PHOTO: Acquiring all-important travel insurance is getting easier and quicker. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
You know you should be buying travel insurance, and somewhere—deep down—you can guess that buying it from the airline, cruise line, or tour company might mean you aren't getting the best deal.
Still, insurance is boring and confusing and time-consuming. So, if you are like me, you do one of two things: either you click "yes" whenever it is offered to you at the time of a travel purchase or you hold your breath and ignore the option. It's like playing roulette. Sometimes you bet it all on red, other times your gut says, sit this one out. Nothing bad will happen, right?
Until it does.
SquareMouth is a website that “compares travel insurance products from every major provider in the United States" with the goal of helping make the buying a travel policy a little easier. I recently took the website for a test run by purchasing travel insurance for an upcoming cruise. My objective was not just to click the first thing that popped up, but to see if I could actually make sense out of all the options and understand what I was paying for.
The home page is well laid out, with plenty of options for learning and exploring. I chose to jump right in with a "New Search." A few simple questions about the travelers and the trip brought me a long list of offers. The left-hand column offered filters to help me cut the list considerably, which I appreciated. Each offer had a clear price as well as basic information about the policy, but with expandable links to get more details or to add optional features like adding rental car damage.
After scrolling through my twenty-two filtered choices, I felt like I could narrow them to a handful based on price and ratings from previous customers. I check marked those policies and moved to the "Compare Favorites" tab. Each favorite was now displayed in a column. Each column was divided into sections like "Cancellation," "Medical," and "Evacuation" making it easy to look across the columns at the details of what was covered by each policy.
My in-depth travel insurance education came from clicking on the "More Detail" options on anything and everything that I did not understand or was not sure about. Pop-up boxes then explained in layman's terms exactly what "Non-Medical Evacuation" means or exactly what each policy intends to cover under "Baggage and Personal Loss."
Making the purchase
After roughly twenty minutes of researching my choices, I clicked on the "Buy Now" button, provided my credit card information, a bit more detail about the travelers, and bingo, I had a travel policy that I understood. The confirmation screen provided me with the full 23-page policy available to print as well as a one-page summary to print and take with me on the trip. A third option allowed me to create a SquareMouth account to access my policy information in the future and file claims online from anywhere in the world if it becomes necessary.
I chose all three options: a printed copy of the whole policy for my file cabinet, the one sheet summary for my travel folder (because it had the toll-free number in case I needed assistance at some point when I did not have access to the Internet) and I signed up for the online access.
After the purchase
I received emails confirming my order and my new account with SquareMouth.
Upon logging in, I had access to my policy numbers, the details of the policy, and conspicuous buttons to report a claim or "Get Emergency Help Now." I also logged in on my phone. The mobile version of my account was easy to read and had the same claim and emergency help buttons. I played around on the mobile version a bit and feel that I could have made the entire purchase almost as easily using my phone—especially if I had not been intent on expanding my overall travel insurance knowledge before I made the purchase.
SquareMouth offers an extensive selection of articles and FAQ's, as well as 24/7 phone assistance with your purchase. An additional "Zero Complaint Guarantee" states that the company will help mediate any problems you may encounter with the insurance provider. My hope, of course, is that I need neither to test the claim process nor the complaint guarantee. There's only so far I will go to get a story.
So, to answer the question in the title, I’d have to say this is not the absolute easiest way to buy travel insurance. The easiest option would be simply saying “yes” to whatever insurance is offered when you purchase travel either online or from an agent.
But, if you want to feel like you did your homework and got the insurance you wanted, covering the extras you need, and maybe saved a little in the process, then I’d say SquareMouth could be the easiest way to get that accomplished.