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Everything we think you need to know about Travel Insurance – Pros vs Cons

Insurance was an interesting topic since the day we decided we were going to go through with this travel thing.  Obamacare added a few wrinkles into the mix that a few years ago we wouldn’t have necessarily had to consider.  The style of travel that we are doing, the amount of time that we are leaving for and the plethora of travel/international insurance options available made this a much more taxing exercise than we had anticipated.

Before Obamacare US citizens could have decided to not retain domestic health insurance and not face any penalty. From what we read online that appeared to be a popular choice amongst budget-strapped travelers.  There are even blogs that debate whether or not travel insurance is a good idea. Ultimately the answer is yes. Today is a different day though and as US citizens we are required (kind of) to have domestic health insurance.  Should we choose not to we face a fine that will be withheld or added to our tax returns the following spring.  For low income earners, which of course we will be, there is an option to pay 3% of you income for the most basic of insurance plans.  Sounded great until we realized they use last year’s tax filing and current W2s to determine your income.  Perhaps in 2016 when we file and show nothing as income we will get some money back.  In the meantime we went with the cheapest insurance we could find on the marketplace.  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Choice Bronze PPO 006.  Fancy huh?  Literally nothing, not a single penny outside of a physical is covered without us first meeting our individual deductibles of $6,000 each ($12,00 total if you’re slow).  All of that for $321/month or $3,852 a year for the opportunity to spend an additional $12,000 a year.  WTF.  Ultimately this is here in the true sense of insurance.  Should anything happen to us abroad and we’re required to come back to the U.S. for treatment this policy will allow us to receive decent medical attention and insure us against exorbitant medical bills.

Ah, but there is a silver lining. There is a link on our BCBSIL landing page titled “Coverage FAQs” when you click that link (I kid you not) the only question and answer that comes up is regarding coverage when traveling outside the U.S.  Screenshot. It was a sign: maybe we’re covered abroad with our required domestic health insurance, we will just give them a call like they said. Ha. After calling customer service I was directed to call a different part of the company called their Blue Card Program.  Those folks had no idea what I was talking about and gave me another number.  I called them and the very sweet lady again had no clue and offered to put me on the line with the sales rep she had on the phone to pitch me international insurance. I politely declined and made it a point to purchase traditional travelers insurance immediately.

So many effing options.  I stumbled across Insuremytrip, a website that compares a variety of highly rated insurance options based on the users inputs (where are you going, for how long, who are you traveling with, their age, estimated cost of trip, etc..).  Check out the ranges of options and prices.  The prices range from $152 – $1,250.  OK…?

A lot of those insurances offer what is called trip insurance.  This is really only necessary if you have a bunch of hotels and flights already booked for and paid.  A natural disaster, health issue or some other situation that would prevent you from going on the trip would be covered and you would be reimbursed for all the money you had spent.  We aren’t traveling like that, at least not in a way that insurable in a meaningful way because we’re only planning 2-6 weeks out, not traveling by air and staying at some pretty low-cost places.

When the dust settled we went with World Nomads Explorer travel insurance.


  • Covers extreme sports, notable scuba diving.  Full list of covered sports
  • Very simple to extend the policy if we travel for longer than anticipated
  • Highly rated
  • Plenty of options to get a hold of them while traveling


  • Pricey – our policy for 6 months cost $966.
  • Not customizable – there are only 2 options Basic and Explorer

Last and certainly not least, here are a few highlights of things we learned while shopping for insurance and reading our policies:

  • World Nomads will front a hospital money if necessary to get you admitted.  Pretty awesome that they will do that and pretty scary that a hospital will require you to effectively pre-pay prior to admittance
  • Our policy covers theft/loss of personal effects (think electronics or other belonging) some of the notable exclusions are:
    • animals, as in your pets.
    • artificial limbs
    • any items destroyed by insects or vermin
  • In the event something does get stolen here are the deadlines we are bound by in order to successfully file a claim:
    • Must notify police within 24hrs of event
    • Must file a claim with World Nomads within 20 days of event
    • Must provide proof (police report) within 90 days of event

So there you have it. Everything you need to know about travel insurance…at least what we think.

8 thoughts on “Everything we think you need to know about Travel Insurance – Pros vs Cons

    1. Lindsay

      Good site – thanks for sharing. Did they mention by chance how your annual income would impact the potential fine? I suppose there is a certain poverty threshold that puts you in the $300 fine category?

  1. Andy Brink

    Could you provide any more info on the need for US health insurance? Everything that I read has said that if you are not in the US long enough (330 days in a given year) then you do not need the US health insurance:

    “The Obamacare exemption uses the same tests as the foreign earned income exclusion. These are known as the physical presence test or the bona fide residence test. Someone who passes either of these tests cannot only exclude their income from U.S. taxes, they can also bypass the Obamacare mandate.

    The physical presence test is easy to apply. If someone is in a foreign country for 330 days out of any 12-month period, that person has passed the physical presence test. Many people travel back and forth to the United States to visit family, to check up on business investments, and a variety of other reasons, and may spend more than 35 days in the U.S., thereby failing the physical presence test. For people who spend enough time in the U.S. to fail the physical presence test, but still spend most of their time abroad, there is the bona fide residence test. This is slightly harder to apply.”

    1. Jeff Post author

      Thanks for writing, Andy. And you are completely right from the research that I have done. We opted in for U.S. based insurance primarily for..well, insurance. Our international travelers insurance through World Nomads will effectively stop covering us as soon as we’re within 100 miles of our main residence. The Obamacare insurance we purchased would get the “torch” passed to it at that point.

      In addition I am not certain that we will spend 330 days abroad. Our first 4-6 months are pretty much spoken for in South America, but we’ve discussed making a pit stop back in the states to see friends and family and even touring the U.S. during the winter months. That would put us on U.S. soil for longer than 35 days.

      We paid the full premium for coverage because our 2014 W2s show we made money. I anticipate that when we file our 2015 taxes we will get a rebate/refund based on our (lack of) income.

      Take care

  2. Lucy

    One more thing-I hope you have brushed up on your Spanish?!? If you haven’t already I highly recommend you learning the following phrase, at least you will not go hungry!

    Con mucho gusto le pagar Martes por una hamburguesa hoy

    1. Jeff Post author

      We use DuoLingo and Pimsleur while in the states and will take 2wks of spanish classes in Ecuador in March. We know how to say beer…so we won’t be thirsty..

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