SOME OF the eternal questions that have plagued mankind since the beginning of time include “Who am I?”, “Does God exist?”, and “Should I buy travel insurance for my trip to Playa del Carmen?” Well, we can’t help you with the first two, but we can suggest “probably” to the third. Here’s why.

Trip cancellation and flying home early

According to the US Travel Insurance Association, trip cancellation remains the number one reason people buy travel insurance. And while it’s great to know you can be reimbursed for your $800 plane ticket when your A-hole gallbladder needs to be removed two weeks before your planned trip to Bali, did you know that travel insurance can also reimburse you if you have to cancel because something similar happens to your backpack buddy, business partner, or close family member?

Or say you’re all set for a spring break cruise to the Caribbean but a blizzard keeps you stranded in Buffalo. Or a typhoon devastates Manila a week before you’re scheduled to fly in. Travel insurance will reimburse you for those non-refundable hacker fares.

Travel insurance can even cover you if something happens in the middle of your trip and you need to fly home early. If your best friend has to leave that temple tour of Siem Reap because of a family emergency, travel insurance can cover the single supplement if you decide to continue on your own.

Flights, luggage, passports, and bankruptcy

You might think the airline will take care of you if your flight is significantly delayed, but airlines generally aren’t required to do anything other than get you to your destination on the next available flight — even if that flight happens to be the next morning. Travel insurance can cover a hotel room, meal, and even your taxi back to the airport.

And what happens when the airline loses your bag after that nine-hour delay? Travel insurance can help you track your possession and/or will reimburse you (up to a certain amount) to replace items.

Lost your passport and wallet while running with the bulls? Many policies offer 24-7 support to help you get emergency funds and replacement documents.

Travel insurance can also cover you if your tour or cruise company should go out of business, providing you bought your trip before the company declared bankruptcy.

Medical expenses

You could argue you don’t need travel insurance because you have health insurance at home, but most health plans won’t cover you overseas. Travel insurance can help you find help and reimburse your expenses. If you really mess yourself up, say break a leg while hiking the Inca Trail, medical evacuation insurance, usually available as a supplement, will pay for your airlift home, the cost of which could total tens of thousands of dollars.

There are even companies that will cover you if you’re into extreme sports and adventure travel, like whitewater rafting, scuba diving, or even climbing Kilimanjaro. Note: most insurance companies will only cover trekking up to a certain altitude, so check the fine print.

Don’t trust your credit card for coverage

If you think paying with your American Express has you covered, you may be disappointed. Most credit card coverage is minimal and highly restrictive, limiting your reasons for cancellation to death, illness, or injury or forcing you to have paid for everything with that particular card. Many companies also cap the amount you can claim per year, which, depending on how much your trip cost, could easily be used up in one go. And while your credit card may offer concierge services to help you find you a doctor in case of emergency, it generally won’t pay for or reimburse any medical expenses.
 

So now that we’ve convinced you that you need travel insurance, you may wonder if it’s ever not worth it. Well, if you’re just taking a short hop from NYC to West Palm Beach on a $99 ticket and you’re staying for free with a college buddy, it’s probably not worth buying insurance. But if you spent a significant amount of money that you wouldn’t feel comfortable losing, travel insurance can be your best friend.

Things to be aware of when purchasing an insurance:

  • Most tour companies require you to buy travel insurance before even allowing you to go on the trip.
  • Be sure to buy as soon after booking a trip as possible to ensure you get the best available coverage.
  • Make sure you read the fine print to understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t.
  • You generally won’t get the best deal if you buy through an airline or tour company. But if you google “travel insurance,” there are plenty of aggregation sites that will allow you to compare policies and coverage.
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