Travel insurance is a combination of trip-cancellation insurance and 24-hour emergency assistance. It helps you get your money back if, for example, you have to cancel your vacation or go home early. It's a smart purchase if you've planned a major vacation well in advance, but the trick is knowing which policy to buy, if any.
Check your existing insurance policies and credit card coverage before you buy travel insurance. You may already be covered for medical expenses, canceled tickets or lost luggage.
Decide which type of travel insurance is best suited for your destination (for example, terrorism insurance for your trip to Egypt, or emergency medical transportation insurance during your ocean cruise). Keep in mind that the cost varies widely, depending on your age, your health, and the cost and length of your trip.
Determine whether the following is included in your policy: international medical insurance, emergency medical evacuation (including helicopter transport), accidental death and dismemberment, repatriation of remains and family travel benefits.
Have your travel agent purchase an insurance plan for you or shop commission-free online. You'll find a wide selection of reputable insurance companies on the Web, including Travel Guard and Access America, that can get you a policy within 24 hours (see Resources).
Make sure your travel insurance provider offers 24-hour hotline service. Don't buy trip-cancellation insurance from the tour operator that may be responsible for the cancellation, and don't overbuy--you won't be reimbursed for more than the cost of your trip.