Buy a laptop and they want you to ‘insure’ it will work after the warranty expires with a policy that adds 20% to your purchase price. The same for refrigerators, DVD players, televisions and every electronic item you can think of selling over $40. Travel insurance would seem to fall into the ‘nice to have but I can't bother with it’ category also. It might be time to re-think that and here's why.
As a front desk agent at an airport hotel, I see three to four guests per week billed on their credit cards as ‘no-shows’. Last week, a guest called me from the airport, guaranteed one of our last two rooms with their credit card, asked where our shuttle could be found and never showed up! With room rates averaging $129 (plus tax) and the increased likelihood of problems being encountered en route (flight delays or outright cancellations, illness, last minute itinerary changes, missed flights due to traffic) it is possible you might also one day be paying almost $150 for a room you didn't sleep in.
Travel insurance (especially the a la carte type) that covers lost or delayed baggage, hotel cancellations or no show charges, illnesses and flight interruptions can be fairly inexpensive compared to what you may pay out of pocket. Suppose you are flying through the East in dead of winter, starting from NYC, transferring in Chicago and then Denver and on to LA. With tighter airline connection schedules, ANY delay leaving NYC or at any of the hubs will very possibly strand you in one of the last 2 cities. If you have a room reserved at LAX for $119.00 that you now forfeit because it is too late to cancel AND you find there are only rooms for $259.00 in Denver, the $20-$22 cost of hotel cancellation and flight interruption insurance seems a small price to pay. And if you have to re-book at a higher fare the next day due to YOUR missing a flight, you may have to pony up an additional $200.00 as well. Other travel insurance choices to consider are options for medical coverage (out of your coverage area or even out of the country), medi-vac for returning to the US and ER coverage if your insurance does not cover you for these.
Where I think travel insurance is a non-essential luxury would be the medical coverage if you are already covered, if you generally frequent only cheap motels (under $50-$60) or where you are only flying to one city and live nearby if the flight were cancelled. Under these circumstances, the added expense of even $20 would not be a worthwhile investment. But for expensive or non-transferable overseas tickets, especially where carriers have only one flight a day, insurance is almost a no-brainer. Miss one of them and you could be out $1500 easily in extra fees for last minute changes. Add the cost of a hotel room you won't stay in and paying for one you HAVE to find that night and the cost rises even more. The premium likely will be higher to cover overseas trips but nowhere near what you could lose with just one delay somewhere.
David C. Reynolds is a longtime veteran of the Hotel business who offers common sense, money saving advice on how to find rooms, booking hotels as cheap as possible, travel and ground transportation tips, understanding reviews and occasional destination ‘specials’. If you would like a free copy of his e-book (or MP3) Hotel Reviews: Finding and Understanding or see more travel tips, go to his blog at http://www.bookhotelscheaper.com and sign up in the box on the top right. For a comprehensive book on how to find the cheapest rate a hotel offers, go directly to http://www.cheaphotelforyou.com and order the ebook or MP3.