There's nothing like travel to renew the spirit, offer a fresh standpoint, and often provide a taste of adventure. With that said, however, no one should leave home on a pricey trip without first purchasing travel insurance that protects the policyholder from unexpected occurrences. Since summer vacation time is right around the corner, make plans now to investigate all the reasons why to buy and, also, where the best policies and prices come into play. Thanks to and AARP for helping me pass along the best avenues.

Ideally, travel insurance reimburses the traveler or offers services when something goes awry, such as:

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Ellen Phillips

» Making nonrefundable reservations and then must cancel or end a trip early because you get sick or there's a death in the family;

» Lacking baggage if lost or stolen;

» Having an emergency or missing a flight and needing help finding a hotel, doctor or legal assistance;

» Getting sick while traveling and needing medical care;

» Experiencing a medical emergency that necessitates transportation to the nearest hospital or even back home;

» Dying from an accident while traveling. (Accidental death coverage then pays your beneficiary a lump sum.)

Before you buy, though, get familiar with how travel insurance works, how it's priced and what it covers and excludes. Let's begin with comparison shopping.

Most cruise lines, airlines, and group trip operators all offer add-on trip insurance when you buy your ticket(s). Be careful, however, not to take their offerings at face value; always check brokers, such as and to view a wide range of policies based upon your specific needs. Even if you think the transportation operators are offering a good deal, it's still beneficial to directly contact the insurance company for details on prices and coverage. (As readers know, I constantly promote personal investigation along with taking others' recommendations, regardless of the circumstances.)

Generally, travel insurance is sold as a package, known as a comprehensive plan, which includes a variety of coverage. Some insurers and comparison sites let you customize a policy by choosing types of a la carte coverage. The most common offerings include:

Trip cancellation, interruption, and delay reimburses us for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses if the tour operator or cruise line goes out of business or you must cancel the trip for one of the reasons outlined in the policy, such as your own illness, the illness or death of a family member who's not traveling with you, bad weather, or natural disasters. Should you interrupt a trip because of a reason outlined in the policy, the coverage reimburses you for expenses, such as hotel accommodations and meals if a trip is delayed or if your flight gets canceled because of bad weather. Equally important details cover:

1. Exclusions to understand the particulars of coverage and how they vary by carrier and policy. For instance, some cover cancellation because of a recent terrorist attack at the destination; others don't. Generally, policies won't pay out simply because you simply your mind about traveling or if you cancel because of a pre-existing medical condition — meaning one you had when you applied for travel insurance.

2. "Cancel for any reason" coverage offers additional layers of coverage at extra cost. "Cancel for any reason" will reimburse a large part of the trip cost, no matter why you back out. Moreover, for those of us with a bad back, arthritic knees or some other pre-existing condition, some companies let you pay extra in order to cancel for medical reasons if the need arises.

3. "Limits" coverage allows the traveler to check the limits for the max amount of trip cost that's covered because of cancellation and the per-day and policy limits for trip interruption and delay insurance.

Baggage and personal belongings reimburse us for these possessions that are lost, stolen or damaged during the trip. Additionally, some plans also reimburse for extra expenses if your baggage is delayed for more than a certain period, such as 12 hours. (Most airlines and cruise ships generally put up a traveler along with providing meals if you can't get out until the next day.) Cruise ships have bought me new luggage and onboard clothing if they lose or ruin my luggage, as have careless airlines. Don't threaten to call the top dog; smiling and asking politely – maybe even with a few accompanying tears and a trembling smile – normally will do the trick and in fast order. In fact, by doing so myself, the last time Hubby and I cruised, the customer service agent used her own off time the next day in port and purchased a very nice suitcase for our use! Don't forget to check other coverage, too; renters or homeowner insurance also covers personal belongings away from home. Your deductible - the amount you pay out before the insurance kicks in - will apply to any claims.

(To be continued next week)

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