What to Consider When Buying Travel Insurance for the First Time

by Richard D’Ambrosio
What to Consider When Buying Travel Insurance for the First Time

A view of Athens from the Acropolis. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Despite having written dozens of articles about travel insurance for Travel Market Report over the last two years, I had never felt motivated to purchase it.

I understood all of the key talking points. Cancellation and trip interruption coverage. Short-term cash if an airline lost my baggage. But given that most of my travel was in and around North America, I never sought to examine coverage.

Then I got approved to cover the American Society of Travel Agents’ Destination Expo in Athens, with post-expo trips to some very small islands in the Saronic Sea, as well as a multi-day stay in Corfu, with a side trip to Albania.

Combine this more exotic itinerary with the fact that I also recently finalized a divorce and have two of my three children living with me full-time now (including one headed to college in August), and the decision-making formula for me had radically changed.

I wasn’t so much worried about trip interruption/cancellation issues, or lost luggage, as I was having ready access to emergency healthcare, since I would be gone for nine days, and traveling in two countries where I wasn’t overly familiar with their healthcare systems. Primarily, I wanted to limit any financial exposure to my children, in case I had to use any expensive healthcare abroad.

After working with two very solid firms — Travel Insured and Allianz Global Assistance — I opted for Allianz. Both offers were spot on, giving me a sense of comfort about my key issues, and offering travel apps for my smartphone so that I felt like I had ready access to assistance in the event I needed it.

To help you understand my path to purchase, here are the three key factors that led me to my decision. Hopefully they will help you think about which of your customers would likely purchase healthcare travel insurance, too.

1. Location, location, location
Ninety-five percent of my business travel for Travel Market Report is in North America, where I feel fairly secure about hospitals, pharmacies, etc. A trip last November to Punta Cana did make me think about purchasing travel insurance, but the relative proximity to the states, and the ease for me to get back on my own if something health-wise changed for me, made me feel I could do without it.

If I am anything like your clients, the further afield I get from my normal travel patterns, the more I will seek out backup plans in case something goes wrong. Add in the fact that I would be visiting Albania for a day, a country where I have no knowledge of the healthcare system, as well as taking a day cruise to some less developed Greek islands, and that alone nearly tipped my decision over to purchase.

Heaven forbid that I would have had an incident that would have required a medical evacuation from one of these locations, and I could easily have blown through my personal savings and retirement. Not a good idea.

2. My personal travel style
For the majority of the time that I was traveling in Greece and Albania, I was with a group. But we also had two nights out on our own in Corfu, and I took full advantage of those evenings to wander solo. Whenever I could break away from the groups on Hydra and Aegina, during the one-day cruise, I did.

Being with a tour guide and American friends who I felt would assist me if something happened gave me great comfort. But knowing I would be venturing off on my own from time to time made me think that a small premium was worth the peace of mind to travel the way I like to – independently.

Secondly, when I travel, I like to keep up my running habit. While I wasn’t prepared to run on the narrow and often congested sidewalks of Greece, I did go for solo runs in the mornings in Corfu. While I am far from retirement, people my age still need to be concerned with strenuous exercise in unfamiliar places. Uneven sidewalks, auto traffic patterns, etc., can be disorienting and cause a spill. Better to lace up my running shoes knowing my insurance provider has my back, then worrying during a refreshing run.

3. Cost
I had two very wonderful representatives from Travel Insured and Allianz, who walked me through the purchase process and clearly weighed the pros and cons of their respective offers. I was shocked to realize that a guy my age could purchase extensive, comprehensive health coverage, for less than $70 for the entire trip. When I received the quotes, I privately asked myself, “why wouldn’t you always do this?”

Too often, we in the travel industry, take for granted that someone should purchase one or more forms of travel insurance for every trip. But each client is different. Getting to know your clients’ travel styles, what is going on in their personal lives that might be a factor in their decision, and thinking through their itinerary just might help you close the sale – and put their mind at ease.

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