The trip of a lifetime can turn into a journey to hell and back if you're not covered for events such as lost luggage, accidents and illness.

You may think it won't happen to you, but in 2004-05 nearly 150,000 Australians made a claim on their travel insurance.

And it's not just about losing your new camera or having your wallet stolen – losses you might be able to bear, albeit reluctantly.

Have an accident or fall ill while overseas and the consequences can be financially devastating.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warns that the cost of hospitalisation in South-East Asia can exceed $800 a day; a stay in a general ward in Noumea costs at least $1500 a day (or $3000 in intensive care); and the cost of medical evacuation from the United States has been known to hit $300,000.

Australia has reciprocal health-care agreements with some countries, but if you're thinking you can rely on those be aware that this means you'll be in the queue with other public patients.

As a traveller, you may not have the luxury of time to wait – that will only increase your accommodation costs and perhaps incur fees for cancelled or delayed travel.

The alternative is to pay for private care yourself, the worst-case scenario being a six-figure debt for surgery in the United States.

Checklist:
Tips for a safe and healthy trip:

  • Keep important medication with you in case your luggage goes missing
  • Take up a small medical kit with items such as headache pills, antiseptic, cotton wool, band-aids, latex gloves, safety pins, sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Build up your fitness before you travel
  • Factor the effects of jet lag into your itinerary
  • Don't travel in an aircraft for at least 24 hours after scuba-diving
  • Drink plenty of fluids while flying and stretch your feet and lower legs
  • Don't over-exercise in hot climates
  • Drink bottled water and avoid ice and unpeeled food where tap water is not safe