Low-Cost Travel Insurance For Adventure Travelers

Start talking about anything even remotely related to the topic of travel insurance and odds are the conversation will be short. This is not something that travelers dream about, plan for or share with their social networks. No one we know of has a scrapbook of insurance mementos picked up along the way or has written a song about it. To many travelers, travel protection is an annoying, unnecessary expense. Still, have a situation while traveling where we need it, and all of the sudden the cost seems a trivial matter.

In the past, Gadling has reported on the difference between travel insurance, which covers monetary damages, and travel protection, which provides immediate support and assistance in an emergency. We explained how insurance that covers medical evaluation could help avoid a $100,000 airfare too. Our friends at airfarewatchdog have a nifty chart explaining the difference between three major players in the travel assistance game, OnCall International, Medjet Assist and AirMed.

Traveling to any place on the planet to hike, climb, ski or scuba dive? These plans have you covered.

Any of those companies will transport travelers from anywhere in the world back to a hospital or medical facility of their choice. Prices run between $55 and $115 per person for a short-term plan and annual plans are available for those who travel extensively.

But what if travels take you camping, biking or skiing somewhere around North America, on a cruise to the Caribbean, Bermuda or Mexico? For you, there may be similar coverage at a fraction of the cost.Another company, SkyMed, covers just the USA, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas with short-term plans as low as $9 per day.

Important to adventure travelers, SkyMed uses mostly medically equipped and staffed jets, and other fixed-wing aircraft appropriate for the type of airport or landing strip available. Should the situation call for a helicopter, they have those too.

I learned about travel protection about this time last year, avoiding a $2500 cruise ship medical center bill by having similar protection with an annual TravelGuard policy.

In the video below, a hiker in Wyoming with a broken ankle sits waiting for help to come.

We do not want you to be in this situation.

[Photo credit – Flickr user slworking2]

How to Buy Flight Cancellation Insurance

As American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights through October, passengers were left scrambling for alternate flights or airlines to handle their travel plans. Those actually flying experienced more flight delays than normal too. Savvy passengers with travel insurance came out on top though, thanks to a normally unused feature common to many policies.

Blame it on American Airlines bankruptcy issues, labor problems, maintenance problems or layoffs, in a week’s time the troubled airline had canceled about 300 flights, mostly in and out of Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) airport.

“Prior to the recent issues, American had been running a good operation, with on-time performance and reliability measures at their best levels in many years,” American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks said in an LA Times story. “The recent disruptions are primarily due to the significant increase in maintenance write-ups by our pilots, many right at the time of departure.”

It’s a situation totally out of the control of passengers but one that can be made a bit easier to swallow with some basic travel insurance that covers flight delays or cancellations and, most importantly right now, offers traveler assistance.Travel Guard, for example, has a single trip plan and an annual plan for frequent travelers.

Their Savvy Traveler plan covers trip cancellation, interruption and delay, emergency medical treatment or evacuation, lost, stolen or damaged baggage or personal effects and baggage delay on any one given trip. The cost? About $25 for a $500 flight in October.

Frequent fliers can get Annual Travel Insurance for personal or business travel that covers trips or vacations throughout the year. This one includes everything from trip cancellation and interruption to unannounced strikes, weather delays and more – plus it comes with coverage for medical expenses that might be incurred away from home. That’s especially important when traveling internationally.

I bought one of their annual plans last year for about $200. It paid off when some medical expenses I incurred sailing on a cruise in international waters added up to over $2000, little of which was paid by my primary health insurance. The travel insurance paid the rest.

Say a flight booked on American Airlines was cancelled. The airline would do its best to reschedule. Frequent flyers know the drill too: flight canceled, stand in long line at airline customer service counter and hope to get to destination at a reasonable time.

But what would my travel insurance have done for me? We asked Travel Guard to find out.

