The United Nations estimates 20% of all international tourists, nearly 200 million travelers, are young people generating more than $180 billion in annual tourism revenue. Between semesters studying abroad, volunteering overseas during breaks from school, and once-in-a-lifetime post-graduation trips, student travelers are taking the international world by storm.
During these trips abroad, many students hop from one city or country to the next. Unfortunately, being a world traveler comes with risks, and it’s important for students to be informed, prepared, and protected before leaving the country. That means purchasing travel insurance. Many schools, visa programs, and countries require travelers to provide proof of coverage upon arrival. But what is travel insurance?
There are a few different types of travel insurance policies. Trip insurance policies help you recuperate nonrefundable prepaid expenses of a trip. Each plan will come with its own list of specific triggers but typically things such as sickness, death, weather, and travel provider issues — such as a strike or financial default — are covered.
Travel medical insurance protects against unexpected medical expenses that a customer’s standard health insurance may not cover once they depart from their home country. Most plans include 24/7 travel assistance services to help locate medical facilities, arrange for emergency medical evacuations, and help with a wide variety of travel situations and emergencies that can occur.
Study Abroad Programs
Four and a half million students are currently studying abroad, according to Go Abroad. While studying in a foreign country can be an exciting and educational time for students, U.S. students living overseas often mistakenly believe their domestic health insurance plan will continue to provide coverage outside of their home country. Some domestic plans do not provide any coverage when you travel abroad, and often, if there is coverage, it is limited to life-threatening illnesses or injuries. Additionally, there is typically no benefit for an emergency medical evacuation or repatriation.
Most schools in the United States require health insurance plans that are compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but these plans do not always provide the benefits a study abroad student needs and are often expensive. For example, a student traveling to the U.S. on a J1 visa must have a minimum of $50,000 for emergency medical evacuation and $25,000 for Repatriation of Remains. An ACA plan is not likely to include these coverages. Investing in a travel medical insurance program is the best option to ensure a student’s safety and security. Many of these schools allow an international student to get an exemption from purchasing the school sponsored plan as long as they can show proof of a comparable benefit plan such as Travel Medical Insurance.
Volunteering abroad is a rewarding and amazing experience. However, making being prepared for anything that might arise will help the volunteer work remain the main focus of the trip.
The type of travel insurance needed when volunteering often depends on the length of the trip and the destination. Often, short-term volunteers, such as those volunteering over spring break, utilize the time to travel either before or after their volunteer period to see other parts of their destination.
So, what kind of plan is needed when it’s both work and play? Always start with trip protection. This includes any money prepaid for the trip such as deposits for accommodations, tours or excursions, and travel arrangements like airfare. If something happens to prevent the trip, the money already spent on the trip may be lost. That’s why travel insurance is so important. It can cover travelers for a variety of reasons including canceling, interrupting, or delaying their trip.
A 2016 study found that about 50 percent of millennial travelers are globe-trotting after high school and college topursue higher education, volunteer, and study a foreign language. Additionally, travel is found to have an overwhelmingly positive impact on 18- to 35-year-old travelers and nontravelers around the world, from their careers to their self-confidence.
While students might be freed from the responsibilities of finals and term papers after graduation, they aren’t free from the financial responsibilities of all that traveling. It can be 12 times more expensive to spend the night in a hospital abroad than a five-star luxury hotel according to Finder.com. In order to avoid that hefty cost, recent grads should avoid the most common traveling mistake: failing to purchase travel insurance. The benefits include:
- Trip cancellation covers the nonrefundable cost of the trip in addition to trip interruptions, delays or missed connections in the case of an unforeseen event that prevents travel or interrupts a trip.
- Medical insurance protects against unexpected medical expenses that a customer’s standard health insurance may not cover while outside of their home country.
- Baggage protection ensures personal belongings and luggage are covered in case of loss, theft, delay or damage.
Planning a trip for after graduation? It might be a good idea to add a CFAR policy. A ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ (CFAR) policy allows for travelers to cancel a trip at any point and receive at least 75 percent of their non-refundable trip cost back. This might come in handy if graduation gets delayed, a class needs to be retaken, or a job opportunity presents itself.
When not to purchase travel insurance
When it comes to traveling outside of the U.S., there is one question that should be asked to determine the need to purchase travel insurance: Can I cover the cost of the trip and any unforeseen medical expenses out of my own pocket? If the answer is yes, then the choice is up to you.
For those that value the investment of their trip and want to have the most comprehensive protection plans while studying, traveling, and volunteering abroad, a travel insurance plan is necessary. Giving students and parents protection while embarking on the adventure of a lifetime is worth the cost.
Justin Tysdal brings more than 25 years of business leadership and insurance industry experience to his role as CEO of Seven Corners, Inc. As the company’s co-founder and visionary, he leverages his vast knowledge and successful track record of developing customized travel insurance solutions, designing trip protection and travel medical insurance programs, and innovating industry services to meet the needs of future travelers.