Insurance is never a fun topic for anyone, as there are always costs involved yet it’s probably the most important thing to have before embarking on a trip. Up until turning 26 this past November, I had the option of piggy-backing on my parents insurance, which I did for two years.

Luckily, they had a pretty comprehensive insurance plan so I was even covered to some degree while traveling abroad. This is no longer the case for me, and as I begin researching new insurance plans, here are a few tips to keep in mind before signing on the dotted line.

1) Change the way you view insurance

As a budget traveler and a New York resident, I’m always trying to save money. It’s become part of my daily routine and at times it can be my best friend or my worst enemy. I used to assume I’d never get sick while traveling but I quickly proved that theory wrong. Both during my semester living in London and during one of my trips to South America I had to go to the doctor. Neither time was an emergency but it allowed me to get the medical prescriptions I needed in order to feel better. I used to view insurance as an unnecessary cost but now I view it as a safety net.

2) Find out what coverage you may already have

At first I had no idea that my previous insurance plan applied to travel oversees. I just assumed it didn’t and almost bought an additional insurance. This is often the case, so make sure you call your current provider (if you have one) and find out exactly what emergencies and possible medical situations are covered under your plan. It’s also a good idea to find out what your insurance needs in terms of proof of doctor visits, stolen camera equipment and lost luggage, etc. Be prepared to keep track of this paperwork to send to them when you return home.

3) Decide what kind of travel insurance you need

While skipping travel insurance altogether is not something I would advise, I do know how travel expenses can really add up and insurance is probably the least glamorous part of planning any trip, big or small. Between flights, hotels and everything in between, traveling can be expensive but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for emergencies. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, look for an insurance that helps cover those costs. Similarly, if you are a professional photographer, look into plans that help re-coup the cost of stolen or damaged items.

4) Read between the lines

A lot of wording used in travel insurance policies is ambiguous. For example, make sure to find out what constitutes as a “risky activity” because that can vary from policy to policy. Also determine if there are age or medical restrictions before handing over your hard earned cash. It’s a good idea to know what coverage you want during your trip and what limitations each plan has before searching for deals. A discount is great but if it doesn’t actually cover what you need, then you aren’t getting a great value for your money after all.

5) Avoid buying from agents, tour operators and airlines

If you are booking your entire trip through a travel agent or a tour operator, buying insurance through them may in fact be the easiest option but it won’t save you money. In many cases, these insurance plans cost travelers more. If you go through tour operators, your coverage most likely only covers the time you are actually on the tour and not the extra days you may stay in the country or region pre or post tour. Many travel agents also work on commission and therefore may push plans that don’t necessarily fit your criteria.

how to choose the right travel insurance

Image: jessicahtam/Flickr 

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