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Special section Jump into travel

Memories may be free but vacations generally aren't. Here's how to save some money on your travels.

How to afford it

Travel insurance: Are you already covered?

Some companies offer travel assistance with employment benefits. For example, The Hartford, one of a small group of companies offering travel insurance to businesses includes free travel service on their group life, accident and long-term disability insurance policies. Their services range from pre-trip information to emergency medical care and emergency personal services.

A homeowners or renters insurance policy generally covers the theft of your personal property, according to IIAA, even if you're traveling out of the country. Some valuables, such as jewelry, cameras and laptops, probably won't be covered, but check with your insurer. Hasbrouck recommends for computer insurance.

It's definitely not worth the money to pay for lost luggage insurance.

Most health insurance policies should cover medical expenses if you're sick or injured, but may not apply overseas. If you're headed for a remote location or have a medical condition, you might look into a policy that includes medical transportation expenses. An air ambulance can cost thousands of dollars and typically isn't reimbursed by health care policies.

Travel policies often will say the coverage is to get you to an adequate medical facility. The question to ask is what's their definition of 'adequate.'

You may also have coverage from your credit card. Diners Club, for example, offers up to $350,000 in automatic travel accidental-death-and-dismemberment insurance if you buy your ticket with the credit card and automatic collision/damage insurance for rental cars. It's full value rental car collision or loss damage. That coverage would be primary and would override the insurance you have for your personal auto.

Plus, you don't have to file a claim with your insurance company, which generally means you won't have a rate increase.

Covered by your credit card?
Regardless of which credit card you use to rent the car, your auto insurance should cover you while you're driving it. If you're only covered for liability, though, it might be worth getting collision coverage.

The coverage offered at the rental car counter should be a last resort, Hasbrouck says, because it's expensive and poor coverage. Credit card coverage varies, he says, and may exclude convertibles or SUVs. Check with your auto insurance and credit card company to see what's covered before you leave home.

Diners Club also automatically provides up to $1,250 in baggage coverage beyond what you'd get paid if the airline, cruise line or other common carrier loses your luggage.

It's definitely not worth the money to pay for lost luggage insurance, Hasbrouck says, because it's extremely rare for a carrier to truly lose your bags. They might misroute it for a day or so, but eventually, your bags should catch up with you. In the meantime, the airline will usually give you cash to buy a few necessities.

Besides, if they actually lose your bags, the things you really care about -- jewelry, cameras and computers -- almost certainly will be excluded.

Also check with your credit card company about supplemental coverage. Diners Club offers really cheap supplemental coverage. It includes up to $1.5 million dollars in flight insurance and $150,000 worth of life insurance on the ground, but the real peace of mind comes in the trip cancellation, interruption or airline bankruptcy coverage that's bundled with the life insurance. You can get up to $500 per ticket.

-- Updated: June 21, 2007
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