"Is trip insurance more important to seniors than to younger travelers?" I recently saw that question on a media survey; and I receive a lot of related e-mail questions from senior readers. Accordingly, here's an update on the subject — I hope it's in time to cover your summer trips.

The answer to the survey question is neither "yes" nor "no." Instead, the real answer is "your need for trip insurance depends on how you pay for your trip, not who you are." Age enters into the price equation, but not the need. I have simple rules about trip-cancellation/trip-interruption insurance. You need it whenever (1) you have to deposit or prepay a substantial portion of the cost of a vacation, (2) the supplier charges a hefty penalty or fee if you have to cancel before you start your trip, and (3) your prepayment is too big to shrug off or ignore.

Whenever you prepay, you're at risk for the full amount, less what the supplier will refund if you cancel. Your refund, if any, usually decreases as you get closer to the departure date — maybe to nothing at all if you cancel within the last few weeks. Trip insurance pays the difference between what you pay and what you can get back if you cancel.

Trip insurance covers a wide range of reasons for cancellation. You're covered if you, a traveling companion, a close family member who remains at home, or a business partner gets sick or suffers an accident or if your house burns down. You're covered if you or a traveling companion are called to jury duty or if severe problems break out in your destination area. Policies vary as to specifics, but most are similar. They also cover you if your tour operator or cruise line fails — as long as you don't buy the insurance from that same tour operator or cruise line.

Trip Insurance is recommended when you buy a cruise or tour, or rent a vacation house or apartment. You usually have to prepay the entire amount, often months in advance, and nobody can predict what can happen between the time you pay and the time you leave.

Those policies also include medical coverage — vital if you're on Medicare, if you travel outside the United States, and if your Medicare supplement doesn't cover foreign travel.

In Summary: It is our agency's recommendation that you consider purchasing travel insurance whenever you travel. It is most inexpensive when you consider what you paid for the trip initially, and may possibly lose, due to an unexpected circumstance. Please compare the added coverage that you get over a supplier's cancellation waiver.

Travel Guard International is America's leading travel insurance provider insuring more than 6 million travelers each year. They offer protection against trip cancellation penalties, travel interruptions and delays, emergency medical expenses, lost baggage and more. Plus, every Travel Guard policy includes our 24-hour "911" travel emergency service for emergency medical assistance, last-minute or emergency travel changes, lost luggage tracking, pre-trip travel advice and more.

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