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Millions of Americans visit Italy each year because there’s so much to see and do there. But all the adventure and excitement can translate into an expensive trip. With history, foodie experiences and cultural treasures, you’ll likely want to stay more than a week and visit a few cities while there.
You can take the train or fly between cities, but when you travel from Point A to Point B, there’s always a chance you could have delays or other travel woes. Since you’re far from home, it’s a wise idea to purchase travel insurance that protects you from losing substantial money due to unforeseen events and unexpected issues.
Here’s what to look for when you’re purchasing travel insurance for a bucket-list trip to Italy.
Locking in Special Benefits
Especially when you’re traveling internationally, it’s good to have a comprehensive travel insurance policy with important benefits like trip cancellation, trip delay and trip interruption, baggage loss protection and medical expense and medical evacuation coverage.
Scott Adamski, spokesperson with AIG Travel, says the best course of action is to buy travel insurance within 15 days of the initial deposits for your trip. This strategy gives you the chance to get perks like coverage for pre-existing conditions and “cancel for any reason” coverage. Both of these benefits have purchase deadlines that you’ll miss if you wait to buy a travel insurance plan.
Even if you haven’t purchased your policy right away, you can generally buy travel insurance up to 24 hours before you leave.
The Importance of Trip Cancellation Insurance
If you purchase travel insurance when you put your initial deposits down, you’ll get the most value from your coverage. You’ll be able to make a trip cancellation claim if necessary for problems such as a serious illness or injury to you, a travel companion, or a close family member; a job loss; severe weather; a family emergency; or terrorism.
Trip cancellation claims reimburse you 100% for your non-refundable, pre-paid deposits. Make sure to check your particular policy for the acceptable reasons for a cancellation claim.
There’s always a chance something devastating can happen before a trip. For example, if you are headed to Rome to celebrate your 20th anniversary with your spouse and a hurricane destroys your home, you are typically covered for trip cancellation.
For example, if you pre-paid a private evening tour of the historic city center in Rome, you can recover non-refundable expenses like this by filing a claim.
A standard travel insurance policy won’t cover all possible reasons to cancel. For example, if you want to cancel because your college friend will be in your city and you want to reunite, this is not a covered reason.
If you want the most flexibility to cancel a trip, you can upgrade to “cancel for any reason” coverage. With this additional layer of protection, you can literally cancel for fear of travel, a fight with your significant other, or just because you change your mind. But you must cancel your trip no less than 48 hours before departure. This upgrade costs about 50% more than a standard trip insurance policy and you will generally be able to recoup 75% if the money you lose.
Preparing for Medical Problems During Your Trip
Your U.S. health insurance plan may have limited coverage outside the U.S., so make sure to check what you have for global health coverage when you’re planning your Italy trip. And Medicare has no coverage outside the U.S., with very limited exceptions. Since you’re leaving the U.S. it’s important to plan for potential medical issues.
A comprehensive travel insurance plan will include travel medical coverage and emergency medical evacuation coverage.
For example, if you slip as you’re entering a gondola in Venice and twist your ankle, your travel insurance company can help coordinate care with a medical clinic to have your ankle examined by a doctor and X-rayed. The travel assistance team can also help you find a local pharmacy for medication.
Without travel medical insurance, you may be on the hook for all the bills. Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison provider, recommends a policy with at least $50,000 in medical coverage. But there are generous policies with medical coverage of $500,000 per person.
Getting Medical Evacuation Coverage
If you’re on a lunch outing in Tuscany and develop an allergic reaction to the food, you will need immediate medical care. If the local clinic isn’t suitable to treat emergencies of this nature, your travel insurance plan can cover the cost of a medevac to get you to a medical facility that can properly treat you.
Medical evacuation costs can quickly exceed tens of thousands of dollars. You can find plans with $1 million for medical evacuation if you want top-notch coverage.
If you plan to do off-the-grid excursions like bike tours or wine tastings in remote villages, you might opt for a membership program like Medjet, which will dispatch an air ambulance to get you at the hospital and take you to the hospital of your choice, even if it’s back in the U.S.
Dealing with Trip Delays
Although it would be ideal to fly directly to Rome, Milan or Venice, this is not always easy to do. You may get better fares with a connection, but there’s a higher chance you’ll have to deal with a trip delay. For example, if you have a stopover in Dublin and your final destination is Rome, an airline mechanical issue could prevent you from departing Boston on time to make a tight three-hour connection.
If you miss the last connecting flight and need to spend the night in Dublin, travel insurance can reimburse you for the extra costs during the delay, such as a hotel room and meals. There may be a waiting period of three to 12 hours before benefits kick in, so when shopping for a policy look for one with a short wait-time for travel delay coverage.
Keep your receipts so you can file a claim for reimbursement.
Interrupted Italy Trips
You could be enjoying your time in Florence and get a call that can turn your trip upside-down. Trip interruption and trip delay claims are common for travelers who visit Italy, reports Lisa Cheng, a spokesperson with World Nomads, a travel insurance company.
For example, if your mother is in an assisted living facility and develops life-threatening pneumonia, you may want to return home to the U.S. to be by her bedside.
Your travel insurance policy can pay for a one-way, last-minute flight back home under trip interruption benefits.
You can also use trip interruption benefits if you need to leave Italy due to health reasons.
“Imagine you are visiting the Colosseum in Rome and you fall and get seriously injured and must end the trip early,” says Jeremy Murchland, president of Seven Corners, a travel insurance company. “Your travel insurance plan will allow you to do so.”
When you return home, you can also be reimbursed for experiences that you will miss because you cut the trip short. For example, Murchland says that if your trip to Italy included prepaid tickets to see a sports game or a concert, this is a reimbursable expense covered by a travel insurance policy.
Italy offers so much to experience from walking tours to gondola rides to historical excursions, plus extravagant meals and shows. There are cultural city centers with endless shopping and dining experiences.
But touristy areas often have petty thieves who can spot tourists and steal belongings.
It’s wise to keep your belongings very close while sightseeing, particularly in crowds and packed train stations. Be mindful of your belongings in crowded tourist spots like the Colosseum in Rome. Consider using a cross-body bag, money belt or jacket with inside pockets to hold your wallet, phone and passport.
If you have possessions stolen, your policy can reimburse the value of your items, whether it’s a gold bracelet or binoculars. (Note that reimbursement is for the depreciated cost, not the cost to buy brand-new items, and it’s usually secondary coverage to your home insurance.)
Your policy likely has per-item reimbursement caps or maximum benefits for stolen or damaged items, so check the policy for caps.
It’s important to file a timely report with your tour leader and local police. You will need to send this documentation if you file a claim.
Erica Lamberg is a personal finance and travel writer based in suburban Philadelphia. She is a regular contributor to USA Today and her writing credits include NBC News, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, Oprah Magazine and.