How to Choose the Best Family Travel Health Insurance

When you purchase family travel health insurance for your next international vacation, you’ll want to compare different providers and policies. This will help you customize a policy with the coverage your family needs – and at the best price you can find.

You may find yourself thinking, “There are so many different insurance companies, and each of them has so many insurance plans – it’s overwhelming. How do I filter all the noise to choose the right plan for my family?”

Don’t worry! That’s why we’re here. We’ll walk you through the process of choosing the best family travel health insurance for your unique concerns and travel circumstances.

You’ll learn how to:

  1. Pick the Right Type of Plan
  2. Prioritize the Right Benefits
  3. Get the Best Price/Benefit Balance
  4. Compare Family Travel Health Insurance Providers

I. Pick the Right Type of Plan

What Are the Differences Between Travel Insurance, Travel Medical Insurance, and Trip Cancellation Insurance?

Travel insurance is a general category for insurance products related to either domestic or international travel. In general, travel insurance products aim to protect your bank account in the event of unexpected circumstances. Those situations may be health-related or travel-related.

Travel medical insurance covers expenses related to health care for unexpected illnesses and injuries that occur on an international trip. Some travel medical insurance policies may also include travel benefits, such as Trip Interruption, Lost Checked Luggage, Travel Delay, or Personal Liability.

Travel medical insurance policies are generally a more economical choice compared to other types of travel insurance. However, they do not offer reimbursement if you have to cancel your trip before your departure date.

Look at these scenarios where family travel medical insurance would help save your health and money.

Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you when you have to cancel your trip due to an unforeseen and covered reason. Medical benefits are often much more limited than with a travel medical insurance plan, if they’re offered at all.

This type of insurance usually costs 4-10% of the trip cost, often making it more expensive than the travel medical option. These plans generally offer travel-related benefits similar to travel medical policies.

Most travel medical insurance providers offer a wide variety of plans. The number of travelers you wish to insure and the length of your trip (or trips) determine what policy you’ll need.

In general, there are three common policy types:

Travel Medical Insurance Type

Description

Choose This If…

Single-Trip Plan

Provides coverage for a single trip lasting up to a year*.

You are taking a single trip with less than five people.

Multi-Trip Plan

Provides coverage for multiple trips throughout a one-year period.

Your family will be taking multiple trips over the next year.

Group Plan

Provides coverage for an entire group of people (usually five or more). Typically offers a discounted rate over single-trip plans.

You need to insure at least five family members for a single trip.

*You have a different set of needs if your travel is going to last longer than a year at a time. Research multi-year plans or expatriate health insurance to learn more.

Use the chart above to get an idea of the type of plan your family needs.

Next, you’ll determine the individual benefits levels you need.

II. Prioritize the Right Benefits

It’s easy to feel lost when you’re looking through long lists of insurance benefits.

So…. let’s break down the process.

Here are important factors to consider:

  • the ages of everyone who will be traveling
  • how many adults are traveling
  • your destination country or countries
  • your planned activities

Next, use that information to make a list that prioritizes common insurance benefits into three categories.

  1. Must Have – important medical benefits that provide basic coverages
  2. Should Have – benefits that offer extra security related to specific situations
  3. Nice to Have – mostly non-medical benefits for travel-related inconveniences

Now let’s put those lists together and explore each of the prioritization categories.

Note:

Don’t worry! The names of benefits are largely standardized. That means you won’t have to interpret different names when you’re comparing different companies.

1. “Must Have” Benefits for Family Travel Medical Insurance

Families traveling internationally need to make basic emergency medical coverage a top priority. Consider adding the following benefits to your “Must Have” list:

  • Accidental Injury and Unanticipated Illness – This is the core benefit of any travel medical insurance plan.
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation – Get transported to the closest medical center for the treatment you need.
  • Hospital Room and Board – Coverage for overnight hospital stays.
  • Local Ambulance – Coverage for transportation in an ambulance.
  • Intensive Care Unit – Coverage for ICU expenses related to a covered injury or illness.
  • *Extreme Sports – Most travel health policies have extreme sports exclusions. Look for what coverages may be provided within the base policy or through an extreme sport add-on (often called a “rider”) if you plan to participate in these activities. 

*Extreme Sports coverage is a “Must Have” only if you plan to participate in activities that are generally excluded from standard plans. Otherwise, you don’t need to worry about it at all.

Add the following benefits to your “Must Have” list if there will only be one adult traveling with kids:

  • Return of Minor Children – Covers the cost of getting your kids back home if you are hospitalized.
  • Emergency Reunion – Covers the cost of bringing a relative to you if you are medically evacuated to a different location.
  • Bedside Visit – Covers the cost of bringing a relative to you if you are confined to a hospital intensive care unit.

