A reader recently asked if I’ve ever purchased travel insurance, and what kinds of trips warrant the coverage.

Actually, I haven’t. Not yet.

When I’ve taken expensive trips — a safari in Tanzania or a jet-setting jaunt to Rome, Athens and Jerusalem, for instance — I was either too youthfully idealistic to consider that anything would go wrong (in the case of the safari), or the travel was funded by the magazine where I was employed (that Mediterranean marvel). But if we pull off the big family trip we dream of next summer — to mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands — I’ll be wading into the insurance waters. That’s because of the answer to the second part of the question: Buy travel insurance when you’ve paid out so much that it would hurt to lose the bundle if you had to cancel the trip.

Holiday flights to New Orleans? Nope. Once-in-a-lifetime, three-week adventures booked and paid for long before the travel? Bring on the coverage.

Unfortunately, making the decision to buy insurance may be the easiest part. There are many kinds of coverage and they are often combined in packages. This requires figuring out why you want insurance: Do you have medical issues that may prevent you from going or might pop up during the trip? Does your medical coverage stop at the border of the U.S., so you need medical coverage overseas? Are you worried about losing the deposit on a cruise? After you’ve determined what’s prompting the insurance buy, go to a travel insurance website such as insuremytrip.com, squaremouth.com or travel insurance.com to compare policies. (These sites do a good job in educating about travel insurance, too.) Carefully read through the policies you are considering. Expect to pay from 4 to 10 percent of the prepaid, nonrefundable cost of the trip. In certain circumstances only you can decide, the peace of mind will be worth the price.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.