|Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption is a case study in how travel insurance
could help stranded travelers. Photo by Henrik Thorburn
The skies over Europe are starting to open again after a dismal week courtesy of the erupting volcano in Iceland under Eyjafjallajokull (adding “glacier” after that is redundant, by the way, since “jokull” is Icelandic for glacier).
But the interruption in air travel is a perfect illustration of how travel insurance can be more than just another expense. A few weeks ago, I started chatting with travel insurance expert and Gustey.com writer Bryant Abel about some of the ins and outs of travel insurance. Here’s a confession – I previously dismissed travel insurance out-of-hand as being another industry preying on people’s tendency to “what if?” ourselves to death. I’ve since changed my tune because of some input from other travelers I consider smart - and Bryant’s expertise helped, too. Plus, the flight delays to Europe caused by the ash cloud gave me food for thought.
I had some questions for Bryant, and here’s what he had to say:
1. What sorts of problems can travel insurance cover?
Travel insurance can cover a number of “problems” that incur when you travel. The primary helping hand comes in the form of lost baggage, trip cancellation, medical care overseas, and embassy or evacuation care in case a global emergency were to take place. These are just a few, but the main ones.
2. What are the three most popular types of coverage?
The most popular coverage is individual trip protection. This can range from $30 to $100 and covers most things like trip cancellation, baggage loss or delay, emergency medical care, accidental death and 24-hour assistance. The second-most popular would be family coverage which is cheaper per person, but involves coverage for 3 or more people. The plan provides very similar to the above individual plan. The third (and gustey’s favorite) is probably the adventure travel insurance plans. These plans cover things like mountaineering, aviation, hang gliding and everything in between. The emphasis on this plan is geared toward accidents, and the same as above.
3. Obviously, since you’re in the travel insurance business, you’d like to sell policies to everyone possible. But what three types of travelers really need it most?
Though we like to think everyone should get travel insurance, travelers that definitily should get travel insurance are adventurers (backpackers, etc…), worldwide travelers (people that travel often and to remote parts of the world, and people who are going to a destination that could be dicey. People in this category would consist of mission trips, third-world countries, etc.
4. Let’s say I’m traveling business class from LAX to Tokyo for two weeks. What would I spend on insurance, from the very bottom tier to the most-premium policy?
The very bottom tier will run you about $30. It is safe to say that $30 will cover the basics, like lost baggage, and delays. The most premium package are corporate packages. But for an individual who wants a very large travel life insurance policy it can run them into the high hundreds. Most premium policies land in the $150 – $200 range.
5. When a traveler is researching insurance providers, what are some good tips for ensuring that they’re choosing a legitimate company?
Most sites will note if they are certified. For instance, if a company in Canada is CITC certified, they will be legit. Legitimate companies in the U.S., will be state regulated. “Real” insurance companies are backed by one or more regulated underwriters that are insured and should be financially healthy. Ambest.com is a great place to go to see current insurance ratings to see if the company is a reputable travel insurance underwriter.
6. This is your free spot to offer a tip, suggestion or helpful bit that I didn’t ask about. Fire away!
I would suggest that people look into travel insurance before traveling. We have heard from a myriad of people who have been lost with a pack of gum because of situations beyond their control. All of us (well, most of us) wouldn’t drive without car insurance. We feel it is a similar concept with a greater misconception. You don’t necessarily want to pay $50 bucks more for a trip to Cabo, but we like to think it is a good idea.