“In addition to the 24-hour assistance Travel Guard provides customers in rebooking their flights, accommodations and other pre-planned travel arrangements, in the event that their trip is delayed five or more hours, travel insurance can reimburse for expenses incurred until travel becomes possible,” Carol Mueller, VP of Travel Guard North America told Gadling.

That could come in handy when a late, weather-delayed flight causes a missed connection and the next flight out is tomorrow. Weather-related flight delays? Technically, not the airline’s problem. The travel insurance company, much like a travel agent, is on your side and ready to help when needed.

“Cancellation would be covered when due to mechanical/equipment failure of the carrier, or when inclement weather causes delay or cancellation of travel,” added Mueller. “We recommend customers contact us at our toll-free number as soon as they know their trip is going to be delayed, interrupted or cancelled and we can help with alternate solutions to their travel plans.”

Regardless of which travel insurance company we choose, having that protection along for the ride when traveling can pay off. Liability-limiting reasons for airlines to cancel or delay flights due to weather events and “maintenance” issues seem to be on the rise. That takes travel insurance from an optional extra not likely to be used to something that may be seriously considered.


[Flickr photos by Scott Ableman]

Travel protection: Insurance or Assistance?

We talk a lot about travel insurance these days. In a travel world affected by everything from weather-related events to political unrest, more people buy travel insurance these days than ever before. Even the most anti-insurance people we know are taking a second look now as travel insurance seems to be a good bet to at least consider. But other than coverage, what you have to do to file a claim and the cost of it all, little thought is given to any assistance a travel insurance company might give in an emergency situation. If that sounds like you, it might be time to look at the whole business of travel protection differently.

There’s travel insurance and then there is travel assistance. They are two entirely different animals and you should know the difference.
“While many companies provide support in case of an emergency, it is important for travelers to know what kind of assistance is available when planning ahead” says On Call International, a company that specializes in worldwide medical evacuations, medical assistance and security services.

Travel insurance, like any insurance, covers monetary damages. It compensates the traveler for costs of unforeseen emergencies while traveling. Most policies cover the following, but travelers should always check with their provider, as all policies are different.

  • Replacement of lost luggage
  • Reimbursement of non-refundable tickets in the event that a trip has to be cancelled
  • Costs incurred due to missed connections in the event of a delayed or overcrowded flight
  • Coverage of expenses due to cancellations caused by weather, sudden illness or death, jury duty, emergency military duty, and bankruptcy of airline or cruise line prior to departure
  • Inclusion of travel assistance services
  • Reimbursement of expenses due to medical emergencies. This includes the cost of doctor visits, medication, and if needed, medical evacuation.

With most travel insurance plans, you incur the expense then get reimbursed later.

With travel assistance, travelers have support and assistance immediately in case of an emergency. Providers typically offer services to help members in need of assistance for trips a given number of miles away from home, usually 50 or 100:

  • Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation to the hospital of the member’s choice
  • Immediate help with travel arrangements for member, travel companion and family in the case of a medical emergency
  • Prescription replacement assistance if lost or forgotten while traveling
  • Worldwide medical, dental, pharmacy and legal referrals
  • Assistance with emergency travel funds, cash advances and credit card replacement
  • Delayed baggage tracking
  • Language translation, embassy and consular relations, and lost document replacement assistance
  • Legal assistance, including bail bond
  • Return of deceased remains, in the unfortunate occurrence of death while traveling.

Planing on hiking through Europe after college? This could be for you. Your parents might really like this as a way to give them some peace of mind. They may say “You’re young, go have a ball, take a year and see the world!” but believe me, they will lie awake at night worrying about you.

In perfect health and see absolutely no reason for travel insurance? This could be for you. Sure, accidents do happen but that’s the old insurance game. Odds are highly stacked in favor of accidents NOT happening which is how insurance companies stay in business.

Are you a road warrior who seems to always be traveling? This could be for you. Annual memberships are available through companies like On Call International.

Just a short trip, cruise or vacation to a major tourist destination? Not so much but probably still worth a look. Single trip coverage starts at $55.

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