Do I Really Need Travel Medical Insurance?

Do I really need travel insurance? That is a question we often get from people before they travel. We've had so many people tell us over the years that they never buy travel medical insurance.

We've heard things like, “I don't need travel medical insurance, hospitals are cheap where I'm going.”

Or people have said things like “It really depends on the situation, I'll just come home if I get sick or injured.”

Do I Need Travel Insurance?

surreal desert moments mountains

It's always an experience to travel!

We would never take that risk when traveling. Personally, Dave and I have never travelled without travel medical insurance and there have been several occasions where we have used it.

Times we used our Travel Medical Insurance

1. Dave Broke his back in South America
2. Dave and I had second-degree burns from a motorcycle accident in Thailand
3. I had a bad skin infection in Africa that turned onto cellulitis.
4.  had an extreme reaction to Malaria medication in Asia
5. I had very bad food poisoning in South America
6. I even had a panic attack once in Asia and went to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack!

All injuries and illnesses required a visit to the hospital. Some were affordable, some would have broken the bank.

Each time we were grateful we had it because we never second-guessed or wasted a minute deciding whether or not to go to the hospital. We knew we had coverage, so we didn’t take a chance.

Reasons We’ve Heard Why People Don’t Purchase Travel Insurance.

1. I don't need travel insurance because it is too expensive, and I'll just pay for my hospital stay if something goes wrong

It is true, an ER visit in other countries can be cheap and there have been times when we’ve visited the hospital and never submitted our receipts for reimbursement from our insurance company because it was just so reasonable.
However, if we had something serious happen without travel insurance, we could be out of pocket for thousands of dollars.

When we’re paying thousands of dollars on flights and hotels for a vacation, travel insurance is a pittance of the cost.

That small investment gives us peace of mind that we will be covered should we need emergency surgery, a medical evacuation flight home, or if we need to book a hotel while one of us recovers in the hospital.

Plus, there are many expenses that happen during an emergency that people don’t know about: pet and vehicle return, meals and accommodation and emergency medical transportation.

2. I don't need travel insurance because I can just fly home if I get sick.


air ambulance service

Dave is finally on the air ambulance home

I don’t understand why people think that just because they are on vacation, a serious illness or injury won’t happen.

We have talked to people who have said “I’ll just fly home if I get sick.” First of all, flight changes are expensive and unless you booked a flexible flight, they are often not changeable at all. Second there are certain emergencies that require immediate surgery or a hospital stay.

We’ve had that situation when Dave broke two vertebrae in his back in the Amazon. He couldn’t fly home on a regular plane because he had to stay flat on his back. We needed an air ambulance home so that he could lay down on a stretcher.

But we know of even less severe cases.

Dave using a scooter when he sprained his ankle in Ireland

My brother once broke his arm in Florida. One would think that he could just deal with the pain and fly home or even make the 20-hour drive.

But the break was so bad, that he had to go directly to the hospital. He was told that he needed immediate surgery at it was a really bad fracture.

We all know that trips to the hospital in America can be expensive, so if he didn’t have insurance, he probably would have just dealt with the pain, drove home with my sister in law at the wheel and then end up with permanent damage.

My brother doesn’t travel a lot, but even he saw the value of having insurance.

He told me that he won’t even cross the border on a day trip without it because you never know what can happen.
And we won’t cross borders without it either.

We always think about the possibility that a life-threatening accident could happen at any time.

3. I don't need travel insurance because I'm only going away for a day or two


niagara falls road trip toyota

Hitting the Niagara Parkway for our road trip

Just because we are taking a short trip, it doesn’t mean we are completely safe from having something happen.

We live close to the American border and drive across for day trips all the time. But we always have insurance whenever we travel. Even if it is only for a day.

If we were hit by a bus in Niagara Falls (which is just across the border) the ambulance driver isn’t going to say, “Oh wait, we have to drive this girl back to Canada so she can be treated without having to pay!”

No way. The ambulance is going to take me to the nearest hospital which will automatically give me a huge bill.

What if I had a heart attack and I was just across the border? I would never wait in line at immigration to come back home for treatment. Getting to a hospital quickly is of the utmost importance.

In an emergency, timing is everything. One delay could cost us our life or permanent damage.

We never take the chance.

4. I already have travel insurance with my credit card.

american express gold rewards card

Many credit cards offer travel insurance but not all plans are created equal.

