Q: I am planning to go on vacation to Europe soon; would it be a good idea to buy travel insurance?
A: Before you finalize your vacation plans, be sure you have given careful thought to whether you need to purchase travel insurance. There are circumstances that could cause you to cancel your trip, return home early or force you to seek emergency medical treatment while traveling. Travel insurance may provide the extra protection you need. Better Business Bureau is advising travelers to weigh the pros and cons of travel insurance before going on an extensive trip.
Before you purchase coverage, check your homeowner's or medical insurance policies to avoid any overlap. For instance, expensive items such as your camcorder, laptop computer or jewelry may be covered by your homeowner's insurance should they be stolen while you are traveling. If the airline loses your checked luggage, it is required to reimburse you for your bags (up to a certain dollar amount). Or, if you become sick or injured while traveling, your personal medical insurance may pick up the cost of your medical bills.
Some of the different types of insurance available include:
1. Trip Cancellation/Interruption. If your plans suddenly change and you have to cancel or end your trip early, TCI will cover you for this. But it will only reimburse you for reasons on the insurer's acceptable list, such as injury, sickness or death of yourself, a family member, traveling companion or business partner. Some policies will cover only medical reasons and some will not cover pre-existing medical conditions. It is important to read the fine print.
2. Emergency Medical Evacuation. If you are going on an adventure vacation or to an area that is far from modern medical facilities, it may be a good idea to buy this coverage. If adequate treatment is not available at a local hospital, you would be transferred to the nearest acceptable medical faculty.
3. Baggage Loss. This coverage reimburses you for lost, stolen or damaged bags. As you are packing, make a list of everything you are taking with you. If your bag is lost, you may be reimbursed for some contents, but not all. Baggage-loss protection is only necessary if you are carrying more than $2,500 worth of items in your bags. Be sure to check your homeowner's policy.
BBB recommends travelers take the following into consideration:
A) Read the fine print. Know exactly what coverage you are getting and what is covered. Policies and insurance firms differ in what they cover.
B) You may not need to buy it right away. Travel insurance can be purchased days before your trip. Check to see if the policy you are considering requires you to purchase within a set time period after you have booked your travel. For trip cancellation insurance, you will not be covered if you buy the policy after you have become ill or natural disaster has wiped out your vacation destination.
C) Not every trip needs travel insurance. If your total trip is a couple hundred dollars in airfare, travel insurance probably is not worth it. But if you are taking the trip of a lifetime and spending thousands, travel insurance is a good consideration.
D) Do not fall for high pressure sales tactics. Do not let someone pressure you into buying travel insurance right away. You are the only one who can decide if you truly need it.
E) Pay with a credit card. Protect yourself further by paying for travel related expenditures, including insurance, with a credit card. Ask your credit card issuer if there are additional protections that come with your credit card. Some travel insurance may be built in to your credit purchases.
Jim Winsett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia.