• Travel Insurance Blog

  • Monday, August 21, 2017

This isn’t an isolated memory, for sure. Planning for a summer family vacation—perhaps to a place learned about in school—Mount Rushmore one year, and the Washington Memorial the next. The planning and plotting began way before school closed, and everything was discussed in detail—everything but travel insurance, that is.

And one of us always fell ill when on the road, after eating something particularly adventurous, or after a long day of sightseeing. There goes the holiday, we cried, and whined about how much better home would have been! This happened quite often actually, and we were always rushed to a doctor if it got worse. The medical care was paid for by insurance, which worked inside the United States.

The summer vacation of today is a bit different for many folks. It has expanded in scope to include international destinations. Kids still sulk at parents’ choice of things to see, do, and eat, and parents still try to make the trip not just about fun, but about education as well. And children still fall ill when traveling.

The only difference? U.S. health insurance does not work abroad. No wonder then, that travel experts especially advise people traveling with children to purchase adequate travel insurance. For less than the price of a cup of coffee a day, parents can breathe easy that their kids’ healthcare costs will be taken care of, if necessary. And then they can move on to tackle the whining kids!

Travel tip: Have games ready for children who get impatient with long drives.

The big news in the travel insurance industry is the volcanic ash over Europe, which has stranded thousands of passengers who are simply unable to make their scheduled trips. Thousands of flights have been cancelled, and confusion reigns supreme about how this should be treated in insurance plans. The U.S. insurance industry estimates that claims in the millions of dollars will be paid to travelers because of the volcanic ash.

If you are affected by this, you have likely been promised a refund by your airline. However, the airline might not pay for the expenses arising out of the change in schedule, such as accommodation and incidental expenses. Most travel insurance plans, however, provide coverage for daily expenses, up to a certain limit.

U.S. insurance companies are stepping up to the plate and have promised to settle claims according to the schedule of benefits. They are, for the most part, treating the volcanic ash as a weather-related event. To qualify, the plan will have to include trip cancellation benefits, or must be a separate trip cancellation insurance policy.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, some insurance companies operating out of Britain indicate that they are treating the ash as an “Act of God.” That might exclude many plan holders from claiming benefits. You want to make sure that your plan covers adverse weather conditions and cancellation of flights.

Travel tip: Make a call to the airline, and then to your insurance company, before deciding to stay put at home. If your flight departs on a different route, and you are not on the flight, you might end up losing all the money.

While international travel to remote parts of the world is becoming more and more common, it is also an inescapable fact that more areas of the world are becoming unsafe due to political turmoil and terrorist activity. Most travel insurance plans of today feature coverage that reflects this new reality.

The Patriot Executive Annual Group plan, which offers groups travel insurance for travelers from and to the United States, features benefits for international emergency care, which includes political evacuation, emergency evacuation, and emergency reunion benefits.

The political evacuation clause provides for the transportation of the plan holder to the nearest safe destination or to the home country, in case the U.S. Department of State issues a travel advisory against travel to the destination after the plan holder’s arrival at the destination.

The insurance company will pay up to $10,000 under this benefit. To avail this benefit, the plan holder must contact the insurance within 10 days of the travel advisory, and political evacuation and repatriation must be approved and coordinated by the insurance company.

Travel tip: Do some research about the destination prior to your trip. While that is no guarantee you will spot any danger, it will help you avoid areas of conflict within the country, for your own safety.

One of the highlights of Bob Manacek’s (name changed) life is the bridge cruise that he went on a few years ago, of which he has fond memories. Without adequate cruise insurance, though, it might as well have turned into a holiday from hell.

Bob was booked on a cruise where contract bridge player Rob Drummond conducted workshops and classes on the game of bridge. The cruise represented a lifelong dream of Bob, to learn and play bridge while traveling the world. It also represented a bulk of Bob’s savings, and he purchased cruise insurance that included trip cancellation and medical insurance.

Most people on the cruise were seniors, and as luck would have it, Bob fell ill at Lisbon, one of the last ports of call. With his cruise insurance, he was able to not only get reimbursed for the treatment he received, he was also able to fly back home on the trip interruption clause of his plan.

One other senior who had purchased insurance from the cruise company realized that the plan was not true insurance; it was only designed to receive credit for a rescheduled cruise in case he missed the cruise, or had to leave it halfway. Cruise insurance sure saved Bob's holiday and his purse!

Travel Tip: Always remember to check the insurance company rating as well as the underwriters of the plan. True insurance plans will always have these two.

Two parents and two kids on vacation (the picture postcard standard) is not the norm anymore. With increasingly busy schedules and the rise of single-parent families, people are trying to get out on vacation in a variety of combinations. When international travel includes children, it is always best to purchase adequate international travel health insurance.

Let’s say Kathy Miller is traveling to France with her grandsons, aged eight and five. Being just over 50, Kathy is reasonably confident of them having a good time, and her daughter plans to join them a week later, in any case.

If Kathy falls ill and needs hospitalization, her grandsons will be left unattended, and this can pose a huge problem, especially in cases when it is not possible for someone to replace the insured immediately. Most travel insurance plans cover the return of unattended minor children to the home country.

The Patriot Executive Group Plan, for example, covers the cost of a one-way economy fare for return to the home country. The plan also provides for the travel of a chaperone, if necessary. The maximum limit for this benefit is $5,000.

Travel Tip: Check with your insurance company what situations call for the travel of a chaperone. Some plans also provide a chaperone by default.

Often, when you are looking for travel insurance, you might come across plans that offer “travel protection.” Travel protection plans are usually advertised as travel insurance, but the term can be used to mean a range of coverage plans. Be aware of what exactly you are paying for.

Travel protection plans can mean anything from travel waiver plans, which offer only a rescheduled tour or cruise, to full and complete travel medical insurance. It is very important to know exactly what the plan actually covers.

Many travel protection plans differ from traditional travel insurance plans in that they do not offer any medical benefits. Some travel protection plans are akin to trip cancellation insurance plans, and reimburse the cost of a cancelled trip. The covered reasons for reimbursed can also vary considerably between plans that advertise themselves as travel protection plans.

What confuses the matter further is the fact that some legitimate travel insurance plans also use the term to describe their plans. It is a good idea to check who the underwriter of the plan is, to differentiate certain undefined travel protection plans from traditional travel insurance plans.

Travel tip: Remember that even if a travel protection plan offers similar benefits to a travel insurance plan, the plan is not regulated and there might be no recourse in case the company refuses to honor your claim.

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Trip Cancellation Insurance
International Medical Insurance - Short Term