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Travel Insurance

The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the cost and length of your trip, your age and health, and the type of trip you're taking, but expect to pay between 5% and 8% of the vacation itself. You can get estimates from various providers through InsureMyTrip.com. Enter your trip cost and dates, your age, and other information, for prices from more than a dozen companies.

For U.K. citizens, insurance is always advisable when traveling in the States. Travelers or families who make more than one trip abroad per year may find an annual travel insurance policy works out cheaper. Check www.moneysupermarket.com, which compares prices across a wide range of providers for single- and multitrip policies.

Most big travel agencies offer their own insurance and will probably try to sell you their package when you book a holiday. Think before you sign. Britain's Consumers' Association recommends that you insist on seeing the policy and reading the fine print before buying travel insurance. The Association of British Insurers (tel. 020/7600-3333; www.abi.org.uk) gives advice by phone and publishes Holiday Insurance, a free guide to policy provisions and prices. You might also shop around for better deals: Try Columbus Direct (tel. 0870/033-9988; www.columbusdirect.net).

Trip-Cancellation Insurance -- Trip-cancellation insurance will help retrieve your money if you have to back out of a trip or depart early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Trip-cancellation insurance traditionally covers such events as sickness, natural disasters, and Department of State advisories. The latest news in trip-cancellation insurance is the availability of expanded hurricane coverage and the "any-reason" cancellation coverage -- which costs more but covers cancellations made for any reason. You won't get back 100% of your prepaid trip cost, but you'll be refunded a substantial portion. TravelSafe (tel. 888/885-7233; www.travelsafe.com) offers both types of coverage. Expedia also offers any-reason cancellation coverage for its air/hotel packages.

For details, contact one of the following recommended insurers: Access America (tel. 866/807-3982; www.accessamerica.com); Travel Guard International (tel. 800/826-4919; www.travelguard.com); Travel Insured International (tel. 800/243-3174; www.travelinsured.com); and Travelex Insurance Services (tel. 888/457-4602; www.travelex-insurance.com).

Medical Insurance -- Although it's not required of travelers, health insurance is highly recommended. Most health insurance policies cover you if you get sick away from home -- but check your coverage before you leave.

International visitors should note that unlike many European countries, the United States does not usually offer free or low-cost medical care to its citizens or visitors. Doctors and hospitals are expensive, and in most cases will require advance payment or proof of coverage before they render their services. Good policies will cover the costs of an accident, repatriation, or death. Packages such as Europ Assistance's "Worldwide Healthcare Plan" are sold by European automobile clubs and travel agencies at attractive rates. Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc. (tel. 800/777-8710; www.worldwideassistance.com) is the agent for Europ Assistance in the United States.

If you're ever hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, MedjetAssist (tel. 800/527-7478; www.medjetassistance.com) will pick you up and fly you to the hospital of your choice in a medically equipped and staffed aircraft 24 hours day, 7 days a week. Annual memberships are $225 individual, $350 family; you can also purchase short-term memberships.

Canadians should check with their provincial health plan offices or call Health Canada (tel. 866/225-0709; www.hc-sc.gc.ca) to find out the extent of their coverage and what documentation and receipts they must take home in case they are treated in the United States.

Lost-Luggage Insurance -- On flights within the U.S., checked baggage is covered up to $2,500 per ticketed passenger. On flights outside the U.S. (and on U.S. portions of international trips), baggage coverage is limited to approximately $9.07 per pound, up to approximately $635 per checked bag. If you plan to check items more valuable than what's covered by the standard liability, see if your homeowner's policy covers your valuables, get baggage insurance as part of your comprehensive travel-insurance package, or buy Travel Guard's "BagTrak" product.

If your luggage is lost, immediately file a lost-luggage claim at the airport, detailing the luggage contents. Most airlines require that you report delayed, damaged, or lost baggage within 4 hours of arrival. The airlines are required to deliver luggage, once found, directly to your house or destination free of charge.

Staying Healthy

New Englanders, by and large, consider themselves a healthy bunch, which they ascribe to clean living, brisk northern air, vigorous exercise (leaf raking, snow shoveling, and so on), and few excesses other than the stresses and strains of being a Red Sox fan (now greatly alleviated, thank goodness). Other than picking up a stray cold or flu, you shouldn't face any serious health risks when traveling in the region.

