When planning any trip, you don’t want to think about the potential for a medical emergency, severe weather or anything else that could interrupt your getaway. While it’s not a common occurrence, a trip can be sidelined by inclement weather or even just a bad case of the flu.

When you start researching vacation or travel insurance, you’ll quickly find two distinct views. One side sees the purchase as a necessary safeguard against the unknown, while the other sees it as a big money waster. The true answer lies somewhere in the middle. So, before you choose a side, let’s answer a few frequently-asked questions.

What is vacation insurance?
You’ll find two common kinds of vacation insurance available for purchase – cancellation and medical. Cancellation insurance protects the holder against losing money on any kind of travel that requires a deposit, such as a flight or a cruise. This means if you miss your flight because you got waylaid at the office or stuck in traffic, you won’t have to pay for a new one.

Medical insurance covers most common issues you could face at your destination. It includes everything from minor broken bones to more serious illnesses or injuries.

When should I purchase vacation insurance?
When considering cancellation insurance, start by taking a close look at the cancellation policies associated with your original purchases. If you’re looking at a flight change fee of $100 or less, you do not need a travel insurance plan. If you could potentially lose thousands of dollars for missing a flight, which in turn causes you to miss a cruise, it may be time to consider vacation insurance.

One upside for people who do purchase travel insurance - many companies have customer service lines that help to rebook your trip. It’s better for the company to rebook your trip for a thousand dollars than to lose the entire amount you paid for the vacation.

If you’re planning a trip with a number of different stops, tours and other moving pieces, vacation insurance could give you extra peace of mind that you won’t lose money, even if your plans are sidetracked at one location.

Medical insurance is another consideration. If you are traveling to a country that does not accept or is not covered by your current health insurance plan, it’s a good idea to purchase short-term medical coverage. While unlikely, it could be extremely costly to experience a medical emergency overseas if your current health insurance plan or health savings account doesn’t cover your expenses.

When should I skip vacation insurance?
If you’re planning an inexpensive trip that includes staying with loved ones or using an organization that places travelers in other people’s homes, avoid travel insurance. As a general rule, travel insurance isn’t necessary if your trip costs less than $5,000.

Also, do you have a pre-existing medical condition? Read travel insurance terms very carefully as many do not cover certain conditions and therefore may not be worth the extra money.

What if I’m traveling to a hurricane-prone area?
As always, read the fine print before you purchase. Some travel insurance covers hurricanes and other natural disasters, whether your destination is likely to be hit by one or not. But, if your plan doesn’t specifically list “hurricanes” in the coverage area, keep shopping!

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