Trip Insurance – Part 1: Insurance Basics

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By Mic Anderson

Insurance. It’s a word that makes the best of us want to “put it aside to deal with later” in so many cases. We already deal with auto insurance, homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, health insurance, life insurance, flood insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, Medicare supplements, and probably many others. So really, do we have to deal with insurance for our vacations? Vacations are supposed to be a time to relax. In a short answer: yes, you should consider it. But different situations call for different responses.

Let me start out by stating, I am NOT a licensed insurance agent or broker. This is coming from my personal experience and my experience as an airline employee and travel agent, and should all be taken as suggestion only. At no point during the reading of this article are you expected to sign on the dotted line; take it as you do all advice, using what you can and throwing away the rest. (Now please sign here to state that you understand: __________________________. Just kidding!)

Why would anyone want travel or trip insurance? We already pay enough to travel, why add on more expenses? One major reason is to reimburse any expenses you have if you have to cancel your trip. Another reason to consider is health insurance coverage; will your current plan cover any medical needs you might have while traveling? Many plans also cover things like loss or delay of baggage, expenses incurred during a trip delay, worldwide assistance, or emergency evacuation. Like all insurance policies, it’s insuring against the unwanted or unplanned for, the things we hope will never happen.

How do you know which plan is right for you? I will admit to being lazy sometimes and just taking what is offered by Walt Disney Travel Company or Disney Cruise Line. I know, you can probably get a better deal and a more inclusive package by shopping around for it, but I am busy, as I am sure you are, and at least by having these policies I know the “big two” are covered. In my mind, that’s getting reimbursed if I have to cancel, and knowing health/medical needs will be covered no matter where I am in the world. (Or Disney World, if the case may be).

In future installments, I will address directly what is offered by Walt Disney Travel Company (that includes anything you buy through a travel agent that books directly with WDTC, like The Magic for Less), and what is included with Disney Cruise Lines and other cruise lines (because let’s face it, once you cruise with Disney, you are tempted to branch out and try other cruise lines, but that’s a whole ‘nother article!). For now I want to point out what things you should pay extra attention to and where you can go to shop around.

Number 1: Find out what the cancellation policy is for your travel supplier(s). This could include your hotel, your entertainment, your airline, or other travel costs. If you do not understand this, it’s hard to grasp whether or not you need cancellation protection. Also, some airlines offer low-cost change or cancellation protection you can buy at the time of booking the air.

Number 2 (and 3 and 4) as I cannot repeat this enough: make sure you understand what the covered reasons are for cancellation. They really can vary, and some policies are very lenient, to the point of offering “any reason cancellation” to others where you have to be in a hospital yourself for the insurance to cover your cancellation.

Number 5: Find out from your health insurance provider if you are covered where you are going, and what is covered. A nice perk I have heard about from the insurance provided from Walt Disney Travel Company is that doctors have made “house calls” to hotel rooms when guests took ill on vacation, and it was all covered by their travel insurance. (Sidenote: if at a Disney resort and you or a family member takes ill, check with the front desk to see what your options are. Disney typically goes above and beyond when this happens.)

On my honeymoon a few (okay, several…well, maybe many) years ago, my new husband came down with strep throat. We were in Europe, had no planned itinerary, and happened to be in Switzerland when he decided he must see a doctor. Being young and cocky, and an airline employee at the time, who had traveled many places for cheap, and I hadn’t even considered travel insurance.

Boy, it would it have been nice to have had an 800 number to call for assistance, rather than trying to use my somewhat limited French (thankfully we were in a French-speaking area of Switzerland) to determine the way to a pharmacy, where we found a treatment for strep throat. However, a doctor and some antibiotics would have been much more helpful.

Number 6: Does this insurance cover all your related travel expenses or just a portion of them? Does it cover your airfare, ground transportation, hotel costs, and entertainment costs like theme park tickets and anything you are paying for ahead of time? Or does it simply cover your cruise?

Number 7: do you have to purchase the insurance? Sometimes you can purchase it until the final payment date, while others have to be purchased at the time of booking. Make sure you understand this at the time of booking so you can plan.

So, where do you look for travel insurance? First see what your travel agent through the supplier (or the supplier if you booked yourself) is offering. Get a copy of the policy so you can compare; a good travel agent should have a copy available to easily e-mail to you. (Yes, e-mail so you don’t have to print the entire thing out and kill trees.)

Then, go to and compare some other policies. Do you have a particular situation you want to know is covered? Most of these places will have an 800 number you can call and find out. Are you covered if Uncle Les loses his job and can’t come stay with Polly the parrot while you are gone? Are you covered if an immediate family member passes away? What if you are called away on military duty or lose your job? Call the 800 number and make sure your situation will be covered if it is not addressed in writing in the policy.

Next time we will look at what is and what is not covered by Walt Disney Travel Company, and the positives and negatives of having this insurance. Safe travels!

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