9 Times Travel Insurance Isn't A Ripoff

Travel expert Peter Greenberg talks with Matt Lauer about if and when you should get travel insurance. Most of the time it’s a ripoff, but here are 9 situations where it comes in handy:

1. Your flight is cancelled.
2. Your bags are lost and your medication is in it. You need to have an emergency prescription filled.
3. Your passport and wallet are stolen, and you need emergency cash and a replacement passport.
4. You’re involved in an accident and adequate medical treatment is not available. You need medical evacuation.
5. You need to cancel your trip due to illness.
6. Your cruise line, airline or tour operator goes bankrupt. You need your non-refundable expenses covered and to get to your destination.
7. You have a medical emergency in a foreign country.
8. A terrorist incident occurs in the city where you’re planning to visit and you want to cancel your trip.
9. A hurricane forces you to evacuate your resort, hotel or cruise.

Hit the link for more, including descriptions of the various kinds of travel insurance. — BEN POPKEN

Do you need travel insurance? [Today Show]


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    so what you’re saying is that travel insurance is worthless unless you need it?

    How is that different from every other kind of insurance?

  2. shoegazer says:

    I have claimed on travel insurance for various reasons (flights delayed, baggage lost) and have never really experience a problem as long as I properly documented each incident. That said, I woudn’t t get individual insurances per trip. An annual policy covering winter sports and worldwide travel would not only be cheaper, but it will have less exclusions and weasel words attached.

  3. MeOhMy says:

    I think the REAL nugget of gold here is ignored by Ben’s summary:

    Determine how much you have invested in your trip, both financially and emotionally and use that to decide whether the cost of insurance will be wroth it.

  4. formergr says:

    If your flight is cancelled (#1) your airline will generally book you on the next flight out for no added charge, so the travel insurance is going to do squat for you there.

    And yeah, this article makes no sense as written: here are nine situations where after the fact you’ll wish you’d bought travel insurance, even though we’re still saying it’s a rip off. Whointhewhat now?

    From the opening description, I thought this was going to list circumstances where you should buy travel insurance ahead of time (versus when it’ll likely just be a waste of money).

    Off the top of my head I would say one is if one of the travelers has a medical condition that might flare up while en route. Also, a recent tour trip I took in Africa required that I have travel insurance. It cost all of $40, so no big deal, but I assume it’s so they didn’t have to absorb any costs in case of massive disruptions.

  5. grouse says:

    As far as #2 goes, please don’t put your medication in checked baggage, whether you have insurance or not.

  6. ptkdude says:

    @formergr: If your flight is cancelled (#1) your airline will generally book you on the next flight out for no added charge

    Several years ago my Delta flight to New York was cancelled due to a snowstorm. They rebooked me for the next morning and charged me $50 because that was an “itinerary change”. I tried and tried and they would never even admit they charged me (despite me showing them a copy of the CC statement).

  7. Bay State Darren says:

    The title is misleading. I got my hopes up think this was a story about time travel.

  8. medalian1 says:

    I used travelguard for a month europe vacation and had to file claims for delayed luggage and being sick. I was very happy that I had the insurance. My claims were more than what I paid for the coverage.

  9. ElizabethD says:

    Yeah, basically all the reasons one might need travel insurance have now outweighed the offhand advice not to purchase it! In my anxious little mind, anyway.

  10. eeebee says:

    Make sure you have medical and emergency evacuation insurance when traveling in another country. I know a man who broke his neck in Chile, is now paralyzed and had to pay $110,000 to be airlifted to Chicago. Not sure what would have happened if he didn’t happen to have $110,000 — hopefully he wouldn’t still in in Chile.

  11. Indecision says:

    I’m sorry, did anyone else skim this headline and read it as “Time Travel Insurance Isn’t a Ripoff”? That had me really interested until I read it again.

  12. bryanphaas says:

    Being from a family of travel agents, I’ve had the oppurtinity to do a great deal of travel. From cruises, to weekend trips to paris, even to living abroad in the UK for 6 months. On every trip I ALWAYS get travel insurance. If it is a short trip the premium for the insurance is minimal, for extended trips it is still very affordable. TravelGaurd has a myriad of different types of policies for all different kinds of travel. Most recently I did a 5 day trip from Chicago to Vail, CO to snowboard for a few days with some friends. On the flight out my airline managed to mangle my snowboard bag. On the return, they managed to mangle my snowboard. TravelGuard took care of both problems very quickly and kindly. Repairs to my snowboard were made, and my bag was replaced. In another instance when I was living in student housing in London, I was robbed. My laptop, nice watch, and other misc electonics were nabbed. Police report was filed, but needless to say I didnt recieve the property back. Filed a claim with travel guard and I was promptly reimbursed for the value of my stolen property.
    Worth every penny in my humble opinion.

  13. FLConsumer says:

    Also don’t forget to learn about what types of insurance coverage your credit card has. My Visa Signature card covers all of those with the exception of possibly #9, but that’s fine by me. Chances are I’m probably heading towards the storm and are in that location BECAUSE of the storm, not running away from it.

