Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Travel insurance: protect against the unknown

Some people I know are planning to spend next week on a liveaboard dive trip in the Bahamas, and now their trip is in jeopardy. Hurricane Hanna (now a tropical storm) blew through the Bahamas today, and Tropical Storm Ike, expected to strengthen in the coming days, could hit the Bahamas Saturday (the day they're scheduled to arrive).

Needless to say, this sucks for them. It also underscores the risk of planning a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season. More often than not, you'll enjoy great weather and off-season rates. But if you're unlucky, you could lose a lot of money—if you don't buy travel insurance.

So I guess you can also say my friends' experience also underscores the importance of purchasing travel insurance. It's not just a good idea when planning a dive trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season. It's an all-around smart thing to do when booking any travel that's more than you can afford to lose.

Many things besides hurricanes can interrupt a trip: illness (yours or a loved one's) that prevents you from even going on the trip; flight delays or cancellations that the airline blames on weather (and therefore may not be liable for), lost luggage and belongings that you need to replace at your own expense; an accident or illness while away that requires expensive medical evacuation (your U.S. medical insurance may not cover you outside the U.S.); and many other scenarios.

As with other forms of insurance, you have to weigh the potential risk against your investment and make the decision based on your own personal risk tolerance. There certainly may be some vacations you don't want to insure.

One of the great attractions of travel is an exploration of the unknown. When you travel, you want to ponder questions like "will I meet someone special on the cruise ship?" or "will I see a whale shark on one of my dives?" With travel insurance, you won't have to wonder "will I lose thousands of dollars if something unexpected happens on this trip?"

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