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January 15, 2016

Following the terror attacks in Jakarta, Istanbul, and Paris over the last few weeks—themselves a small representation of near-daily tragedies around the world—travelers are on high alert.

Whether you should continue to visit these cities following attacks is a subject of much debate, but travel insurance can and should figure into the discussion. Against conventional wisdom, insurance can cover trip cancellations related to terrorism fears—and having it might be what you need to feel comfortable planning future trips. So T+L talked to Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, about how to make sure you’re covered. Here’s his best advice.

Buy early

If you purchase insurance at the time of booking, you’ll have cancellation coverage right up until your departure date. With the right policy, you’ll have the right to cancel your trip if a terrorist attack occurs in your destination city. If, however, you’ve booked a spring trip to Istanbul and are worried of future attacks, there may be a waiting period of 30, 60, or 90 days—depending on the provider—before you can buy terrorism coverage again.

Look for policies that let you cancel “for any reason”

TravelInsurance.com lets you compare different services side by side, and this, says Sandberg, is the key feature to look for. Policies with this type of structure generally cover 75 percent of your trip costs, and are most flexible about letting you back out on your plans.

Get on the phone with an agent

Some policies have provisions against terrorism-related claims if a State Department warning was in place when you booked your trip. Make sure this isn’t the case (particularly because the State Department has issued an worldwide travel alert) by confirming with a real, live human being. You might also ask how their terrorism coverage works, how far out you need to cancel your trip, and whether any other exemptions exist that might interfere with your claims.

Know your boundaries

Let’s say you recently found a great fare to Prague that connects in Istanbul. If you’re not comfortable even touching down in a city where a terrorist event has taken place, you may have grounds for a cancellation claim. If any part of your trip gives you true cause for concern, it’s worth exploring your cancellation options.

Ask about trip interruption as well as terrorism coverage

This is the feature that would let you get on the next plane home if something were to happen while you were on vacation. 

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