Consumer Law

Travel Insurance

Traveling is a pain these days. From extensive security checkpoints, deciding whether to check your luggage and pay extra fees or take it on the plane with you and stuff it in the overhead compartment, to knowing what you can or can't take in your purse or computer bag, the last thing you need to worry about is if your long-distance flight is cancelled for some reason.

Travel insurance enrollment has more than doubled in recent years due to concerns such as the cost of travel, terrorism and unpredictable weather. But a travel insurance policy can add four to six percent of the trip's cost, so it pays to do your homework before you buy.

Types of Travel Insurance

You can purchase many kinds of travel insurance, including:

  • Trip interruption and cancellation insurance, which covers your expenses if you can't go on or finish your planned trip due to illness or unexpected circumstances
  • Flight and cruise coverage
  • Rental car damage
  • Emergency medical costs in a foreign country

Check Existing Policies First

It's possible that some of the events you want to insure are already covered by existing insurance. For example:

  • Your auto insurance may cover you and your family members driving rental cars for short periods of time
  • Your life insurance probably covers death in an airline crash or cruise boat accident
  • Your health insurance may cover at some costs of injuries in foreign countries
  • Your homeowner's or renter's insurance may covers the cost of lost luggage and personal belongings

Many airlines have become more lenient with their cancellation policies. They allow you to change your destination or dates without additional cost. So it's a good idea to check with your airline before paying for unnecessary insurance.

It's also possible that paying for a rental car with your credit card may make you eligible for limited rental car coverage.

Travel Insurance Exclusions

Don't expect your travel insurance policy to cover:

  • Terrorist attacks, unless you want to pay huge coverage fees
  • Contagious disease outbreaks such as SARS
  • Pre-existing health conditions such as chronic illnesses or reoccurrences of old injuries
  • Injuries from extreme sports, such as sky diving or bungee jumping

In comparing travel insurance policies, ask if a particular policy covers:

  • An airline declaring bankruptcy
  • Supplier default if the company you book a tour with goes out of business
  • Alternative travel costs, if you need to book different flights or other transportation home due to illness or catastrophe
  • Emergency evacuation costs, if you're planning to visit remote areas
  • Tropical weather conditions such as hurricanes, floods and typhoons (often excluded by insurance companies as acts of God)
  • Fires and earthquakes
  • Car accidents
  • Just you, or other family members or planned traveling companions
  • Reimbursement of prepaid trip expenses, such as nonrefundable deposits on cruises or tours

It's also important to find out whether the plan has deductibles or only covers medical expenses for certain preferred provider physicians and hospitals.

Buying appropriate travel insurance before your holiday starts will hopefully make your vacation less stressful and more enjoyable. Now if you could just do something about the long lines at the airport.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What kind of receipts or documents do I need to support my travel insurance claim?
  • What do I do if the travel insurance company fails to provide me with the coverage it advertised?
  • Can I make a claim against my travel insurance policy and the cruise line for losing my baggage?
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