This week we’re wrapping up this little series on travel insurance.

Which expenses should you cover when buying travel insurance? All prepaid non-refundable costs should be covered. This could include lodging, transportation, the cost of your group tour or the cost of any day-tours if you are traveling on your own, cruise fares…anything that you have to pay for in advance and can’t get fully refunded if you have to cancel.

If you don’t know all of your prepaid costs when you first make the arrangements, then use the known amount but be sure to add coverage later. For example, if you book a group tour a year out and ask the operator to make air arrangements for you, they may not be able to give you an airfare amount. When they do contact you and you pay for the airfare, be sure to contact the insurance company immediately to increase your coverage amount. Forgetting this step can lead to a rude awakening if you have to cancel and won’t be able to recoup the cost of airfare.

If you are taking a cruise and plan to prebook shore excursions, check the cancellation rules. If the policy states that you can get a refund for cancellations within 24-48 hours of the excursion, you would not have to cover this expense. Similarly, you shouldn’t cover anything you anticipate buying or booking once you are already on the trip.

Where should you buy trip insurance? The short answer is a reputable company, with good customer service that provides the best service for you at the most competitive rate. There are a number of sites that serve as aggregators for travel insurance companies. By allowing you to compare a number of policies at once, these sites make it easy to decide which policy to pick. I recommend InsureMyTrip or TravelInsuranceReview which features a wonderful insurance primer and travel tips.

You may also want to consider buying traveling insurance coverage through the company that your travel operator recommends. This is especially true if you are traveling with a membership-based organization (alumni association, museum, or another affinity group) because often they can provide some basic assistance if you have to file a claim and they generally make a commission off your premiums. You could consider the insurance as another way that you are helping them out. Of course the insurance available through these groups is a bit more expensive because that commission has to come from somewhere.

Finally, keep copies of all your travel documents because you will need them if you need to file a travel insurance claim. Also, be prepared to show documentation to backup the reason you cancelled the trip. Your doctor will have to sign off on forms if you cancel for a health reason. The process and paperwork will be a hassle but the hassle will pay off when you are able to recoup your costs.

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