Summer is approaching and, with it, the most popular season to travel. A recent survey found that 36% of Americans plan to take off on a warm-weather getaway at least once this summer, and 44% indicate they plan to travel more than once. That represents a significant spike since last summer when COVID19 concerns and travel restrictions kept more people at home and taking staycations instead. Are you planning to travel this summer? Be prepared for more crowded beaches, museums, and wilderness destinations. And be prepared to travel safely by following these easy tips.
Guest post by Susan Doktor
Protecting Your Money
Travelling is a great way to meet new people. That’s one of the wonderful benefits of taking off for parts unknown. Learning about new cultures and making new friends are frequently mentioned reasons for leaving our hometowns and visiting new locations. Most of the people you meet are going to be terrific, and some of your fondest travel memories may well be of the time you spend talking with local people. But no matter where you travel, there are going to be bad guys. And travelling makes you more vulnerable to being victimized.
Theft is probably the most common way for tourists to become victims. But the risk of physical and sexual assault, credit card fraud, and other scams also increases when your travel. For example, countless vacationers have unwittingly bought fake Rolexes and counterfeit antiques while they’ve travelled. A simple rule of thumb is this: it probably isn’t if a deal seems too good to be true. Shopping is a favourite activity when we travel. So before you depart, educate yourself on the legitimate cost of something you plan to buy while you’re away. If you have your heart set on bringing home a handmade Turkish rug or rounding out your collection of French perfumes, find out what the legitimate going rate is before you buy.
Criminals target tourists, so try not to look like one. Instead, try to blend in with the native crowd if you can. Don’t wear flashy jewelry when you travel or flash wads of cash and the restaurants and shops you visit. Use a credit card whenever possible. Some great travel credit cards out there offer rewards when you spend money on travel.
Vacation can sometimes inspire us to over-indulge. Above all, drink responsibly. Here’s the thing, being intoxicated makes you an easy mark. You’re not at your sharpest. You’re more likely to let your natural guard down. And the worst-case scenario, you’re less likely to be able to defend yourself against an assault.
Sadly, some areas of the world are more vulnerable to terrorism. The good news is that terrorism rates have declined since they peaked in 2015. In a recent ranking of some 160 countries worldwide, the United States is 28 on the list. Many more far-flung countries, such as South Korea and Singapore, are far less prone to terrorism. Among European countries, Switzerland, Portugal, and Norway rank very low on the list. Before you select a destination, you may want to consult a few reliable resources on the relative safety of some of the countries you may be considering.
Protect Your Investment
Travel is a pleasure worth paying for, to be sure. But it’s also expensive. The cost of an international vacation can easily be thousands of dollars. In 2022, the average cost of a round-trip international ticket alone is more than $1,300. Many vacationers save up all year just so they can get away.
But travel is also unpredictable. From cancelled flights to serious illnesses, any number of circumstances can delay or completely derail your vacation plans, putting your travel investment at risk. That’s what travel insurance is for: to protect you against financial losses if your travel plans go awry.
What is Travel Insurance?
No two travel insurance policies are the same. The best travel insurance policies are highly customizable. You can purchase individual types of protection à la carte, but most travel insurance companies bundle the most popular coverages together in single plans. Policies commonly include trip cancellation and interruption protection, lost or delayed baggage coverage, medical coverage, and medical evacuation coverage in one package. Let’s take a look at these coverage types individually to help you to decide what type of policy you may need.
Travel Medical Coverage
Travel medical coverage is the most important kind of coverage to have. The health plan you carry at home doesn’t protect you when travelling abroad. If you become sick or injured, you’ll likely be responsible for your doctors’ fees, hospitalization, and the cost of diagnostic tests, surgery, and medication. A broken ankle—it’s been known to happen when you’re traversing cobblestone streets in heels—or a bad case of food poisoning could wind up costing you thousands of dollars out of pocket when you’re far away from home.
Trip Cancellation/Delay/ Interruption Coverage
That broken ankle could also prevent you from entirely taking off on your adventure. It’s pretty sure to ground you if you’re planning a trek to Machu Picchu. That’s when trip cancellation insurance kicks in. If you’re unable to depart on your trip for a covered reason—and there are many of them—trip cancellation coverage will reimburse you for the non-refundable expenses you paid to book your travel. And if you injure yourself or fall ill during your trip, trip interruption insurance can pay for you to fly home to recuperate, then return to your destination when you’re feeling chipper again.
