Rule number one: Check your existing policies and credit-card agreements before you buy additional coverage you may not need.
Some credit- and charge-card companies may insure you against travel accidents if you buy plane, train, or bus tickets with their cards.
Call your insurers or credit-card companies if you have any questions.
Trip-cancellation insurance is a good idea if you have paid a large portion of your vacation expenses up front (say, by purchasing a package deal). But dont buy it from your tour operator - talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket! Buy it from an outside vendor instead. It should cost approximately 6% to 8% of the total value of your tour package. Your existing health insurance should cover you if you get sick while on vacation - though if you belong to an HMO, you should check to see whether you are fully covered when away from home.
Your homeowners or renters insurance should cover stolen luggage. The airlines are responsible for losses up to $2,500 on domestic flights if they lose your luggage (finally upped in early 2000 from the old 1984 limit of $1,250); if you plan to carry anything more valuable than that, keep it in your carry-on bag.
Among the reputable issuers of travel insurance are Access America (tel. 800/284-8300; www.accessamerica.com); Travel Guard International (tel. 800/826-1300; www.travel-guard.com); and Travelex Insurance Services (tel. 888/457-4602; www.travelex-insurance.com).