It’s the time of year when many Minnesotans start to plan for their big summer vacation trip.

Preparing for travel always includes a list of things you just need to have for things to go right. Sunscreen? Check. Phone charger? Check. Health insurance? Yes, you should be thinking about health insurance, too.

Don’t worry — whether it’s a road trip to Mount Rushmore or a plane ride to Disneyland, your existing health plan likely covers medical emergencies within all 50 states. But what if you’re visiting the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, or Europe? Would you know what to do or where to go if you or your family needed medical care in another country?

You may be surprised to learn that many health insurance plans don’t cover international medical costs. Even in cases when there is some protection in place for health care outside the US, you may need to pay the charges in full at the hospital or clinic and then wait weeks or even months after returning home to be reimbursed by your insurer. In a worst-case scenario, you could have zero insurance protection and will need to cover the mounting medical bills all on your own. Unfortunately, online fundraising sites are always full of people who owe tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for foreign care.

So if you’re thinking about traveling abroad, consider these revealing facts:

  • No matter how cautious you are, a medical emergency can happen anywhere. Car accidents are the number one cause of injury abroad, followed by food poisoning and stomach viruses.
  • Airlines can’t always accommodate patient needs. After an illness or injury abroad, if you are stable enough to fly but still require medical attention, chances are you won’t be allowed a seat on a commercial flight. An air ambulance evacuation can cost $40,000 or more.
  • Medical care payment requirements vary greatly around the world. Some providers may not permit you to leave the facility with an outstanding hospital bill.
  • Medicare has no international travel benefit, which places many globetrotting seniors at risk.

The good news? There are plenty of short-term travel insurance options available. One example tailored to Minnesotans is GeoBlue from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

For a daily price that’s often less than a large cup of gourmet coffee, you can have peace of mind knowing that your family is fully protected on an international adventure. And unlike other plans, GeoBlue pays foreign hospitals and clinics directly, just like at home — so there’s no surprise bills or out-of-pocket payments. Additionally, policy holders have access to a user-friendly app that lets them locate local providers and access medical assistance and customer service 24 hours a day.

What to do next

If you’re flying out soon, take steps now to get the protection you need by visiting bluecrossmn.com/geoblue. You don’t have to be a Blue Cross member to purchase GeoBlue insurance.

Oh, and be sure to double-check that you packed your phone charger!