Do You Really Need Travel Insurance? Adventure Travel Writer Linda Ballou Shares Her Experiences and Advice
By Linda Ballou, NABBW’s Adventure Travel Writer
Since Covid hit our shores, travel insurance has become more important than ever. While it is true flight delays have lessened, flights are still a huge variable when you travel. Travel delays, as well as trip interruptions and cancellations, are not just frustrating and inevitable, they can be life altering. Which means that choosing to have travel insurance could not only protect your budget should you have to rebook at the last possible minute due to flight cancellations, but can also be lifesaving, should you have a health emergency outside — or even inside — of the U.S.
First off, not everyone realizes that Medicare will not cover you for travel related injuries incurred outside the States — and might not even cover you if you get hurt within the country. As an outdoor adventure traveler, I learned the hard way that you can get hurt within the U.S. and have to pay for your rescue.
On the top of the fourth day of a five day horse pack trip in the High Sierras, I was doing a little birding. Looking up instead of where I was walking, I tripped and fractured my ribs. This event required a helicopter rescue. Who knew birding could be so dangerous? (For more on my experience of Falling in the Footsteps of John Muir go to this episode of my podcast on BabyBoomer.org.)
Because of this experience, I now always get emergency medical evacuation insurance wherever I go. You might ask why would I willingly pay this extra expense up front? My answer is that I’ve learned that if I have an accident and need to be airlifted — or just need an ambulance to get myself to the nearest emergency facility – – neither my medical insurance — or yours — will likely cover this. Medicare will not cover it. In fact, Medicare will not cover any medical needs outside of the U.S.
Here are a few important facts about travel insurance I have assembled just to share with you:
- Buying the coverage separately from a full coverage package is not available through all of the companies listed below, but there are a few that will allow you to just buy that additional premium at a nominal cost.
- If you are a member of Triple AAA, they serve as an insurance broker and will book the best coverage for you. For my upcoming trip to Costa Rica, I used them to book emergency medical coverage for just an additional $84.
- In the past, I have booked directly through Travel Guard, but using an insurance broker can save you time and get you the best policy available that suits your your specific needs.
According to various sources, including recent articles from BusinessInsider, US News, USAToday, and Forbes, I’ve below listed — in no particular order — what I see as eight of the top-rated travel insurance companies. The decision on which you might select should be based on your needs, anticipated activities and your destination…
- AXA Assistance USA: This company offers comprehensive coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation. It also has customizable add-ons, such as rental car collision, adventure sports, and cancel for any reason.
- Travel Guard by AIG: This company provides flexible plans that can cover pre-existing medical conditions, trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation. It also has optional upgrades, such as flight insurance, car rental coverage, and adventure sports.
- Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection: This company features innovative plans that can reimburse travelers for flight delays, missed connections, lost or delayed baggage, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation. It also has a fast and easy claims process and a mobile app that can track flights and send alerts.
- World Nomads: This company specializes in coverage for adventurous travelers who engage in activities such as skiing, surfing, hiking, or scuba diving. It can cover trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation. It also allows travelers to extend or modify their plans online while traveling.
- Faye: Offers a robust, custom plan designed to assure that you’re not over or underinsured, or paying for things you simply don’t need. According to their web site, their coverage includes “your trip, your health and your stuff.” Their service is 100% digital, and promises quick reimbursement, 24/7 assistance, whole trip coverage, and real-time travel alerts.
- Nationwide: This company offers comprehensive plans that can cover trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation. It also has specific plans for cruises, which can cover itinerary changes, missed ports of call, and cruise disability.
- Seven Corners Travel Insurance: Offers excellent medical and evacuation coverage with upgrades all across the board. The highest rated plan according to Forbes Advisor, it offers travel insurance for U.S. residents and groups for domestic and international trips. It also offers travel medical insurance for visitors to the USA who are not citizens.
- SquareMouth: This company offers trip cancellation, emergency evacuation, travel delay, medical evacuation, trip interruption and even “cancel for any reason” coverages.
Consumer Advocate.org provides this list of reputable companies with the option to compare prices and coverage. These companies differ from one another in terms of their coverage limits, exclusions, deductibles, premiums, and customer service. Travelers should compare different plans and read the fine print before buying travel insurance.
Interestingly, travel guru, Peter Greenberg’s choice, Medjet, is not on either of those lists. If you travel frequently, you can purchase an annual membership from Medjet to cover all of your travel needs without having to book separately for each trip.
I was advised not to use the insurance company affiliated with the tour company you are using. The thought is the tour company could go out of business and you would be stuck with no coverage. I question this wisdom, as a good company would have a good insurance company that they are familiar with, in case you need them in an emergency. With all of this in mind, it is up to you to decide which company and how much coverage, and what type you need. Whatever you do, don’t allow the risks involved with travel keep you from checking places off your bucket list!
Adventure travel writer, Linda Ballou, is the author of three novels and numerous travel articles appearing in national publications. Linda’s Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is the first installment in her Lost Angel Adventure trilogy. It is an armchair traveler’s delight filled with adventure to whet your wanderlust. Linda loves living on the coast of California and has created a collection of her favorite day trips for you in Lost Angel in Paradise. Lost Angel Unleashed, the third book in her travel series, is travel memoir that takes you on her most meaningful journeys and some destinations to die for… Learn more at www.LostAngelAdventures.com
You can learn more about her works of fiction at www.LindaBallouAuthor.com