This blog post was updated on July 29, 2021.
Travel can be expensive, especially if you’ve prepaid for your entire trip only to find out you have to cancel last minute. Even after you bought your airline tickets, you’ll probably ask yourself if you should buy travel insurance. Dealing with those cancellation bills can be a tough pill to swallow. Luckily, most policies can cover those flight delays and cancellations that you didn’t expect or anticipate. And while you might know that travel insurance will cover you in certain circumstances, there are some surprising instances buried in the fine print in some policies.
Here are some of the most surprising things that you probably didn’t know can be covered:
Car Rental Coverage
If you’re renting a car on your trip, you probably will purchase car rental insurance when you get to the counter. Some countries even require you to have an insurance policy in place when renting a car. When you see your options for car rental insurance policies, you’ll notice how pricey this insurance can be for the duration of your rental. What you might not realize is that your travel insurance policy probably includes car rental insurance. Many policies will either include the collision coverage or offer it as an upgrade on a more basic plan. So if you’re purchasing travel insurance and renting a car, look to see if car rental insurance is covered on your plan to avoid paying double.
Cancellation Due to Unusual Family and Life Events
Travel insurance policies frequently cover major family and life events, which makes sense since a recent AAA survey cited “personal and family health concerns” as the major reason travelers buy travel insurance in the first place. But some insurance plans include life events that you might not even have considered! Some policies will cover your trip cancellation for a variety of unusual circumstances, including if you lose your job just before your travels by no fault of your own, you’re unexpectedly getting a divorce and need to cancel your trip, or you need to cancel your trip due the unexpected birth of a grandchild. There are even policies that will have you covered in case you’ve been summoned to jury duty right in the middle of your beach vacation! For the not-so-joyous life events, like if your house is caught in the path of wildfires before your trip, you might be covered under your travel insurance policy too. Before you commit to a policy, check to see what important family and life events are included so that if they do arise before or after your departure, you’ll know if you’re covered or not.
Car Troubles the Day of Departure
Picture it: You’ve got your airline tickets in hand and are headed to the airport, but then your car breaks down or someone crashes into you. While you might just think this is a matter to be dealt with by your car insurance, your travel insurance might be of use here too. Specific policies will cover you before you even take off. If you have to miss your flight because of car troubles on the day of your departure, some policies will cover the costs associated with missed connections. Although if your policy does cover you in the event of a car accident, you better have proof of that accident by way of a police report.
Reimbursement for Prepaid Activities
Most people understand that travel insurance can cover missed flights and unused accommodations in the event of a cancellation or interruption (when it’s for a specific reason that’s covered in the policy), but many miss the fact that policies can also cover activities you’ve already booked and prepaid for your trip. And since, according to a Consumer Expenditure Survey, activities can make up a hefty chunk of a vacation budget, that means some people filing travel insurance claims could be missing out on getting a lot of money back. So if you’ve had to cancel a trip for a valid reason covered by your policy, you should tell your insurance company about the safari you booked months ahead or that hot air balloon ride you carefully reserved (along with your airline tickets and hotel fees). You may very well end up getting reimbursed for them!
A Family Member Traveling to You in a Medical Emergency
Most travelers select travel insurance policies that will cover medical care or even medical evacuation due to illness or accidents while on the road. However, if you are hospitalized while away from home and want to fly in a family member to be with you, some travel insurance policies may cover the costs associated with bringing that person to be by your side. It can depend on how serious the reason for hospitalization and, if it’s included in the policy, would be listed under “emergency medical transportation benefits.”
Cancellation Related to Terrorism
While terrorism is an unlikely reason that you’ll have to cancel your trip, many travel insurance policies will include some form of coverage in case there is such an emergency. So, for example, if a terrorist attack occurs at your destination within 30 days of touching down, your insurer may cover costs if you want to cancel your trip because you’re uneasy about traveling to that locale. But at the same time, some policies include terrorism exemptions or require an incident to be officially classified as terrorism before policy holders can be compensated.
Costs Incurred Due to Your Travel Companion
If you’re going on a trip with someone, you shouldn’t expect your travel insurance to cover them. Although, if you encounter unexpected costs because of your travel companion (like if they get sick and you have to abruptly change your travel plans), your policy may cover some of the unplanned expenses or cancellation that you (the insured) get saddled with. But if you want to be sure to get covered for anything that might happen with your companion — and if they would also like to get travel insurance — it might be a good idea for you both to be on the same policy (either they can join yours or you can join theirs) instead of you each traveling on your own individual travel insurance. It’s easy as calling up your insurance company and updating your policy and splitting the premium. Once you’re both on the same policy, the insurance will not only cover emergency costs for them, but any additional expenses you’ll encounter as result…and vice versa.
Have you used travel insurance? Were you surprised by anything your policy covered? Share your experience with us in the comments below.