When you travel as often as I do, you get used to unexpected expenses throwing your budget out of whack.
You can plan ahead all you want, but when your kid needs an $8 pack of children’s Tylenol from the airport gift shop, you buy it. Either that, or you’ll cram your carry-on luggage so full you’re forced to check the bag. Or, you’ll forget to pack snacks.
You may even make it all the way to Mexico without sunglasses, meaning you have to buy an overpriced pair once you land. Believe it or not, that has happened to my husband… twice!
This is why I usually add some “padding” to the budgets I create for every trip. Just by rounding up our planned spending by $30 to $40, I can usually account for surprise expenses or unexpected essentials for my kids.
Five Reasons I Bought Travel Insurance for My Family
Recently, however, I’ve been worried about the type of travel expenses you can’t really plan ahead for – overseas medical bills or emergencies, for example. What would happen if one of us were hospitalized in another country?
What if we lost our luggage? What if an entire trip we spent our hard-earned money on was cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control?
Up until now, I’ve gotten by piecing together different types of coverage for our trips. Since I always pay for our travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (currently unavailable), for example, I have access to free perks like trip cancellation and interruption insurance and primary rental car coverage. Plus, I occasionally purchased a la carte travel insurance when buying airfare or travel packages online.
Still, I started to feel like I wasn’t covering our family adequately — mainly because I wasn’t.
So, I finally broke down and purchased year-long travel insurance plans for all four of us from . Here’s why:
#1: Because medical emergencies happen.
My family is incredibly privileged in that we’re all in good health. None of us require regular medical treatment, and we don’t take any prescriptions.
But, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to needing medical care when we travel. What if one of my kids breaks an arm? What if one of us breaks a leg, or needs an emergency appendectomy?
With our new travel insurance plan, we have emergency medical and dental coverage, along with emergency medical transportation – and all with high limits.
While the medical coverage isn’t as robust as our health insurance at home, it will give us peace of mind in a real emergency.
#2: Because we’re spending real money on travel.
While we pay for a lot of our trips with a combination of airline miles and hotel points, we also spend some of our hard-earned money to bring our travel dreams to light. That’s money I don’t want to lose, which is yet another reason we bought a comprehensive travel insurance plan.
With our new coverage, we have trip cancellation protection, trip interruption insurance, and travel delay coverage – all with higher limits than our credit cards offer. Keep in mind that trip cancellation coverage reimburses you for non-refundable trip payments and deposits if a trip is canceled for illness, death, or other specific unforeseen circumstances. Trip interruption coverage, on the other hand, covers non-refundable trip payments and deposits if a trip is interrupted for illness, death, or other unforeseen circumstances.
We also have coverage for financial default in case a travel provider we book with files bankruptcy or goes out of business.
#3: Because renting a car comes with risks.
My husband and I love to rent cars when we travel. Not only does it help us get off the beaten path, but renting a car gives us the flexibility to change plans at the last minute.
Unfortunately, we have been through too many skeevy rental car situations to count. When we rented a car in Ireland the week of St. Patrick’s Day, for example, we were given a car with too many dings and dents to count. Since we were worried about this already, we went through extra steps to make sure every ding and scratch was accounted for before we left with the car.
But, when we brought it back a few days later, they still tried to peg some of the damage on us. Fortunately, I had kept our original paperwork where the employee had admitted to all the damage.
The bottom line: While we treat cars with respect, we aren’t all that trusting of car rental agencies in the U.S. or abroad. With that in mind, I’m so happy that our travel insurance plan offers coverage for rental damage – even if it’s our fault.
#4: Because you can’t predict when your plans will change.
Like it or not, airlines experience scheduling issues, weather delays, and mechanical breakdowns. Sometimes, these issues cause massive delays for travelers who are stuck waiting for hours and even days.
Fortunately, our new vacation delay coverage offers reimbursement for meals and accommodations when a trip is unexpectedly delayed for 12 or more hours. This will make it easier for us to pay for meals and rent a hotel if we’re stranded for more than a few hours.
While I hope we never need this coverage, having it does give me peace of mind.
#5: Because baggage gets lost, damaged, or stolen.
While I’ve never had my baggage lost or stolen, I’ve been with friends when theirs disappeared. It was a stressful, disheartening experience for us to leave the airport without their stuff. Fortunately, the bag was lost on the tail end of the trip — meaning they could just go home, instead of vacationing without any clean clothes!
This is yet another area where travel insurance can save the day. Our policy (and others like it) comes with baggage loss or damage coverage that provides reimbursement if our bags are lost, stolen, or damaged. We also have baggage delay coverage that kicks in to pay for clothing, toiletries, and essential items when luggage is delayed at least 24 hours.
The Bottom Line
While I’m generally against adding new expenses to our annual budget, this is one purchase I’m glad I made. Now that we have coverage for medical emergencies when we travel, I can stop wondering “what if” and focus more energy on the fun aspects of our trip.
Maybe one day I’ll write a review of our coverage, how it works, and whether I got my money’s worth. But for now, I’m going to treat travel insurance the way we treat our health insurance and auto insurance.
I’m glad we have it, but I hope we never have to use it.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at .
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