Finding travel insurance policies to fit your needs

Dale Cody looks at photos to remind him of the gorgeous views he saw while rock climbing in Thailand, but needs no reminder when it comes to the part of the trip he says he'll never forget.

"I was in serious trouble," Cody said. "I had a huge fever, chills, freezing cold, then broiling hot in a tropical climate. All my bones and joints just ached like crazy. "

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Dale came down with a mysterious infection, and when he reached a small private medical clinic, he said, "One of their main concerns was, 'Are we going to get paid?'"

Fortunately for Cody, he had purchased travel insurance for his trip. And when his condition worsened in the clinic, he said, "Behind the scenes, the insurance company worked to arrange a stay at Bangkok Hospital at Phuket, which is a world class hospital."

Having a health advocate to deal with foreign medical care is one of many benefits of travel insurance, because regular health insurance may not cover services out of the United States.

"About 20 percent of people whose trips have been impacted by a medical emergency or other type of emergency had travel insurance. That means that 80 percent of those impacted did not," said Linda Kundell, a representative with the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.

Kundell said a slew of lesser known coverage options include reimbursement for being stuck on the tarmac, missed connections and interrupting, delaying or even canceling an entire trip because of illness or injury that affects you or a family member on vacation or at home.

Kundell said, "(There are) plans that also add on or include assistance services such as help with lost passports, legal advice" and even medical evacuation back to the U.S.

"If you have to be medically evacuated, it can cost up to $100,000 or more," Kundell said.

Experts say certain credit cards offer free travel insurance, but those policies may not be comprehensive. Industry experts caution against buying travel insurance from an airline, cruise company or tour operator, because you're not covered if they go bankrupt.

"For a very inexpensive trip, let's say a $1,000 trip somewhere, you might not want to get travel insurance. Travel insurance is really better for those trips that you cannot afford to lose the value of, for example, a $10,000 cruise," said George Hobica, president of AirfareWatchdog.com.

As for Cody, he said he never imagined the $360 premium would pay him back in ways beyond covering medical bills.

"I highly credit the insurance company with taking all the actions that I was unable to take because I was so sick to save my life," Cody said.

Travel experts recommend several websites that can help compare the different plans available and the pricing, which is generally based on the cost of the trip.
 

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