This is not an advertisement for travel insurance companies. I am not affiliated with any insurance company. This is just simple advice you need to hear. An alarming number of people go abroad without any additional travel or health coverage. Worse, some go without any at all. This is insane, because travel insurance that covers up to 100% of your medical expenses and travel interruptions is cheap. Whether you simply need to reschedule or cancel a flight, your hotel is overbooked, or you have an unexpected medical emergency, the top travel insurance providers offer plans that cover you. Usually it’s only around $70-100 a week for coverage. I always buy insurance, but never had to use it until last fall when it saved me hundreds of thousands in medical bills.
Here’s the story:
The Time My Pancreas and Gallbladder Tried to Kill Me
I was visiting my family down in North Carolina during the Thanksgiving holiday. I was looking forward to having some good southern food again (food that does not exist in Western Canada). On Thanksgiving Day, I had a growing pain in my upper right side. It started out dull and grew worse. I didn’t get to participate in the Thanksgiving meal. I just reclined in a chair in the corner near Grandpa’s wood burning stove trying not to groan too much.
That night I was hurting a lot. I was nauseous. My Dad took me to urgent care in the morning. The doctor told me I’d be okay with some meds. My gallbladder was acting up, but he thought I’d be okay to travel back to Canada by taking proper medication and avoiding fatty foods. Later that day the pain got much worse and I was vomiting. The pain in my guts was sharp. My folks took me to the emergency room. The rest is a bit blurry, especially after the morphine hit me (which barely helped the pain and made me feel loopy).
I still don’t know how many days exactly I was in the hospital…4, 5, 6 days? At some point my wife came down from Canada. All I really remember is watching Friends reruns on the hospital TV, complaining to the nurses that the pain meds weren’t working, and having occasional visitors. I ate nothing for several days. Apparently my gallbladder was inflamed, but the worst part was that my pancreas became inflamed as well. That was a more serious issue. They simply couldn’t remove my gallbladder until my pancreas was stable. That took days.
I had the surgery, was discharged the next day, had my first meal in a week, and began the recovery process. I cancelled my return flight to Canada and stayed with my parents in NC for the next few weeks until after Christmas. My activities and diet were limited, and I was still in pain from the surgery for several weeks after.
Eventually I began to feel normal. While in recovery I mostly played guitar, but managed to get up the strength to go out and photograph a bit on the nearby beaches. That was therapeutic.
So, Yeah…You Need Travel Insurance!
Needless to say, that was not a fun trip. Luckily, as I normally do, I purchased travel insurance through World Nomads before the trip. My wife contacted the insurance company to start a claim while I was in the hospital. The insurance covered my medical bills, which were very high. The travel insurance reimbursed me for all the medication and doctor visits and covered my hospital bills and all expenses related to treatment (like the MRI, ultrasound, follow-up appointment, meds, etc.). Ultimately, the insurance saved me almost $200,000 USD in medical costs. The insurance plan was only $100; that’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. Had I not purchased the travel insurance, it’s unclear whether my Alberta Health Plan would’ve covered much of my stateside medical expenses (likely not). I would have been responsible for thousands and thousands of dollars in healthcare costs if I hadn’t spent that $100 on travel insurance.
It’s ironic that I enjoy free healthcare in Canada, and that my first hospitalization happened in the states, but I am happy that I was in a place I was familiar with and had my family there to help me through it all. If I’d been in another country, things would have been more complicated and stressful. So, make sure you get travel insurance that covers the cost of trip cancellation and interruptions, but also covers any possible medical situations as well.
I’d recommend World Nomads, but there are other reputable options out there, so you can shop around, but wherever you go, don’t leave home without travel insurance!