Q: We are taking a 9-day escorted tour of Japan in June. The tour company works with an insurance company, but we can also look at other agencies. Can you give me some info about travel insurance? Also, the rooms in Japan are booked as single, twin or triple occupancy. According to the agent, we would need to get two twin rooms for our family of four (two adults, 11 year old and 13 year old). Is this typical of hotels in Japan?
A: Let's start with the easy question.
Most mid-priced and even many luxury Japanese hotels categorize rooms as singles (one twin bed), twins (two beds), doubles (one full-size bed) and triples (one full-size and one twin bed).
If you're willing to sleep two to each full-size bed, you can ask your agent about booking two double rooms instead. Also, some hotels in Japan will offer family rooms with two sets of bunk beds or two double beds. But as this is an escorted tour, it is possible that none of the participating hotels has family or quad rooms.
Also, you may come across semi-double rooms at some Japanese hotels. These are single rooms that can be occupied by two people. But consider this: Full-size beds are 4 1/2 feet wide; these semi-doubles have beds that are less than 4 feet, so expect a tight fit.
As for travel insurance, I've covered the topic before but it is the most frequently asked question. So here goes again:
The best sites for side-by-side comparison of policies are www.insuremytrip.com, www.quotewright.com and www.squaremouth.com. Readers recommend squaremouth.com, especially because the company will not list any insurance provider that hasn't satisfactorily resolved a customer's complaint.
Travel insurance policies often have a long list of limitations and requirements, so be sure to read the entire policy before purchasing it.
I've also been reminded many times that travel agents can help with travel insurance. But I have to add a personal aside regarding this:
Recently, before booking a late-summer trip to London, I visited a travel agent to inquire about travel insurance. My husband and I are trying to adopt and may have to cancel in the next few months, so I needed a policy with a cancel-for-any-reason option. The travel agent told me no policy existed to reimburse in such situations.
That night I searched insuremytrip.com and found a comparison of eight companies that offered this option. Many of the companies reimburse up to 75 percent of nonrefundable costs as long as the trip is canceled within 48 hours of departure.
Ultimately, I selected a basic policy from Travelex Insurance Services (www.travelex-insurance.com) with a cancel-for-any-reason option that cost $156 and would cover 80 percent of the $3,500 I spent on three nonrefundable round-trip plane tickets.
Bottom line: It pays to do a little homework.