We Americans have grown accustomed to insuring all of our most valuable stuff—our homes, our cars, even our lives. Oddly, however, very few of us insure our trips; according to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, fewer than one-third of Americans who travel purchase travel insurance.
If you’re a solo traveler whose plans rarely change, I can understand being hesitant. But for family travelers, especially those who spend multiple thousands of dollars on vacations with multiple children, NOT buying travel insurance seems remarkably stupid.
This insurance can protect you (and all of your family members) from pretty major unforeseen complications—medical issues, change fees, even cancellation. And let's be honest: Especially when you're traveling with kids, stuff happens.
I spent a bunch of time this week researching insurance for family travel, including extensive emails with Carol Mueller, vice president of Travel Guard North America (a travel insurance provider). Here’s what I learned.
How it's priced
What you pay for travel insurance is based on your age and the total cost of your trip. Industry sources tell me that on average, travel insurance costs between 5 to 7 percent of the total trip investment. For those who travel on a small budget, this figure rarely exceeds $75; for those of us who save up and splurge when we take the clan away on an adventure; it can be a few hundred bucks. (Either way, the investment isn't bad, considering that at most blackjack tables, insurance requires half your original bet.)
What to look for
Families should look for two critical features when purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance plan. First, confirm the plan includes trip cancellation coverage. Second, make sure the plan includes medical expense and emergency medical evacuation coverage.
What it costs
Many providers cover kids 17 and under at no additional cost. This means that a family of four, with two parents and two kids under 17 (hey, that sounds just like my family!), would pay about $140 for insurance on a $4,000 trip, $280 for insurance on an $8,000 trip, and so on. (For a decent travel insurance calculator, click here.)
What people claim
According to Mueller, trip cancellation tends to be the most common type of claim leisure travelers make, for covered reasons like their own health, or the death, injury or illness of a family member, (one who is either traveling with you or waiting back at home). Another common claim is medical treatment while traveling.
What it covers
Travel insurance does not deny anyone coverage due to destination—so long as native governments permit residents to travel to that area of the world. (So if you’re planning a trip to Cuba, you might have trouble getting travel insurance right now.)
What it excludes
Like any insurance plan, travel insurance includes general exclusions so parents should make sure they read the policy or at least talk to their travel agent or directly with the travel insurance provider if they are concerned about something specifically before traveling. A common misconception about travel insurance is it will cover you if you simply decide not to go (to have that type of coverage, you must purchase a “Cancel For Any Reason” upgrade with the base comprehensive per-trip travel insurance plan; depending on the ages of the travelers, these riders can set you back an additional 30 to 40 percent of the total trip cost). In addition, while travel insurance covers delays caused by inclement weather, families should understand it does not cover you if you happen to have a rainy trip.
Who sells this stuff? Well, I’ve already mentioned Travel Guard, and they’re one of the best. Others include AIG, Travel Insure, and Allianz (formerly known as Access America). InsureMyTrip.com is a good aggregator (which means you do a search there and they hook you up with policies from a variety of providers).
My take on the subject: Even if a big part of you hates ponying up for insurance you might never use, get over it. When you’re traveling with your entire family—especially your kiddos—it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’ve never had to file claims on the travel insurance policies I’ve purchased in the past, but the one time something goes awry, I sure as hell will be glad I’m covered.
Do you have additional tips and/or thoughts about family travel insurance? If so, let me know about them; please add your insights in the comment field below.