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Travel insurance--how much is too much?

The last two years, I bought policies that had emergency medical benefits of $250,000, with the same amount for medical transportation/repatriation. I also had travel and air flight accident coverage for $50K apiece, plus pre-existing condition coverage (due to my diabetes). Add in trip cancellation/interruption, baggage loss and delay, and missed connection.

I'm looking again, and wondering if perhaps I was overinsured. Especially since a new traveler pen pal has told me she never has insurance. She did have flight coverage insurance (the kind you buy when you're buying your plane ticket). When I was in my 20s, it never even occurred to me to have insurance. Perhaps my new friend is a bit under-cautious?

I really have no idea what kind of medical benefits I would need in the UK. I have heard of people getting injured overseas and the country they're visiting having such great health insurance plans that they didn't need insurance.

My ACA plan covers nothing that happens outside the US.

Can anyone give me a bit of advice? I need to make up my mind soon, as it's 14 days since I put down my first payment and I know some plans have time limits for purchase. I'm scouting around on insuremytrip.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
7344 posts

Go with what you can afford and what gives you peace of mind.
(It has been common that most people in their 20's think themselves invincible).

Posted by
22515 posts

My philosophy is to self-insure for minor expenses that wouldn't be onerous if I had to cover them. As a solo, independent traveler, I include loss of luggage, trip cancellation (I pre-pay very little more than a few days in advance except my transatlantic flights), flight delays, etc., in that category. If I were taking an organized tour/cruise, I'd have to think hard about whether I'd rather pay to protect that up-front expense or be prepared to swallow the loss if something kept me at home. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to that question that applies to everyone.

I would never, ever be without medical insurance. That could be a $50,000 error. There may be places where you are not billed for a minor medical expense just because it's too much hassle for the provider, but it's a dangerous mistake to assume that is a likely occurrence, especially if something significant happens. I've been charged in Slovenia and France; my mother was charged in Greece.

I've gambled and not bought medical evacuation coverage in the past, but that's really foolish of me. Even though I've traveled almost exclusively to places in Europe where medical care is as good as it is at home, there are situations in which evacuation would be desirable if not 100% necessary--for example, if I were in an accident and needed a long period of rehab.

Posted by
22268 posts

We have never had separate trip cancellation insurance. Now that we are on medicare we have a medical evac policy that is a yearly policy that gets us home anytime we are more than 500 miles from home. We have a premium credit card that provides traveling cancellation insurance and limited medical. Also carry the American Exp auto rental coverage. Never used any of it but there will be a day.

Posted by
362 posts

We have insurance through an employer-related policy. We called them before our first overseas trip to find out if we had coverage overseas. Their answer? Maybe. Try not to have an emergency.

Yes, that was the answer from a MAJOR insurance company that insures people in multiple states.

Anyway, my rule of thumb is this. If you aren't willing to lose the money if something unexpected happens (and if things can't be cancelled/rescheduled like flights, tours, etc.) then buy the trip insurance. People break things, have illnesses, etc., all the time.

If you're willing to risk the money you've spent toward hotels, flights, tours, etc., then definitely skip the insurance and live dangerously.

PS - That's not meant to be snarky. That's the whole point of insurance. Do I take a risk? Or do I hedge my bets.

Posted by
22515 posts

Prepaid travel expenses are a known quantity. There's really no upper limit on possible medical or evacuation charges. Folks have posted here that evacuation can cost up in the 6-figure range. You might need a dedicated charter flight, an accompanying nurse, etc. Even 3 seats in the first class cabin of a scheduled flight would probably come at an exorbitant amount if purchased at the last minute.

Posted by
1068 posts

I generally buy medical repatriation insurance. Medical costs (other than repatriation) are covered on another policy. I also feel I have taken so many trips without buying insurance, the money I saved would cover it if I had to just bite the bullet on one....so essentially, I am self insured for things like trip cancellation etc.

Posted by
527 posts

Like all insurance, I think it's a necessary evil.

Sigh...

Posted by
2626 posts

Nothing evil about it. It is for your protection. Don't want it, don't get it. And the friend who never gets insurance? That's like the person who crosses streets on the red and says it's OK because they've never been hit. And that person buys those overpriced coverage from the airline. Foolish logic. I would never travel without full coverage and what you've gotten in the past is appropriate. When you get home and have had a safe uneventful trip don't consider the cost of insurance to be a waste. Believe me, it's not.

Posted by
14232 posts

Maybe your friend should read this recent post?

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/help-i-fractured-my-ankle-while-in-italy

Something similar happened to someone I know as well only she broke her leg VERY badly and spent some time in the hospital before having to have special arrangements made to get back home. As she said, "Thank heavens we bought additional insurance!" It might also happen that you have to cancel your trip for an injury/illness which occurs before you leave (read the fine print, though).

No, healthcare isn't free abroad for non-citizens. It may be a small bill for minor injury but a great deal more if hospitalization and medical repatriation is required.We never leave the U.S. without adequate medical/evac trip insurance.

