The Travel Insurance Puzzle

A woman we'll call Cheryl was badly hurt in a fall while in Mexico. Her travel insurance didn't cover her $30,000 med-evac flight home. Bob parked his car at a trailhead and took a three-hour hike. He returned to find his car had been broken into. Gone were cameras and computer gear worth $2,000. His insurance claim was denied when the agent learned Bob was a professional photographer. His insurance didn't cover "business equipment."

Are you lost in the maze of travel insurance plans and pitfalls? Here are some questions and considerations:

  • First, know what coverage you already have through your credit cards and your auto and homeowner insurers. You may already have insurance for lost or stolen baggage plus liability coverage for, say, your golf ball hitting a bystander or your dog biting a fellow traveler. However, the lost luggage coverage may not extend to valuable jewelry or guns.
  • When buying trip cancellation insurance, know what conditions apply. The best policies allow you to cancel for any reason, any time, but they're pricey. Cheaper policities may allow cancellation with 48-hour notice or for a medical emergency. Know if that means your own illness, someone in the travel party or a loved one back home who needs you to be there.
  • If the policy is issued by a hotel or resort, does it refund your deposit or just give credit for another date? Many hotels and motels have a very generous cancellation policy while others, especially B&Bs or resorts in remote spots, require notice of a week or more.
  • Different from cancellation insurance is trip interruption or trip delay coverage. Say you're stranded for two or three days by weather, strikes, flight cancellations or a hotel closure. This policy covers accommodations, meals and some or all other expenses
  • Age and pre-existing conditions are factors in any medical coverage. Medical policies range from inexpensive liaison with overseas doctors via radio or Skype, to costly med-evac flights anywhere in the world. Usually, med-evac policies bring you home only if you're more than X miles away; others fly you only to the nearest hospital. If you must be flown home does the policy cover just you or can a loved one accompany you?
  • Outside the U.S. doctors may require cash up front. Your insurance company may or may not reimburse you later.
  • If you travel often consider annual coverage.
  • Is cost of the policy per day, per trip or a percentage of the cost of the package?
  • Compare rates from travel agents, hometown insurance agents, travel insurance websites and from the cruise line or resort itself. When shopping online check with several rating sites, not just one. They include,, and
  • Your professional organization may offer yearly rates covering lost or stolen equipment used in your business.

Shop wisely, read the fine print and then, if you make a claim, be both smart and persistent.

About the Author
Janet Groene is a professional travelwriter and author of more than two dozen books. She develops healthy, homemade travel snack recipes for