ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: travel insurance

ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: travel insurance

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Many years ago, a former photographer of mine bought travel insurance for his wife and him before they took a vacation to the Florida Keys. He paid about $2,000 for coverage that included cancellation, hospitalization, the gamut. I chastised him for spending so much on what I thought at the time was a wasteful purchase.

Then everything went wrong.

On the flight there, his wife started having convulsions.The pilot had to make an emergency landing to get her immediate medical care. Medics rushed my friend and his wife to a Florida hospital where she was treated, stabilized, and released. Vacation over.

But get this: that travel insurance policy I thought would be a waste paid my buddy back for everything: the hotel bookings, the airfare, even their flights back home. They were out virtually nothing and had peace of mind despite her health scare, all because of that travel insurance policy. It totally changed my perspective.

Here's the simple way to figure out whether you should consider travel insurance, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC):

* YES: if it's a long-distance trip across the U.S. or if you're traveling abroad, can't afford to cancel or re-book and your health insurance doesn't cover you abroad.

* NO: if it's a short trip close to home.

The NAIC said these are the questions you should consider when you're weighing the need for travel insurance:

- What are the chances you will be impacted by severe weather or missing luggage?

- How willing are you to take risks (cliff diving, mountain climbing, etc.)?

- How much are you willing to pay for a back-up plan?

- Do you have pre-existing health conditions or is a loved one seriously or chronically ill?

According to the NAIC, travel insurance typically will run you four to ten percent of your trip's cost. There are four categories of travel insurance:

* TRIP CANCELLATION. Reimburses pre-paid travel expenses if you are prevented from taking your trip because you become ill or die. Cancellation coverage is typically included in any comprehensive travel policy. Covered circumstances include:

- Unexpected illness or injury of you or a traveling companion that deems you unfit to travel, by order of physician

- Hospitalization or death of non-traveling family member

- Weather or common carrier issue

- Unforeseen natural disaster at home or the destination

- A legal obligation, such as being called for jury duty or serving as a witness in court

* TRAVEL MEDICAL. Reimburses medical and emergency dental expenses that you incur because of an illness or injury while you're traveling.

* EMERGENCY MEDICAL EVACUATION. Provides emergency transportation to either a hospital in the geographic region where you are and/or transportation back to a hospital near your home.

* ACCIDENTAL DEATH/FLIGHT ACCIDENT. Accidental death covers death or dismemberment at any time during a trip while air flight accident covers death or dismemberment during flight only.

For the NAIC's complete guide on travel insurance, please click here. And remember the peace of mind - and the money - that travel insurance provided my photographer to get his wife back home.

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