Exceptions? Well, yes -- you may find yourself at higher risk when exploring the outdoors, particularly in the backcountry. A few things to watch for when venturing off the beaten track:

  • Poison ivy: This shiny, three-leafed plant is common throughout the region. If you touch it, you could develop a nasty, itchy rash that might seriously erode further enjoyment of your vacation. Some people experience a dangerously bad reaction, while others are barely affected at all; it's best to simply just avoid it. If you're unfamiliar with what poison ivy looks like, ask at a ranger station or visitor information booth. Many have posters or books to help you with identification.

  • Giardia: That crystal-clear stream coursing down a backcountry peak might look pure, but it could be contaminated with animal feces. Disgusting, yes, and also dangerous. When ingested by humans, Giardia cysts can cause serious diarrhea and loss of weight. The symptoms might not surface until well after you've left the backcountry and returned home. Carry your own water for day trips, or bring a small filter (available at any camping or sporting-goods store) to treat backcountry water. Failing that, at least boil your water or treat it with iodine pills before using it -- even for cooking, drinking, or washing. If you feel diarrhea coming on, see a doctor immediately.

  • Lyme disease: Lyme disease has been a growing problem in New England since 1975, when the disease was identified in the town of Lyme, Connecticut; thousands of cases are reported nationwide annually, and they're no trifling matter: Left untreated, Lyme disease can damage the heart. The disease is transmitted by tiny deer ticks, which are difficult to see -- but check your socks and body daily anyway with a partner. If you spot a bull's-eye-shaped rash, 3 to 8 inches in diameter (the rash may feel warm but usually doesn't itch), see a doctor right away. Lyme disease is more easily treated in early phases. Other symptoms may include muscle and joint pain, fever, or fatigue.

  • Rabies: Since 1989, rabies has increasingly been spreading northward into New England. The disease is spread by animal saliva and is especially prevalent in skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes. It is always fatal if left untreated in humans. Infected animals tend to display erratic and aggressive behavior; the best advice is to keep a safe distance between yourself and any wild animal you might encounter. If you're bitten, wash the wound as soon as you can and immediately seek medical attention. Treatment is no longer as painful as it used to be, but still involves a series of shots.

    Those planning longer excursions into the backcountry of northern New England might find a compact first-aid kit with basic salves and medicines very handy to have along. Towns and villages in the three states are reliably stocked with pharmacies, chain grocery stores, and Wal-Mart-type big-box stores where you can stock up on common medicines (such as calamine lotion and aspirin) to cope with minor ailments along the way.

Healthy Travels to You -- The following government websites offer up-to-date health-related travel advice.

  • Australia: www.smartraveller.gov.au

  • Canada: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index_e.html

  • U.K.: www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/HealthAdviceForTravellers/fs/en

  • U.S.: www.cdc.gov/travel

What to Do If You Get Sick Away from Home -- Hospitals are easy to find in the cities of northern New England; rurally, however, you might need to depend on regional health centers or walk-in clinics.

If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they won't make it through airport security.

Visitors from outside the U.S. should carry the generic names of their prescription drugs. Foreign visitors may also need to pay all medical costs upfront in an emergency and seek reimbursement later. For U.S. travelers, most health-care plans provide coverage if you get sick away from home.

Safety

New England -- with the notable exception of parts of Boston -- boasts some of the lowest crime rates in the country. Northern New England is even more so; the odds of anything really bad happening during your visit here are extremely slim. But travelers should always take all the usual precautions against theft, robbery, and assault anyway.

Avoid any unnecessary public displays of wealth, for instance. Don't bring out fat wads of cash from your pocket, and save your best jewelry for private occasions. If you are approached by someone who demands money, jewelry, or anything else, hand it over. Don't argue or negotiate. Just comply. Afterward, contact police right away by dialing tel. 911.

The crime you're statistically most likely to encounter here (as with anywhere in the U.S.) is the theft of items from your car. Don't leave anything of value in plain view, and lock valuables out of sight in your trunk. If you have an electronic security system, use it.

Also take the usual precautions against leaving cash, laptops, or valuables in your hotel room (or at least lying around in the open) whenever you're out of your room. Many hotels have safe-deposit boxes; use them. Smaller inns and hotels often do not offer any kind of safe, but it can't hurt to check.

Finally, when traveling late at night, look for a well-lighted area if you need to gas up or step out of your car for any reason.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.