We live in an age where travelling is considered an essential part of life. Accordingly, there is a burgeoning tourism sector and myriads of related content online and in print, all tapping into people’s innate need to experience new/different things, places, and cultures. While it’s easier to romanticize travelling and feed the desire, the practicalities are not quite easy to navigate. For instance, there is a likelihood of missing the flights — which, if you have a tight schedule, could derail the whole trip. Turns out, as many as 8% of passengers miss their flights. If the booking also includes a return trip, then you’re likely to lose that fare as well.
Then there is the luggage issue: Per an estimate(1), the chance of an airline losing a suitcase, for at least a little while, is around 0.4% — which is one in 250 bags. Out of the total 4.3 billion checked-in bags, around 25 million ones get “misdirected” or “lost” every year. While luggage issues have drastically reduced compared to a decade ago, the current odds are not any less concerning because, if your luck runs out and you become the one whose bag is lost, you are in for a harrowing experience. Yet, luggage loss and missed flights are the least that can go wrong during travel.
There have been many reported incidents of health and legal issues as well. As often as not, the issues lead to loss of prepaid travel money and additional expenses incurred due to rescheduling, fines, healthcare costs, etc. No one wants to get sick during their travels, but those who have will swear by how important adequate medical coverage is. People often pay thousands of dollars for a trip, yet fail to see the rationale behind spending a minor portion of it on travel insurance. Most aren’t aware that the insurance can safeguard their investment in the event of a setback, particularly health-related, the chances of which have increased following the pandemic outbreak. A comprehensive policy can give you financial and medical protection besides facilitating a stress-free travel experience. Following are ten travel insurance tips to consider.
When to buy
The short answer is: Immediately. It is advisable to get insurance just after booking tickets because some coverages will not be available after a certain time has elapsed. Most often, you will have hardly two weeks. You’re likely to miss out on the “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) upgrade option if you delay. CFAR upgrade allows you to claim refunds even if you cancel for reasons that are not listed under the standard cancellation policy. Although CFAR upgrade comes at a cost, it is extremely useful, especially in today’s climate characterized by pandemic-related protocols, under-capacitated aviation sector, and disparities in guidelines between two jurisdictions.
When it comes to a discretionary investment like travel insurance, perception is everything. If you approach travel insurance with aversion, you’re likely to settle for a less-coverage plan, thinking it will suffice. Most of the time, you could be right, having had smooth trips without untoward incidents. However, one stroke of bad luck could entail expenses that far supersede all the money you previously saved from not buying travel insurance. It’s important, therefore, to buy a comprehensive plan, so that you’re covered even if you happen to find yourself in the unlikeliest of situations. For instance, if you lose your passport abroad, typically, it could be nightmarish. But if you have a comprehensive plan, you can safely make it home through consulate aid, the charges for which are borne by the service provider.
Know the limit
Let’s say you have purchased a “comprehensive” travel insurance policy. What next? Understanding the plan, its limits, its scope, etc. Regardless of how comprehensive the plan is, there will be nuanced differences between service providers, destinations, etc. For example, say your luggage loss coverage is $1,000. However, actual reimbursement might factor in content-specific coverage, with jewellery being capped at, say, $500. In this case, even if you lose jewellery worth, say, a million dollars, you are only entitled to $500! It’s, therefore, critical to read between the lines, understand the nuances, and pack/prepare accordingly. The idea is to ensure your itinerary, belongings, and travel situation are aligned with the policy’s stipulations.
Keep insurance handy
As soon as you buy the insurance, and after you peruse through the details, it is advisable to keep a downloaded soft copy of the same in a hand-held device in addition to a hard copy. This ensures that if you lose either one, you have the other. This is especially important when you’re abroad, as you may have limited connectivity and may not speak the local language. In the event of flight cancellation, etc., you can readily seek help if you have the policy handy. Also, if the insurance is subject to external regulations — such as EU regulation — it is helpful to have ready access to the latter too. At the very least, it helps to jot down the policy number and the service provider’s helpline number, so that you’re not all lost.
Emphasize medical cover
According to a study(2), overseas travellers have a 50% greater chance of suffering a travel-related illness. So, not only should you emphasize the medical coverage but also give attention to provisions such as evacuation, transfer, ambulance services, room charges, outpatient and in-patient coverage, lab tests, medicine, etc. In countries where healthcare costs are historically high, a lack of comprehensive medical coverage could spell serious financial trouble. Furthermore, at the time of buying the insurance, emphasis should be given to the scope of coverage and applicability in the host country as well.
Perhaps the most topical subject, COVID-19 is increasingly making its way into travel insurance as part of the medical coverage. But, if you’re particularly wary of the pandemic threat, it is advisable to check and verify its inclusion with the service provider. Medical coverage aside, COVID-19 must be viewed from the immigration, vaccination, and negative-test-report disclosure standpoint as well. Good travel insurance is the one that helps you avoid a non-compliance issue from totally derailing your travel plan. Taking into account the evolving nature of protocols and related insurance changes, talking to an advisor is the best course of action.
The transit assistance
Flight cancellations, rescheduling, and airport-related services are important aspects of a travel insurance policy. As mentioned earlier, missing a flight, cancellations, and luggage issues are prevalent, requiring insurance coverages. This necessity has only grown since the pandemic outbreak, with service and aviation sectors facing prolonged shutdown, uneven reopening, and lingering uncertainties. A good policy should get a dedicated advisor who will assist you throughout the transit, leveraging their connections to ensure you face the least, if any, hurdles. In fact, insurance intermediaries are best equipped as far as transit management is concerned, due to their exposure to third-party service providers and travel agents.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you find yourself in a position where you have to claim reimbursement. It is common for service providers to ask you to furnish all the supporting documents. However, unlike the typical insurance claims, travel-related ones often run the risk of document rejection because of jurisdictional disparities, etc. The best way to avert such an occurrence is to ensure you document all the trip-related receipts, invoices, medical reports, doctor’s certificates, letters from authorities, etc. regardless of whether you faced an issue or not. In addition, it is advisable to contact the service provider before you leave the host country and get all the information regarding the documents, what they should contain, required authentication, etc.
Time is of the essence
As soon as you encounter a situation that will entitle you to reimbursements, do not delay in staking a claim. Typically, travel insurances have a 90-day period to place a claims request. However, bearing in mind the possibility of back-and-forth with documentation, it is advisable to set the ball rolling at the earliest. This is especially true if you face an airline issue. Even if you miss a flight, if you immediately contact the airlines, chances are that you may get a free rescheduling under the flat-tire rule. Under the EU Regulation, a cancelled flight or a missed connection often entitles you to monetary compensation. But the rule of thumb to remember here is that everything is subject to time.
Additionally, travel insurance can be attached to credit card perks or made to cover “adventure activities” where the risks are high. Needless to say, such value add-ons will not be without added expenses. However, if you’re methodical in your planning and timely in your engagement of an insurance intermediary, chances are that you can get a great deal. If you’re keen on travelling after a prolonged downtime due to the pandemic, it is important that you minimize your health risks as much. Get in touch with the Continental Group’s advisor for a tailor-made insurance plan for you and your family’s travel.