Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Travel insurance and medical evacuation insurance

Now that you have your flights and hotels booked, your list of must-see sights, must-eat restaurants, and must-buy souvenirs, there's one more thing to think about: insurance. For travel, this type of insurance tends to fall into one of two categories: trip cancellation/interruption coverage (often with a medical insurance rider), and medical evacuation coverage.

Basic trip cancellation/interruption insurance generally covers you if you have to cancel your trip due to injury, a death in the immediate family, a hurricane or terrorist act in your destination city, etc.

Only you can decide whether it's worth it to you to purchase insurance or not, and I would not bother with insurance when traveling fairly inexpensively close to home, especially if you can cancel/change your flights and hotels with little or no fee.

However, I do recommend it for:
* International trips or any other trips that are fairly expensive and in which you may incur high costs is you have to cancel or come home early
* When traveling to high risk areas (for weather or political reasons), such as the Caribbean during hurricane season, many parts of the Middle East any time, Indonesia right now, etc.
* When you have non-refundable plane tickets (though you can often cancel and re-ticket even these for a $100 or so fee, depending on the airline) and hotel reservations
* If you have a medical condition that may cause you to postpone/cancel your trip, or a close relative with the same

Costs vary based on your age, the cost and length of the trip, how comprehensive the coverage you choose, etc. But to give a ballpark figure, we generally pay $100-$150 (total for both of us) for coverage on an 8-9 night international trip. The cost is very small as compared to the overall cost of the trip, and the peace of mind is well worth the small added expense. The best site I've found for immediate quotes (generally it gives you a couple of dozen to compare) and online purchase is If you are working with a travel agent, they may also be able to wrap insurance into your package. Just be sure to do your research and make sure you get the coverage that fits you and your trip!

Medical evacuation insurance is another breed. In the event you are seriously injured while out of town, medevac insurance covers your transportation from your destination to either the nearest hospital, the nearest hospital with good facilities to treat you, or whichever hospital you choose, depending on what type of coverage you have. You may think you don't need this because you are young and healthy, but accidents do happen to people of all ages. The bill if you are injured and have to be med-evaced to another country can be in the tens of thousands of dollars--and your health insurance may not pay cover it.

There are a couple of options for med-evac insurance. First, you can go trip-by-trip and purchase this along with your regular travel insurance. If you travel rarely, this is probably the best option. If you travel a great deal, though, especially to exotic destinations, the better option may be a MedJet membership. For $325 a year, my husband and I have complete medevac coverage through them. Luckily, we've never had to use it, but it's nice to know we are covered if we do ever face an emergency.


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