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3 reasons travel insurance is essential if you're traveling abroad

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A young woman walks down an old street in Italy / Getty Images

If you're planning a trip abroad, then it's time to start viewing travel insurance options.

Not only can travel insurance save you from potential headaches, but it can also protect you from having to pay hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars from your own wallet. Plus, several countries actually require it.

Are you traveling overseas anytime soon? Whether you're in the research phase or your trip is already booked, now is the time to ensure you're covered. Here are three reasons to buy travel insurance.

3 reasons to buy international travel insurance

Travel insurance doesn't have to cost a fortune. It's entirely up to you. Typically, costs are between 5% to 10% of your total trip costs, depending on your needs, according to U.S.-based travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth. 

On a site like Squaremouth, you just have to insert your traveler and trip information (destination, travel dates, etc.) and you'll be shown dozens of insurance options. If cost is a concern, you can sort the options from lowest to highest. Click here to get started.

With that said, international trips tend to be pricier than domestic and the potential loss from a canceled trip, delay or emergency is likely greater than traveling domestically. Aside from the financial benefit alone, here are some other reasons to buy travel insurance when vacationing overseas.

  1. It can help cover emergency medical treatments
  2. It can cover you if you need to make a last-minute cancellation
  3. It can offer protection amid inconveniences or mishaps

It can help cover emergency medical treatments

This is probably the best reason to get travel insurance before international travel, especially if you have an existing health condition or you're planning to travel for a significant period of time.

In fact, the U.S. State Department even urges Americans to purchase Travel Medical Insurance when traveling abroad since Medicare and Medicaid typically don't cover medical costs overseas. If you have private health insurance, however, make sure to review your specific coverage or call your provider to see if you're covered while traveling overseas.

Travel insurance plans are often comprehensive, including an array of benefits, but you may also want to include some add-ons if you find them necessary. Here's an overview of some of the top travel insurance companies available. Start your search now.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Travel Health Insurance and Medical Evacuation Insurance, in particular, so you're not stuck paying hefty medical bills out of pocket.

"Even if a country has nationalized health care, it may not cover people who are not citizens. Before you go, consider your insurance options in case you need care while traveling," the CDC writes on its website.

CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg agreed that Medical Evacuation Insurance, which covers transportation (like an ambulance or helicopter, for example) or other costs for travelers who get sick or injured and need to be taken to a medical facility during their vacation, is a necessity for some travelers.

"You absolutely need to have medical evacuation insurance. If you get sick or injured outside of the U.S., it pays for you to be stabilized medically wherever you are, and to get you home to a medical facility and doctor of your choice," Greenberg told CBS News in June.

It can cover you if you need to make a last-minute cancellation

Trip Cancellation is included in most comprehensive travel insurance plans. With Trip Cancellation Insurance, you're potentially able to request up to a 100% reimbursement for your pre-paid trip if you need to cancel your plans for one of the many covered reasons listed in the insurance policy. In most cases, you can add it to your trip up to 24 hours before departure.

There's a long list of reasons to cancel a trip or event such as an unexpected injury, illness or inclement weather or another situation that's out of your control. Always carefully review the acceptable reasons for trip cancellation approved by your insurance provider. 

"Trip Cancellation is the main concern for most travelers. This benefit provides protection for the financial investment travelers make in their trips, offering coverage for all prepaid and non-refundable trip expenses. This can include any travel-related expenses, such as airline tickets, hotel accommodations, excursions, tours, and cruises," Squaremouth explains.

If you believe you'd benefit from this coverage, start reviewing travel insurance options.

This is not the same as a Cancel For Any Reason insurance policy, which will allow you to be reimbursed for any reason up to 75% of your prepaid and non-refundable trip costs. If you're interested in this add-on, then be prepared to fork over some extra cash: It can increase your premium between 40-50%, per Squaremouth. You'll also need to book it in advance (within 14 to 21 days of your first trip payment).

It can offer protection amid inconveniences or mishaps

Aside from the obvious (medical emergencies and canceled trips), travel insurance can also cover some of your personal belongings or necessities if your luggage gets lost. It can help refund you for essential items while waiting for an airline to return your bag or even cover a portion of the damage or loss.

This may not seem like a major concern, but accidents happen.

In fact, nearly 685,000 bags were mishandled by the top 10 U.S. airlines in the first quarter of 2022 alone, according to LuggageHero, citing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That number is even higher if you take into account all airlines across the globe. The December holiday season tends to be the worst month for luggage-related mishaps, LuggageHero says.

This type of insurance doesn't just cover the duration of your flight, but your trip in general. It's another benefit that's often already included in your travel insurance package. Just do a quick double-check before buying.

"Baggage and Personal Items Loss typically has an overall coverage limit, as well as a per-item limit and a specific item limit. Specific items are outlined in each policy, and often include expensive items such as jewelry, electronics, and cameras, among others," notes Squaremouth, suggesting you insure big-ticket items worth $1,000 or more separately.

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