Years ago there was a commercial for a popular credit card that said, “Don’t leave home without it,” and that can certainly be said for adventure travel insurance.
Let’s think logically for a moment, would you drive your car without insurance? Let’s hope not, what about your home, is it insured? Most likely yes, the bank or mortgage company would insist. Why then do so many travel without proper insurance? Of course, we all hope it is never needed, but having travel insurance should be as essential as packing a change of clothes, it’s simply the smart thing to do.
Why do you need adventure travel insurance? Imagine your GoPro or DSLR is stolen; the right insurance will reimburse you. Imagine you’re hang gliding off some exotic far away cliff, a bad landing causes a broken leg; adventure travel insurance will cover your medical bills. The list goes on, a death in the family, a lost bad, a flight that is canceled, all could be disasters, but with the right travel insurance, you can be reimbursed. Having travel insurance with the right waivers is simply the smart thing to do, and for the price, which can be only a few dollars a day, there is not a reason not to plan for the worst, hoping you never need it.
For me, it had proven itself worth the cost on multiple occasions, a doctor in Mexico City, when my camera broke in Rio and when my luggage was stolen in Berlin. Each of those situations was tragic at the time, but in each case, I was reimbursed and lived to travel again.
When something bad happens, you’re going to experience the emotions, that can’t be avoided, but not having travel insurance can make a bad day even worse. Imagine having to be air-lifted out of the Grand Canyon, or needed to fly home when a loved unexpectedly passes, adventure travel insurance can and does cover the costs.
What if you already have good health insurance? Most programs won’t cover you overseas and being sick in Manila without insurance can be life-threatening. If you travel with a laptop, and should it be stolen, would you have the cash to buy a new one if you had to? Travel insurance can reimburse you for stolen gadgets.
With the above thoughts in mind, this article was written to break down what can be a confusing purchase. You know you need it, but what exactly are the particulars of good travel insurance?
A Great Travel Insurance Plan – The Finer Points
Travel insurance is big business, with millions of dollars changing hands. Because of that, there are numerous companies and hundreds of options to choose from, because of that, the choices can be daunting, but I’ll do my best to break it down for you.
The first thing to look for is good medical coverage remembering this is above and beyond your standard health insurance. A good travel insurance plan should cover up to $100,000 in coverage with some companies offering more. The highest I’ve seen is 1 million dollars in coverage, which seems excessive. The $100,000 in coverage is usually adequate coverage should you become sick or injured. Should that happen, you don’t want to find your policy only goes to $20,000 which can quickly run out should you need to be hospitalized. This isn’t the place to be cheap, not when your health is on the line.
What would happen if you were hiking on a mountain trail and broke an arm or a leg? These could be desperate times, and you might have to be airlifted out with costs quickly mounting. You want a policy that includes evacuation and to be safe; the policy should cover you up to $300,000.
NOTE: The policy should also cover you should a natural disaster happen, and you need to be evacuated to another location.
Devil in the details: Nearly every adventure insurance policy will cover your evacuation to the local hospital, but not every policy would cover your flight home. Be certain to check.
When shopping for the good policies, look for the following provisions.
Electronics coverage (depending on your gadgets, it may be necessary to obtain higher coverage)
- Coverage in most countries
- Injuries and illnesses
- 24/7 phone access – you don’t want to reach a recording if you’re in trouble
- Coverage for lost or stolen personal items including jewelry, cameras, computers, baggage, etc.
- Coverage for cancellations should you have an illness or emergency that requires you to return home quickly.
- Coverage for unexpected emergencies such as political unrest that causes you to cancel the trip and return home
- Cover you financially should a company you are using (such as an airline) go out of business leaving you stranded
RECOMMENDATION: Check the details of coverage for electronics, particularly important if you are traveling with expensive gear. Most normal travel insurance policies have limited coverage, but supplemental insurance can be purchased. Check to be sure; you’ll be happy you did if your gear is stolen or damaged.
What Is Not Covered
- Just as important as knowing what is covered, is the flip side of the coin, what isn’t covered. Since we’re discussing adventure travel, there will be some reading this who will take part in activities like, hang-gliding, scuba diving, paragliding, bungee jumping and other extreme sports. To be covered you’ll need to pay extra which is a smart move if you plan to participate in what is considered risky activities.
- Your driving, have an accident and injure someone, chances are you will not be covered. This is called third-party liability and is outside the scope of most travel insurance.
- Insurance companies expect you to act responsibly. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself, but if you act recklessly, leaving luggage unattended, leaving valuables in plain sight, etc., it’s likely coverage will be challenged.
NOTE: You will not be covered for pre-existing conditions or medications to treat same.
Check It Once – Then Check it Again
Insurance companies have teams of lawyers to write their policies, most of us can easily get caught in the jumble of legalese. There are always loopholes designed to help the insurance company, not the insured. Read the fine print, make sure you are getting the coverage you’re expecting.
Adventure travel insurance is not a replacement for your normal health coverage. Instead, it is designed and written to be used in emergencies and to get you home if necessary. If you’re a continual global traveler and want coverage in another country, travel insurance, even the best policies, are not what you need.
Once you schedule a trip, buy travel insurance as soon as possible. Certainly, you can wait till you’re ready to leave, but don’t, things could happen that could cause you to forget, or otherwise be unable to buy. Should that happen, you’d be out of luck should troubles happen during your trip.
The odds are you will never need your travel insurance policy, but what if you do? If you’re in a foreign country without insurance and should an accident occur, it will be too late to buy insurance, and you’ll be angry you waited. Accidents can and do happen, and they happen when you least expect them, as the adage says, “Better safe than sorry.”
Scenario – The Newlyweds
James and Samantha had planned these honeymoon months before the wedding, a dream destination, the Hawaiian Islands. The trip would be full of romance but centered around the passion they shared, hang-gliding. The first two days were filled with sunshine, clear skies, and pleasant updrafts, the third day, however, would turn nasty.
An unexpected downdraft cause James’ glider to dip suddenly, twisting the fabric and signaling what could have been immanent wing failure. Rather than risk trying for the cleared field, James decided to land short, in an overgrown section of bushes close by. All looked good till his foot caught a tall bush, sending him head over heels into the ground.
Samantha had seen the trouble, but landed safety, immediately running to get help. By the time she arrived at the crash site, people were already gathered, with Ambulances to follow. James was unconscious, and his leg appeared broken, she moaned inside, and tears drenched her face.
When they arrived at the hospital, and once she was sure James was being taken care of, she called her travel insurance company. Explaining the accident, she breathed a sigh of relief when the agent said, “Yes, you’re covered, we’ll be in touch with the hospital to take care of the details.” James lay in bed, groggy, but healing from the ordeal. Samantha smiled, this wasn’t what she’d expected, but they’d been smart getting the waiver for hang-gliding. They’d created their first story for the grandkids.
Accidents can happen to anyone, no matter how well trained, no matter how careful. Be certain you’re covered with the right type of adventure travel insurance, it might just save your life.