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Protected All Year: New Annual Travel Insurance Plans

You've saved your pennies for a trek to Everest Base Camp. In the Himalayas, your nagging headache and exhaustion turn into severe altitude sickness. A sherpa tries to strap you to the back of a yak for a quick descent, but you resist when you deliriously realize that the yak is actually a fearsome yeti who has eaten your nose.

The yak takes you to a small village, where your new sherpa pal asks you if you have the money to pay for a helicopter evacuation to the hospital in Kathmandu. You pull out your thin wallet and he shakes his head.

"You should've bought travel insurance," says the sherpa. You'll be paying off that $10,000 medical evacuation bill for a very long time.

Travel insurance is an essential precaution for even the most mundane excursion, but is often overlooked when planning an overseas trip for good reason: it can add hundreds of dollars to a total holiday budget, making it prohibitive for many travelers.

Per trip insurance costs, including trip cancellation, baggage loss and medical evacuation, can often run between $6 to $10 per day. This adds up quickly if you take several trips a year, or even if you take one long one.

But now -- thanks to requests from frequent business travelers -- some insurance companies are offering annual multi-trip policies, making the cost of travel insurance affordable for even the most budget-minded international travelers.

The new basic annual policies cost around $200 a year. Coverage and limits vary by company, so it's important to inspect and compare the benefits of each plan carefully. Most include trip cancellation, baggage loss and medical evacuation insurance.

Medical or health insurance is usually sold separately, as many people already have policies. Always check with your health insurance carrier before you leave, however, as some agencies limit their coverage to trips within the U.S. Risky activities, such as SCUBA diving and mountain climbing, are usually not covered, and auxiliary insurance may be also required.

Students, teachers and travelers under 26 are eligible for the International Student Identity Card.
For $22 a year, it comes with basic health, baggage and evacuation insurance benefits.

American Express Travel Medical Protection offers higher benefits for cardholders of any age for $99 a year for trips under 31 days. Enrollment is no longer available online, so you must call 1-800-297-2900 for details.

A number of other companies, offer annual plans and policies in the $200 and up range for those who already have primary care at home. TravelGap multi-trip insurance is offered by some agents for $99 a year and up, but it is not approved in all states. Check their eligibility list. TravelGap also requires applicants to have primary coverage in the States.

Now there's no need to GoNOMAD without travel insurance again. After all, you never know when you might be stuck in a hut at Everest Base Camp with a yeti in need of immediate evacuation.

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