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Boring and sensible: Five situations where you will wish you’d thought about buying a travel insurance before you left home

Today’s topic is not particularly exciting or sexy, especially as it promotes being sensible rather than preaching the same as all those travel memes out there that tell you to throw caution to the wind and just go, but I still think it’s worth exploring.

I must admit that I never really thought much about travel insurance when I was younger when my whole life revolved around either being on an adventure somewhere or working like a dog to fund the next escapade. Part of the reason is that sense of being invincible that so many young people suffer from (I say suffer because, let’s face it, sometimes you’re just stupid when you’re young) but since the age of 20 when I got my first real credit card I’ve also always had a card with extensive travel insurance so I never really had to think about it.

When I talked to my bank back then about getting a card, the lady that was helping me with this asked me what I needed a credit card for. I told her I would mostly be using it on airline tickets and travels abroad (which, incidentally was a lie because I used it just as much for ordering pizza after a big night out on town when a short trip to the store became an epic journey that would take all day in my mind) so she recommended that I would get a card that would cost me a bit more per year but would offer the best insurance available at that time. I was very thankful to this lady when I lost my camera in Norway once and got money back from the insurance to buy a new one because I probably wouldn’t have thought of this myself.

Now that I run my own travel company and I sometimes deal with people that for whatever reason need to cancel things last minute and such I’m always amazed to learn how few people actually have travel insurance. We, like our partners and just most travel companies in general, have a cancellation policy for a reason (I can go into those reasons in separate post if anyone is interested in hearing that – I just don’t want to make this post longer than it has to be) so sometimes we have to be strict and we can’t help people. When that happens I always make a point of reminding people that if they have travel insurance they might be insured for whatever it is that they are dealing with and offer my assistance in providing whatever documents they need to make a claim.

The most difficult cases we have are when people don’t have travel insurance and we can’t help them and they divert all their (understandable albeit sometimes unfair) anger and disappointment at us. I know it doesn’t help them in that moment to remind them of why they should have thought of insurance before they left home but maybe I can help someone by talking about this today.

Travel insurance are not just helpful when you need to cancel your trip, there are a lot of instances they come in handy, so below you’ll find a few situations you could find yourself in where having one would have been a good idea.

Five situations where you will wish you’d thought about buying travel insurance before you left home

When you need to cancel your whole trip before you even leave home

There are many different reasons for why you would need to cancel your trip before you leave home. You, or someone you love, might get into an accident or get sick for example or just something might happen that prevents you from leaving.

It depends on your insurance what would be covered, which is why it’s always important to read the terms thoroughly, but most of them would cover such incidents involving you or your immediate family. Many insurance companies will require a confirmation for the basis of your claim so you can’t just make something up.

Keep in mind also, that many tours allow cancellations up until 24-48 hours before departure so if something happens before that time you wouldn’t have to go through your insurance company. Also, in some cases, a partial refund is offered, in which case you should be able to claim the balance.

When you experience troubles with the airline (delays, lost luggage etc.)

Many travel insurance will cover you if your trip gets delayed or interrupted due to weather hazards or strikes for example or if something happens to your travel companion and you need to change your trip because of that.

If your luggage is delayed (something that happens to me routinely when I travel) many insurance companies will reimburse you for the personal items, you need to buy while you wait. The airlines may also reimburse you but it’s good to have this just in case.

When you get sick or get into an accident on your trip

Using the healthcare system in a country where you are not insured will always be quite expensive although it’s probably considerably less expensive in Iceland than the US for example. If you’re a European, you can (and should) apply for the European Health Insurance Card which gives you access to the health care system like a local.

For anyone outside of Europe travel insurance is vital in case of sickness or accidents. It’s bad enough that your trip is ruined by a broken leg without having to fork out thousands of dollars to have it fixed. I actually don’t know what you would pay but you get where I’m going with this.

Sometimes it’s not even about you. Ásta told me a story of when she was pregnant with her first child and she went into labor prematurely while her now husband (boyfriend back then) was abroad. He had to cut his trip short and was able to claim his losses through his insurance company.

