Life on the road with kids can be testing at times.
Long travel days, upset tummies and uncomfortable climates are considerably more challenging for the little ones.
By the end of the day, you’ll have suffered through an unsightly temper tantrum or two.
But it’ll be worth it in the long run.
U.S. journalist Hodding Carter said it best: “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.”
While discovering the world will indeed give your kids wings, it’s crucial to consider their safety along the way. And there’s no better way to safeguard a trip than to invest in travel insurance.
I once worked as a travel agent, so I’m somewhat well-versed on the matter. Here’s how to choose the right family travel insurance policy for you.
Why purchase family travel insurance?
Family travel insurance offers two primary advantages over separate policies for each family member:
- Convenience: Bundling everyone together makes the purchase and claims process significantly more manageable.
- Price: Most providers insure children under 18 for free.
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What’s the insurance lingo?
Before you start sifting through competing policies, it’s essential to understand the basic terminology:
- The provider is the company that sells a travel insurance policy.
- The policy is the specific travel insurance plan. Most providers offer several different policies.
- The premium is the amount you’ll pay upfront for the policy.
- The excess is the amount you’ll have to pay for each item of claim, which in turn lowers the premium. Say, for example, you opt for a 250 USD excess. In this case, you’ll pay less up front but will forfeit the first 250 USD of each item of a claim.
- Cover(age) refers to the specific situations the provider will pay for.
- Exemptions are specific situations the provider won’t pay for.
Keep the Kids Safe: How to Choose a Family Travel Insurance Plan
In each country, dozens of providers compete vigorously for market share. Some companies, such as World Nomads, offer coverage to travelers from virtually anywhere in the world.
When dissecting policies, it’s crucial to compare apples to apples. Does one provider charge more than another for an “essentials” plan? It could be because they provide substantially better coverage.
Travel insurance premiums vary depending on which zones you visit. After all, a hospital stay in the United States will cost a heck of a lot more than in Thailand.
Some insurance policies allow a certain number of “free days” in more expensive regions. Essentially, this means you can spend a specified amount of time in a higher region while still being charged the lower region rate.
Say you have a two-day stopover in Los Angeles after a month-long Japan trip. Policy A might charge you for the North America region while Policy B might charge for the Asia region. The price difference could be astronomical.
Skip talking with a travel agent
Travel agents love offering insurance to ramp up their sales. After all, they earn up to 40% commission on each policy.
A quick Google search will reveal considerably more competitive rates online.
Know what family travel insurance should include
The number one consideration is that the provider should cover the kids for free. There’s no reason to pay for your children’s insurance.
Some providers, such as Travelex Insurance Services, give free cover for dependents under age 21 rather than the standard cutoff age of 18.
Overseas health and medical
Overseas health and medical cover are essential for keeping your loved ones safe. Look for a policy that covers one million USD or more to safeguard against even the most extreme situations.
Policies that include emergency evacuations and repatriations are best. Evaluate the need for extras such as dental and loss of income.
Travel insurance providers don’t automatically cover pre-existing medical conditions. If someone in your family has a condition that could result in a claim, it would be sensible to ask about paying a premium for additional coverage.
Lost and stolen luggage
Kids lose and break stuff all the time.
With that in mind, lost and stolen luggage cover is a good idea for the traveling family. Remember, it’s prudent to calculate the value of your gear and assess it against the difference in premium.
Be aware that providers apply the excess to each item. If you choose a policy with a 250 USD excess, you’ll have to pay the first 250 USD for each item stolen. Therefore, high excess policies render lost and stolen luggage cover somewhat redundant.
Item limits are also worth considering. If your policy has a 500 USD item limit, for example, that’s the maximum you’ll get back on any item. Say you have a camera worth 5,000 USD—you’d only get 500 USD back on a claim. In this situation, you could increase the limit of the camera by paying an extra premium.
Be sure you understand the difference between the item and the total limit. Item limit is the amount the provider will pay per item, while the total limit is the amount of cover for all your luggage.
A provider with an unusually generous lost and stolen luggage policy is the Australian-based 1cover, which covers up to 15,000 AUD (10,627 USD) with no item limit.
If just one of your kids gets sick, you could potentially lose your whole trip without hope of a refund. That is, of course, unless you take out adequate cancellation cover.
When unforeseen circumstances outside of your control prevent you from traveling, cancellation cover kicks in to reimburse the cost of the trip, including flights, hotels and anything else you may have prepaid. The U.K.-based Post Office Money, for example, has a solid cancellation policy.
A more expensive option is “any reason” cancellation cover. As the name suggests, these policies will reimburse you should you decide to cancel on a whim. The U.S.-based provider Travel Insured International covers 75% of the cost of cancellations for “any reason.”
Note that cancellation cover is only essential for expensive holidays that have been mostly paid for in advance. Families on a backpacking trip where they pay as they go shouldn’t bother.
Missed departures and delays
Civil unrest and natural disasters can throw a wrench in the works of even the most finely tuned travel plans. Can you afford to accommodate your whole family until it’s possible to fly home? If not, missed departure and delays cover is worth considering.
Travel Guard’s Gold Policy is one example, offering up to 750 USD in such circumstances.
Know when to buy your travel insurance policy
If you want cancellation cover, it’s wise to purchase your policy as soon as possible. That way, your family will be covered immediately should you need to cancel.
By law, many countries mandate a two-week cool-down period for travel insurance. This means you can cancel your policy and receive a full refund within this period.
Read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS)
I know, browsing through such a dry legal document is about as riveting as filing a tax return. Nevertheless, it’s vital you understand policy exemptions to minimize your risk while on the road.
The following are some common travel insurance exemptions and advice on how to avoid being caught out:
- Stolen cash over a certain amount. 250 USD is a typical threshold. Withdraw small amounts of cash at a time.
- Theft from unattended motor vehicles. Take your valuables out of the car and into the hotel each night.
- Property or data stolen via electronic means. Use a VPN to protect yourself while on public Wi-Fi.
- Any claims that occurred while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You should be sober if you have kids to look after anyway!
- Motorbike accidents in which the driver doesn’t hold a license valid for the country in question. Don’t cruise around Southeast Asia on a moped with the kids in tow.
- Theft that occurred as a result of lack of due care. Make sure your family keeps a close eye on their gear at all times. It only takes a split second for someone to swipe your backpack.
- Certain sports and adventure activities. Check the PDS to ensure your planned activities are covered. If you’re having trouble finding a suitable policy, World Nomads includes a dizzying array of adventure sports.
- Snow sports are never automatically covered. Most providers offer it for an additional premium.
Family-specific exemptions to check for in the PDS
Certain sections of a PDS could exempt your children from coverage altogether!
- Do the children have to live with you permanently? Some providers only cover children who share the same permanent residential address as the parent/guardian.
- Do the children have to travel with you for the entire duration of the trip? If so, they won’t be covered if you meet up with them halfway through.
- Are they covered if a non-family member joins them on the trip? If not, the mere presence of an unrelated travel companion could nullify their insurance.
In any of these situations, the provider would refuse to pay out any claims regarding the children. Check the fine print carefully and give them a call if in doubt.
Found a suitable policy for your family?
Sadly, there are too many variables to recommend any one product. The decision comes down to your home country, the regions you’ll travel and your specific requirements and preferences.
Although the providers mentioned here are well-regarded, they aren’t your only options out there.
If none of these providers seems to be your perfect fit, use the information in this article as a guide to conducting your own research. With a little legwork, you should be able to sort out your travel insurance in no time.
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.
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