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3 steps to take before you book international travel

January 7, 2019

Want to protect your overseas trip – and yourself? Your passport and health insurance policies should be among the first sights you see.

two women taking a selfie

Americans are investing more in international travel, whether for business, leisure or a blend known as “bleisure.” Trends such as purpose-driven travel, which has expanded from study abroad to humanitarian missions, eco-activism and apprentice trips, have fueled overseas exploration.

 

According to the World Tourism Organization, Americans increased their international tourism expenditures by 9% in 2017, the largest increase among the top spenders globally.1 International tourism arrivals around the world increased 7% in 2017 — greater than any year since 2010.2


Even as Americans spend more on international travel, much of that investment remains non-refundable. That makes pre-departure diligence more crucial than ever.

In the excitement of researching star ratings for hotels, river cruises, island resorts and wildlife tours, a few essential planning steps are sometimes forgotten. Here are three that every traveler should remember before moving from browsing to booking international travel:

  1. Verify that your passport is valid, and not just for the anticipated dates of your foreign travel. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months past the dates of your trip, and some airlines won’t allow you to board if it isn’t. U.S. residents can check the U.S. State Department’s travel website for guidelines on applying for or renewing a U.S. passport, as well as for expediting the process. Note that:
    • Your passport doesn’t have to be expired to be renewed, but you will need to submit it with your application to process the renewal. Allow at least six weeks for standard processing of a renewal application.
    • Passport photos that don't meet the required parameters are the top reason for application processing delays. Be aware that eyeglasses are no longer allowed in passport photos.
  2. Review health, safety and security conditions in the destinations you’re considering. Again, the country-by-country basis, updated regularly.
    • The site’s International Travel section allows you to search by your destination country to find the location of the U.S. embassy/consulate, crime and security information, visa requirements, lists of hospitals, vaccine requirements, and even guidance if you’re arrested.
    • Cruise ship passengers, U.S. students, older travelers, LGBTI travelers and other groups can find recommendations tailored to their concerns when traveling abroad.
  3. Consult your health insurance policies and providers if you are not sure whether your existing coverages extend to overseas travel. This is one of the most overlooked steps in international travel planning, but it can leave you vulnerable in a medical emergency, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition. The U.S. State Department recommends U.S. citizens purchase medical insurance for travel overseas. To note:
    • Standard health coverages, including Medicare, often do not follow you over the border, or coverage may be inadequate or too slow for international circumstances. For example, if you had a serious accident overseas, standard health insurance might not provide upfront payments that some facilities require. If medical care does not meet U.S. standards, your standard coverage may not provide for transfer to a more advanced medical facility.
    • Leisure travelers sometimes assume they have coverage through credit cards. Credit card issuers may offer some coverage for some nonrefundable hotels, rental cars or tours paid for with that card, but not for all contingencies or expenses.

 

If you identify coverage gaps that could distract or endanger you during your travels, consider a supplemental travel protection plan from a reputable, global provider.


Zurich, operating internationally for over 100 years, configures travel protection solutions for travel suppliers to offer their customers and for employers to offer their employees. Coverages are available for flight delays, stolen luggage, medical evacuation, trip cancellation and more. Options include 24/7 Zurich Travel Assist services, with an app for on-demand access to travel security assistance and alerts.

If you are interested in leisure travel protection, plans are sometimes offered at point of booking from airlines, online travel agents or tour operators. Travel insurance companies such as Travelex Insurance, a Zurich subsidiary, offer travel protection policies at different levels of coverage.


If you travel for business
, verify that your employer provides adequate accidental death & dismemberment insurance coverage, and check policy terms to ensure they cover your concerns or any leisure extension of your trip. Beyond basic AD&D coverage, employees can often elect supplemental AD&D coverage during benefits enrollment. It may allow the employee the option to cover family members.

For more pre- and post-departure safety tips for international trips, download our Overseas Travel checklists .

 

1. United Nations World Tourism Organization. “UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2018 Edition.” Madrid. 2018. https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/book/10.18111/9789284419876
2. Ibid.