Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
By Candyce H. Stapen
For big ticket vacations that require hefty deposits months in advance, especially those involving international travel, don’t leave home without travel insurance. Because you just never know. Not convinced? Then just say two words: “Icelandic volcano.”
Not many vacationers ever thought their flights would be grounded by thick clouds of volcanic ash wafting over from Iceland. Even if you couldn’t get to your European biking, hiking, cruising or other much anticipated trip, the adventure most likely departed. And if you didn’t purchase an appropriate insurance policy, then don’t even mention the word “refund.”
Granted, an erupting volcano is rare, but many more common reasons for not making your trip include illness, a death in the family, missed connections and even terrorism. When I booked a dream vacation for me and my kids to Africa, two weeks before departure I dutifully began the required anti-malarial regime only to develop a severe reaction that grounded me. Luckily, I had purchased trip cancellation coverage for the full cost of the safari packages. Otherwise I’d have lost thousands of dollars that I pre-paid and I’d still have had to listen to my kids whine.
Most travel insurance policies cover the cancellation or interruption of a trip due to illness not only of the insured but also of an immediate family member. If your ninety-year-old mother has a stroke three days before your walking trip through Poland, the Slovak Republic and Hungary, you’ll get a refund up to the limit of your coverage.
You can also buy medical evacuation coverage to transport you to the nearest hospital equipped to deal with all those catastrophes you don’t even want to think about. It’s easiest and cost effective to purchase an insurance package that bundles several types of coverage together such as trip cancellation, interruption and delay; baggage insurance and medical evacuation.
Some policies also cover cruise, travel operator and airline default, protecting you if these companies go out of business before your trip. Trip interruption and trip delay insurance reimburses you for some costs if you must return early from a trip or arrive late because of a medical emergency or certain weather situations.
On average, budget between 5-8% of the total trip cost for a comprehensive policy. To decide how much coverage you need, think about how much money you’re willing to lose by gambling that everything will be fine.
Before purchasing a policy, read the fine print. Understand the exclusions and the limits of the coverage. These vary widely. TravelGuard offers a variety of plans. Insuremytrip.com has a handy chart that compares policies for TravelGuard, Access America, American Express, Global Alert and a few other companies.