When is travel insurance worth it?

Consumer Reports: Check insurance you already have

Planning a vacation? Whether you book online or use a travel agent, expect a pitch for travel insurance.

And given all the perils that could derail your trip, including medical emergencies, natural disasters and even political upheavals, travel insurance can be worth considering.

But Consumer Reports cautions that travel insurance isn't always a great deal.

Bill Nugent has the worst luck when it comes to planning a vacation.

"Once we had a death in the family," he said. "I had to cancel a trip three days before, and the second time, I injured my leg and had to cancel it, maybe two to three weeks before."

Fortunately, Bill had bought travel insurance for both trips. He got back most of the nearly $12,000 he had laid out.

"Travel insurance is a $2 billion a year industry, covering everything from natural disasters to personal medical emergencies," Consumer Reports Money Adviser Greg Daugherty said.

But do you need travel Insurance? Daugherty says maybe, but buy wisely.

For instance, don't buy insurance that covers small losses, like lost luggage. And if you're worried about dying in a plane crash, skip flight insurance. Instead, think about term life insurance. It covers you no matter what the cause of death.

"Before you buy travel insurance, first check the insurance you already have," Daugherty said. "Medical emergencies may be covered by your health insurance, a fender bender by your credit card."

If you're traveling overseas, which can require additional health insurance, consider medical travel insurance.

"And if you do decide you want travel insurance, it's better not to buy it from a travel agent, who may be more swayed by high commissions than what the best policy is for you," Daugherty said.

Instead, go to an online broker like www.Insuremytrip.com  which sells coverage from 21 different carriers, including CSA Travel Protection, Med-Jet Assist and Travelex.

As Bill Nugent learned firsthand, a little insurance could go a long way when things don't go according to plan.

As far as where to buy your policy, Consumer Reports suggests you think twice before purchasing travel insurance from a tour operator or cruise line because the coverage might prove worthless if the company goes bankrupt.