Sunday, April 06, 2008

Can travel insurance help?

With the recent troubles at three airlines … Aloha, Skybus and ATA … you may be wondering how to protect your vacation. Travel insurance may provide an answer -- but it doesn't always. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Never buy insurance from the travel provider; instead, go with a reputable third-party insurer. You'll find them at Insure My Trip and Quote Wright . Both firms represent highly-rated travel insurance companies.

  • Be sure the policy you are considering covers the conditions that concern you most. Nearly all package policies include trip interruption, baggage loss, medical evacuation, medical care and trip delay. But coverage amounts vary … and so do conditions. One policy may kick in if your mother dies but not your favorite uncle. Look online, then call to be sure.

  • Check to see your travel providers are covered. Some insurance companies only cover travel firms on a pre-approved "white list;" others won't cover companies on their "black list." (Tip: Look under financial default.)

  • Buy insurance immediately after you book your trip to be sure all pre-existing conditions are covered. But know that you can buy trip insurance as late as the day you travel; you'll simply forgo coverage of prexisting conditions.

  • Ask the insurance broker if your trip is covered if you purchased directly with the airline or other travel supplier. A few policies cover you only if you purchased trip elements through a travel agent.

  • Buy enough coverage to be sure you can get home in an emergency. Buying a last-minute ticket in high season can cost several thousand dollars.

  • Doublecheck hurricane policies. Nearly all policies will cover you if a hurricane actually hits … but most will make you leave on a planned trip even if a hurricane warning has been issued for your home city.

  • Few policies cover civil unrest. When turmoil errupted in Kenya early this year, few insurance policies paid for trip cancellations.

  • Look carefully at terrorism definitions. Many policies will cover a cancellation only if terrorism erupts on a city on your itinerary … but not if it hits elsewhere in the country you are visiting.

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