12 Real-World Vacation Mishaps That Show Travel Insurance Is Truly Worth It

Travel insurance can help prevent financial disasters while you’re away from home.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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You don’t have to let the unexpected get in the way of your fun or your finances on your travels.

Travel insurance lets you stay protected and step up your travel game. I’ve personally had success with using travel insurance, and so have some of my colleagues.

Let’s explore different ways travel insurance can be a good idea for your next trip.

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Stolen phone

_Danoz/Adobe mysterious man using phone online fraud concept

My phone was stolen in Vietnam during a huge round-the-world trip I’d planned with my wife. It was emotionally draining, but we were fortunate to have travel insurance to cover the financial losses.

Our travel insurance plan covered up to $500 for stolen items. Even better, I had purchased my cell phone with a credit card that had purchase protection for lost, stolen, or damaged items.

That covered another $500, more than enough for a phone replacement.

Many of the best travel credit cards have built-in travel insurance benefits included in your card membership.

Cancellation fees

Kzenon/Adobe caring woman giving pill to partner

Laura had an all-inclusive vacation to Mexico booked to celebrate a special birthday. But she had to cancel the plans when her boyfriend developed a medical condition that prevented him from going.

Without travel insurance, Laura had to pay about $700 in cancellation fees. Trip cancellation policies can often cover your prepaid, nonrefundable expenses if you have to cancel a trip for a covered reason.

In addition, it could make sense to boost your bank account for any unexpected travel expenses you might run into.

International ER visit

Monkey Business/Adobe female nurse talking to female patient

Hailey caught an infection while on an international vacation, which landed her in a foreign emergency room. If that’s not scary enough, she had to front $6,000 for the medical costs.

Fortunately, Hailey had travel insurance that stepped in to reimburse her applicable expenses.

Many travel insurance policies include emergency medical coverage for these types of situations.

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Stolen passport

Greg Blomberg/Adobe woman wearing coat holding passport

Mindy lost her passport in Portugal, but she was able to remedy the situation with a visit to the U.S. embassy.

However, another person at the embassy had their passport stolen a few days earlier, and the embassy was closed for a holiday weekend. So he missed his flight home and had to stay in a hotel while waiting for the embassy to open back up.

Luckily, he had travel insurance to cover the additional travel costs, which let him enjoy a few more days in Portugal without any serious financial repercussions.

Back injury

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe employee having back pain at work

Rob hurt his back a few weeks before a climbing trip to Mount Rainier in Washington. He had to cancel the $1,500 trip but had travel insurance to cover the cost.

Note that many types of travel insurance don’t cover dangerous activities, such as rock climbing. But Rob had paid for a specific plan that covered outdoor expeditions.

Also, he provided proof of his injury from a doctor to satisfy the insurance claim requirements for his canceled trip.

Nonrefundable flights

Wayhome Studio/Adobe business woman getting angry on phone

Allie was in another U.S. city far from home when COVID-related shutdowns started happening. There was a lot of uncertainty around air travel then, so she decided to cancel her flight home and get a rental car.

Unfortunately, her flights were nonrefundable, and she was denied reimbursement.

These days, many travel insurance companies provide options for epidemic coverage, which can provide you with reimbursement in situations similar to Allie’s.

Skiing accident

Arnaud/Adobe man slipping while skiing in snow

Tracy’s son broke his leg skiing while out of state and needed emergency surgery. The costs quickly piled up from medical bills, ambulance charges, hotel nights, flights, and a rental car.

But the travel insurance Tracy had in place for the trip helped cover all those expenses, including her flight out since she wasn’t there and he was a minor.

These types of situations are typically covered with emergency medical coverage, as well as emergency medical transportation coverage.

Emergency transportation

EdNurg/Adobe catalonia ambulance riding at barcelona street

Mary’s friend was on a small Greek island when he had a heart attack. The island didn’t have sufficient medical facilities to care for him, so he was transferred to the mainland.

This type of emergency medical transportation is extremely important but can cost a lot. Of course, you don’t want to have to worry about money if there’s a severe medical condition that takes precedence.

And that’s where travel insurance comes into play, allowing you to focus on what’s truly important while not bleeding money.

Lost or damaged baggage

Andrey Popov/Adoe woman stressed after losing luggage

The longer you travel, the more you realize how easy it is to lose a bag, wallet, or other personal effects. Or how easy it is to be the victim of theft or have one of your bags damaged.

Many travel credit cards provide lost luggage reimbursement if your luggage is lost or damaged while traveling with an airline or other type of common carrier.

Most travel insurance policies also have this type of coverage available, including the option to cover the cost of just about any lost or damaged item, not just your luggage.

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Travel delay

peopleimages.com/Adobe woman exhausted due to flight delay

Have you ever waited half a day to board your flight because of travel delays?

Some travel cards provide trip delay reimbursement that covers reasonable additional expenses, such as meals, lodging, toiletries, and medication.

Your trip typically has to be delayed at least six hours or require an overnight stay for this coverage to kick in.

Change fees

fizkes/Adobe african american businessman angry on phone

It helps to have some flexibility with your travel plans if you need to change because of unforeseen circumstances. The issue is that many airlines charge fees for making certain changes to your itinerary.

If you want the freedom to avoid these fees (up to a certain amount), consider travel insurance coverage that includes an option for change fees.

Rental car damage

Halfpoint/Adobe man on phone after car accident

Rental cars are one of my favorite ways to explore a new destination because they give you plenty of freedom and flexibility to see different places and go at your own pace.

But I’m always worried about damaging the rental car on accident and then having to pay exorbitant repair costs.

To lessen my worries, I always have rental car insurance in place, either through a travel insurance policy or with a credit card that includes car rental coverage

I still drive carefully, but I also have more peace of mind that if anything were to happen, I’d have some financial support.

Bottom line

Nomad_Soul/Adobe woman reading map with packed luggage

Just like you or the next person, I love to travel. But I know that going on vacation doesn’t mean everything will be all rainbows and unicorns.

If you want to prepare yourself for the unexpected, consider travel insurance. It can help you avoid wasting money if something were to happen.

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Card Details

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Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.