While travel insurance can't prevent tragedies such as the one that unfolded Saturday when an Asiana Airlines flight crash-landed at the San Francisco International Airport, it can ease the pain of far more common inconveniences. Travel insurance typically covers the cost of trip interruptions and cancellations, loss of luggage and transportation to medical facilities in the event of an accident. However, your homeowners or auto insurance may already cover a lot of these extra expenses. Make sure you're not buying travel insurance for coverage you already have.
Here are five common myths about travel insurance:
1. Emergency medical assistance is included. While most travel insurance packages include medical coverage, many require you to buy emergency medical assistance coverage as supplemental coverage. If you need to be flown home because of a serious illness or injury, or need emergency medical care at a hospital while overseas, this type of coverage will help with the costs. Without it, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in medical bills. Consider purchasing this on top of trip protection when you're traveling overseas or to a location where you might be prone to becoming seriously ill. Check with your current medical insurance provider to see if emergencies while traveling are included in your plan.
2. Having trip protection with a credit card is sufficient. Some travel rewards credit cards and regular credit cards offer trip protection as a cardholder perk. However, most don't provide the full extent of coverage as a standard travel insurance package. If you're heading to a high-risk destination or traveling to airports in remote locations, make sure your credit card travel insurance package includes lost baggage protection, trip cancellation coverage and other basics. In many cases, you'll need to buy extended coverage to make sure you're fully protected for the entire trip. Don't rely solely on credit cards for trip protection because you may end up being billed for some of the larger expenses.
3. Travel insurance doesn't cover airline delays. Many people are under the impression that it's the airline's responsibility to cover the cost associated with delays. Airlines won't refund your money in the event of a delayed flight, but they can help you rebook. If you have travel insurance, you'll be reimbursed for costs associated with delays. This usually includes rebooking fees and, in some cases, a hotel stay if you have to stay in the same city overnight. Some will only cover expenses after 12 hours of the delay while others are more generous with coverage.
Policies vary by insurance provider, so read the fine print of your insurance package to confirm that delays are covered. Keep in mind that airlines may cover the cost of a hotel stay and other delay-related expenses for a certain window of time after the delay as well. Check with the airline when booking the flight to confirm what type of protection all passengers receive.
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4. Activity-related Injuries aren't covered. When you're heading off on a ski trip in Vermont or an eco-excursion in Costa Rica and end up getting injured, your travel insurance may cover the cost of medical bills and transportation to a hospital. Most travel insurance policies do provide coverage for accidents when you undertake "extreme sports" and other risky activities. Twisting an ankle or breaking an arm during extreme-sports events may put a damper on your vacation, but having trip insurance with medical coverage means you won't have to fret about medical bills. Review the policy to find out if medical costs are covered because your regular medical insurance coverage may not be enough.
5. You don't need rental car damage protection. Even though you might have some protection for rental cars through your regular auto insurance provider, your insurance rates will go up when you file that claim. Buying extended coverage for rental car damage through your travel insurance provider means less hassle when filing a claim and no changes to your regular car insurance rates. Consider adding this supplementary coverage to your trip protection plans – especially if you're going on a long road trip or driving through new areas in a rental vehicle.
Sabah Karimi is an award-winning Yahoo Contributor and WiseBread.com's travel insurance guide. This article was updated on 07/08/2013.