With tensions in the travel industry
and the global political scene, more travelers are looking
into travel insurance.
But the term "travel insurance"
can mean widely different things and can offer either
real benefits or an expensive duplication of coverage
you probably already have.
If ever there was a purchase that calls
for research and reading the fine print, travel insurance
is it, says Edward Hasbrouck, author of "The Practical
Nomad" series of travel books.
That's because many of the reasons for
which people would buy travel insurance, such as an
airline or cruise line going out of business or the
government shutting down every airport in the country,
may not be covered.
Hasbrouck says he's recommended trip cancellation
and interruption insurance for years, especially if
a trip is being paid for well in advance.
Let's say you've booked a two-week walking
tour of France and then take a spill and find yourself
on crutches a week before you're scheduled to leave.
Or your mom has emergency surgery while you're on an
Alaskan cruise and you need to get home.
It happens all the time, Hasbrouck says,
and the result is that vacations are ruined because
people either cancel their trips and lose the money,
or go when they'd rather stay home because they can't
get a refund.
Travel insurance "doesn't deal with
the emotional pain, but it allows you to make your decisions
unclouded by money," Hasbrouck says. "The
further in advance you're paying, you're crazy not to
get the insurance."
Pricing for the policies typically is
based on the cost of your trip, how old you are and
how long you're going to be traveling. As a rough guideline,
expect to pay between 8 percent and 10 percent of the
cost of your trip.
The best form of trip cancellation and
interruption insurance will not only cover illness and
injury, but also supplier default, which means the company
folded. This became especially important for airlines
since Sept. 11, Hasbrouck says, and for cruise lines,
some of which have built too many ships and are on shaky
TravelGuard International offers supplier-default
coverage if it's purchased within seven days of putting
down a deposit. Likewise, their medical-expense coverage
will cover pre-existing conditions if it's bought within
Know what you pay
The key is to ask the right questions, read the fine
print, and make sure that you're actually getting what
you think you're buying.
Take flight insurance, for example. This
is a life insurance policy that only pays off if you're
killed or maimed in a plane crash. According to the
Independent Insurance Agents of America, you've got
a higher chance of getting hit by a bus when you're
walking out of the airport than being killed in a plane
Many travel policies will also cover you
on the ground while you're using "common conveyances,"
such as buses, trains, subways, taxis and hotel courtesy
shuttles, but not private tour buses or rental cars.
Chances are good, though, that you've already got this
kind of coverage with your personal or company-paid
life and/or accidental death insurance policy.