Whether you’re actually traveling for holiday-related celebrations, or just considering a winter vacation during this peak travel time, careful advance planning can make a big difference in how your experience unfolds. As with most travel planning, taking the possible need for insurance into account is something worth considering – because of the volume of travelers, possible winter weather complications, and other unique seasonal disruptions, travel insurance might be just the right holiday gift to give to yourself.

Here are our top 5 tips for researching travel insurance for a holiday-season trip:

  1. Evaluate your need. You may be surprised to hear us say this, but here goes: You might not need travel insurance. If you’re just planning to head to Grandma’s for a few days, your total non-refundable costs for your trip may be relatively negligible. Take a good look at everything you’d stand to lose if you had to cancel your plans, and decide for yourself whether or not travel insurance is a good investment for this particular trip.
  2. Assess your luggage. The holidays are prime time for traveling with items you may be loath to lose. Many people carry holiday gifts in their checked baggage; if you’re among them, you may want to consider buying a travel insurance policy that provides coverage for lost items. If you’re looking into baggage loss coverage for your holiday gifts, make sure to keep as much documentation (original receipts and/or photos of the items) as possible, and make sure the policy’s limits, both the total and the per-item maximums, match your needs. Also, keep in mind that very expensive items, such as jewelry, may be better insured through your homeowner’s policy.
  3. Watch the weather. Snow, ice, and other winter weather conditions can easily ground flights and delay, or outright derail, your plans. Even if you don’t think your home or destination are likely to get hit with a blizzard, remember that flights originate from hubs all around the world. A snowstorm in Chicago could easily cause systemic delays and cancellations in Arizona, so you may want to think about getting a travel insurance policy that provides protection against lengthy delays (usually, the threshold set by most insurers is 5 hours or more) and flight cancellations.
  4. Consider the kids. The holiday season is also prime season for colds, viruses, and all kinds of illnesses. Kids are especially prone to the sickness du jour, so if you’ve planned to travel with yours for the holidays, it might be smart to keep a travel insurance policy in your back pocket just in case a sudden ear infection, stomach bug, or other illness forces you to keep your young patient home in bed. (Please note: A licensed, qualified physician must certify that your child is too ill to travel.)
  5. Keep your options open. For some travelers, a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy is the right solution during the holiday season. If you’d like some flexibility in your holiday travel plans and want to wait to decide whether you’re really taking that cruise with your brother, or whether you’d rather stay home and cozy up by the fireplace, this type of coverage might be a wise investment. Remember that it’s a time-sensitive benefit – you’ll have to purchase it within 10-30 days of making your initial trip payment – and filing a claim under CFAR requires you to cancel your plans and notify all travel suppliers 48 hours or more prior to your scheduled departure.