What to Look For in Travel Insurance

When we first set the wheels in motion for our around the world trip the grandparents weren’t thrilled.

In picking up and taking Ethan and Cameron out of school and out into the world for a year we were removing their two favourite little guys from easy hugging reach.

boys on the go

My only job in the eyes of my parents: Bring them home safely

While my parents were supportive of our trip as a whole, they were understandably nervous about the health and well-being of the boys.

(I like to think they were worried about Ish and my health as well, but now that you mention it….)

And so it came to be that before we set out on the trip I made two promises:

  1. I will keep them safe
  2. I will keep them healthy.

They were big promises to make.

And while Ish and I set out with the best intentions to keep those promises, we also knew that some of that – as it would be at home – was outside our control.

What was in our control we did – and that included travel insurance.

It was the first time we were looking beyond Ish’s employer’s offerings or what was covered by our credit card and it only took a few days to be completely confused. In the end, we bought the biggest coverage package we could find.

And while we never needed to call on it, there was peace of mind in knowing it was there if we did.

Now that we’re back home, our travels have become less world-scale and more pop-across-the-border but the issue of insurance hasn’t waned.

When AMEX Travel Insurance contacted me to see if I’d be interested in learning more about travel insurance, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s what I discovered and what you should keep in mind as you make choices for your family:


Myth: You’re just going to Buffalo, you don’t need it

Fact: You don’t want to be caught without medical insurance in the U.S.

Trust me on this one. Ish once fell ill on a trip to Hawaii and the bills were sky-high. Similarly, when I broke my arm in that crazy Segway accident years ago, the bill made me wish I’d lost consciousness.  If you’re crossing the border, you want health insurance.

shark boy

This was the biggest danger we ran into on this trip and it was hanging in an aquarium. Still, no regrets in having the insurance just in case.

Myth: It won’t help you if you have a pre-existing medical condition

Fact: It depends on the stability of the condition and the insurer.

Don’t make any assumptions, it’s best to talk to your insurer so you understand what coverage you do and do not qualify for. For example with Amex, the key is to make sure you can prove that any condition you do have has been stable for at least 90 days prior to the start of the trip.

Myth: I’m insured through work or the credit card I used to buy the trip

Fact: Are you? Do you understand exactly what is covered?

It can be difficult to understand what is and isn’t covered through your combination of employer and credit card options, so before you travel, do your research to find out what you’re covered for. I know that when we had those American bills, in both instances we had to pay them up front and beg for the money from the insurance company later. Not fun.  Another point to check: How much travel time does your current insurance cover? Most credit card policies will only cover a max of 15 days away, which is okay for many people, but if you’re traveling longer, you’ll need something more.

Myth: It’s too expensive

Fact: Not as expensive as you might think

This fall we’re headed to Italy for a wedding. For all four of us to have trip coverage for 10 days in Italy with the Amex Travel Insurance Ultimate Travel/Medical package it will cost $306 total. There was no charge for the kids! And if, like me, you travel a lot you can consider multi-trip coverage where you pay one fee and are covered for multiple trips.  Now you’re not worried every time you get called away on business or pop over to Buffalo to shop.

Myth: It’s just easier to go without

Fact:  But is it worth the risk?

I used to be you. Why bother? The fact is we get so little leisure time together with our family, who wants it marred by something no one saw coming? It’s true that making the initial purchase takes some effort but once you’ve done it and are comfortable with the provider you’ve chosen you’re set.  If all it does is buy you peace of mind and mean you can enjoy your vacation, it’s worth it.

boys australia

Risk not being able to get them the health care they needed because we’re away from home? Not a chance.


Disclosure: This story was sponsored by Amex Travel Insurance.  As always, the opinions and information are mine and never for sale.

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{ 9 comments… add one }

Lori August 22, 2012, 7:51 PM

I completely agree about the health insurance. We travel to Florida on average once a year and the last time we were there we thought what we had was travel insurance when in fact it was only if we were involved in an accident. Our 1 1/2 yr old son became violently ill, vomiting, diahrea, fever etc. We ended up cutting our trip short by a day and a half and headed home at midnight. It was a 24 hour drive that we’ll never forget. We learned our lesson about travel insurance, that’s for sure!!


Heather August 22, 2012, 8:33 PM

I hear you Lori. In some ways it feels like you’re paying extra for something you might never use, but the fact that if you need it, you’ll really need it…..that’s what convinces me.


Charu Suri August 22, 2012, 9:57 PM

Totally important! I fell sick in Jordan when I was pregnant and luckily was able to get good quality medical treatment for a very small fee because of their hospital system but it opened my eyes to the importance of travel insurance all the more.


heather August 23, 2012, 12:43 PM

That would’ve been terrifying I’m sure. Glad it worked out well.


Wayne August 23, 2012, 12:19 PM

I just did China and the Philippines which you can follow see at A Critique of My China Tour with Photos http://wp.me/P1xI5P-8o via @wordpressdotcom. I also found Amex to be reasonable, competent and a good package to have. Plus just peace of mind. Good article. Thanks


heather August 23, 2012, 12:42 PM

Thanks Wayne. I’ll check out your post as well.


Sharon McMillan August 23, 2012, 3:03 PM

I think there’s huge value attached to the phrase “peace of mind.” I
lived in the U.S. for a few years and remember what hospital bills
looked like. I had coverage then but there’s nothing like “knowing” how
much a visit to the ER costs to make realize that you never want to be
caught in the U.S. or any country for that matter without adequate
insurance coverage. Compare thousands of dollars of health care bills to
a few hundred dollars in premium fees…that’s the kind of peace of
mind that helps to make a trip that much more enjoyable!


Chris August 28, 2012, 9:43 AM

I needed medical care in the US once, and my brother did too. Both times the medical bills were insane, for such a tiny job – really don’t believe a few stitches cost so many hundreds of dollars! So yes, from now on if I’m travelling anywhere outside of the UK I will always be insured!

Chris @


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