Travel Insurance 101

Honeymoons & Destination Weddings
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Rich Beattie

Traveling is risky business, but even though you can't control mother nature or lady luck, you can control how much they affect your pocketbook. Tammy Levent, Owner of Elite Travel, helps you navigate the treacherous waters of trip insurance and explains why it could be vitally important.

So, you're planning your honeymoon or destination wedding and are probably looking forward to some fun and romantic activities like snorkeling, hiking or horseback riding on the beach. When you're traveling, you're more likely to put yourself in harm's way, but even if your goal is to plant yourself on a beach towel with colorful cocktails, what happens when a hurricane hits or a family member becomes ill before you even get on the plane? This is where trip insurance can make the difference between a ruined honeymoon, and a ruined bank account when you get home.

There are a million mishaps that could cause you to cancel your travel plans...

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from accidents and family illness to jury duty. Cancellation penalties increase closer to the departure date and many airlines have a no-refund policy on their flights, which means you could lose the entire cost of your trip! The main purpose of travel insurance is to make sure that doesn't happen, so the vast majority of insurance policies cover cancellation costs for any reason—whether a relative becomes seriously ill or if your spouse sprains an ankle on the dance floor at the reception. Basic insurance usually covers lost baggage and missed connections too.

As expensive as cancellation costs can be, if you get hurt at your destination, it could cost you as much as a small house if you can't use your regular plane tickets and need a medical evacuation. This is where having the right kind of insurance becomes vital. First, check to see whether your personal health insurance covers you abroad--it probably doesn't. The best choice is to go for a comprehensive trip insurance policy that will cover trip cancellations, travel expenses, lost luggage and health, including air medical evacuation (which could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000 without insurance if they need to fly you from a remote area abroad).

The good news is that trip insurance isn't expensive.

The price of insurance is based on the ages of the travelers and the cost of the trip. For a $3000 to $5000 trip, the insurance might run between $200 and $300 for a young couple. A basic package should cover the amount of the trip plus medical ($25k). Insurance also covers terrorist situations; if you're scheduled to go to an area with recent terrorist attacks, you're covered.

You can buy travel insurance through your travel provider, cruise line or tour company, but those policies tend to be less comprehensive than insurance bought from a agent or a company that specializes in travel insurance. You don't want to be caught off guard if something goes wrong.

If you're going to the Caribbean during hurricane season (June 1 through November 30) you absolutely need hurricane insurance. Here's how it works: Buy your hurricane insurance at the same time you book your trip—before any hurricane alert is issued. Then, if you haven't left yet and a hurricane threatens your destination, get a statement from the weather bureau that there are potential hurricane conditions in the area for your insurance to apply. Insurance doesn't cover "thinking" a storm will hit--the storm has to hit, and you have to make every reasonable effort to travel to your destination. If your airline is still flying, most insurers won't pay. But it is usually possible to rebook your trip for a different time using the airline's change policy (just make sure you know what the policy is beforehand). Larger resorts will sometimes allow you to rebook your stay for a later time if a hurricane hits.

If you don't have insurance, it's more difficult for you or your travel agent to make changes and substitutions to rescue your vacation - you paid for one trip, you don't want to have to pay for another one before you even get home. —Tammy Levent

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