July 31, 2009

What Families Need to Know about Travel Insurance

Before you dismiss the idea of purchasing travel insurance, think about the possible scenarios which could cause you to cancel, postpone, or return early from a trip. The obvious ones come to mind first: illness, accident, or a death in the family. But there are others that travelers least expect which can also put their hard earned vacation money at risk:

> Your home is burglarized or damaged in a fire.

> A work-related emergency comes up, or your business partner becomes seriously ill

> The friend or nanny who was going to watch your children while you are on an adults-only getaway falls ill

> Friends you were traveling with cancel due to an unexpected emergency

> You lose your job, or are required to relocate

> You are involved in a car accident on the way to the airport

> Your cruise line, airline, tour company, etc. goes bankrupt

> Bad weather forces your cruise ship to miss a port where you had booked a private, nonrefundable tour

> The family members or friends you are visiting fall ill and cannot host you

> A terrorist incident occurs at your destination

Many travel insurance policies reimburse travelers for money lost due to the above causes, but there may be special conditions which must be met. For example, one company requires that insurance be purchased within 21 days of the time the reservation is made for full coverage, otherwise some scenarios such as supplier bankruptcy are not included. The clock starts ticking at the first purchase, so this can adversely impact travelers who buy their airline tickets first, then wait a few weeks to reserve their hotel. So it is important to think about insurance right from the start of travel planning, not add it on as an afterthought.

Travelers certainly can research policies on the internet or call an insurance company’s customer service number to find out what is covered. But the best way to buy insurance is through a travel professional. They undergo training on the various products, receive regular updates on policy changes, and can help explain the myriad of technical terms in the “fine print.” And perhaps most importantly, as insurance claims are not always “black and white,” it is very helpful to have an advocate on your side that has a long-standing relationship with the insurance company.

Also beware of the offer to purchase the travel supplier’s insurance, which often simply requires checking a little box at the end of your reservation. In general, purchasing the insurance offered by your travel supplier is not recommended. Often it not only costs more than third party insurance, but does not provide as much coverage. However there are exceptions, so a travel professional can explain the pros and cons of all options available.

Hopefully now you are convinced you need travel insurance, but you may be worried about how much it costs. Coverage for a $4000 vacation for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) would start at $76. That is the total for the family policy, not per person. That’s pretty inexpensive for peace of mind!

For more information about travel insurance, or help with planning the family vacation of your dreams, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at suzette@family-treks.com

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