Who's ready for vacation?

Elizabeth S. Clough, CFP®, AIF® |

I really like traveling, from little weekend trips to see friends to bigger trips that take me out to see the world.  I like living a different life for a few days, eating foods I normally don’t get the chance to eat, seeing interesting things, and when traveling abroad, soaking up the culture, sights and sounds of another country.  If I’m lucky, a trip will include some scuba diving, which is one of my favorite indulgences. 

As much as we think about the logistics of a trip:  what we’re going to do when we get to our destination, what we’re willing to pay, what route we’ll take, and what we’re going to pack, we usually don’t spend much time thinking about what happens if we need emergency medical help, a field rescue, or an evacuation while on the road. 

I have often traveled to remote places.  Sometimes I’ve met up with a group, and organizers have required that all of us show proof of evacuation services.  Some organizers even go so far to tell you which evacuation service they’d like you to use while on a trip with them. 

At this point, there are three companies that are considered the leaders of the industry:  Global Rescue, MedJet Assist, and SOS International.  While they share the same basic service – medical evacuation – they differ in features and process, so it’s important to compare the plans and pick the one that will suit you (or your trip) the best.  You can purchase a short term plan, which would cover the length of your trip, or you can purchase an annual membership.  Accidents happen, illness happens.  It’s well worth the fee for the peace of mind.

In addition to getting evacuation services, it can be smart to get a travel insurance policy.  These policies can be helpful if a trip needs to be cancelled, travel plans need to change at the last minute, or there is a travel snafu en route to the destination, bags are lost or delayed, or equipment is lost on the way.  It’s really important to understand the policy and how it works.  Most of the time, you need to pay out of pocket to deal with hiccups and failures, and then you’re reimbursed by the policy once you’re back home. 

Some travel insurance policies also offer another feature: emergency medical insurance for those traveling abroad.  Some U.S. health insurance policies don’t offer overseas care (notably Medicare), so it is important to make sure you have some sort of medical coverage before heading out the door. 

I have used travel insurance in the past, but typically only when doing a complicated itinerary, or making multiple plane changes while trying to meet up with a group in a remote location.  Each one of those transfers is an opportunity for the trip to go sideways.  If the whole point of my vacation is to meet a boat, and then I miss the boat… well, I’d like to know that all is not lost. 

There are multiple companies that offer travel insurance; in fact, there too many to list.  As always, it’s really important to compare plan offerings and read the fine print about how they work.  It will save headaches and heartache if you need to use it.

Some forethought, planning, and a small fee upfront can protect against medical and financial misfortune if a trip doesn’t go as expected.  With luck, you’ll pay the fee, and your trip will go beautifully. 

As the super-organized among us are putting the finishing touches on their summer travel plans, and as the more relaxed among us are just starting to think about summer travel possibilities, I encourage all of you to think about adding an extra layer of protection, or two, while you’re out on the road.