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Travelers thinking ahead are smart to purchase "travel insurance." The term travel insurance is a bit of misnomer though because it's not really insurance per the law, it's actually trip protection and there are a few things you need to know about it.
Trip protection is considered a type of limited duration "insurance." It begins when you purchase the policy and ends when your vacation ends. The premium is based solely on the amount you spent on your trip. You get so much coverage for so many dollars you spend. The more you spend for your vacation, the higher the premium.
Comparing policies is the best way to determine which protection is best for you. Websites such as http://www.visitorshield.com , http://www.visitorscoverage.com (for international travel), http://www.insuremytrip.com can be helpful in comparing policy benefits as well as premium rates.
You should look for policies that have the following benefits:
Trip Cancellation- this feature will allow you to be reimbursed a certain percentage of your trip purchase price (again depending on the policy) IF you meet certain conditions. Things like forgetting your passport, being denied boarding for any reason (passport damaged, missing documents etc), missing a flight (due to your negligence), missing a connection (due to your negligence) etc are usually not covered. Things that are covered include death of a family member (which is usually specifically defined), sometimes job loss, your own illness or severe illness of a family member or travel partner. Additionally, look for pre-existing condition exclusion and how long the look back period is (some policies can look back 180 days some only 90 or 60). Policies have very specific exclusions and you should check what they are before you buy.
Trip Interruption/delay- this benefit allows you to be reimbursed a defined benefit amount if you are truly interrupted and cannot complete your trip. Additionally, if your trip is delayed the policy will often pay a daily rate for the days you missed or will miss up to a specified maximum. A good policy will often pay for you to travel back to your destination, should you be able to, by covering you for a new flight or other transportation to your destination. Reimbursement will happen if the delay or interruption is caused by flight delay (of more than a certain number of hours), weather issues, documented theft of travel documents (passports, visas etc), and the illness, injury or death of family member or traveling partner, among a few others.
Lost/Delayed Baggage Benefit- this benefit provides you with monetary compensation should your bag be delayed more than a specified number of hours (determined by the policy you purchase) or if the baggage is all together lost. Payments are usually calculated as 100% actual cash value of items if a receipt can be provided. Otherwise payments can be limited to between 50 and 75% of the cash value without a receipt. Money, tickets, prosthetic limbs, eye glasses and things of that nature are often not reimbursable. Additionally, there may be a limit on how much you can be reimbursed for lost or stolen jewelry. Finally, bags that have normal wear and tear or that have been damaged by the airline do not qualify for reimbursement either.
Medical Benefits/Emergency Assistance Benefits- Most medical benefits are paid at usual and customary rates (meaning typical for the area). The illness or injury must occur while the policy is in effect and cannot be pre-existing (unless you purchased a waiver). It should be noted that travel protection does not pay primarily if you already have valid insurance from another source (i.e. your employer or individual health policy). Most travel protection plans provide emergency assistance benefits which will often pay for plane tickets for you to return home in the event of an illness or injury when it is doctor ordered. It may also pay to fly a spouse or family member to a hospital where you are. And it will pay for your (or your traveling companion’s) body to be flown back to the United States in the event of your (or your traveling companion’s) death.
Accidental Death & Dismemberment- Many policies cover death and loss due to air travel. The schedule of benefits for what a policy covers will usually be the policy. A typical death benefit is $10,000 for loss of life with varying amounts for other losses.
Travel Advisory & Travel Warning (Limited Coverage) - It is important to be aware that most travel insurance providers do not cover regions or countries which the national government considers to be unsafe. Thus, if you intend to travel to a foreign destination which has a travel advisory warning by your national government, it is very important to contact your travel insurance provider to understand what coverage you will or will not have if you decide to go there. Generally speaking, if your government considers it dangerous to be in a certain foreign destination, your travel insurance provider may not cover you for any problems you encounter while there.
Overall, travelers should purchase a policy that best suit his/her needs taking into account the benefits and the exclusions. Some policies are no-frills offering only limited coverage for the above items. Some policies ofter extensive benefits beyond what has been mentioned in this article. Whether a policy is worth the premium is at the discretion of the traveler and it is always a good idea to call the travel protection company to get more details if needed before you purchase.