Safety, Trust and Insurance

Why I bought travel insurance for the first time

I was inspired to revisit the idea of buying travel insurance for a recent eight-day backpacking trip. I’ve written about my argument against travel insurance for home exchanges, and insurance in general in the sharing economy. I’ve never been convinced it’s a good investment. Most of my trips are very low cost. I use miles to pay for flights, or I take advantage of cheap fares. And I’m generally staying in a home exchange or using points for free hotel nights. Most of this is refundable if I’m unable to take the trip. So any insurance for me would mostly be to cover problems that arise while I’m traveling.

I’ve tried out insurance for home exchanges in a few different situations. Mainly to cover potential problems with the swap when I thought my swap partners seemed a bit flakey. But I never needed it, and overall I think that’s the least risky part of my travels.

As added protection, I also always pay for my flights with my Citibank Prestige credit card.  This card has trip delay and cancellation insurance. It’s the best protection out there: 3 hour flight delays qualify for coverage. And for award flights you just need to pay for the taxes to be covered.

But this still leaves one area unprotected: healthcare. While I do have a good health insurance plan, it doesn’t offer extended coverage for my travels. I haven’t investigated my international coverage as fully as I probably should, but I do have a good idea of some of the things it won’t cover. If I need to be medically evacuated, for instance, I’m on my own. This isn’t really a concern for me most of the time. But I do enjoy outdoors activities that are riskier than the average walk in the woods. I like to dive, rock climb, and backpack.

So I was inspired to look in to extended medical insurance for a recent backpacking trip because I figured this is the one situation in which I could conceivably need expensive medical evacuation if something goes wrong. Interestingly, many of these plans don’t cover what they consider risky sports, like scuba diving.

Most of the plans offer a combined medical and travel insurance plan. This would ensure payout for the travel part of the trip if something went wrong. But I still think I’m pretty well covered there. And this definitely raises the price. Some of my friends recommend World Nomads if you need coverage for adventure travel because they cover most sports. But they’re also one of the most expensive plans I looked at. They do include trip interruption and cancellation with medical insurance. And they get great reviews from users who have had actual problems.

In the end I selected GeoBlue Voyager Choice travel medical insurance. This is a plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield, and it was recommended by a friend who travels a lot. Reading through the details I was happy with the coverage and the flexibility to set a deductible that brought down the cost. The plan I selected was $55 for a three week trip with a medical limit of $500k and a deductible of $500.

I can’t say I’ve done a comprehensive study of travel medical insurance options. But I definitely found companies that were much more expensive. Usually because they were bundling medical and trip insurance into one package. I also found some that were cheaper, but I was uncomfortable with the medical exclusions for some. And for others I read some questionable reviews from people who tried actually use the policy. Having a recommendation from a friend was helpful for this selection.

If I traveled more I would consider buying an annual or multi-trip plan. But because I don’t generally consider my travels to be risky I will only buy this insurance for specific trips that involve higher risk activities. If I ever decide to go on a dive trip on a boat I’ll probably buy travel medical insurance. And for future trips that involve rock climbing I’ll also get the insurance.

If you have a travel insurance company you’ve used and liked, let me know which one you recommend. Recommendations from friends (and attentive blog readers) will be useful to others I’m sure.