Travel insurance is a handy thing to have should you find yourself stranded in a foreign land. Such problems have become increasingly common, as freak weather, striking workers or collapsed travel operators have caused thousand to be left standing on the tarmac with nowhere to go.

Most of us treat buying travel insurance as a necessary evil. You don't leave home without it but you don't give much importance to the process of choosing the right coverage. Insurance plans are not all the same so you need to make sure the one you choose covers the sort of liabilities and problems you could reasonably anticipate.

Factors to consider include:

Will it cover any costs if your travel plans have to be changed? Trip cancellation insurance will pay you the non-refundable portion of your trip (ie, if you have pre-paid for your hotel) and it will make the adjustments necessary to your airline ticket as well (ie, if you must travel home immediately, there will be no extra costs on your new ticket). You may, however, be required to pay the additional charges on your airline ticket up front which the insurance company will reimburse later.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition check to see whether there are any exclusions on the policy, some policies maintain that if your pre-existing condition is “stable and controlled” for a specified period of time then the medical condition would be covered. On most policies pregnancy is not classed as a medical condition, but check just in case.

Cheapest or most expensive is not the criteria you should use when selecting travel insurance. For example, if you only want trip cancellation insurance, don't choose a more expensive package that includes other coverage such as medical costs.

If you travel abroad frequently and want every possible aspect covered (cancellation, health, baggage theft, etc), look to the annual combination packaged-plans, as they will normally offer a better price.

Many travel insurance medical plans come with an emergency assistance phone number. In a crisis they can answer questions like: Where can you find a good doctor? What if they speak a different language? Are local medical facilities safe? What if you have to be air-ambulanced to another hospital? Who will contact your family if you can't? These are very useful things to know the answer to.
Choose machinery and plant insurance

If you are running a manufacturing business some of your most important assets are likely to be your plant and engineering equipment. You'd be out of business without them so you need to make sure you never are.

It is possible that you rent some of your most important equipment and if this is the case then you should have a decent insurance policy if there's a breakdown or problem. Machinery can be damaged or stolen, and you need to make sure that your insurance covers these areas so that your business is not interrupted.

Ideally you should be looking to ensure that your cover protects your equipment from:

 - Theft and vandalism

 - Breakdown

 - Fire damage or smoke

 - Flooding or other natural disasters

 - Water or oil leakage

 - Concurrent damage caused by extinguishing building fires etc.

Policies covering your plant will be set at a certain amount, either as estimated by you, or categorised by the insurance company. There are two main types of cover:

 - Old-for-New: which takes into account their current market value

 - Indemnity Cover: the insurance company will take into account general depreciation

 - Be careful to check which type of cover the insurance company is proposing – obviously the former is a far better option, but it can be more expensive.

Some policies in this area have special features depending on what the plant being insured actually does and if it has a higher risk of being damaged or destroyed. If you want to keep your insurance premium to a minimum, ask the insurer about leaving off special features, or try raising the excess.

When taking out machine/plant insurance you should consider how much your plant is worth before shopping around for an appropriate policy. If you are getting an Old-for-New policy, make sure to value your equipment at its replacement value, not its actual value (which will take into account wear and tear). Don't forget to examine any limitations and upper limit pay-outs before purchasing the insurance and check whether you are covered for accidental damage.

When you have chosen the best policy for your business, make sure that you do not give any inaccurate or false information when applying for insurance. This will make your policy invalid when trying to make a claim. Check your policy frequently and update it if necessary as your situation changes.

Check your excess limitation, especially for money, valuables and single articles and try to negotiate a discount on the strength of any of these. As with any contract, always read the small print and documentation thoroughly. If you don't, you are leaving yourself open to the insurer's opt-out clauses.