Most travelers know that travel insurance can reimburse them if they get sick before it's time to board the plane.
They rest easy knowing that if they plan a fabulous beach vacation and a hurricane hits, they're covered. But most don't know that it can also provide a translator if they're in another country and can't speak the language, along with other services and perks. Knowing the secrets of travel insurance can go a long way.
How to Find Hidden Perks
Ask for an expert to help determine the right coverage explain the terms and all of the perks.
"You may need to do a bit of research to discover all the perks out there," said Julie Loffredi, InsureMyTrip travel editor. "If you are booking a trip and get stumped on what travel insurance plan is best for you, contact a licensed insurance agent. These pros can walk you through the details of plans and guide you to the right plan based on your needs."
The most popular coverages are trip cancellation and emergency medical coverage. If a trip is cut short or cancelled because of illness, bad weather, job loss, etc., the trip investment would be protected according to Carol Mueller, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection vice president of marketing.
"Travel insurance has come a long way. There are lots of new options (and perks) for travelers—even plans geared specifically for golfers, pet owners or cruisers," Loffredi said.
Understanding the Coverage
Travelers should make sure they understand what their policies cover before leaving for their trip, and purchase it as soon as possible after booking it.
"You'll want to purchase your travel insurance within 15 days of making your initial trip deposit," Mueller said. "That way, you'll qualify for additional benefits including a waiver for pre-existing medical conditions and for financial default of an airline or tour operator."
Travelers should be sure to understand the terms of the policy and coverages before leaving on their trips. On some plans, the medical coverage on the travel policy will become the primary medical insurance while on others, it will be secondary.
"Travel insurance not only provides these valuable coverages, but also provides in-house travel assistance teams to help coordinate just about anything from wire transfers and emergency medical transportation to re-booking flights and locating lost baggage," she said.
A comprehensive policy will usually include trip cancellation and medical coverage, plus additional benefits such as medical evacuation, emergency dental care, missed connections and tarmac delays.
Lesser-known Travel Insurance Coverage
Some lesser-known perks may allow travelers to get pre-trip advice about necessary travel documents, vaccinations and other local travel alerts. Travel insurance can also pay to have minor children transported home in the event of an accident in which their parent or guardian can't care for them. It can also pay for repatriation—transportation home of a traveler's body in the event he or she dies during the trip.
"They can also help during a customer's travel with mundane requests such as restaurant reservations or event ticketing, or emergency services like transportation coordination and facilitating advance payment to medical providers," Mueller said.
Some carriers also offer access to legal assistance.
"Many policies have a legal referral/legal emergency service, providing access to local lawyers worldwide, for situations such as arrests, traffic violations, vehicle accidents, refusal of entry to a country, billing disputes with hotels and other service providers and a host of other legal related problems," said Megan Cruz, executive director of the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.