THE BUDGET TRAVEL MINUTE
Bad weather can ruin your vacation--maybe even forcing you to cancel the trip entirely. Is there any way to protect yourself? Some people buy travel insurance, which are special policies that cover your expenses if you have to cancel because of Mother Nature, or if you or a close relative get sick or injured and can't make the trip. The policies are safeguards that will even reimburse you for nonrefundable airline tickets, or if you're away from home and have to come back immediately to attend a medical emergency.
While looking over the fine print, note that some situations are not covered. You don't have carte blanche to cancel the trip for any reason. Basically, the weather has to be bad enough to force you to cancel a vacation before the policy will pay off. So if the road to the airport has been shut down, if the airline canceled your flight because of a blizzard, or if your Caribbean resort suffered damage in a recent hurricane, you're covered. But if the airlines are flying and your resort is open for business, you can't cancel and expect to be covered. Also, just as health insurers won't cover "preexisting conditions," travel insurance policies won't cover events that are seen as "foreseeable." So if you're heading to the Caribbean in a week and the National Weather Service issues a storm warning, it's too late to buy a policy that'll pay off when you have to cancel. On the other hand, if you bought the travel insurance in advance, well before that warning was issued, you're in the clear.
There's one thing travelers should be aware of. When large-scale catastrophes hit, including hurricanes, earthquakes, or even terrorist attacks, most airlines and hotels allow customers to change or cancel their plans without penalty. So when it comes to weather, it's sometimes not necessary to buy travel insurance. But if you want to play it safe, go for it. The cost of most policies is based on a percentage of the overall cost of your vacation, adding perhaps 5 or 10 percent onto your bottom line. That's not a lot to pay for peace of mind.