When you lose something or your valuables get stolen

Thankfully I’ve never had anything bad happen to me when I travel, if you don’t count a few innocent looking mosquito bites that transformed themselves into a disaster ( I MUST be allergic), but I have lost a number of cameras. Thankfully, like I mentioned above, I was able to claim them from my credit card insurance, and although there are always some deductibles I got enough so I could buy a new one.

When you die in a foreign country

I know this is a bit of a morbid topic and no one leaves home thinking they will not return but this does happen and therefore it’s relevant. Just a few weeks ago, a woman died in the south of Iceland when the waves at Kirkjufjara beach caught her and sadly we do have a few fatal accidents involving tourists every year.

What many people don’t realize is that it’s very expensive for the family when someone passes away far away from home. It’s very costly to transport the body back home and there are just all sorts of different costs to consider.

Many travel insurance policies, including the one I have on my card, consider this possibility and will cover the costs. I don’t know about you but I feel better about knowing that in a time of grief my family wouldn’t have additional financial worries.

A few final words about travel insurance

Although this is a blog about Iceland, everything I’ve said here applies to anywhere you travel.

Before you go out and buy new travel insurance check with your credit card company whether you are insured through them. Also, check how good that insurance is in case you need coverage that is not included. Here in Iceland you can sometimes buy travel insurance as a part of the insurance package for your home and your family.

Another tip would be to check whether you are only insured if you buy the tickets with your card or whether you’re always covered. Before, the rule for my credit card was that you had to buy the airline tickets with the card to be insured but they changed the rules not so long ago and now you’re just always covered as long as you have paid for your card.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, always read your insurance terms! Sometimes we make a decision assuming that we’re covered and such but it’s always better to be sure. And if you’re not sure, ask your insurance company to go over the terms with you. When we were in the US and had an accident with our rental car I called my insurance company here at home to see if my travel insurance covered it. They didn’t but they told me if I had rented the car with a corporate card (which I now have for the business) I would have been insured. So sometimes if you have multiple cards it matters which one of them you use.

In the end, it didn’t matter because we bought the full coverage from the car rental company and didn’t pay a dime.

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  1. I must be old and boring becuse i loved this 😀

    Oh, I am back on twitter (just for video games, not politics this time! ugh) as Screng_WoT – ill find you!

    Matt (ex-strangepork)

  2. This is a pretty good list. I started getting travel insurance in my early 20s with AAA Plus after going to a book reading of women travel writers and one woman talked about getting injured abroad and how much she had to pay to there and to get home (somewhere around US$30K and this was the mid-90s). AAA used to have repatriation/emergency evac injury coverage which is why I bought it. On our last big trip (which included Iceland) we bought separate travel insurance though we do get nice coverage through our AMEX Platinum. I felt very grown-up. 🙂

  3. After the massive delays caused worldwide by Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption, airlines and travel insurance companies got very nervous or volcanoes and most insurance policies specifically exclude themselves from cover in the event of an eruption. So even though I have general travel insurance anyway, and the airline in theory cover you for delays etc, I look around for and buy a policy that will cover volcanoes when i visit Iceland. It costs about £20 for a week so it’s not cheap but it’s cheaper than having to pay to extend your holiday!
    (Maybe other countries are different but this is the case in the UK)

    1. @ Ade – Colombus travel insurance have an option extra for volcanic ash cover, i’ve been using it for the past few years too 🙂 – do you use anyone different? I’d be interested to know- i could only find these guys that covered it -or specifically said they did.

      1. Hi Danielle

        yep, i use Columbus too! I don’t think there is anyone else now. the first time i went was 2014 when Bardabunga was grumbling away, i was convinced i was going to be stranded there. And i would have been delighted 🙂

  4. Yay for this post. Luckily i have never had to claim from my travel insurance, but i always get it, I am just too paranoid not to. For the past few years i’ve been using Columbus (UK) as they have a specific add on to cover volcanic ash disruption – i hope i never have to use it and find out how many loopholes they’ll use to try and avoid paying out…. I think i’d get this cover regardless of whether i was visiting Iceland or not (just happens that i have been in past 4 years) because disruption might be worldwide like last time!

    p.s. your maths captcha makes me nervous… and feel very dumb haha. i hate maths.