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Let the Traveler Beware

This year seems to have been the one for disrupted travel plans. Volcanic ash in Europe. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Unrest in Greece, Jamaica, and Thailand. We all know that trips today require a lot of advance planning and represent a sizeable financial investment. More and more people are considering travel insurance, but failing to read the fine print to find out just how comprehensive the coverage really is? Somewhere down in the fine print does is say, “If an oil well blows up in the Gulf of Mexico and the beaches are closed, you get your money back?” No.

But, standard travel insurance policies do cover natural disasters. So yes, if you were booked on a flight into an airport shut down by volcanic ash, you would get some money back. (Chances are very good, however, that you’d have to fight tooth and nail to actually be paid.) However, if you decide you don’t want to fly into volcanic ash, but planes are still taking off and landing, you get nothing.

These instances fall under “travel cancellation insurance,” but you can also get policies that cover accidental death, evacuations, emergency medical care, delayed or interrupted trips, or damaged luggage. The most extensive and expensive of this genre are the “Cancel For Any Reason / Change Your Mind” policies that will run 50% higher than all other types of travel insurance.

Even those seemingly “umbrella” policies have their loop holes, however. You can “change you mind” up to 48 hours before, but if you get sick during those last two days, the coverage would still apply. Confused yet? You ought to be.

No other type of insurance, with the possible exception of rental car policies demand greater forethought than travel insurance. Keep asking questions until you know what you’re getting and do not just buy a policy on reflex because your travel agent recommends it. It’s almost certain you’ll just be throwing your money away.

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