Everyone hopes their trip of a lifetime doesn’t turn into a disaster, but life has a way of throwing curveballs. Travelers can minimize the damage of a last-minute illness, lost baggage or a bankrupt cruise line by purchasing travel insurance. Coverage that also includes medical and dental emergencies, and even medical evacuation, can add extra layers of security for overseas travelers.

According to a 2006 study by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association (UStiA), American leisure travelers are buying travel insurance more often than in the past. As many as 70 percent of Americans who book a cruise also buy travel insurance for their trip. Furthermore, one out of every six individuals who purchase travel insurance file an insurance claim at some point.

Travel insurance policies vary widely, so it’s important to examine the coverage offered and read the fine print before you buy. Package travel insurance policies typically include coverage for trip cancellation, lost or delayed baggage, medical or dental emergencies, travel delays or accidental death. Medical evacuation coverage is often sold as a separate policy.

Flight insurance, which provides compensation should death or injury result during a commercial flight, is generally considered unnecessary. The risk is low and most people are covered by their medical or life insurance in the event of injury and/or an accidental death policy in the event of death.

If you think you can skip health care travel insurance, keep in mind that Medicare and the majority of private health insurance policies do not cover medical expenses incurred while traveling outside the United States. In addition, if you should become seriously ill, a medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars.

If you decide to purchase travel insurance, select your policy carefully. A quick Internet search for travel insurance generates a list of travel insurance comparison sites. Enter the dates, destinations, trip costs and age of travelers and you can get quotes and compare features and benefits of the various policies available. You may find that quotes for older travelers are higher. In addition, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may have a more difficult time obtaining the coverage you want.

A request for quotes from one of these comparison sites, for a 55-year-old traveler booking a cruise to Alaska from California valued at $4,000, delivered 31 package options ranging in price from $108 to $486 or, two to twelve percent of the cost of the trip.

It’s easy to see how travel insurance can come in handy, as it did for a couple who planned an Alaskan cruise. Two weeks before departure, the wife came down with a sudden and painful case of shingles. Thanks to their foresight to purchase insurance, the couple was able to cancel their cruise reservation and recoup the money they had paid in advance toward their trip. An inland flight was not reimbursed, however. Thanks to insurance, they were able to resume their travel plans when the illness subsided. It’s just one example of how travel insurance can help travelers hedge their bets against life’s unpredictable events and make travel plans with greater confidence.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and is intended to be generic in nature and should not be applied or relied upon in any particular situation without the advice of your tax, legal and/or your financial advisor.

info: 704-987-9794 . email: lynn.j.davidson@ampf.com