Lots of people find travel insurance confusing―that’s why I started CoverTrip! There are also a lot of misconceptions and myths around travel insurance (another reason why I’m here to help).
Some travelers find travel insurance all too much and so they skip it even when they really might need it! Or they buy the quick-and-dirty option when making the final payment, and that’s the worst kind of insurance to buy.
Other travelers think they have coverage with their home insurance or credit card coverage, which may not be enough.
Many travelers who have travel insurance fail to take advantage of the benefits in their plan simply because:
Paying for expenses that could have been covered (or reimbursed) is simply silly and most disputes about travel insurance can be avoided by understanding your policy.
Here’s how to make the most of your travel insurance plan on every trip you take.
Do this for every trip, even if you bought the same plan for your birthday trip last year. Plans change all the time, and before you can know how to use your plan, you have to know what’s in it.
You’ll receive an email confirmation after purchasing the plan, and it will include the plan agreement—this is the document you should scrutinize.
Pro tip: Always read your plan immediately upon buying it. There’s a short amount of time to read the agreement and get your money back if the plan doesn’t fit your needs.
Another fear people have is whether they can even understand their travel insurance plan document. Don’t worry, you can!
Here are my top tips for reading and understanding your trip benefits.
Every insurance plan in the world has exclusions that are carefully spelled out. These are the events that could happen that are NOT covered, meaning you will not be reimbursed if they happen to you.
I always look at this list first to see if anything would pertain to the trip the plan is supposed to cover.
For example, you may not be covered for losses caused by bungee cord jumps or heli-skiing. If you plan to participate in activities that are not covered in the plan, cancel it and get another plan.
Knowing what you’re not covered for can mitigate a later misunderstanding.
Travel insurance plans have a list of covered reasons, which are the scenarios you could face on a trip for which you will not be reimbursed.
If you read the list of covered reasons and see a situation that is common in the area where you are traveling or for the people you are traveling with, this isn’t the right plan for you.
For example, if your traveling companion is in the military and called to emergency duty, their portion of the trip may not be reimbursable. Knowing that ahead of time would be helpful.
When you think about the people who are traveling with you and what their needs are, it becomes pretty clear what the plan should have in it.
If your elderly father is coming along, and he takes insulin to control diabetes, that’s automatically a pre-existing condition. If your plan doesn’t include a pre-existing condition waiver for him, it’s not the right plan.
If you’re traveling during any typical weather season like hurricane season or tornado season and your flights are planned near areas where those patterns are common or at the time of year when they occur, you may need trip interruption or travel delay coverage. If all flights are canceled in one of the major airport hubs (Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles), for example, you could be looking a unexpected hotel and meal costs and losses at your destination too.
To make sure the plan will fit your needs, verify these details:
You’re human – you make mistakes! Check the plan details to verify the trip dates are correct, including the initial trip deposit date. These are critical factors if you have to make a claim later.
Make sure that you have access to the plan and the emergency contact numbers during your trip. Keep a copy of the plan on your phone, and your traveling companions’ phones, and save it to your preferred cloud storage so you can access it if your phones are stolen.
Most travel insurance plans have 24/7 support, and it’s one of the most useful coverages when you’re in a jam and need to figure out what to do.
Get sick abroad and need an English-speaking doctor? Call the support line.
Stuck in an airport meltdown? Call the support line.
In the heat of a weird and unexpected travel situation, you may not think, “Am I covered for this?” but you should.
When you find a break in the chaos, give that 24/7 support line a call and explain what’s happened. See if they can help.
Reminder: This is another reason to make sure you have the 24/7 support numbers close at hand as well as your travel insurance policy.
If you think you may have to make a claim, start by contacting the travel insurance company immediately. After that, document everything and keep every document that is thrust at you.
You’ll need to provide proof of loss (receipts, invoices, photographs, etc.) within a certain number of days for the claim to be paid.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.