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Considering Travel Insurance

I continue to be amazed at some of the silly travel mistakes I make, even after years of working in the travel business and thinking about travel at all hours of every day. I know I’m not alone, as I often read about the mistakes fellow veteran travelers make, but it doesn’t make me feel any less silly.

I’ve missed and nearly-missed flights (once because I misread my ticket and went all the way to another terminal – which seemed to be in a separate county – before needing to go all the way back). I’ve run through more airports and train stations than I care to think about, often because I misjudged the amount of time it would take me to get to the airport or train station in the first place.

Most of my travel mistakes, however, are of the more subtle variety. I routinely overpack, although I pack less than half of what I used to (so at least there’s progress, right?). And upon returning from a trip, I delay unpacking for weeks – sometimes months – because I absolutely detest it. The mistake in that is it’s the ideal way to lose track of important things like, for instance, your passport. And there’s just not a good enough deal on cheap international airfare that’ll make up for not being able to find your passport when you need to leave for the airport.

But despite knowing that travel mishaps can and do happen, even to those of us who “should know better,” I’ve never bought travel insurance in my life. Is this smart or stupid? I think it depends. I mean, I obviously don’t think it’s 100% idiocy, or I’d have bought insurance at one point or another. For one thing, I think whether buying travel insurance is a good idea or not depends on how long you’re going to be gone and what kind of trip you’re taking.

My mother, for example, has fallen in love with traveling in Africa. She didn’t start visiting African countries until she was over 60, and although she is in many ways more adventurous than I am, she’s never gone to Africa without buying travel insurance. For her, it’s a no-brainer – she’s no spring chicken, and she’s traveling in countries where it’s not always safe to drink the water. So having travel insurance gives her peace of mind, should anything happen where she got sick.

As another example, many of the RTW travelers I know buy travel insurance. Often, this is because they’ve left whatever job gave them insurance and getting some inexpensive travel insurance is the only insurance they have while they’re traveling. Sometimes it’s because getting insurance was the thing that made their parents stop fretting about their trip. Most of the time they don’t use it, but again, they feel good knowing it’s there.

So, if I were buying a round the world ticket instead of always just hunting for simple cheap flights in Europe, would I get travel insurance? Maybe. If I were going to Mali like my mother is next year instead of looking at yet another visit to Italy, would I get travel insurance? Perhaps. So far, it’s still one of those “y’don’t know what you’d do until you’re facing that question yourself” situations, but I have to admit that I’m glad to know the option is there whenever I’m finally ready to consider it for myself.