1) Weather: I have a history of missing inclement weather by the skin of my teeth. I remember sitting in Heathrow, freaking out because it was snowing like crazy and flights were being cancelled left, right, and centre. I managed to get on my plane literally an hour before they shut the airport. I also avoided the volcanic ash cloud of 2010, but that was by little more than 2 weeks, and I know plenty of other people who weren’t so fortunate.
My point is that weather is something that can come out of nowhere and mess with your plans in a major way. Every time something like this happens (cyclones, ash clouds, and other possible indicators of the end of days), I know that I will be sweet because I will be covered if I get stuck somewhere. Remember though, that there are particular rules around natural disasters and what you are and are not covered for, it pays to check.
2) Illness: This is one of the more common reasons people should get travel insurance. If you’re unwell, you will need to see a doctor in a foreign country= massive hassle and lots of $$$. The hassle part you can’t do anything about, but insurance will at least save you on the money side of things. Something else to consider is if you become seriously ill BEFORE your trip. A friend of mine was diagnosed with a brain tumour 6 weeks before she was due to do a trip to Burma. She’s ok, but obviously chemo did preclude her being able to go away on holiday, and she would have been out of pocket several thousand dollars if not for her policy. Insurance friends, you never know what might happen!
3) Injury: Unfortunately, this is my jam. I have lost count of the random injuries sustained whilst overseas (although rarely on home soil, go figure). Luckily they have all been relatively minor, but have still required doctor visits. I sliced the bottom of my heel quite deeply in Thailand and actually fist pumped the air when I didn’t have to have stitches. I broke my toe trying on a wetsuit in Egypt (it was equal parts painful and ridiculous). I also had a minor cut on my finger which subsequently got infected in Egypt (topical antibiotics for the the win!). The worst was a particularly spectacular fall from a bike on a riding tour in Amsterdam (sober, I swear!) where I ripped my rotator cuff, and bruised the entire left side of my body- but I didn’t break my head, so that was a plus. I have also been with a friend who freakishly lost her hearing, requiring an emergency hospital visit in Thailand (really good hospital though). Every time I randomly injure myself I think- this is why I pay that premium, it really does pay for itself.
4) Theft: Ironically I think this is the one people worry most about, and yet the one I have never had to claim for. I’ve travelled around multiple pickpocketing hot spots- Barcelona, Paris, Rome- and lived in London, and never had a problem. My friend did have her wallet stolen on the Athens Metro, but that’s it. Nevertheless, if you are taking expensive camera equipment, or jewellery, or anything that is worth some decent dosh, make sure that you are covered if something happens to it. Keep in mind you WILL need to make sure that you have a police report within 24 hours to submit with your claim. Travel insurance can also help you to get your passport replaced, quick sticks, which is handy (make sure you have a photocopy!).
5) Political Instability: This is infrequently considered, but incredibly important. My very first overseas holiday in 2008 happened to coincide with the political coup in Thailand where the airport was shut down. The day before I was due to go home of course *sigh*. Thus I ended up being stuck for a whole extra week and being put on a mercy flight before things kicked off. My insurance covered that extra week and taught me an important lesson- ALWAYS get insurance, ALWAYS. And register yourself on smart traveller or equivalent website for your country of course 😉
NB: Acts of terrorism are not covered by insurance. You also may not be covered if you are going to a country that has already been identified as highly unstable beforehand. Again, check the rating for that country/ies and the specific details of the policy.
And that friends is the take home message: Whether your reason is one of the five above, or something else, take out a comprehensive policy before you go anywhere. You never know when you might need it.