The TRUTH About Travel Insurance
Do You Need It?
This is going to make me sound really freakin old, but I’ve been traveling the world for nearly 50 years! Up until a few years ago, I never purchased travel insurance. From my perspective, it just didn’t seem like a necessary expense – whether it was skiing in Europe, South America or Japan, or doing business in Asia. Air travel was safe, I was young, healthy and there just didn’t seem to be a need.
Why the change of heart? Some of it was affordability, some of it was the complexities of travel today and some of it was the pandemic, not to mention a small percentage that I still like to ski “off piste.” There is nothing worse than having an accident when you least expect it. Sure, there is the accident itself (which is no fun), but almost worse is the thought of paying for an extraction (if necessary) and medical bills in a foreign country.
So to answer the question: “Is Travel Insurance worth it?”
Let’s take a closer look at all the factors present in our modern world of travel:
The Complexity of Travel Today
During my early years as a traveler, flying around the world was relatively easy. You could show up at an airport with only a half hour to spare and walk on the airplane. Today, with so many people traveling, and depending upon the holiday, you had better give yourself a couple hours. There was no TSA until 2001 and even though metal detectors were installed at many airports in the 70’s, security was pretty darn loose. Even countries like Argentina never even used metal detectors for domestic flights all throughout the 70’s. Times have changed – making travel much more complicated across all sectors.
Flight Delays or Trip Interruption
With so many flights, routes and people flying today, there are bound to be delayed flights. It’s all in the numbers. Back in the 1980’s, ordinary people were just discovering air travel. There were just over 500 airlines worldwide. Today, there are over 5,000 airlines across the globe! That’s a staggering number of planes that have taxed existing airports – most of which have remained relatively unchanged in America over the past few decades. Anyone who’s experienced delayed travel knows how ugly it can be. Some airlines provide food and hotel vouchers, but depending upon the type of delay, some don’t provide anything. And, worse yet is having to wait in a customer service queue at the airport or endure hours on the telephone trying to change flights. It’s an unfortunate evil that has never before existed to this capacity.
Luggage Delays or Loss
Even though bar-coded baggage tags have drastically reduced problems with lost luggage, the chances of having your bags delayed are still very real. There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination and becoming the last person standing at the baggage carousel. Especially, if your final destination is at a mountain resort – hours away from the airport. Again, it’s the sheer numbers of bags flying around the world that increase the chances your bags could be delayed.
Medical costs in a foreign country
Back in the 1980’s, my grandfather (an artist) and grandmother (a writer) would travel to Europe annually to sketch and write for six weeks. Being in their mid-80’s, both were strong and healthy enough to make these journeys, but our family knew their driving reflexes were becoming less than stellar. And of course, they insisted on renting a car and driving themselves on each trip. While traveling through Austria one year, with my grandfather at the wheel, they pulled onto the autobahn and never bothered to look prior to merging. Pow – they were rear-ended by a fast-moving truck. I remember my father getting a call in the middle of the night from the hospital in Innsbruck. Fortunately, both had non-life-threatening injuries, but would need assistance getting back home. My dad had to fly over to Austria and get them out of the hospital and back home.
Even in those days, the entire event was traumatic and costly – and it would be quite a bit more expensive in today’s dollars. From a medical perspective, you WANT to be covered when traveling abroad. And, your traditional health insurance in the States DOES NOT cover medical expenses overseas.
This fact came to light a few years ago during a trip to Zermatt, Switzerland. Anybody who’s been to Zermatt and its neighbor Cervin, Italy, understands just how big the two ski resorts are combined. The skiing is fantastic and can be enjoyed by virtually anyone of any skiing ability. The slopes are impeccably maintained and never crowded. However, it’s skiing and accidents do happen. If you do happen to fall and injure yourself, the typical evacuation on a ski patrol sled is not an option. The resort is just too large. Therefore, you’ll find yourself taking a wonderful helicopter ride courtesy of Air Zermatt! As you can imagine, these flights can be pricey – which is why the resort now offers evacuation insurance (on your lift pass) for less than US$10.00/day. Or, with the right trip insurance, these types of evacuations will be covered in your policy.