Special Considerations for COVID 19 Cancellations
The COVID19 pandemic caused a record number of trips to be cancelled, and, in the beginning, many travel insurance companies denied cancellation claims that were COVID-related. Not surprisingly, policyholders were outraged. Most insurers have since amended their policies to cover COVID-related cancellations. But be sure to carefully check any policy you’re considering to be sure it includes COVID cancellation coverage. The crisis is far from over.
Baggage Delay and Loss Coverage
It’s surprisingly common for travellers and their luggage not to arrive at their destination at the same time. Sometimes that amounts to a minor inconvenience. Airlines routinely reunite travellers and their luggage a few hours after landing at no expense to the customers. But longer delays can be problematic. Let’s say you’re flying to Jamaica to attend your best friend’s beachfront wedding the next day. You’ve packed a special occasion dress and matching shoes and a handbag in your suitcase, but your bag goes missing in action. With baggage delay coverage, you can rush out to a fancy boutique, buy a fabulous new outfit to replace your missing one, and arrive at the wedding dressed to the nines. Your insurer will pay for the cost of your emergency shopping spree.
The contents of a permanently lost bag can cost thousands of dollars to replace, particularly if you’re on an extended trip. Baggage loss coverage will pay to replace the items you stashed in your suitcase. There are limitations on coverage, though. Many policies exclude expensive jewelry and electronics, for example. They may also place limits on the amount they will pay out in the event of the claim. Some give you the option of raising your coverage limits if you’re willing to pay for it. Our best advice? Transport expensive items in your carry-on bag to protect yourself against a large loss that may not fall within the limits of your policy.
Medical Evacuation Coverage
Let’s say you’re an adventure traveller—I mean adventurous! You’ve always dreamed of scaling Mt. Everest, and you’ve finally put plans in place to make the climb. Somewhere halfway up the mountain, you fall ill. You can’t very well climb back down. You need a helicopter to rescue you. That’s one example of why it might be wise to carry emergency evacuation coverage. But you needn’t be a mountain climber for medical evacuation coverage to make sense. If you’re travelling to a country where medical services are limited—many countries in Africa, for example—medical evacuation coverage can pay for you to fly to a destination where medical facilities are up to par.
Optional Travel Auto Insurance
Most travel insurance plans don’t include auto accident coverage. But if you’re renting a car while you’re abroad, it’s a good idea to opt for a policy that includes auto insurance. The auto insurance policy you cover at home doesn’t protect you when travelling outside your home country. And the insurance policies offered by car rental agencies don’t include liability coverage. They’re designed to protect rental agencies and only provide protection for damage to the vehicle you rent—not the medical expenses of anyone injured in an automobile accident. That’s something rental agencies neglect to tell you, but it’s a dangerous omission. Just as you need liability insurance when you drive at home, you need it when travelling.
How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?
As we’ve mentioned previously, travel insurance policies are customizable. The cost of your policy will depend on which types of coverage and the coverage limits you choose. But on average, you can expect to spend between 5% and 6% of the total cost of your trip for a basic travel insurance policy. You can get a lot of peace of mind for a couple of hundred dollars, and many seasoned travellers think that’s well worth it.
Summing It All Up
Your safety should be of paramount concern when you plan a trip. Here’s a list of top tips—and a few common-sense suggestions to follow—if you want to cover your well-being bases when travelling:
- Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Rely on credit cards instead when paying hotel and restaurant bills, souvenir shopping, and more.
- Keep digital copies of all of your travel documents. That will make it easier to replace them if they’re lost or stolen.
- Try your best not to look like a tourist. Don’t attract attention to yourself by wearing fancy jewelry, for example.
- Drink responsibly and do your best to remain alert to your surroundings.
- Think twice before travelling to countries where terrorist acts are common.
- Spend a little extra. Buy travel insurance to protect both your health and your travel investment.
Susan Doktor is a journalist, business strategist, and veteran traveller. Her contribution comes to us courtesy of Money.com.