If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
We may receive payment from affiliate links included within this content. Our affiliate partners do not influence our editorial opinions or analysis. To learn more, see our Advertiser Disclosure.
Even if your college-age child is fully vaccinated, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact both U.S. and international travel. Parents of college students who are hoping to go abroad to study should consider studying the possible benefits of a travel insurance policy. Here’s how the right policy can help make for a smoother experience.
What to Look for in Travel Insurance for Studying Abroad
There are many travel insurance plans that package up multiple benefits that can protect your investment during your child’s time abroad.
It’s smart to pick a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, medical expenses and medical evacuation. Take time to read through the policy carefully so you understand any fine print. Look especially at the acceptable reasons for making claims and also the exclusions.
“Parents with students traveling abroad should consider a comprehensive travel insurance policy that offers cancellation coverage and post-departure coverage benefits,” says Daniel Durazo, spokesperson with Allianz Partners USA.
Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you 100% for prepaid, non-refundable trip deposits, such as airline tickets and rental cars. “This allows flexibility if there are any changes in your schedule that result in cancellations,” Duranzo says.
Post-departure benefits can help once you’re on your trip. This includes coverage for baggage delays and losses, travel delays and medical emergencies. “This type of coverage provides peace of mind when it comes to unexpected—and typically costly—travel challenges,” Durazo observes.
Special Considerations for Studying Abroad
When planning for your child’s time out of the U.S., Durazo says parents should consider the risk level of the activities your child will be participating in and the level of experience they have in traveling to a new place.
“For example, the type and location of their accommodations, any activities or tours, what type of transportation they will be using, new types of cuisine, etc.—these all factor into selecting the right travel insurance policy for students studying abroad,” he points out.
It’s important to be prepared for various scenarios in another country, as it will be your student’s new living environment for an extended period of time. Durazo says common problems during study abroad trips include:
- Illnesses or injuries
- Severe weather
- Traffic accidents
In addition, foreign language barriers and unfamiliarity with local laws and cultural norms can also present some learning curves for students, and potential pitfalls.
Here’s what to pay special attention to:
1. Look at the Policy’s Maximum Trip Length
Make sure you pay attention to the maximum trip length covered by a travel insurance policy before you buy it. Many plans cover up to 180 days. If you need a longer duration, work with a travel insurance agent to identify the possible choices.
2. Check Existing Health Insurance
Check to see what kind of coverage your existing health plan has outside of the U.S. Some plans have limited global coverage.
“And, if your student doesn’t have travel insurance, gets sick or injured or goes to a hospital in a foreign county, many overseas medical providers will require that they be paid in full at the time of treatment,” says Durazo at Allianz. Travel insurance can provide payment guarantees so that travelers do not have to pay for treatment out of their pocket, he says.
Travel insurance policies are typically intended for emergencies and usually don’t cover routine care, like a basic physical.
3. Lock in a Pre-Existing Condition Exclusion Waiver
Health issues related to pre-existing conditions may not be covered by a travel insurance plan. To ensure they are, it’s prudent to get a pre-existing condition exclusion waiver. It’s a mouthful, but easy to do. Pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, can be covered by a travel insurance plan as long as you buy your plan within a few weeks after you make your first trip deposit. Note, however, that even with a waiver, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are typically not covered.
4. Get Medical Evacuation Coverage
In some cases a local medical facility can’t adequately treat certain conditions or severe issues. Medical evacuation is typically covered by travel insurance. It arranges for and pays to get you the closest facility that can treat your condition.
“Medical evacuations also can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and international travelers need to be protected against incurring this significant expense,” says Durazo.
5. Look at Covid Coverage
Even if your child is fully vaccinated, travel can bring increased exposure to Covid-19. Many travel insurance plans cover Covid-19 just like any other illness, but verify that your plan does.
6. Research Drug Laws
In addition, research the drug laws in countries your child will visit. Some pain medications and stimulants are illegal in other countries, and if your child takes them, check to see if there is an alternative in consultation with their doctor before they travel, advises Durazo.
7. Prepare for Allergic Reactions
Another potential problem is food allergies. “Your child won’t always be able to check ingredients, so bringing appropriate medications in case there is a reaction is a smart idea,” he says.
How Soon Should You Buy Travel Insurance?
Experts like Durazo say travel insurance should be purchased when the child registers for the semester and you buy flights. At that point, you’ll have laid out money, and that’s when you want to get insurance in place.
Travel insurance policies generally have a “free look” period, and if you change your mind within that time after purchase you can get a full refund.
“If you decide the product doesn’t meet your needs within that time frame, you can purchase a new product or cancel your policy for a full refund,” Durazo says. If a need for travel insurance has hit your radar late, policies can often be purchased up to 24 hours prior to the departure date.
Other Ways to Get Value from Travel Insurance
Most travel insurance plans come with a 24/7 assistance hotline that can help with medical referrals, assistance if a passport is lost or stolen, currency exchange rates, help with travel arrangements and more.
Some companies have tech-savvy benefits. For example, the Allianz TravelSmart app allows you to access your travel insurance policy quickly and file and track claims. According to Durazo, the app also tracks flights, provides one-touch dialing to the travel assistance team and emergency medical services, offers translations for first aid terms and medications and has a geolocation function to find the closest health care facility, police station or embassy.
Your student may be looking forward to taking advantage of their proximity to other countries, with plans to explore. Scott Adamski, spokesperson with AIG Travel, says travel insurance plans are important for students who may be traveling from country to country for both education and leisure. For example, “For an undergraduate program focused in history or archaeology, there might be numerous field trips, lasting a day or longer, that would take them far away from campus,” says Adamski. The coverage of a travel insurance policy will go with them.
Note that the cost of tuition for a study abroad program—even if it’s not refundable—is not something that can be insured on a travel insurance policy. Your student’s tuition is not considered a trip cost.
Going Above and Beyond
A quality travel insurance plan can offer broad protection and peace of mind while your child is studying abroad, but you may want to add supplemental coverage. If your budget allows, consider the additional protection of membership with a global rescue company, which can provide services in cases of medical crisis and personal security problems.
For example, a MedjetHorizon membership will take your child from any hospital in the world to the hospital of your choice, provide evacuation services because of natural disaster, political threat or other issues, provide crisis response for kidnapping, disappearance and wrongful detention, and more.