Volcanic ash clouds, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods - maybe you should consider travel insurance for your next trip. Paying a few hundred dollars in premiums could save you untold grief and money.

Trip insurance won't cover every situation and, with rare exceptions, you can't cancel your trip on a whim and get back your money. A primer:

How do I get travel insurance?

You can buy through an online broker, travel agent or tour company. Online brokers, such as InsureMyTrip.com and Squaremouth.com, compare policies from different companies. Be sure to read the full policy, not just the summary.

What should travel insurance cover?

It should reimburse you for nonrefundable deposits with cruise, tour and hotel companies, as well as extra airfare costs. Look for medical coverage too, including emergency evacuation; your health insurance may not cover you outside the United States.

How much should I pay for a premium?

Expect to pay 4 to 8 percent of your trip's cost for a bundled or package policy, the most popular type, which covers travel delays, trip cancellation and interruption. Premiums vary by the buyer's age, the scope of coverage and other factors.

Will insurance handle every problem?

No. A standard policy covers unforeseen events - illness, weather or labor strikes that affect your ability to start or complete a trip or cause problems along the way. You can add a "cancel for any reason" rider, at extra cost, to some policies. Don't rely on vague references to "weather coverage" or "illness coverage."

My insurer denied my claim. What can I do?

You can file an appeal with the insurer or complain to your state insurance department (in New York call 800-342-3736 or go to ins.state.ny.us). If you paid for your trip with a credit card, you should request a charge-back from the card company.

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