When To Buy Travel Insurance

I gave a seminar last week about budget travel, and one question from the audience was about travel insurance — whether I always buy it when traveling.

I don’t. But there are some circumstances in which I do buy some form of travel insurance. These include:

Long-distance, relatively expensive trips planned well in advance. In these cases, my husband and I may buy trip cancellation insurance that will cover our losses if we become too sick to travel or a close relative become very ill or dies. Such a policy saved my parents thousands when their brother-in-law died just before they were scheduled to leave for Portugal and they had to cancel the entire trip. (Not all policies would cover the death of a brother-in-law, however, so check which relatives would be included.)

Long-distance trips planned in winter through northern airports. If a snow delay could mean a serious disruption — such as missing a cruise departure — we will buy insurance.

Travel to areas with questionable medical facilities. We have bought medical evacuation insurance for this reason. Deciding where you need it is a bit of a judgment call. Our judgment was to buy it for Russia, for example, but not for Costa Rica.

Renting a car in some places. There was some question as to how well my own car insurance and my credit card would cover a car rental in Spain, so I bought supplemental collision damage insurance. Car rental agencies charge ridiculous fees for this coverage, which I bought separately for $9 a day before I left the United States.

In fact, I never buy insurance from the travel provider — whether it’s a cruise line, a car rental agency or any other vendor. Part of the protection I need may be from the bankruptcy or malfeasance of the travel provider. Where would I be if that entity was also the insurer?

Of course insurance doesn’t cover everything, as the recent disruptions caused by the volcano in Iceland proved. In that case, many insurers have claimed that the disaster fell under their “act of God” exception.

If you do want to consider buying travel insurance, insuremytrip.com is a good place to get started comparing plans and rates. And remember that in many cases you can’t buy insurance more than two or three weeks after you make your initial deposits or expenditures on the trip.


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