NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The unofficial start to summer means vacation time is almost here.

But an exciting trip can head south in an instant due to medical emergencies or other unforeseen circumstances.

As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, Dale Cody may seem to have had a picture perfect trip rock climbing in Thailand, but the vacation quickly turned into a nightmare.

“I was in serious trouble,” Cody said. “I had a huge fever, chills, freezing cold, then broiling hot in a tropical climate.”

Cody came down with a mysterious infection and the small, private clinic he found for help had a big concern.

“Are we going to get paid?” explained Cody.

Luckily, Cody had purchased travel insurance, which paid off, especially when his condition got worse.

“Behind the scenes, the insurance company worked to arrange a stay at Bangkok Hospital at Phuket, which is a world-class hospital,” he said.

Regular health insurance may not cover services outside of the United States, Grymes reported. That’s where travel insurance comes in.

“About 20 percent of people whose trips have been impacted by a medical emergency or other type of emergency had travel insurance,” said Linda Kundell, spokesperson with the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. “That means that 80 percent of those impacted did not.”

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The Travel Insurance Association said there are lots of lesser-known coverage options, like reimbursement for getting stuck on the tarmac, missed connections, lost passports, even delays or trip cancellations because of illness or injury at home.

Insurance can also cover medical evacuation back to the United States.

“If you have to be medically evacuated, it can cost up to $100,000 or more,” said Kundell.

Industry experts say certain credit cards offer free travel insurance, but those policies may not be comprehensive.

They also caution against buying travel insurances from an airline, cruise company or tour operator because you’re not covered if they go bankrupt, Grymes reported.

“For a very inexpensive trip, let’s say a $1,000 trip somewhere, you might not want to get travel insurance,” said George Hobica, president of AirfareWatchdog.com. “Travel insurance is really better for those trips that you cannot afford to lose the value of; for example, a $10,000 cruise.”

Travel insurance typically costs about 4 to 8 percent of the total trip. But it was money well spent for Cody.

“I highly credit the insurance company with taking all the actions that I was unable to take because I was so sick to save my life,” Cody said.

Cody had a $360 premium that ended up being priceless.