You’ve spent months planning your sailing vacation: arranging the boat, booking flights, choosing hotels and reading about your destination with eager anticipation. On the eve of your departure, you’re packed and ready to go when the phone rings. Your aging parent has suddenly taken ill and is being rushed to the local emergency room. Now what?
While chartering is the best way (short of full-time cruising) to experience sailing in new parts of the world, the investment is not insignificant. Even if charter expenses are shared, once you add flights and hotels for pre- or post-charter, if you have to cancel unexpectedly, you stand to lose considerable cash.
Unexpected circumstances are the reason most charter companies and brokers strongly suggest that their clients purchase travel insurance. It’s an optional add-on, and many charterers choose to forgo it. All charter companies have written cancellation terms in their charter contracts; most of them do not grant a refund if an emergency situation at home forces you to cancel at the last minute — though some do have trip-postponement clauses.
Although nobody likes to dwell on “what ifs,” when it comes to vacation plans that are cast in stone, the “what if” list is a long one, even if it doesn’t occur at the last minute: a medical issue or injury for you, a family member or traveling companion; death of a family member or traveling companion; unexpected job loss; natural disaster (hurricane, flood, earthquake); a terrorist incident. Even flight delays/cancellations or aviation strikes can delay you enough to ruin a fixed-date charter lasting just one week. And what if the company you booked with goes bust?
In addition to trip-cancellation coverage, almost all travel insurance offers other coverage for you while you’re away, including medical coverage for injuries, emergencies and evacuation, if needed. If you plan to travel outside the United States, this alone might make the insurance worthwhile: Many people are unaware that most U.S. health insurance policies, including Medicare, do not cover you if you become ill or injured while outside the United States. Travel policies also usually cover trip interruption, lost baggage, flight delays, vendor bankruptcy and many other things that can go wrong when you travel.
Some charter brokers and companies are also licensed insurance agents, and offer optional coverage with an affiliate insurance company when you book your charter. Others suggest specific reputable travel insurers and refer you directly to those; you can arrange for the insurance yourself (or not). There are varying degrees of coverage and a range of rates to match: Basic or partial coverage might cost only 3 percent of your total trip cost; comprehensive coverage can cost as much as 8 to 10 percent of it. In addition to the type of coverage you select, rates vary depending on many factors, including your age, number of people you’re insuring, length of time away, your destination and many other factors.
To get the best coverage and rates, you’ll need to purchase coverage either when you book a trip or within a specific number of days afterward (the number of days varies). If your broker or charter company offers it, the easiest option is to purchase it directly through the company, but you’re not obligated to. Whether it’s offered directly or via referral, there’s time to shop around a bit before you decide whether to purchase it. Quick-comparison sites (insuremytrip.com, squaremouth.com) are helpful, or you can go directly to specific companies’ websites to check and compare coverage and prices (see “Where to Start,” below). It’s also helpful to read ratings and reviews of companies from people who’ve actually used them (travelinsurancereview.net). Keep in mind that you don’t always have to insure the total cost of the trip — you can elect to insure for a minimal amount that will still reap financial payback if things go haywire either before or during your vacation.
Opting to buy trip insurance will add to the trip cost, but the amount is small compared to the investment of both money and time you’ve made planning your sailing getaway. And, while it might decrease the amount in your wallet, it will immeasurably increase your peace of mind. It’s a personal choice. Many seasoned travelers won’t leave home without it; others prefer to take their chances. Whichever way you lean, there’s no doubt that it’s worth considering as a safety net when “what if” becomes reality.
Lynda Morris Childress is a Cruising World contributing editor. She and her husband sail and charter their 70-footer, Stressbuster, in the Greek islands.
Where To Start
Before You Buy
Check to see what your credit cards or other insurance policies (such as life or health) cover in terms of travel and/or illness while outside the United States or your home area. You might only need to purchase supplemental coverage from another insurer.
When researching companies, seek specifics, and if possible, request a sample (or thorough summary) of the actual policy before you buy. Be sure to read the fine print! If you have questions, make sure they’re answered to your satisfaction by a qualified agent.
Be sure to ask if the company has any restrictions on sailing vacations. (Some companies don’t cover certain sports-Advertisement
related travel.) If you have a pre-existing condition, ask if any incident that happens as a result of that condition will be covered while you’re traveling.
Ask if the company has a 24/7 hotline help number. If you’re faced with a travel or medical issue, this is an excellent service to have.