Murphy's Law—the idea that what can go wrong, will—seems especially applicable for travel these days. But does that mean you need to purchase a travel insurance policy?
Flight delays and cancellations have been on the rise. In the past year, 76.91 percent of flights were on time, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That's down from 81.48 percent a year earlier.
Not exactly a good omen heading into the busy summer travel period, which also happens to mark the start of hurricane season. Add in the perennial worries of illness, work commitments and other mishaps that can waylay a trip, and buying travel insurance can seem like smart idea.
Without it, such problems put travelers at the mercy of travel companies' refund and trip-change policies—and advocates say that with many of those companies now selling travel insurance themselves, they're less inclined to give unprotected travelers a break.
"They've gotten so much stricter in the last five years, it's incredible," said Christopher Elliott, author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler." Affected travelers may lose any nonrefundable portions of their trip, and be subject to pricey change fees to reschedule a trip or head home earlier than planned.
There is, of course, some company self-interest there, Elliott said: "The more stories get out of people losing, the more policies they are going to sell." And because the bulk of policies go unclaimed, they can represent substantial profit for the sellers, said Jason Clampet, co-founder of travel advice site Skift.com. It's win-win for them. "If they don't get you with change fees, they can get you with what they sold you with insurance," he said.
Pressure aside, whether travel insurance is a smart bet depends on the details of your trip. "There are a lot of people who could benefit from travel insurance that don't have it, and fewer who have it that would benefit from having a better policy," said Elliott, who advocates on behalf of travelers through his site, Elliott.org.
Here's how to figure out where you stand: