For travel overseas, most U.S. health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) do not provide coverage, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services upfront and reimburse you only after you return home. As a safety net, you may want to buy travel medical insurance.

The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the destination, 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. For U.S. visitors, good sources for comparing available policies include TravelInsurance.com, InsureMyTrip.com and SquareMouth.com. Enter your trip cost and dates, your age, and other information, for prices from more than a dozen companies.

Trip-Cancellation Insurance

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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 traditionally covers such events as sickness, natural disasters, and State Department or Foreign Office advisories. The latest news in trip-cancellation insurance is the availability of "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. We think trip cancellation insurance is a good idea if you're going on a pricey tour, or having to put down a deposit on a rental home. Otherwise, you likely won't need it. The companies listed above also show these sorts of policies.

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Tip: ALWAYS buy insurance directly from insurance companies rather than from travel agents or tour operators. You'll get the best price that way. But more importantly, you'll have the protection of insurance if the company you're traveling with goes belly up.

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.