Travel Insurance: Vacation Savior? Or a Waste?

So depending on your tolerance for risk or need for peace of mind, travel insurance can be an expensive proposition or a necessary part of any vacation. With insurance, you might pay hundreds of dollars and never use it. Without it, you might be out hundreds or thousands of dollars.

McGinnity said travelers need to ask themselves: "How much am I willing to self-insure?"

Travel Insurance: Worth it or Not?

Best Western's McGinnis also suggested checking with your credit card company to see what protection they offer. For instance, he said, most American Express cards offer car rental collision protection (for those who do not own a car and therefore do not have insurance that covers them when they rent). Some American Express cards also offer travel accident insurance, which pays benefits to your family if you die on a trip that has been charged to the card. Credit cards can also offer automatic coverage for lost, stolen or damaged baggage. Depending on your level of coverage, you might even be protected if a cruise line, airline or tour operator goes out of service.

McGinnis said to check first with your credit card company to see what is or is not covered. The benefits vary by the company, bank issuing the card and the level -- regular, gold or platinum -- of the card.

Homeowners or renters insurance will also typically cover your luggage if it is lost, but not if it is damaged.

Finally, there is the more complex medical travel insurance.

This is really something to consider only for those travelers leaving the country or going on an adventure vacation.

Salvatore said that somebody going biking, hiking or something else active should look into the insurance. Travelers going abroad should also see what their current overseas coverage is and how they might want to supplement it.

The first step is to call your current health care provider and see what coverage you will already have. Then, see what you are missing.

Travelers should ask whether their insurance will take them just to the nearest hospital, or the nearest "Western" hospital. Will they pay to get you to one where the doctors speak English? If necessary, will they fly you home aboard a medical charter?

"Part of that is your own comfort level," Salvatore said.

There are various plans and packages that can offer travelers everything from the minimal to that private flight home.

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