Travel insurance is often seen as a “luxury” purchase or something that’s “nice to have, but not necessary.” At InsureMyTrip we know this isn’t true, because we’ve talked to the travelers who regret not buying a plan and those who are grateful they did.

While travel insurance cannot prevent mishaps from occurring, it can reduce the burden of unexpected expenses and additional travel arrangements that need to be taken care of with very little notice. Travel insurance plans seek to provide you with the peace of mind if a delay, cancellation, natural disaster or terrorist event impacts your plans.

Just as with other kinds of insurance, a travel insurance plan will have stated benefits, stated exclusions and limitations. It’s not a one-size-fits-all product, so it’s crucial to read any plan’s terms carefully and fully understand them before purchasing. Often, travel insurance companies may provide a review period, which allows you to purchase a policy, read it thoroughly and return it for a refund should you find that you are not fully comfortable with its terms. However, some companies may charge a small non-refundable service fee if cancelling within the review period. Many claims issues eventually arise because travelers are not aware of the plan’s limitations.

Travel insurance is also often intended to act as a supplement to insurance coverage you may already have; this is the difference between “primary” and “secondary” coverage. Secondary coverage helps provide you with a more complete safety net in the case of an unforeseen event that disrupts your trip. The most common “secondary” coverage on a comprehensive travel insurance plan are emergency travel medical benefits. A travel insurance plan may help bridge the gap in your health insurance to better protect you against an unforeseen medical emergency that happens while you’re away from home.

You’ll have to file a claim through your primary health coverage first, and expenses that are denied may be covered, up to the stated limit, by the travel insurance company. It is important to know what your primary health insurance will cover, and also what your secondary travel insurance will as well.

In other cases, homeowner’s insurance or insurance offered as part of your credit card membership may give you some protection against financial loss in the event your belongings are lost or damaged. A comprehensive travel insurance plan supplements those benefits with secondary coverage that can offer additional protection.

Knowing what travel insurance is intended to do – and what it’s not – can help answer some of the most basic questions you may have about purchasing a travel insurance plan for your next trip. Keep your expectations realistic and know that comparing travel insurance plans can help you make a more confident purchase that will be right for you.