NEWS this week that struggling holiday giant Thomas Cook has finally worked out a £1.2bn deal on its debt is somewhat reassuring for summer holidaymakers.
At this time of year, worries that a travel operator will sink and scupper your holiday are heightened. Last year several non-Irish travel firms collapsed, causing much misery and disruption. There are murmurs of one Irish operator being in significant trouble.
Those who book package holidays should be well protected if a company collapses through the bonded cover that travel agents and tour operators have to have by law.
Booking by credit card can also offer some protection if an airline goes wallop for example.
But independent holidaymakers don't have automatic protections if there are cancelled flights or a hotel or villa rental agent goes bust. Ordinary travel insurance is not likely to cover these things, so you need to ramp up the policy package if you want this kind of protection.
And of course travel insurance is about more than just your holiday plans getting spoiled by an airline or a hotel going bust, there's protection you might need in the event of an accident or illness or theft.
Here's our quick cheat sheet on what to think about when booking travel insurance.
Bust travel provider protection
"Online providers often give you a minimum price straight away that might not include an airline going bust or an airline delay that makes you miss a connecting flight, or other mishaps," says Chrome Insurance's Gerard McCann.
Look for options that include cover for 'supplier insolvency' that might partially or fully protect the cost of hotel bookings or 'scheduled airline failure' to protect the price of flight tickets if the worst happens.
Also check for 'third party supplier insolvency cover' which can protect against say a car hire company, or a fun park or camper van hire firm you've booked with going under.
Most standard holiday insurance policies offer no cover for a travel operator collapsing or an airline failing. A handful have limited provision which might be up to €750-€1,000 per person. Costs for extra provision start at €20 per person but it might be worth it to save your holiday.
Strikes by airline staff have been rife during recent holiday seasons. Some standard policies do actually provide for a few hundred worth of strike compensation cover, but not if it's announced before you buy a policy. That means the action threatened by Spanish airline Iberia's pilots, who plan to strike twice a week for the next three months wouldn't be covered.
iPad or Kindle cover
An el cheapo teaser insurance price can often mean a big excess on a policy. Excesses on cheaper travel insurance policies can be extremely high, up to €1,000. That could wipe out your hopes of claiming if your gadget gets nicked or 'falls' into the swimming pool in a pina colada-fuelled bout of clumsiness (though that's not likely to be covered anyway).
It's generally recommended that baggage is insured for a value of at least €1,000 for theft or loss. You might need separate cover for expensive jewellery or sports equipment.
Your bog standard travel insurance policy is surprisingly accommodating of some adventure activities but doesn't allow for some surprising ones. For example quad biking and whitewater rafting are fine on many policies, but cycle touring and sea fishing can cost a lot extra. Kite-surfing costs lots more -- about €100 per person.
Insure your holiday as soon as you book it
Once you've booked your holiday, buy your travel policy. That way if you have to cancel because of illness or something else unforeseen, your insurance is in place to compensate you.
Make sure the cost of the holiday matches the value of the cover you've bought so that if you do have to cancel you get fully refunded. A particularly lavish break, like an expensive honeymoon may need extra cover.
Buy in a bundle
If you travel more than once a year, a multi-trip annual policy works out far cheaper.
Likewise, a family travel policy is much cheaper than each person taking out their own cover.
Check for single item limits
Some travel insurance sets individual limits on items or incidences up to a certain amount. For a mugging the limit might be just €100 -- not much if you had your camera and iPhone on you. Valuables on a low-cost policy might be covered to just €130.
Un-tick the box for daft extras
Travel insurance is a relatively low ticket item, but you can be put on the hook for a few sneaky extras.
"Some online providers offer options to post your documents or send you a text confirmation of your cover that will cost you up to €6 -- maybe 10 per cent of the policy price -- when there's no need. They can email you the details free of charge," says Chrome Insurance's Gerard McCann.
Have health insurance? Cover costs you less
Get your EHIC card
If you are travelling to Europe check out the European Health Insurance Card (see www.ehic.ie for further information). This card covers you for free medical treatment up to the level given to locals.
Obviously this relates only to health so you need travel insurance for baggage, theft and extra medical and transport costs.
Check your cover lasts the full length of your trip
Your average travel insurance policy might be a year-long multi-trip but it will typically only cover a trip that lasts three or four months tops. So for a retired couple spending a few months in a holiday home in Spain or visiting family in Australia for an extended trip, or a student on a gap year, or someone in the early stages of emigrating, they need to tailor a policy accordingly.
Don't buy insurance from a tour operator or an airline
No matter how many times that maddening pop-up offering insurance appears when you're booking flights: ignore it. It will invariably cost you more.
Likewise insurance booked through travel agents and banks is usually more expensive.