Risk is part of travel. Every time you set off on the road, the unknown can occur: traffic jams, flight delays, bad weather, natural disasters, even civil unrest in your destination. Any of which can lead to the delay or cancellation of your long-awaited vacation.
Most vacations go off without a hitch, of course, but when something does go wrong your angst can be compounded by anger if you also take a big financial hit in the process. Travel insurance can help ease your disappointment about a missed trip, and can provide coverage for prepaid transportation, hotels, and activities.
Not everyone is comfortable with spending money upfront to insure against the relatively low risk of their Caribbean vacation getting cancelled. In the event of a major weather event, like a hurricane, most Caribbean hotels and cruise lines will let you reschedule without penalty, although a refund may not be guaranteed. Airlines also have foul-weather policies that can provide you with some protection in the event of a big storm or other natural disaster.
However, these policies won't protect you from more mundane crises, and may not provide the level of coverage you want or expect. Gabe Saglie, senior editor of online travel deal site Travelzoo, offers some great tips on buying travel insurance for your next Caribbean getaway:
- Plan ahead. Some companies will only sell you travel insurance within 10 or 14 days of when you make your travel purchase. And remember that insurance against something like a hurricane will only work before the storm hits; forget about adding it after that tropical system has reared its stormy head.
- Weigh your personal tolerance for risk. Most travel goes on without a hitch, but travel insurance can offer an important financial cushion during the unforeseen. It all comes down to your own tolerance for financial risk, and the value (monetary and otherwise) of the trip you’re taking.
- Consider how much insurance will cost you. Insurance cost will depend entirely on the value of your trip and what type of coverage you’re seeking. Generally speaking, your typical trip will cost about 7-10 percent of your trip cost to insure; a $1,000 vacation could cost you about $70 to $100 to insure, for example.
- Read the fine print. This may be the best advice: read your policy carefully so you know exactly what scenarios and costs are covered. If the verbiage confuses you, or if you’re unclear as to what’s covered by your policy, call your provider directly to clear up any questions or confusion.
- Most travel insurance policies will cover basics like trip cancellation or delay, lost or delayed baggage, and some medical expenses. Many will also protect you should the company you’re traveling with goes out of business. Some policies will also cover you if you lose your job right before your trip and you can no longer afford to travel.
- Consider adding extra coverage based on the type of trip you are taking. Are you off to a remote tropical island, or exploring the deep rain forests of Costa Rica? Then something like emergency evacuation insurance may be a good idea. Do you like to travel by the seat of your pants? Then consider "cancel for any reason" insurance, which is not cheap but which may help with last-minute changes of plans. And if your trip is very expensive (like a week at a private island resort, or a luxury-yacht tour through the islands), or very important to you, then taking out extra types of coverage for peace of mind may well be worth the investment.
Where to Buy Travel Insurance
You can usually protect your airfare at the same time you buy your ticket, directly from your airline, for about 7-10 percent of your airfare cost. You can also buy insurance directly from the vacation company selling you your travel; this can be a good idea, since they’ll have intimate knowledge of all the details for your trip; on the other hand, they may not cover things like their own insolvency.