  14. billhelm says:

    My wife and I were recently on a cruise and we talked to a lot of people that had purchased travel insurance. Its primary function on a cruise seems to be if your flight gets in to the embarkation port late and you miss the boat. Or if for some reason you miss the boat from a port, you are pretty much on your own to the next one, and travel insurance can help there too.

    It’s not something we’ve considered getting in the past but may think about it on our next cruise.

  15. Juancho says:

    Most of Peter Greenberg’s writing is a waste. His consumer techniques vary from out-and-out lying to being only somewhat despicable. A lot of the stuff he mentioned in his first book is now invalid due to post-9/11 security measures.

  16. I never buy it for short, in-country jaunts; I’ve bought it when I was going on a special trip typically involving a deposit (archaeological dig for two weeks) or when I’m going to a country where you would DEFINITELY want them to airlift you out in case of medical emergency. If $100 in travel insurance will get me airlifted from Moscow to the finest surgery center in Sweden when my appendix bursts (as happened to a friend of mine, airlift and all), I’m not begrudging that $100, just in case!

    If the worst-case scenario if travel plans go awry is “take a later plane, find a different hotel” … big deal. Who needs to insure that?

  17. Bay State Darren says:

    @Indecision: I did. Check out my previous comment.

  18. MonsieurBon says:

    I’m glad to hear people have used Travelguard. I always buy a policy when I travel out of country, since my corporate AMEX covers domestic personal travel pretty well.

    Hope I never have to put either to the test. But Travelguard always seemed to have the best price and selection of options.

  19. Terek says:

    I worked in sales for a luxury tour operator for several years before returning to school and getting out of the industry entirely. Based on my experiences, I will not ever travel outside of the country without travel insurance.

    The 2 biggest examples that stand out in my mind: a woman who had to be airlifted from the Yangtze river in China due to acute appendicitis; and a gentleman who became so sick 2 days prior to his big Christmas/New Year’s trip to New Zealand that he and his girlfriend had to cancel and did not take their trip. In the first case, the airlifting cost over $25,000 and was covered entirely by her travel insurance. In the second case, he was one of the rare customers who had not purchased travel insurance (rare because our trips were so expensive that it was truly foolish not to purchase the insurance). Because his trip was over New Year’s of 2000, and the Millenium was rather a big deal for hotels/travel with all sorts of special cancellation policies applied, we were unable to get refunds for him from all of the hotels he was to stay at but one. Also, of course, no refund from the airlines involved. And only a very small refund on the private cars/drivers/guides that had been arranged for them throughout New Zealand. All told, he was out over $15,000. He ended up taking my former employer to small claims court later, and losing, mainly because he would have had it all covered if he had simply purchased travel insurance rather than filling out the form to decline it.

    “If your flight is cancelled (#1) your airline will generally book you on the next flight out for no added charge, so the travel insurance is going to do squat for you there.”

    Very, very wrong. For international flights the next flight out is often 1 day later, which means missing the first night in a hotel (which will not refund your money with less than 24 hours notice), the first day of a tour, the first… It is even worse, as mentioned, for a cruise. There it either becomes impossible to join the cruise, or forces a flight into a different area where the ship can be met on one of it’s stops. Travel insurance will cover those costs.

    At any rate, I would certainly add a 10th reason to the list from the article – 10. You or an immediate family member become seriously ill prior to departure and as a result you are not able to travel.

    In addition to the example of the man headed to New Zealand, I should point out my own mother. 3 days prior to our flights to India where I was getting married, my grandmother fell badly in her bathroom and was found the next morning bleeding from the head when my mom came to visit. My mother was forced to stay home and miss my wedding in order to care for her mother and arrange for 24/7 in-home care for her for the future. This being late December, her ticket to India was around $2000. It was covered entirely by the travel insurance.

    Travel insurance is like most other types of insurance. The majority of the time, you won’t need it. But when you do, it’s well worth the expense.

  20. rlee says:

    As far as theft goes, you should check your homeowner’s insurance as well. When my camera equipment was stolen in Madrid several years ago, American Express was no help (and that was the last straw that caused me to cancel the card), but I was thrilled to learn that my homeowner’s insurance covered it.

  21. shortarabguy says:

    Funny that a flight being canceled should be the top reason… It’s probably too long ago for anyone to remember, but I took a trip in February from San Jose to Dallas, and then from Dallas to Mexico City. That was, unfortunately for me, the time when huge winds and “odd” weather conditions had essentially rendered Dallas/Fort Worth’s airport “down for the count” for several hours, pushing flights back and canceling others. Needless to say, being stuck in Mexico City had its perks, but certainly wasn’t fun, considering that I had to pay out of pocket for two nights in the airport-adjacent hotel…

  22. celyn says:

    Based on the stories I’ve been reading in the last few weeks, it seems like if you’ve got any sort of connecting flight, travel insurance is a good idea. (Although I found out last month that the current airline definition of “non-stop” includes “the plane lands in Chicago where you get off and walk to another plane at another gate” Who knew?) And from now on, if I check luggage, I’ll be buying insurance for it.