Posted by
5697 posts

I pay for airfare, hotels and trains using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card so the trip will be covered by the card's travel insurance, particularly for medical evacuation/ repatriation. We are covered by Medigap F for emergency medical expenses overseas so the Chase medical coverage is duplication ... unless I exceed the lifetime Medigap $50,000 limit.
As a side note, I had some unexpected medical care in Germany this year and the doctor apologized that she had to charge me -- it was only €25 for two office visits (don't even think about what non-insured cost would be in San Francisco) Care for non-residents is NOT free, and serious stuff could run up a serious bill. (And I didn't bother filing a claim for the €25.)

Posted by
3753 posts

With regard to "...all insurance, ...a necessary evil", insurance is probably the only thing we ever buy while hoping we'll never have to use it. But better to have it and not need it, than the other way around.

Posted by
527 posts

I ended up buying a policy with Global Alert Preferred with pretty much the same benefits I've had the past two years. Better safe than sorry!

thanks, everyone, for your help. Everyone on this forum has always been so helpful and kind. And it's interesting to get different people's points of view.

Posted by
3579 posts

I buy medical insurance when I travel overseas because our HMO is restricted to the US. I have a pre-existing condition and I find that having coverage for up to $500K and including evacuation costs is only a few dollars more than the $250K with a high deduction. Thankfully, I've never had to use it.

Posted by
1117 posts

Don't ever count on medical service being for free, even in countries with a great health system. They may charge you a lot less than what you would have paid in your home country, but what good does it do you to know that? You don't know in advance what kind of help you might be needing -- so that's what an insurance is for, right?

You might need a dedicated charter flight, an accompanying nurse, etc.

Absolutely. And even if it's less serious than that, some health issue can easily cause you to miss your return flight. And in a case of health issues you will probably want your travel companion to stay at your side - which means that he or she is going to miss the return flight too. So now you have two people having to get expensive last minute tickets for a new flight!

One insurance I always do without is a baggage insurance. You really have to read their fine print and see in which cases they must pay or in which cases they can refuse to pay.

The ones we can get will pretty much pay for a loss only if you keep your baggage strapped to your leg the whole time. So I figure if I have to strap it to my leg, it's not going to get stolen anyway. And, as someone said above, it's a limited risk. The maximum I can lose is my whole baggage - very annoying, certainly, but that's it. With costs for health issues, there's no limit.

Posted by
6037 posts

SandraL, I just want to repeat the old saw that "Most insurance is sold, not bought ... ".

When you write things like "... plus pre-existing condition ... ", I worry that you have not done enough research. Most of the companies I consider don't charge extra for that coverage if you buy within x-days of the travel deposit payment. Have you explored more companies than the one your best friend has?

In many cases, "travel and flight accident insurance" is part of the package. That's because people like me know that fatal air accidents on scheduled flights are very rare. I wouldn't pay for it if I could avoid it, and I certainly wouldn't pay for extra coverage. I don't need temporary, highly-restricted "life insurance." That's a product that is always overpriced, like specific disease insurance, marketed on generalized, uninformed "fear".

Another factor, even harder to analyze, is the quality of the company's service in the event of a loss. It might be worth paying extra for a company that has less of a reputation for denying claims or hoping you'll give up and stop resubmitting requests. (Do you see the similarity with American private health insurance here!)

Posted by
1117 posts

That's because people like me know that fatal air accidents on
scheduled flights are very rare.

Yeah. And if one does happen, the insurance company not paying certainly isn't going to be my concern. ;-)

Posted by
527 posts

Sorry for not updating this thread. I ended up going with a reasonably priced plan ($122) from Global Alert. I went with $250K again, for both accident and sickness and another $250K for repatriation/evacuation.

Better safe than sorry!

I do think my pen pal is taking some pretty big risks, but I figure that's her concern.

Posted by
8293 posts

Maybe you could refer your penpal to this thread so she can benefit from the good advice here, as you have.

Posted by
1117 posts

People who don't want to believe it won't, until they are themselves affected by the consequences. You can hit them over the head with good advice and it's not going to change anything.

It's really hard for us to understand why so many Americans still think health insurance in general is just something unnecessary, or even "socialist" (what a ridiculous idea!). They are playing this game of Russian Roulette with their health and their finances every day. So why should they suddenly think differently when they travel?

Posted by
1117 posts

You better read the fine print on this. "Travel insurance" can mean all kinds of things. By no means does it automatically mean "medical and evacuation insurance".

That second website does not work properly for me, but as far as I can see, they talk about all kinds of travel insurances like travel accident insurance, lost luggage insurance, delayed luggage insurance, trip cancellation insurance, travel delay insurance. I can't even find the mention of health insurance or evacuation.

So better not rely on your credit card unless you have really checked the fine print thoroughly.

Posted by
382 posts

Agreed to read the fine prints, in ANY insurance policy.

For instance, the two credit cards in the second link say "Type of Insurance" covered is "Travel Accident". What does that mean?

Some policies' coverage varies according to age.

Etc.

Posted by
1117 posts

"Travel Accident". What does that mean?

There's one thing you can be sure of, it's not going to cover illness of any sort!