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Why you need travel insurance

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(CNN)

Travel insurance can reimburse you for lost luggage or canceled flights, more extensive plans can help if for when you get sick or injured, or have to come home early unexpectantly. But how far does coverage go?

Dale Cody's photos remind him of  the gorgeous views he saw rock climbing in Thailand, but the portion of that trip he will never forget?

"I was in serious trouble," Dale said. "I had a huge fever, chills, freezing cold, then broiling hot in a tropical climate. All my bones and joints just ached like crazy. "
 
Dale came down with a mysterious infection, and when he reached a small private medical clinic...

"One of their main concerns was, Are we going to get paid?"

Luckily Dale had purchased travel insurance for his trip. So when  his condition worsened in the clinic, he was covered.

"Behind the scenes, the insurance company worked to arrange a stay at Bangkok Hospital at Phuket, which is a world class hospital," Dale said.

Having a health advocate to deal with foreign medical care is one of many benefits of travel insurance. Regular health insurance may not cover services out of the U.S. according to Linda Kundell, a spokesperson for U.S. Travel Insurance Association.
 
"About 20% of people whose trips have been impacted by a medical emergency or other type of emergency had travel insurance. That means that 80% of those impacted did not," Kundell said.

Kundell says a slew of lesser known coverage options include reimbursement for being stuck on the tarmac, missed connections and  interrupting, delaying or even canceling an entire trip because of illness or injury that affects you or  a family member on vacation or  at home.
 
Kundell said, "And plans that also add on or include assistance services such as help with lost passports, legal advice."

This includes medical evacuation back to the U.S.

"If you have to be medically evacuated, it can cost up to $100,000 or more," Kundell said.
 
Experts say certain credit cards offer free travel insurance but those policies may not be comprehensive. Industry experts caution against buying travel insurance from an airline, cruise company or tour operator, because you're not covered if they go bankrupt.

"For a very inexpensive trip, let's say a $1000 trip somewhere, you might not want to get travel insurance. Travel insurance is really better for those trips that you cannot afford to lose the value of, for example, a $10,000 cruise," according to George Hobica, President, AirfareWatchdog.com.
 
As for Dale, he never imagined the $360 premium would pay him back in ways beyond covering medical bills.

"I highly credit the insurance company with taking all the actions that I was unable to take because I was so sick to save my life."

Travel experts recommend several websites that can help compare the different plans available and the pricing, which is generally based on the cost of the trip. Check the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, Airfare Watchdog, Square Mouth, Insure My Trip and Lonely Planet.