Purchasing an insurance policy is one of the most important things travelers can do to protect themselves from the health, safety, and financial risks that accompany international travel. But when it comes to travel insurance, it's often difficult to figure out exactly what you're getting (or even what it is that you actually need).
In this article, we break down the two types of insurance you may be considering: travel insurance and travel medical insurance. Is there a difference between the two? The answer is usually "yes."
Read on to learn what each type of insurance covers, how it protects the financial investment you put into your trip, and what you should look for in each policy—and discover options for purchase!
What is Travel Insurance?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), travel insurance is a type of short-term insurance which "protects the financial investment in a trip"—it may include coverage for lost baggage, trip cancellation, flight accident, and/or other losses incurred while traveling.
Whether or not a travel insurance plan also covers medical expenses incurred abroad depends on the particular policy.
The CDC recommends that travelers "carefully research the coverage offered to determine if additional travel health and medical evacuation insurance is needed."
How Does Travel Insurance Protect My Trip?
Should your trip be cancelled or interrupted for a covered reason, a travel insurance policy will reimburse you for the eligible pre-paid and non-refundable portions of your trip.
Depending on the policy, travel insurance may also cover unexpected costs resulting from lost, damaged, or stolen luggage.
The CDC notes that travelers "may be more likely to avoid travel when sick if they know that their financial investment in the trip is protected."
What Should I Look for in a Travel Insurance Policy?
There are several important features to look for in a standard travel insurance policy. Consider the following "must-haves features" as indicators of quality travel insurance coverage.
- Trip cancellation coverage
- Lost or stolen luggage coverage
- Missed departure coverage
- Travel delay coverage
- Travel abandonment coverage
- Personal liability coverage
Consider the following "bonus benefits" as indicators of premium travel insurance coverage.
- Lost or stolen money coverage
- Loss of passport coverage
- Scheduled airline failure coverage
Note that some travel insurance policies include coverage of eligible medical expenses while others do not.
What is Travel Medical Insurance?
Travel medical insurance is a type of short-term insurance designed to cover health care costs incurred outside of one's home country, such as hospital room and board and ambulance and emergency room costs.
The CDC notes that these types of plans are typically affordable and may be purchased "separately or in conjunction with medical evacuation insurance."
Depending on the particular policy, travel medical insurance may include coverage for political evacuation, terrorism, crisis response, natural disaster, accidental death and dismemberment, and/or repatriation of remains, among other benefits.
Note that some travel medical policies even include trip interruption, lost checked luggage, and travel delay benefits.
How Does Travel Medical Insurance Protect My Trip?
Since the benefits of many standard medical insurance policies do not apply beyond the borders of your home country, a travel medical insurance plan can cover you for eligible medical expenses incurred while abroad.
For example, the CDC notes that medical evacuation costs can exceed $100,000. With a travel medical policy that includes a Medical Evacuation benefit, you would be covered up to the maximum for the cost of transportation to a facility with adequate medical care.
A travel medical insurance plan, then, helps you avoid unnecessary financial risk, as it can be the difference between a trip ruined by unexpected illness or injury and a trip with access to quality care and financial help if the unexpected strikes.
For more on how travel medical insurance protects your family while traveling abroad, click here.
What Should I Look for in a Travel Medical Insurance Policy?
There are several important features to look for in a travel medical insurance policy. Consider the following "must-haves features" as indicators of quality travel medical insurance coverage.
- Offers a variety of deductible options
- Covers hospital room and board (average room rate)
- Covers local ambulance charges for covered illness or injury
- Covers Intensive Care Unit (customary charges)
- Provides terrorism coverage for eligible medical expenses
- Provides Emergency Medical Evacuation benefit
- Provides Repatriation of Remains benefit
- Provides Local Burial or Cremation benefit
- Provides 24/7 travel assistance services
- Covers all other eligible medical expenses
Consider the following "bonus benefits" as indicators of premium travel medical insurance coverage.
- Physical Therapy benefit
- Emergency Dental benefit
- Emergency Reunion benefit
- Political Evacuation benefit
- Natural Disaster benefit
- Common Carrier Accidental Death benefit
- Accidental Death and Dismemberment benefit
- Crisis Response benefit
Consider that some travel medical insurance policies also include benefits present in travel insurance policies, such as:
- Trip Interruption benefit
- Travel Delay benefit
- Lost Checked Luggage benefit
- Personal Liability benefit
What Are My Options?
While the CDC notes that "all travelers should consider insurance" there are many different types of travel insurance plans and each caters to a different type of traveler.
WorldTrips, a full-service insurance organization with an "A+ (Superior)" rating by A.M. Best Company, offers Atlas Travel medical insurance in 3 different plan levels to ensure that your individual needs are met at a price you can afford.
Atlas Travel and Atlas Premium policies feature several of the benefits present in standard travel insurance policies in addition to including our "must-have" "bonus" travel medical insurance features and benefits.
Which Travel Medical Plan Is Right for Me?
Read on to discover which travel medical insurance plan is right for you, and click the link for more detailed information on benefits and exclusions—or to get a FREE quote!
This customizable policy is perfect for international travelers wanting quality medical coverage and a custom plan that balances essential and more specific needs.
This premium insurance offers elite coverage to long-term international travelers and travelers interested in higher coverage limits.
This plan is ideal for the budget-conscious traveler, individuals with low health and safety concerns, and those traveling on a J-1 Visa.
This policy includes the same benefits and services of Atlas Travel insurance at a 10% discount for groups or families of 5 or more. It is the perfect plan for missionary groups, student groups, and families of 5 or more traveling abroad for a short duration.
This plan is perfect for business executives, sales professionals, and international travelers taking multiple short trips of up to 45 days throughout the year.
This international student health insurance offers 4 levels of coverage for full-time students or full-time scholars studying outside of their home country. Each coverage level meets student visa requirements for the J-1 Visa.