Travel insurance: Most of us love the travel part of it, not so much the insurance aspect. We think a cruise vacation is supposed to be carefree fun, not bogged down with perplexing insurance terms. After all, none of that worst-case-scenario stuff could ever actually happen to us, right? Unfortunately, anyone that travels regularly or skims the headlines knows that cruise vacations can quickly go bust: cruise line bankruptcies, job loss, cancelled flights, lost luggage, storms, accidents, stolen wallets . . . the laundry list of potential problems reads nail-bitingly long.
Enter that good old travel insurance policy that essentially lets someone else do the worrying—and pick up the tab, too—should a crisis hit, so you can get back to your smooth sailing vacation at ease. We've sat down with travel insurance expert Carol Mueller, Vice President of Travel Guard North America (a leading company for worldwide travel insurance and assistance), for this insightful Q & A on how travel insurance can help safeguard you and your cruise vacation.
What is the difference between travel insurance and travel assistance plans?
There is a fundamental difference between travel insurance and travel assistance plans. Travel insurance covers financial loss—reimbursing for forfeited, nonrefundable, unused payments, or deposits if a traveler must cancel or interrupt their trip due to a covered reason. Additionally, travel insurance is beneficial in times of travel delays, or lost or delayed luggage causing unexpected expenses to the traveler. Another example is a medical emergency that includes unexpected medical expenses, or even a costly medical evacuation while traveling. A comprehensive travel insurance plan provides all of these coverages.
Travel assistance-only plans do not include the financial reimbursement for any expenses associated with the services. That’s why Travel Guard provides both insurance and assistance bundled together in its core retail travel insurance plans, giving travelers the complete suite of coverage and assistance. What U.S. travelers should understand is the difference between a medical evacuation assistance plan and a comprehensive travel insurance plan from a provider like Travel Guard. Medical assistance plans will provide the coordination of a medical evacuation, but does not cover the traveler’s medical expenses. Can you imagine needing a medical evacuation and not having any medical bills to go with it? Highly unlikely.
Is health insurance typically included in travel insurance plans?
Travel Guard’s core retail plans include both medical expense and medical evacuation coverage. This includes coverage for doctor, hospital, or even dental expenses incurred while traveling, along with medical evacuation coverage. Some plans even include evacuation back home or to your hospital of choice. What most travelers may not realize is their health insurance plan typically does not travel with them outside the United States, so it’s especially important to carry travel insurance with medical expense and evacuation coverage.
What if I have a medical emergency while on vacation—how can an insurance provider like Travel Guard help?
First, having travel insurance with travel medical expense and medical evacuation coverage can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs in the event you require medical attention while traveling. And travelers should know, in many countries, clinics and doctors first ask for a credit card before they will treat you. On behalf of its customers, Travel Guard works directly with the providers for payment so all you have to do is worry about getting the care you need. Also, having a third-party provider like Travel Guard by your side can expedite the process when seeking care for a medical emergency. Through our 24-hour emergency and assistance services hotline, we’ll connect you with an English-speaking medical professional in the area you’re visiting, make sure you are getting adequate care, and even relay messages home to your family or family doctor.
What if I need to change or cancel my travel plans before taking off—what reasons are acceptable for insurance coverage?
One of the most common reasons that travelers cancel their trip is due to sickness or injury of themselves, their traveling companion, or a family member. Depending on the policy purchased, other reasons for trip cancellation coverage typically include financial default of a supplier, job loss, or a terrorist incident in their destination location, to name a few. For maximum flexibility in making changes to a trip, travelers may wish to consider adding Cancel for Any Reason coverage, which allows them to cancel a trip for any reason not otherwise covered in the travel insurance plan.
What if I get robbed while on vacation—does insurance cover that?
Comprehensive travel insurance typically includes coverage for baggage and personal effects that are lost, damaged, stolen, or destroyed, and also includes the replacement of lost or stolen travel documents. Through our 24-hour hotline, Travel Guard further assists in replacing stolen documents, obtaining cash transfers, and relaying messages home.
What if my luggage is lost or delayed by either the airline or the cruise line?
If your luggage is lost or destroyed while traveling, travel insurance could cover the cost of the baggage and personal effects within, up to $1,000 on some plans. And if your baggage is simply delayed for more than 12 hours, travel insurance also comes in handy by reimbursing you for the purchase of personal effects necessary until your luggage arrives.
What if the airline I am flying bankrupts or my flight is cancelled to or from my cruise port?
Travel insurance through Travel Guard includes reimbursement of the trip cost should a supplier declare bankruptcy. For travelers who purchase their insurance policy within 15 days of initial trip deposit, this coverage is provided at no additional cost. If a cancelled or delayed flight causes you to miss your cruise departure or you have to book a new flight to catch up to the ship in the next port, travel insurance typically reimburses you for this expense.
What else does travel insurance cover that most travelers are unaware of?
The awareness of travel insurance and the value it provides continues to increase with every major world event, such as recent ash clouds, earthquakes, winter storms, and hurricanes. Yet, most travelers may not be aware or even consider how beneficial travel insurance can be for more common travel disruptions and inconveniences, like medical emergencies while traveling, or the need to cancel because of a family member’s death, sickness, or injury. While things can and do go wrong, travel insurance is here to help, so travelers can focus on enjoying their vacation.
Photo Credit: Travel Insurance Label via Shutterstock