After a year of staying at home, many of us are eager to get away. But before you book that big trip, take a few minutes to consider travel insurance. In these uncertain times, it's a smart way to minimize the risk of financial loss.
Military life often throws us curveballs even with the best-laid plans, so having travel insurance for your vacation may be a good idea if your service member's schedule can flip on a dime. In addition, the more complex and expensive the trip, the more likely you will want to purchase travel insurance.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is separate insurance that covers specific risks that come with traveling. Every policy is different, so be sure to read carefully before picking the right policy for you. Common coverages include medical expenses, medical evacuation, travel delays, travel interruption, baggage delays, legal referral services and passport replacement assistance. Some plans also offer a "cancel for any reason" option, and certain plans will allow you to cancel if military obligations prevent you from traveling.
What coverage do you need?
Coverage for military duties is a big feature if you're a military family so try to find a plan that has a stipulation such as that. Then consider what type of travel emergencies would be financially hard for you. For example, if you're stretching your budget for the trip, an unexpected hotel stay due to a volcano eruption, strike or hurricane might be hard to cover.
Be sure to check out what the policy does not cover. Many policies don't cover certain high-risk activities such as scuba diving. If your trip includes anything that might be considered high risk, be sure it is covered, or choose a different policy. Some policies don't cover pre-existing conditions, so you may find yourself without benefits if a chronic illness or injury flares up on your trip. In that case, there may be a separate pre-existing conditions waiver that can be added to your policy for an extra cost.
There are also the "cancel for any reason" plans. Details of this coverage vary by plan. Some will reimburse at one rate if there's some sort of justifiable reason for the cancellation, and a different rate if you just change your mind or your reason doesn't fit their guidelines. This is a great option for military families as well in case plans have to change because of your service member's schedule.
Where do you buy travel insurance?
There are a variety of different ways to purchase travel insurance. Sometimes, you'll be offered coverage when you book parts of your trip, such as airfare. If you purchase through a service provider, check into whether your coverage is just for that service, or for other parts of your trip. If you book through a travel agent, they will probably offer you coverage through their preferred provider. Otherwise, you can purchase coverage yourself. A quick Google search will show a wide variety of travel insurance providers. USAA members can also purchase coverage through their affiliation with Travel Insured International. There are even plans that will cover you for all travel during a year for a single premium.
When do you buy travel insurance?
Buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. Policies will have a timeline for when you have to purchase, and the price may increase the closer you get to the travel dates. Many policies have a "free look" period, during which you can cancel the coverage and receive a full refund of the premium paid.
How much does travel insurance cost?
Costs depend on the coverage provided and can vary from a few dollars to cover a single flight to a few hundred dollars for a long, complicated trip overseas. Coverage for additional family members on the same itinerary may be reduced, sometimes significantly.
Life is uncertain, and military life is extra uncertain. If you're spending a significant amount on a special trip, consider whether travel insurance will prevent financial loss in case you can't travel, your travel is disrupted, or you have medical or legal issues arise during your trip. That way you can enjoy your trip without the worry of unexpected costs.
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