But pay attention to the details, because some hurricane-protection insurance policies aren't any better than what you're already entitled to.
Every vacationer hopes for ideal weather, but travelers heading to the Caribbean and Mexico this time of year -- peak hurricane season -- may find that travel operators' weather guarantees don't provide quite the protective umbrella they expect.
Booking sites, resorts and other travel companies often pitch protection plans as a way to overcome consumers' worries about a tropical storm derailing their vacation and leaving them on the hook for the costs. It's something consumers are seeing more often as economic uncertainty and more active storm seasons make travelers wary, says Gabe Saglie, senior editor for deal site Travelzoo. "Weather uncertainty creates a lot of deals," he says, but travel to the Caribbean and Mexico "at this particular time of year always raises the insurance issue."
Some operators, including Expedia and Club Med, include a few basic protections -- such as help getting fees waived or a credit for any trip days ruined by a storm -- as a freebie. Many, like CheapCaribbean.com and other booking sites, also offer weather-specific travel insurance plans for an extra fee equivalent to roughly 3 percent of the trip price at checkout, on par with broader travel-insurance offerings.
Travel companies' free protection plans are better than nothing, but travelers should look into the details. "Sometimes these free guarantees aren't worth a whole lot," says Stewart Chiron, an industry expert known as the Cruise Guy. Most offer credit for future travel, rather than a refund. That amount may also be limited to only those vacation days affected by a storm, potentially leaving travelers who cancel or head home early stuck with a bill for the nice days they missed out on.
In fact, some free protections promise little more than travelers are already entitled to. Airlines typically waive change fees for natural disasters anyway, says Linda Kundell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. And other providers aren't likely to budge from their standard cancellation and change policies.
But travel companies' paid insurance plans that offer refunds for weather-related cancellation may be cheaper than a separate travel-insurance policy through a stand-alone travel insurer, Saglie says.
On a $3,081 Aruba package, CheapCaribbean.com charges $95 for a policy through Assist-Card that offers 100 percent back if a trip is canceled or interrupted for a covered weather reason, and $124 for one that lets you cancel for any reason. In comparison, travelers buying directly through Assist-Card would pay at least $128 to cover the same trip for a wide array of cancellation reasons.
Travelers worried about more than weather should compare rates and coverage before buying because there can be significant variation in covered events and maximum reimbursement. That stand-alone Assist-Card policy includes $500,000 in emergency medical-evacuation coverage, 20 times the coverage of its version through CheapCaribbean.com. It also provides $50,000 in medical-expense coverage vs. $15,000 at the travel-booking site.