Travel, by definition, involves many choices on the part of the traveler. You choose where to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to do, what to eat, and much more when you decide to see the world. There are always risks involved with any kind of travel, some more than others, which is why in general travelers would be wise to make informed choices and look into travel insurance as a safety net to help them avoid, or at least mitigate, serious disaster on their trips.

One thing that is often confused by travelers who have purchased insurance policies, however, is the distinction between where the insurance company's responsibility ends and personal responsibility begins. For example, many people don't realize that most travel insurance policies will not offer them coverage for any misfortune that befalls them while they're intoxicated – in that instance, personal responsibility to be cautious and prudent while traveling is the standard, and the insurance company has no responsibility to cover someone who isn't exercising due caution. To a larger extent, travel insurance doesn't always apply as people expect it will in cases of political and civil unrest in different regions around the world.

Often, travelers make the mistake of assuming that if the U.S. State Department has issued a Travel Alert or Travel Warning for a specific country, anyone who has plans to visit that country should be able to cancel their trip and be reimbursed by their travel insurance company. In fact, that's not necessarily the case, for several reasons. First, civil and political unrest – which are different, by definition, from terrorism – are not included in the coverage offered by travel insurance policies. (Although some may provide evacuation benefits if such a situation should arise while you're there). If you choose to book a trip to, for example, a Middle Eastern or East African country, you are probably already aware that there is a somewhat heightened risk of civil unrest occurring in that country. Since travel insurance policies clearly state that they do not cover civil unrest, if you still choose to travel to that region, it's a matter of your personal choice and responsibility – not your travel insurance provider's.

Secondly, the U.S. State Department issues two different types of travel advisories: Alerts and Warnings. In the case of an alert, the advisory basically exists to tell travelers that there is a somewhat heightened, but temporary, risk; however, there is no need to cancel plans. Alerts advise travelers to remain vigilant, cautious, and exercise personal responsibility for their own safety, but they do not recommend that travelers cancel or substantially alter their plans to visit that region. Again, whether or not you disagree, your choice to continue with your plans or discontinue them rests solely with you.

The best choice you could probably make, if you are determined to travel to an area of the world that may be more prone to civil unrest than some other areas, is to cover your bases by purchasing a travel insurance policy that includes cancel for any reason coverage (CFAR). It will allow you to cancel your plans typically up until 48 hours prior to your scheduled departure for any reason at all. With a CFAR plan you will still be able to mitigate your loss even if your travel insurance provider doesn't cover civil unrest as a reason for cancellation. You can take greater personal responsibility for your safety with CFAR, because you will have more flexibility to change your mind about traveling for any reason. After making an informed choice about your destination, it's worth making another informed decision about the kind of insurance coverage you purchase.