SAN ANTONIO – As you plan those spring and summer getaways, should you buy travel insurance? In an uncertain world with natural disasters, terrorist attacks and personal injuries or illnesses, canceling a trip at the last minute could mean money out the window.
Paulette Mann had to cancel her family's ski trip abruptly after she tore her knee two weeks before departure.
"The first thing I thought was, 'Oh, my God. I have travel insurance,'" she said.
Mann had prepaid airfare, hotel reservation, ski lift tickets, rentals and excursions. Plus, she paid 10 percent of the trip's cost to her insurance company.
"I think the insurance company probably paid back about 80 to 90 percent," she said.
Premium insurance policies like Mann's are more expensive but allowed her to cancel for any reason and gave her the most flexibility.
"It's really important that consumers read the policy carefully so they understand exactly what is and isn't covered," said Margot Gilman, Consumer Reports business editor.
The policy may offer waivers for pre-existing medical conditions, provide health care coverage or cover medical evacuations for more adventurous trips.
Gilman advises travelers do their homework. Travel agents may have preferred relationships with only a couple of insurance providers.
Instead of working with a travel agent, consumers can use websites like www.InsureMyTrip.com and www.SquareMouth.com. Each sells more than 100 policies from a variety of companies.
Gilman suggests sticking to insurance that will cover bigger losses.
Many credit card companies also offer various travel insurance perks. So, check your credit card agreement and read the fine print so you know exactly what may be covered.