Question 6 of 20: How to Vet a Gap Year Organization

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These questions were developed out of the understanding that having the full 54 pages of AGA Standards in front of most people would be utterly useless. See them here to understand their complexity:  So, we created these 20 Questions as a way to help the individual navigate their own program.  These may be for the more intrepid and independent traveler – someone who’s already done their fair share of traveling: a veteran sojourner.  Or, perhaps these might be appropriate for someone who’s truly on a budget and the scholarships and financial aid available to them through another program isn’t sufficient.  Obviously, the full 54 pages of Standards make great sense for an AGA organization to run through – ensuring the best quality and safety in an organized program.  But not every student will want to do one of our accredited programs.

Q6: Will My Insurance Needs be Covered by My Program Fees?

For most of us, insurance is something that we only think about when we need it. We pay the policy fees, we may glance over what it covers and what it doesn’t, and then when something goes wrong we just expected it’s going to be there in full force.

When we sign onto a program, we may or may not consider that insurance is a part of the picture.  All AGA Members – for instance – have to have a few basics of insurance that they provide their students: uniform medical evacuation (because when it’s warranting of an evacuation every minute counts), and liability insurance of $2,000,000.  But there are many other kinds of insurance, many of which you’ll need and others still you’ll want to consider: there’s health insurance (you’ll want to check your policy covers you where you are, domestically or internationally), health evacuation insurance, political/natural disaster evacuation insurance, adventure insurance, mental health insurance, there’s trip delay insurance, and of course lost/stolen item insurance … and many more.

In many cases if you’re taking your Gap Year in the US or another developed country, there are natural protocols in place that are akin to 911 where the evacuation will take place quickly and professionally.  In the US, no hospital service is allowed to turn you away for want of funding.  However, to evacuate a student (or staff for that matter) can cost easily in the $50,000 – $100,000 range and that’s what the insurance is for.  That being said, if you’re getting evacuated internationally, they may say that they’re unwilling to evacuate you unless they have cash in hand or an arrangement with an insurance company they already know will pay.  … hence, the reason for doing your research with regards to insurance.

TRUE STORY: I had a student about 9 years ago in Guatemala who slipped on some wet concrete (the finished kind in a Spanish classroom) and hyperextended her knee.  Unfortunately, the knee required a specialists’ intervention and surgery as the MCL had torn.  Now, normally a family would be on the hook not only for the student’s flight out of Guatemala and back home as well as any lost fees associated with missing the program.  This particular student was medically well-covered (in the pre-Obamacare days) and was covered under her parents’ policy … but that only covered them once she got home.  They hadn’t, however, purchased insurance that would cover her for trip-interruption that would have covered their flights back home – costing a total of around $2,000 in their case.  Now insurance is often a bet: that you may need it and that the cost of getting it would be significantly less than not having it.  In this case, the appropriate insurance could have cost anywhere from $32 – $400 … and this is the great hardship, knowing what you should and shouldn’t get.  Perhaps that’s fodder for another blog …

The point is that there are many pitfalls to insurance, and if you don’t know what your insurance needs are then you’re either left to do all the research yourself, or you’re leaning on the program you’re doing.

Check out these websites for international travel insurance:,, and (note: AGA does not earn commission nor specifically endorse these carriers.)

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