When we talk about “home expenses” and “cost of living,” seldom do we include all the insurance costs in the tally.
I have insurance for auto, home, rental property, umbrella, health, life, ATV, boat, motorcycle … and on it goes. Our family is putting the insurance agent’s two kids through grad school. All of these insurance premiums give my finances a double hernia.
I get a fair amount of questions and comments sent to me each week through the email. Generally, I answer each one personally, and I really enjoy hearing from the readers of this paper. When a question pops up many times, it is probably something I should talk about in a column. The question is what is travel insurance, when do we need it, and why?
Simply put, travel insurance is a plan you purchase to protect you from monetary losses that can occur while traveling. These losses can be a delayed or lost luggage, canceled flight; you can’t make a trip because of an illness, medical and evacuation insurance. The policy can be easily customized for the risks of your trip, the duration of the trip, special needs you may have, and how high you are sitting on your wallet.
I travel quite a bit in pursuit of hunting and the occasional fishing adventure, oftentimes to foreign lands. Let’s say that your journey has taken you on a photo safari in central Zimbabwe. While in a local village, you toss courage (and sense) to the wind, and feast on a healthy plate full of street meat for lunch.
Several hours later, you develop the dreaded watusi rot, and are convinced that death would be a welcome friend. Your tour guide takes you to the village for medical attention. The only doctor in the village is a witch doctor, who greets you with a full headdress. The good doc chants a few words at you, hits you with a bone and sends you back to your hotel where you await an imminent death.
This scenario is somewhat exaggerated, but not really, because it raises several things the traveling outdoor person should consider. First off, does your health insurance cover medical emergencies outside of the United States? Find out before you leave what coverage you have.
Then there is the issue of whether the good witch doctor is willing to accept your insurance card for payment. This is where travel insurance steps in. You can choose a medical policy, for the duration of your trip, that will cover medical expenses while out of the country.
Many of these policies also have an evacuation clause. This clause will pay for evacuation to a medical facility for emergency care, and the costs to bring you back to the good old USA should you need to get home for care. These policies can also be written to cover bringing your travel partner with you.
Without medical evacuation insurance, the costs to evacuate in an emergency can run well into the tens of thousands of dollars. Having this insurance won’t break the bank in an emergency.
Several policies also cover removing you in the event of a government uprising or a terrorist attack. These companies, like Global Rescue, have teams of specially trained operators that will go anywhere in the world to get you. You might consider this if your adventure takes you to a third or even a fourth world country.
For less severe cases, travel insurance can help with other problems. Let’s say you lost your passport. With coverage for lost passports, you will have help expediting the process of replacing and paying for a new passport.
What if you arrive at the place where your adventure begins, but your luggage did not? With coverage for lost or delayed bags, rest a bit easier, because you will be reimbursed for clothes, personal items and even a new bag to bring your things home in.
Some of my trips involve a couple days of travel time with multiple flight connections. If one of those middle connecting flights is canceled, and you have flight interruption coverage, rest easy. There will be a number you can call to get help finding a new flight, a ticket home, or to stay in a comfortable hotel until the next flight is available.
An overseas adventure can rack up quite a bit of costs. Aside from a grand or two on airline tickets, you have the costs of the trip itself. This may include thousands to an outfitter, licenses, possible overnight stays along the way, and many of these things you had to prepay.
You have been planning, saving and paying for this trip for over a year. Just before you are scheduled to leave, you get sick, a relative dies or you suffer some type of calamity. The end result is that you have to cancel the trip. With trip cancellation coverage, you will be able to recover your out-of-pocket expenses.
When your adventure is an overnight trip to Las Vegas to hit the blackjack tables, I would probably not spend the money on travel insurance. The tickets are usually cheaper and medical care is available anywhere in the good old USA. I usually stay away from the blackjack tables anyway. Hard to win when your lucky number is 23, but that is another story.
Weigh the costs of your adventure, the equipment you are bringing, costs of the tickets and medical costs. As those costs begin to climb, start thinking about coverage, especially if you leave the borders of the Lower 48.
First thing to do is check with your health insurance provider and see what coverage is available to you when out of the country. Perhaps a supplement is all you need along with some evacuation insurance.
If you are driving to your destination, be sure you check with your automobile insurance carrier. When I travel to Canada, I have to get a special insurance card from the carrier. It only costs a few bucks but it extends my normal coverage outside of the States.
Most people book their flights and adventures online. For those of you do-it-yourself travel folks, there are many online available travel insurance carriers. Book with them when you book the trip and within a few days, the policy comes in the mail, together with all the contact information you will need.
I am an old fashioned traveler, in that I use a travel agent. I was unable to locate a travel agency in Montrose years ago when I started traveling, and found one in Grand Junction. I have used my agent up there for countless trips.
Having a travel agent is well worth the few dollars they cost. When there is a flight change or delay, my agent will take care of the new arrangements. Your travel agent also has access to many types of travel insurance and can build coverage for your particular needs and trip.
It seems odd, but I consider travel insurance a survival tool, especially when traveling to a remote location for an adventure. Some of the basic policies are only $40 or so. The piece of mind for that medical coverage is well worth that.
In the meantime, I shall dread the never-ending influx of insurance bills pouring into my mailbox on a weekly basis. Travel insurance for one of my African or South American hunting trips is a no-brainer and a bill I will happily pay.
Mark Rackay is a columnist for the Montrose Daily Press and avid hunter who travels across North and South America in search of adventure and serves as a director for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse. For information about the posse, call 970-252-4033 (leave a message) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For outdoors or survival related questions or comments, feel free to contact him directly at his email email@example.com.