Betsy Donley recommends travel insurance for all the reasons you'd imagine -- and a few you might not.
It's commonly known that travel insurance covers circumstances such as trip interruptions, delays and emergency medical transportation. And there are standard clauses for lost baggage and in-transit assistance.
But Donley advises travelers to buy insurance for the less known -- and less expected -- reasons. For example, did you know that health insurance may not cover you if you get sick while you're out of the country? But travel insurance does.
Donley, a Phoenix-based travel consultant, has seen too many Baby Boomers face sky-high medical bills while they're abroad.
"They are not protected by Medicare," she says.
Actually, you might be surprised at what some travel insurance policies cover. The biggest open secret is car rental insurance. If you've got travel insurance, there's usually no need to buy additional coverage from your car rental company. But there are other things, hidden in plain sight.
Sheila Berrios-Nazario, who runs a travel agency that focuses on senior travel, says she was surprised when she was leafing through an Allianz Travel Insurance policy recently. "It covered unexpected important family events such as the birth of your first grandkid," she says. "That's something most grandparents wouldn't want to miss.
Berrios-Nazario still hasn't had any claims for that benefit, but then, it's an obscure one that many travelers aren't even aware of.
"There are little-known things covered by travel insurance," agrees Beth Godlin, president of the Aon Affinity Travel Practice.
So what's hidden in your policy? Here are a few of Godlin's favorites:
✓ If your home becomes “uninhabitable,” that can be a covered reason for trip cancellation. It could be due to almost anything serious, such as a fire, flooding or weather damage·
✓ A lot of travelers don’t know that their travel insurance could cover them if they get into a car accident on their way to their departure flight.
✓ Travel insurance includes concierge benefits, such as assistance with a lost passport, finding appropriate medical care, or obtaining travel information while abroad.
✓ Many policies include medical evacuation not only for the injured traveler, but often also for a companion if they are traveling together.
✓ If the injured person is traveling alone, his or her insurance plan might also pay for flying in someone from home to meet the injured person and then accompany them back.
✓ Some plans provide cancellation for job loss; some have coverage if you get called to jury duty.
I was curious about my own annual policy from Allianz, so I decided to give it a closer read. Here's what I found:
Transport to bedside If you're told you will be hospitalized for more than seven days during your trip, Allianz will transport a friend or family member to stay with you. It will arrange and pay for round-trip transportation in economy class on a commercial airline.
Emergency translation Allianz will help you with interpretation service in the event you require help locally but are unable to communicate due to language barriers.
Meals, accommodation and transportation Reasonable additional expenses for meals and accommodation related to your missed connection or cruise.
Sheryl Hill, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Depart Smart, says one of her favorite unknown coverages is kidnap and ransom insurance.
"Some travel insurance also covers petty kidnapping, where they take your wallet and cash card and deplete them before they let you go, or extort your family for money," she says.
I also talked to Phil Sylvester over at World Nomads, and one of their policies, WN Explorer, even covers sports gear rentals "if an airline loses or damages your own gear."
"Until I began working for a travel insurance company I had no idea these things were covered, I figure many people still don’t know," he says.
Well, that makes two of us.
Bottom line: Read your insurance policy carefully, because you might be covered in ways you can't imagine. And that's good, because you never know when you might need that coverage.
After you've left a comment here, let's continue the discussion on my consumer advocacy site or on Twitter, Facebook and Google. I also have a newsletter and you'll definitely want to order my new, amazingly helpful and subversive book called How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle).