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Should you buy Travel Insurance?

There are so many reasons to purchase travel insurance nowadays, and it has become increasingly popular to do so: medical protection while in a foreign country, protection against supplier default, luggage protection, etc.

Before you just dive right in and purchase, though, make sure you're not over- (or worse) under-insuring yourself during your travels.  Ask questions and do some research.  The following tips can help you determine what kind of coverage you might want, or need.

1.  Familiarize yourself.  Travel insurance can include trip cancellation/interruption, accidental death or dismemberment, medical/dental care, emergency medical transportation, loss or damage of personal effects, and protection against default of your travel supplier.

2.  Are you already covered?  Some homeowners' or renters' insurance policies already cover for damaged, lost or stolen property while in a foreign country.  Airlines SHOULD reimburse you for lost or damaged luggage.  Some credit cards cover for accidental death and dismemberment.  Your life insurance may cover you, even while traveling, and some credit cards cover the collision damage waiver while renting a car.  You should, however, check with your insurer/credit card bank.

3.  Ask away.  While cruiselines and tour operators usually each sell their own insurance, check with your travel agent about using a third-party insurer, so your insurance program won't go away, even if your travel supplier does.  Ask plenty of questions:  What disasters are covered?  What restrictions apply?  Will there be out-of-pocket expenses, and how will reimbursements be determined?

4.  Cancellation waivers.  Many tour operators and cruise lines offer cancellation waivers for an additional charge.   While theoretically they offer great coverage, there are restrictions you need to be aware of.  Ask your travel consultant.

5.  Insurance in a box?  Do yourself a favor and don't purchase travel insurance from an airport vending machine.  Most of the time, these policies  cover travel accidents or death and dismemberment.  They take advantage of people's fear of flying.  Check with your life insurer to see if you're covered through your term policy.

6.  Extra coverage.  If you're traveling with expensive electronic or sporting equipment or jewelry you can't live without, consider extra coverage through a third-party insurer.  It could be well-worth it.  Most personal insurance will not cover emergency medical assistance, which could be important if you need to be treated medically or need to be hospitalized for a prolonged period of time in a foreign country.

7.   Adrenaline Coverage.   If you like to jump out of planes, climb up sheer rock or luge down a mountain, you need extra medical coverage.  Many insurers don't cover for thrills, so a little research and a lot of questions are in order.

Whether you're planning a trek in the Himalayas, a short cruise to Mexico, or a culinary excursion to Italy, make sure to plan your insurance accordingly.  The key is to ask questions, and consult your travel agent!