What do I need to know about my travel insurance before I travel?

Published by Chris Harvey July 16, 2008

Travel insurance can save you money in the event that things go wrong on your trip. Listed below are some important points that you may need to know about your policy before you travel:

Always save your receipts. Travel insurance will cover you for additional expenses, but only if you can prove what those expenses were.

Be aware of what your travel insurance limits are. Most policies have daily caps, or limits, of how much they will reimburse you for. For instance, in the event you have expenses for unplanned accommodations or meals as a result of a travel delay, you may be limited to $100 – $200 per day depending on the policy. Limits are also imposed for baggage delay which can range from $100 – $600.

Know if the coverage is primary or secondary. Secondary coverage means that you must file a claim with any other insurance in force (such as homeowners or medical) before the travel insurance will pay. Primary coverage means that the travel insurance reimburses you first, before any other insurance.

Know what your policy covers and what it does not. The travel delay benefit usually kicks in after a specified or fixed period of time, usually five to six hours or longer. Missed connections may not be covered.  Canceling or interrupting a trip because of “fear of an event” such as terrorism or a hurricane is not covered. A covered event must actually occur in order to be reimbursed.

Know if you are covered for pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing medical conditions often are covered only if you purchased the insurance within an advantage period which is usually two weeks or so from the time of your first payment or deposit on the trip.  A few companies will cover pre-existing medical conditions if the insurance is purchased prior to making your final trip payment. Also, some policies require that the full prepaid non-refundable trip cost be insured to receive the pre-existing exclusion waiver.

Sports-related injuries, especially those from high risk or extreme sports, are generally not covered.

Strikes, civil disturbances and terrorist acts may not be covered.

Some policies will cover you if your travel supplier goes out of business, but only if it is unforeseen. Many policies have a 14 to 30 day wait for this benefit after the policy is purchased. Some companies have a “watch-list” of suspected shaky companies that are not covered while other companies require your travel provider be on a list of approved or covered suppliers.

Make sure the policy covers your entire prepaid trip costs, including airfare, hotel accommodations, excursions, tours, etc.