Renting A Car
We all know renting a car today requires just about every form of ID and your first-born child. All kidding aside, it’s become even more complex when deciding to decline the “collision damage waiver” because you “might” have a credit card that covers the cost of an incident. Or, should I add another driver, or do I prepay for fuel… Yikes man – just rent me a flipping car! The attorneys have really complicated the process. In Europe, it’s a bit simpler. Back in 2015 with the U.S. Ski Team, on a trip to a World Cup Ski race in Are, Sweden, I flew into Trondheim and rented a brand-new Volvo wagon. After showing my driver’s license and credit card, the gentleman handed me a “one page” document to sign. Huh?! Easiest car rental ever! It was not only affordable, but had collision and comprehensive insurance included. However, it’s not always that way – especially if you’re renting from an American company like Hertz, National or Budget.
Always expect the unexpected, right? You’ve planned the ultimate ski, golf or leisure vacation and someone in the family gets sick or there is an unfortunate death in the family. You have to cancel your trip and reschedule for another time. Nobody expects these things to happen, but airlines today have made flight cancellations almost as complicated as securing a rental car. It seems like the rules change every month. How can you cancel flights and get your money refunded?
But What About The Pandemic??
Let’s just say, this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” when it came to deciding whether or not to purchase Travel Insurance. Do I really want to get stuck in quarantine in a foreign country? Even if you’re not too sick, you still want to be comfortable and not stressed out wondering how the heck you’re going to pay for the extended duration. Even though things are getting back to normal, there may still be some doubt in the back of your mind.
It finally happened to me in February of this year. Covid was waning, which allowed us to host a fantastic ski trip to Engelberg, Switzerland. A week of skiing in the Swiss Alps is the trip of a lifetime for most and it went off without a hitch. The Swiss even dropped their mask mandates and Covid Certificates halfway through our week! It really felt normal again. However, just prior to my return trip, I tested positive for Covid and couldn’t return to the USA for 10 days! Since I was vaxxed and boosted, my Omicron symptoms were very mild. I felt like I had a cold for three days and the Swiss cleared me from their quarantine on day five. However, I still couldn’t fly home to the States according to our CDC rules. So, I was stuck in Switzerland no matter whether I felt fine or not. Since I purchased Travel Insurance from Seven Corners, I was covered under their “trip interruption” clause for the entire 10 days. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was to know that 10 days of expenses were not coming out of my pocket.
Insurance is a fact of life today. We’re reminded with every Progressive, Geico and State Farm insurance commercial on TV. We need insurance if we want to drive a car. We need insurance on our homes and belongings. We need health insurance if we want to receive medical care. And anybody who wants to travel abroad today, you NEED Travel Insurance – not only for financial security, but also for peace of mind. In the overall scheme of things, it’s quite affordable – usually less than 5% of the cost of the trip. Whereas an accident, delay or loss could eclipse the cost of your entire trip. It’s just not worth it – I proved it this year. That 10 days in Switzerland cost over $2,000.00 – all paid by my Trip Insurance. The travel factors listed above might feel daunting or risky. But Travel Insurance is the answer to all these problems! When your trip is properly covered by Trip Insurance, you can rest assured knowing that your wallet is protected from any of these unforeseen circumstances.
One Last Word of Caution:
DO NOT purchase cheap third party Trip Insurance from travel sites. They are not comprehensive insurance plans and you’ll spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to receive compensation from any of them. They are cheap plans for a reason – it’s a profit center for the insurer. Just like the extended warranty offers when you purchase an appliance. This is why we recommend Seven Corners for reliable, comprehensive Travel Insurance. We’ve put it to the test!
Hope to see you out there, and Happy Trails!