(photo: Anonymous)
(photo: Anonymous)

You already know that travel insurance can protect your travel investment in the unfortunate event of lost baggage, illness or cancellation – but it’s kind of like heading advice about staying up on your retirement investments—it’s a little dry and you put it off as long as possible. That being said, there are some travelers out there who do exactly what you should—buy travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. To you—my congrats and admiration.

For the rest of us, it only becomes important at the last minute or unless something is happening: like the volcano in Iceland that is threatening eruption just weeks before my scheduled trip there.

As it turns out, when you call to get insurance AFTER an event is already happening (like a volcano churning out 3,000 tremors per minute), you might be too late. There is an instance when some travel insurance companies will not even grant you cancellation coverage if there is a “known threat” in progress (like a volcano awakening). You can pretend, like I did, that maybe the agent isn’t aware of the impending eruption, but chances are he/she knew about it long before I did.

I have done a lot of traveling, and I have purchased a lot of travel insurance, and I have never heard of this “known threat” possibility that could suddenly exclude my destination from coverage. There was nothing on the company website mentioning this possibility, not even after typing Iceland into the destination space. I could have purchased a plan and online, thinking I was covered, having no idea that I wasn’t until and unless I tried to file a claim. I ONLY found out about my destination being excluded when I called an agent for something else. Somewhere deep in the fine print that we never read is a clause explaining that a “known threat” will not be covered.

What’s a traveler to do? In my case, I called another travel insurance company…fast! Assuming they would have a similar policy, I thought I was out of luck. Perhaps they do have a level at which they would also exclude coverage, but at the time of my call, I could still get the cancellation coverage for Iceland.

I was a little embarrassed not having coverage so close to my trip, but in all honesty, I put it off every time. I also discovered that quite a large number of my travel-writing colleagues, who are also going on this trip, put it off too. Here’s the lesson: if you put off buying travel insurance, you’re gambling. You do save some money by waiting closer to your trip to purchase, but you risk not getting coverage at all with this sneaky little “known threat” clause if an event develops suddenly at your destination.

File this in the “good to know” folder for your next trip.