Travel Insurance - A Huge Headache

A Little Primer on our Progress

Sylvie and I have been getting things in order for our trip.  We’ve booked our flight to Cartagena, Colombia for Tuesday Aug-18 thru JetBlue.  The one-way tickets from LaGuardia NYC were only $200 apiece—not bad, huh?  Sylvie got all of her vaccines, except for her second round of Japanese Encephalitis (JE).   At $650 dollars for the JE series and no coverage by insurance I was on the fence about getting it.  I finally decided on getting the JE vaccine.  Thankfully I'm current on all my other vaccines.  Total cost for vaccines was  around $2,500 (not counting any anti-  malarial/diarrhea etc. pills) 

Sylvie receiving her vaccines at Passport Health

I’ve had a constant inflow of packages over the past two weeks as I’ve been buying and returning more clothes than I can even count...well over $1,000 worth.  I am sticking to merino wool tops for my trip (more on clothing in a later posting).  I am in the process of selling my bucket chairs, bar stools, mirror, car, elliptical machine, etc.  I am also trying to tie all loose ends with my sponsors.  Make sure to stay tuned as I will be leaving gear reviews during my trip.  You can see a list of sponsors here.

Insurance Hell

The issue that has me hung up by far the most is Travel Insurance.  Sylvie and I will both no longer be covered by our medical insurance and we want to make sure we’re covered in the rare case of a medical emergency while abroad.  I have been perusing the web for travel insurance options for some time.  More recently, over the last two weeks, I have been scrutinizing policy details (fine print) of more than 2 dozen unique policies.  I have decided on getting a travel insurance policy over a more comprehensive, and expensive, global health insurance policy.  However, the expense was not the deciding factor--travel insurance has a few benefits that sets its apart.  Unlike global health insurance, travel insurance covers medical emergency evacuation along with other various travel-related benefits (natural disaster evacuation, trip delay/cancellation/interruption, etc.). 

I conducted a fairly exhaustive online research protocol to narrow down my list of possible policies to 6 (a last minute epiphany allowed me to increase this count to 7).  I started with a list of 15 or so potential travel insurance companies.  I slowly started to eliminate policies from this list.  I used reviews from paying customers on Squaremouth, as well as many other various sites.

I ruled out policies that:

  • were cost prohibitive (Travel Guard, CSA)
  • did not provide coverage for 12 months+ (Travelex, HTH, MH Ross, ihi Bupa, STA Travel)
  • were not open to US citizens (Allianz)
  • were not underwritten by an agency with at least a B+ credit rating

That left me with 7 policies (Company: Policy)

  1. Seven Corners:  Liaison Majestic
  2. IMG: Patriot Travel
  3. HCC:  Atlas Travel
  4. Azimuth: Beacon Travel
  5. Trawick: Safe Travel International
  6. ISIC: Explorer
  7. World Nomads

Comparing Policies

The policies are written in a way which makes it a very hard to compare policies at a benefit level.  However, this is what I've attempted to do in the graphic below.  The cells highlighted in green indicate benefits that are far superior to those of other policies.  The cells highlighted in red indicate benefits that are far inferior to those of other policies.  After some thought I have a theory as to why the ISIC policy is so much cheaper than the other policies, which run between the $500 and $600.  ISIC stands for International Student Identity Card but the company provides travel insurance to all card holders.  They issue cards for students, teachers, and anyone that is 30 years or younger.  The cards are valid for 1 year from their issue date.  I imagine many student/young travelers get the card for their desired trip which is much shorter than 1 year.  Students that study abroad do so for only a few months and most people do not travel longer than a few weeks.  Suffice it to say that most individuals using this insurance policy do not utilize the entire 12 months of coverage.  Thus, Sylvie and my 12 months of coverage is being subsidized by the individuals who travel for much shorter time, yet pay for the entire policy.    I am leaning towards this travel insurance provider but will keep you posted.  I hope the chart below helps you as much as it has helped me.  Also, please feel free to ask questions concerning any of the numbers/categories you see below.

Top Travel Insurance Policies Compared