Flight-BoardDo I need to buy travel insurance? That’s a question every traveler should ask. And the answer depends on where you’re traveling and whether you have a credit card limit high enough to pay for medical care, extended hotel stays and other expenses should a disaster strike while you’re traveling. It also depends on whether the policy covers what you need. Here are seven things to know about buying travel insurance:

1. If there’s a natural disaster
Heavy snow storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, even the volcano eruption that sent a blanket of ash over Europe and shut down air travel for days have caused travelers to be delayed and trips cancelled.

It’s important to read the fine print before you buy a travel insurance policy. Hurricanes and other natural disasters are not automatically covered; the destination has to be rendered uninhabitable. You can’t cancel and get a refund simply because the beaches are a mess and all the restaurants are closed. If you want that coverage, buy a “cancel for any reason” policy.


2. If someone gets sick
If you, or someone else, gets sick either before or during your trip and you want to cancel your trip to be with that person, a good travel insurance plan will reimburse your non-refundable trip costs.

Again, read the fine print to see who is defined as a “covered” person–best friends and pets don’t count. In addition, the illness cannot be a pre-existing condition. If you want that coverage (because a family member is ill and you never know when she’ll take a turn for the worse), buy a waiver to cover that possibility.

3. If your flight is delayed
There are all kinds of flight delays–mechanical failures, operational delays, union strikes, weather delays, and more–but the airlines don’t give most travelers a lot of perks when it comes to delays. A good travel insurance plan will reimburse you a certain amount each day for basic expenses such as hotel rooms and meals – sometimes even movie rentals for the kids. This coverage kicks in after a minimum number of hours and for a covered reason.

4. If you’re attacked
If you’re the victim of an assault before your scheduled departure or during your trip, and you want to cancel your trip or return home, the right travel insurance plan will fully refund your pre-paid trip costs as well as additional airfare–as long as assault is listed as a covered reason for trip cancellation and interruption.

5. If you’re pregnant
In general, pregnancy is excluded from all travel insurance coverage, but medical conditions that are defined as “complications due to pregnancy” are covered under the standard travel medical coverage. This means that while the pregnancy itself isn’t covered, travelers are covered for medical expenses resulting from pregnancy complications during the trip.

6. If your passport is stolen
If your passport is stolen before your trip, you could lose all your non-refundable trip costs simply because you couldn’t get a replacement in time. File an official report that your passport was stolen and a travel insurance plan with coverage for lost or stolen passports will cover non-refundable trip costs. Travel insurance can also help replace a passport that is stolen during a trip and reimburse the emergency processing fees.

7. If you’re traveling with kids
If you’re traveling with kids, travel insurance companies can offer priceless peace of mind. If, for example, you’re hospitalized, the insurance company can connect with your family back home and send someone to be with you and fly the kids to where they need to be.

Bottom Line
The key to being able to trust your travel insurance is in reading the fine print and understanding your coverage. Look for the definition of “covered reason.” It’s those covered reasons – along with the plan exclusions – that catch most travelers by surprise.

Damian Tysdal founded Travel Insurance Review in 2006 on the belief that travel insurance should be easier to understand. See the travel insurance comparison tool to sort through the plans and qualify them based on the benefits you need at a price you can afford.