Remember the volcanic eruption in Iceland that left millions of travelers stranded on both sides of the Atlantic a few years ago? Boy, did that present one compelling argument for buying trip insurance.
Trip insurance is something I get so many questions and there seems to be confusion surrounding it.
Policies are designed to protect consumers by giving them refunds in the event of illness to the traveler or immediate family member, or to provide a refund in the case of company, tour operator, or airline default.
But before I get into that, if you're traveling abroad you may want to check out my international travel guide. You'll learn how to use cell phone, mobile, and wifi overseas; the best ways to exchange and handle money; and I'll give you my tips for finding great deals on accommodations.
Follow these tips to understand the basics of trip and travel insurance
When do you need it?
These policies should always be purchased when you are taking a cruise, a tour or traveling on a trip that requires pre-payment of thousands of dollars.
What kind of coverage does it offer?
Policies are designed to protect consumers by giving them refunds in the event of illness to the traveler or immediate family member, or to provide a refund in the case of company, tour operator or airline default.
How much does it cost?
Policies cost about 5% of total cost of a trip, but it's worth it. Consumers should always purchase a policy independent of the cruise, tour or vacation planner. Never purchase the trip protection plan from the trip organizer. They are designed to protect only the company and not the consumer. Always pay deposits and final payments by a real credit card and never by debit card or check.
Where should you get it?
You can comparison shop for trip insurance that suits your needs at InsureMyTrip.com.
Other good things to remember when traveling
Preparation can be easy
When you're planning a trip, you've got to keep track of hotel reservations, car reservations, flight plans, and so much more. Thankfully, there are websites that will do it for you for free.
Remember to keep a cool head
Flight delays are sometimes an unavoidable fact of life when you're traveling. Yet so often, they're more of an annoyance or a nuisance, not a disaster. My advice is to try to keep perspective. Let little hassles roll off your back if you can. If you miss a connection or are delayed with a flight cancellation, do not stand in line at the airport. People will queue up for a tenth of a mile to talk to customer no service and it does no good. Get on the phone or online and see what you can accomplish instead.
Know your rights when bumped from a flight
Have you ever been bumped from a flight? There are some things you should know in order to maximize your compensation. Airlines will typically offer a guaranteed seat on any flight to the highest level members of their frequent flyer program. That means they are going to be asking for volunteers willing to give up a seat.
The offers vary by airline. If you are a volunteer, it will be free tickets or a voucher for a dollar amount like a gift certificate. But many airlines restrict the way you can redeem those vouchers. So if it's a choice between a voucher and a certificate for future travel, take the certificate.
If you are involuntarily bumped from a flight, they are required to give you cold, hard cash if you ask. It will be up to 400% of what you paid for your ticket, with a hard cap of $1,200. That's if you are forced off the flight to accommodate a frequent flier. That's when it's a case of show me the money!
Read more about your rights as an airline passenger at the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the US Department of Transportation.