The Skinny on Travel Insurance

Traveler Editor at Large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: I just found out my dog is ill and needs surgery. I’m considering canceling my upcoming trip. Luckily I bought trip insurance. Right?

My Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your pet. But I have more bad news for you. “Unless you bought a ‘cancel for any reason’ policy, you’re not getting your money back,” says John Cook, president of, an online travel insurance store.

Why? Well, regular travel insurance policies provide what is called “named peril” coverage, which means they kick in only when something specifically named happens to you, like a trip interruption or the death of a spouse.

But Cook hasn’t ever seen a policy that includes the illness or death of a pet. The only one that would cover you is called “cancel for any reason” because, as the name implies, you can cancel your trip for any reason.

Such a policy costs considerably more than a garden-variety policy. By the way, if you’re thinking of buying one, it might already be too late. You typically have from 24 hours to two weeks after booking a trip to buy the policy.

Christopher Elliott is National Geographic Traveler’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the February/March 2014 issue). Follow his story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

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