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You're planning the trip of a lifetime. You've saved for months, booked everything — but what if there is a death in the family? A hurricane? Or what if you simply have car trouble on the way to the airport? Travel insurance can help, but there are some considerations before you invest in it. Here are some tips on travel insurance to determine whether you need it and how to get the best deal.
1. Consider the types of coverage
Of course you should look at medical, trip cancellation/interruption, and baggage loss or delay coverage. But you should also look at things like default coverage (should your airline, cruise line, hotel or tour operator go out of business) and medical evacuation assistance, which will help you not only with extended local medical care but also with getting you home if you need medical assistance to do so.
2. Determine what you need
Check the coverage of your existing homeowner, auto and medical policies. If your health insurance doesn't cover you overseas and Medicare generally does not then you probably need medical travel insurance. Also, check your credit cards to see what they cover when you purchase travel services using them, such as collision-and-damage waiver insurance for car rentals.
3. Consider your trip
As a rule, the farther you go, and the more elaborate the trip, the more likely you'll need some type of coverage. So, for that weeklong Montreal junket? Probably not. For a 21-day African safari? Probably. On trips with many legs, the chances for baggage problems and travel delays increase. You'll want to ensure that the resulting expenses are covered as much as possible. Also, while some places have abundant, high-quality health care (sometimes free even to foreigners), others don't, making medical evacuation coverage particularly wise. If you're the adventurous type, note that travel polices vary when certain risky activities such as scuba diving are involved.
4. Shop around
Generally, travel insurance costs between 5 percent and 15 percent of the total cost of your trip. Start your research with aggregator sites like Insure My Trip, which let you plug in trip details and insurance needs, and then provide several quotes. Note that not all travel insurers offer medical evacuation; you might need to research these companies separately.
5. Read the entire policy before buying
Yes, even the small print. Does the policy reimburse you for prepaid expenses like airfare and hotel stays if you can't make the trip, or out-of-pocket expenses incurred because of trip interruption, delays or missed connections? Does it cover theft of expensive items? Are you eligible for reimbursement if your trip is canceled or interrupted by, say, a hurricane, the outbreak of war or terrorist threats? (Note that some policies have riders where you can pay extra for emergency evacuation.) One final tip on travel insurance: Finalize your itinerary before buying; itinerary changes you make yourself will affect coverage.