In most cases, travel insurance does not equate to automatic reimbursements. There are usually a multitude of documents to file to prove your case, as well as strict deadlines to meet. And common road accidents (like a flight delay), not to mention entire roadblocks – like a flare-up of an illness you’ve already been diagnosed with – aren’t usually covered.
Here are six common travel insurance myths that come up frequently and the truths behind them.
Myth 1: Travel insurance is just medical insurance
Far from there. Most trip cancellation or interruption insurance only covers medical emergencies. This is useful if you break your leg on a ski trip in the Alps, but it will not cover routine medical cover.
You may be using a catheter that needs to be replaced by a doctor every two weeks, but you’re on a two-month trip. Many health insurance policies, including Medicare and Medicaid, explicitly do not cover most overseas medical expenses. And most travel medical insurance only reimburses emergency medical expenses.
If you want to ensure coverage for non-emergency medical expenses abroad, you have two options:
1. Supplement your existing health insurance with additional coverage for international travel. The extra cost may be worth it if you travel frequently and/or plan to seek international medical treatment (even for a mundane teeth cleaning).
2. Take out international health insurance. Many major insurance companies offer health insurance that can cover treatment in your home country and around the world for emergencies and more predictable treatment, such as maternity, dental and wellness exams. Whether you’ve decided to work remotely abroad or you travel abroad frequently, it can be a good idea to make sure you can see a doctor anywhere.
Myth 2: Travel insurance is more useful for trips involving extreme sports
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Many forms of travel insurance do not explicitly cover certain high-risk activities like skydiving, scuba diving, or bungee jumping. If your trip involves adventure sports, you may need to take out a separate policy that specifically covers your activity.
Look for aerial activity coverage, which typically covers activities ranging from ziplining and hot air ballooning to more exciting pursuits like skydiving, hang gliding, and bungee jumping. A specific water sports policy will typically cover personal watercraft, scuba diving and deep sea fishing. And snow sports coverage can insure activities like snowboarding, skiing, heli-skiing and windsurfing on ice.
Squaremouth, which is a travel insurance comparison tool, recommends at least
Myth 3: “Cancelling for any reason” can get all your money back
Travel insurance can sometimes be limited in terms of the scenarios that actually allow it to trigger. While it typically covers events such as accidental injury or extreme weather, it probably won’t cover many other reasons, such as the risks of COVID-19 or suddenly skipping your trip because your job or personal life was busy.
For these scenarios, you may consider “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage, which can get you reimbursed no matter what reason you need to cancel. But it won’t get all your money back. Exact amounts vary by policy, but policyholders can expect to be reimbursed approximately 50% to 75% of initial payments, depending on the
And even then, there are limits. For example, most CFAR policies require you to cancel your trip more than 48 hours before your scheduled departure.
Myth 4: Full-time travelers are in the best position to maximize travel insurance
While frequent travelers will certainly get more value out of an annual travel insurance policy or credit card travel insurance than someone who only travels a few times a year, someone who travels full time – as an expat or digital nomad – could be out of luck.
Check with your own insurer, but most travel insurance companies don’t cover trips longer than 60 days. If your employer allows you to work remotely and you’ve chosen to become a full-time traveler, don’t count on your travel insurance policy to help you.
For trips longer than 60 days, you may want a travel insurance option designed specifically for digital nomads.
Myth 5: Travel insurance is best for people with medical conditions
If you have a pre-existing condition, do not rely on travel insurance if that condition interferes with your trip. Most policies do not explicitly cover pre-existing conditions or trips taken against the advice of a doctor.
Understand that the definition of a pre-existing condition can be quite broad. For example, if you have a mild heart attack while climbing the stairs
To ensure coverage, consider a more comprehensive policy that includes a waiver of pre-existing conditions.
Myth 6: You can wait until you get home to file a claim
Depending on the length of your trip, do not wait to contact your insurer. If you cancel your trip before departure, some policies require that you notify your travel insurance company within 48 hours of your doctor advising you not to travel.
Most policies require you to file a written claim within 20 days of the event. From there, supporting documents (such as medical records, a death certificate, or a jury notice) must generally be submitted within 90 days.
The bottom line
Travel insurance can be extremely useful in many scenarios. It can reimburse you for the purchase of new toiletries and clothes in the event of loss of your luggage. It may cover an additional night’s hotel or meals for qualifying flight delays. And it can refund non-refundable reservations if you have to cancel or cut short a trip due to most medical emergencies or bad weather.
But there are plenty of circumstances that aren’t covered – or might only be covered by certain policies and with the right documents. Understand what your policy actually covers before relying on travel insurance to come to your rescue.