2. “Should Have” Benefits for Additional Risk Control

You don’t want to place the financial burden on your family if the worst-case scenario happens, so add these “Should Have” benefits to your list:

  • Repatriation of Remains / Return of Remains – Covers the cost of transporting your body back to your home country.
    NOTE: Some countries include this benefit as part of their visa requirements. This would obviously make the benefit a Must-Have if that’s the case for the country you’ll be visiting. Make sure you read through your destination country’s visa information.
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) – A predetermined amount is paid to you for dismemberment, or your beneficiary in the event of your death.
  • Local Burial or Cremation – Covers burial or cremation in your destination country.

Look for the following benefits for extra security-related coverage:

  • Terrorism – Treatment for terrorism-related medical expenses is not standard with some travel-related insurance policies. Make sure you understand a policy’s exclusions before you buy, particularly as terrorist events in certain high-risk countries may be excluded.
  • Crisis Response / Kidnap & Ransom – Coverage for both lost money & items as well as coverage for recovery of the kidnapped person.
  • Political Evacuation – Evacuation from the country if there is political unrest that meets the policy’s requirements for evacuation.
  • Natural Disaster – Reimbursement for replacement accommodations if yours become unusable due to natural disaster.

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3. “Nice to Have” Benefits for Family Trips

Other benefits fall into the “Nice to Have” category. There are no bad benefits because each benefit provides coverage for a specific unfavorable scenario. The more benefits you have, the less risk you have to manage on your own.

Listed below are a few benefits that may come into play more often than others. Start your “Nice to Have” list by adding these: 

  • Trip Interruption
  • Lost Checked Luggage
  • Travel Delay
  • Personal Liability
  • Emergency Dental

Then add other benefits that stand out to you during your research.


Review Your List

You should now have a list of benefits separated into three categories. Review your list to make sure you’re comfortable with the priority you assigned to each benefit.

III. Get the Best Price/Benefit Balance

It’s time to shop! The most important fact to remember when you compare prices:

The lowest price does not mean it’s your best option. Instead, aim to get the best value.

You probably didn’t pick the cheapest family vacation you could find. Otherwise, you might end up in a bug-ridden motel in a dangerous area after a 26-hour flight with three long layovers.

It’s the same with insurance – get what you need at the best price you can find. Don’t just look for the cheapest plan, which may or may not actually meet your needs.

These factors will generally determine the price of a family travel medical insurance plan:

  • number of people
  • age of each person
  • length of trip
  • deductible amount
  • maximum coverage amount
  • per-benefit limits

For a primer on how much you should expect to pay, read How Much Does Travel Medical Insurance Cost?

Many travel medical insurance policies from different companies offer similar benefits. You’ll find the most differences in the overall coverage limits and the per-benefit coverage limits (we’ll discuss what those mean later).

The number of people you need to cover, their ages, and your trip length are already established, so start your comparison by determining your deductible level.

How to Choose Your Deductible

A deductible is the dollar amount you have to pay before your insurance plan starts covering eligible expenses.

In general, a lower deductible will increase the price you pay to purchase the plan, which is known as the “premium.” Likewise, a higher deductible will usually result in a lower premium.

NOTE: Travel medical insurance deductibles work differently than your regular health insurance. Generally there is NO family deductible. In those cases, the deductible level you choose is a per-person deductible.

Determine how much you can comfortably afford to pay out of pocket for medical expenses. This is the highest deductible level you should select. Including this amount in your trip budget will also help you accurately estimate your potential trip costs.

With that said, you may not see a significant difference in price when you compare the lowest and highest deductible levels. You may want to choose a $0 deductible for the extra financial protection without a significant increase in up-front cost.

Example Scenario:

Consider a family of two 33-year-old adults and two kids–ages 6 and 4–on a two-week trip to Europe. The difference in premiums between a $0 deductible and $5,000 deductible on an Atlas Travel plan is just over $25.

If you end up with several thousand dollars in eligible medical expenses, a lower deductible can provide significant cost savings.

Note:

Regardless of your deductible, medical providers in foreign countries may still require up-front payment for treatment. Make sure you have payment options available until your insurance reimburses you for eligible expenses.

Expand your knowledge of what to expect from healthcare abroad.

How to Choose Your Maximum Coverage

We’ll say it plain and simple – we recommend going for the highest amount offered. You’re getting insurance to manage your health and financial risk, so don’t skimp out.

Insurance is a funny product – you don't want to get sick or hurt, so you hope you never have to use it when you buy it. And typically, you won’t end up using it.

BUT….

Insurance is all about exceptions. You’re preparing for the potential loss that comes from an out-of-the-ordinary illness or injury. Like in everyday life, you can usually afford the minor things. Insurance prepares you for the larger unexpected costs.

Plus, selecting a higher overall maximum coverage typically doesn’t cost much more than lower coverage amounts. The benefit far outweighs the cost.