We have a great plan with our American Express Platinum, but even when we travel, we know our card doesn’t cover everything. That is why we always have travel insurance above and beyond what our credit card offers.

Before we travel, we always check with our credit card insurance provider to see what is included and what we need to supplement. For example, some cards we’ve had didn’t cover emergency medical expenses including evacuation and there were many stipulations where other coverage like trip delay or baggage loss might not be covered.

When in doubt, we always make the phone call to both our insurance provider and credit card company.

5. I won’t cancel my trip, so I won’t need trip interruption or cancelation insurance

brasada ranch deb
The truth is, maybe for short trips, or trips that we haven’t invested a lot of money on, we wouldn’t purchase trip cancellation insurance.

But for those larger trips where we invest a few thousand dollars, I’d be so sad if I had to cancel unexpectedly and had to swallow our upfront costs.

Life is unpredictable and I’d hate to have an emergency like a death in the family, damage to my home or even a car accident on the way to the airport cause me to lose the entire cost of my trip.

Friends of ours missed out on a trip to Cuba because one of them was hospitalized in an unexpected medical emergency. They lost their trip and their money and had to wait another year before they could travel again.

Had they purchased trip cancellation insurance, this situation could have been a covered reason. But since they didn’t, they lost their investment and had to save up another year to take their next vacation.

We also remind ourselves that just because we have travel insurance, it doesn’t mean that we can cancel a trip because we have a headache or changed our minds. We make sure to check what the covered reasons in our policy are.

And whenever we’ve had an emergency, we make a call to the agents to tell them what is happening and ask what we need to do to make sure we are covered. Like keeping receipts and other paperwork.

I love this article listing the “5 Reasons Your Trip Cancellation Insurance Won't Cover You” on the Allianz Global Assistance website. It really offers important points to think about on our future travels.

6. I don't need travel insurance because I am young and healthy


travel safety products

Backpacking requires extra safety

It is difficult to think about emergencies when you are young and healthy, but we had the majority of our hospital stays in our earlier days of travel.

We were strong and healthy and felt that nothing could get in our way. Even though we always bought travel insurance before our trips, we never dreamed anything could happen to us.

Until it did.

Imagine our shock when we had a motorcycle crash in Thailand and we both ended up with serious burns on our legs.

deb motorcycle

If we didn’t have insurance, we probably wouldn’t have gone to the hospital to have it cleaned and we definitely would have gotten infections in that tropical heat.

I know first-hand what a serious infection feels like and just how serious it can be. When I had cellulitis in Africa, I could have lost my leg or my life. I had a small crash on my bicycle causing a cut in my leg.

Within hours my leg swelled up to twice its size and the infection spread at a rapid rate from my hip to my ankle.

Leaving a minor cut, scrape or burn in tropical conditions can quickly turn to life-threatening injuries. Luckily, we had insurance both times and had doctors take care of our injuries.

7. I Fly Carryon Only, I don’t need Lost Luggage Insurance


anti theft travel accessories dave airport

Keep your luggage safe at the airport

It’s a sad but true fact of life theft happens. Our carryon luggage has our most valuable items in it like cameras, laptops and other electronics.

If someone stole my bag when I wasn’t looking, I wouldn’t know what to do.

And let’s face it, airlines are getting stricter each day. When I’m on a small flight, staff has taken my carryon at the gate telling me my bag is too large for the plane. If we do end up checking our bags and something happens, I’d rather have some coverage for delays so we can buy a few essentials to tie us over until our luggage arrives.

Sometimes bags can fall out of an overhead bin and damage items as well. Even though I am traveling carryon only, accidents can still happen.

We like having peace of mind rather than worrying about every situation that can possibly happen.

After 9 years of full-time travel and 10 more extensively traveling the world, we have likely come across every situation.

We have had fellow travel companions break a tooth and need dental surgery, we have been hospitalized, we have needed to be flown home, we’ve pickpocketed and robbed, scammed and we have been in the middle of storms and unrest.

We know the value of insurance and that is why we purchase it each and every year.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance (AZGA Service Canada Inc.) I am a brand ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (Canada) and receive financial compensation.

do i need travel medical insurance?

For more information on our travel insurance experiences read:

How We Choose Travel Insurance

Travel Safety Tips – How to Have a Safe and Healthy Vacation

One important thing to note is that most travel insurance policies and platinum card plans don’t include medical evacuation coverage, so you should definitely consider purchasing a protection supplement such as Medjet.

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