim you seriously need to have all your ducks in a row. In addition to filling out their giant claims form, I had to submit a copy of the death certificate, an obituary, receipts and credit card statements for all the flights, a credit card statement that showed I paid for the travel insurance, and copies of all the airline’s return/cancellation policies. I also submitted copies of all my budgets to prove how much the trip had cost me so far.
Several times throughout the process I had questions about the forms and required documentation, and all the representatives I talked to were extremely helpful.
I compiled everything into a nice, neat packet and sent it on it’s merry way with fingers crossed.
Getting the check
Then about two weeks later I received a check in the mail – a check for $1,076.20. World Nomads and their claims partner Trip Mate reimbursed me for the flight home from Manila to Boston. Sweet!
Unfortunately I was not reimbursed for the round trip flight within the Philippines that I’d had to cancel, nor the flight back to Thailand. I had expected to not get the money back for the trip to Bangkok as it was part of a round trip ticket, but I was a bit disappointed to not receive the money for the flight to and from Legaspi.
But overall, losing out on $200 to get back $1,076 isn’t all that bad. Especially since I paid $450 for 6 months of insurance. I definitely got my money back there!
An even more amazing story about the necessity of travel insurance comes from the amazing travel bloggers Deb and Dave of The Planet D. They recently experienced a huge medical emergency in the middle of the Amazon, and having travel insurance saved them almost $80,000. You never think something like that could happen to you until it does.
Things to consider
When looking into buying travel insurance there are a few things you want to keep in mind. What kind of trip are you taking? Are you going to be lying on a beach the whole time? Are you going to be a daredevil and leap out of planes or go trekking or SCUBA dive? Do you think you’ll need to extend your insurance while you’re away? Does the insurance cover emergency evacuations? Repatriation? Hospital stays?
It’s important to take a look and what kind of travel you’re going to be doing and what you might encounter. I knew that I was going to be trekking to Everest Base Camp so I needed insurance that covered trekking at high altitudes. I opted for the ‘explorer’ insurance which covers the majority of adventure sports vs. the regular insurance which covered only a few, low impact activities.
So while ultimately it’s up to you whether or not you get insurance when you travel, it’s something I’m always going to do. The cost of the insurance is worth some piece of mind, as well as support if something does in fact happen to you while traveling.