For example.....

The maximum coverage amount for an Atlas Travel plan goes up to $2 million. For the family mentioned in the How to Choose Your Deductible section, going from the lowest max coverage ($50,000) to the highest max coverage ($2 million) only adds around $23 to the price.

Per-Benefit Coverage Limits

We won’t go through benefits individually. Very few – if any – policies allow you to customize those limits independently. Instead, you’ll likely choose between a few different categories:

  • “Budget” – These are the lowest-cost policies that also offer the most limited benefits and coverage limits.
    Example: Atlas Essential

  • “Standard” – These are the most popular policies. They strike a balance between a good lineup of benefits and a budget-friendly policy cost.
    Example: Atlas Travel

  • “Premium” – These plans offer the most benefits at the highest coverage levels. They can be a good option for your family if you are taking a shorter trip outside the U.S. The policy cost may still be comparable to that of a standard plan, and you get the advantage of having the most coverage available.
    Example: Atlas Premium

It’s up to you which of these categories best meets the needs of your family. Compare your prioritized benefits list – your “Must Have,” “Should Have,” and “Nice to Have” categories – to the benefits offered for each of the plan levels.

REMEMBER: Think in terms of “value.” The lowest-cost plans have lower coverage limits, fewer benefits, and are intended for specific travel scenarios.

You’ll also need to pay close attention to per-benefit coverage limits. Make sure the benefits important to you offer acceptable limits.

For example, you may want to get a Premium policy because the Standard option offers lower limits on a few key benefits – even though you don’t need the higher limits on other benefits that are less important to you.

But first…

Let’s define what we mean. A per-benefit limit is the maximum amount the insurance will cover for a particular benefit. Some benefit limits are quite a bit lower than the overall maximum coverage amount for your policy.

Insurance companies will list these limits as:

  • lifetime maximum
  • maximum per day
  • maximum per certificate period

Review Atlas Travel Insurance to see an example of what this might look like. The name of the benefit is on the left, and the per-benefit limit is on the right.

Most companies, and certainly comparison sites, will allow you to see a side-by-side list of benefits for the different plan levels. Use that view to see how each plan level measures up to your prioritized benefit list.

What’s the Difference Between “Maximum Coverage Amount” and “Per-Benefit Limits”?

"Maximum coverage amount" is the total amount of money the insurance company will pay for all eligible claims you incur during your policy term.

"Per-benefit limits" are the maximum amount the insurance company will pay for one particular type of expense.

One claim may have multiple types of expenses. For example, a fall where you break your leg and get a concussion could activate the Local Ambulance, Hospital Room & Board, and Accidental Injury benefits. Each could have their own per-benefit limit, but they all would contribute to the overall maximum coverage amount.

IV. Compare Family Travel Health Insurance Providers

Because this whole process isn’t complicated enough already (right?), you’ll also be comparing companies, not just insurance plans.

Consider the following factors to choose a trustworthy company:

  • Company Story – Read through the company’s about page to get a sense of its history, culture, and service.
  • Financial Ratings - Look for strong financial ratings for the underwriting insurer.
  • International Provider Network – Your insurance provider should be able to point you to the nearest medical facility that can provide you with quality service.
  • Customer Service – A quality plan should offer travel assistance services 365 days a year to help keep you safe.

How to Interpret Online Insurance Reviews

You’ll likely come across a number of different review sources as you shop. When reading reviews of insurance providers online, keep these facts in mind:

  • Research shows unhappy customers are more likely to write negative reviews than happy customers are to write positive reviews. Take into account the whole picture – not just the negatives.

  • Every business has unhappy customers. If you see a company with hundreds of positive reviews and no negatives, make sure to read between the lines to understand why.

  • Quality companies care about customer feedback, both positive and negative. Look at how a company reaches out to dissatisfied customers as an indicator of their customer service quality.

Final Words of Wisdom When Purchasing a Family Travel Health Plan

Your most important objective when you purchase a family travel health insurance plan is to customize it to fit your family’s specific needs.

That means:

  1. Know what type of insurance plan best fits your trip.
  2. Prioritize the benefits that are important to you and your family.
  3. Define the coverage limits, deductible, and policy cost that fit your family’s specific risks and budget.

The most satisfied insurance customers are those who understand exactly what their policies do and do not cover – before they need to use it. In other words, actually read (or at least scan) through that big legal document – often called a Description of Coverage or Certificate. You should see a link on the insurance product page.

And very important – READ THROUGH THE LIST OF EXCLUSIONS. We can’t emphasize this point enough.

You can avoid major headaches and frustrations if you know ahead of time what isn’t covered. Travel medical insurance is NOT regular health insurance – so it’s important you understand the differences.

Choose family travel health insurance for your next family vacation.

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