Tidewater Traveler - June 2006

Protecting Your Travel Investment


George W. Sellers, CTC

     “We can’t go! How much will we loose?” The most disheartening aspect of travel planning is receiving that call from a client who has just experienced a life-problem that will interfere with those treasured and long-awaited vacation plans. Illness, injury or even the death of a family member or travel companion, are but a few of life’s unscheduled events which can cause the cancellation or interruption of a vacation or business trip, and the forfeiture of large amounts of money. And what about the very rare, but unforeseen default or bankruptcy of a tour operator, airline, or cruise line? Sometimes the legal system presents us with disappointments in the form of jury duty or a subpoena; and don’t forget ole man weather, or the unanticipated traffic delay or breakdown on the way to the airport. There are literally hundreds of potential events waiting to spoil your travel plans and waste the money you have spent on non-refundable airline tickets, tour, hotel and cruise packages.
      Well, the good news is: You can protect your investment! Your travel counselor can recommend travel insurance coverage to prevent the loss of money you have paid for travel services, even for pre-existing health conditions if it’s done correctly. In addition to coverage for trip cancellation and delay, insurance is available to cover baggage loss, accident and medical expenses, emergency evacuation and homeward carriage, trip interruption, as well as standard flight (life) insurance. Travelers should even consider purchasing cancellation insurance for non-refundable airline tickets.
      We cannot change the events that unexpectedly shape the flow of our lives, but we can reduce the financial impact by making some reasonable decisions in advance. As you are about to make your first deposit on a trip, be sure to ask your travel counselor to describe the insurance products that can benefit you.
      Nearly all travel operators have significant cancellation penalties and much of the money you pay for travel is non-refundable; therefore, it is highly recommended that all travelers consider Trip Cancellation, Interruption and Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage, as well as Travel Accident & Sickness and Baggage coverage.
       Most cruise lines and tour operators offer their own version of cancellation insurance. Sometimes their products are referred to as waivers rather than insurance. There are specific instances when the tour operator’s or cruise line’s plan might be better; however, a comprehensive insurance product from an independent travel insurance carrier is usually preferable. Be sure to determine if the coverage plan you are offered will compensate you in real money rather than future travel credits.
      A comprehensive travel insurance plan will include most, if not all, of the following coverage:
? Trip Cancellation: Covers you if you cancel your trip for a covered reason.
? Trip Interruption: Covers you if you interrupt your trip for a covered reason.
? Travel Delay: Reimburses you a daily stipend for additional accommodations or travel expenses if you are delayed for more than 6 hours due to a covered reason.
? Missed Connection: Covers you if you miss your cruise departure due to inclement weather or any air-carrier caused delay.
? Medical Expenses: Covers necessary medical expenses up to one year after the sickness or injury provided you received initial treatment while on your trip.
? Emergency Evacuation: Covers evacuation and transportation to the nearest adequate medical facility.
? Lost, Stolen, or Damaged Baggage & Personal Effects: Reimburses you if your luggage is lost, damaged, or stolen while you are on your trip.
? Baggage Delay: Reimburses you for the purchase of essential items if your bags are delayed for more than 24 hours.
? Accidental Death & Dismemberment: Coverage against injury or loss of life while traveling.
? Rental Car Collision Damage Benefit: Covers cost of repairs for collision damage to a rental car with some limitations.
? Additional Medical Expense Coverage: This very important for folks whose medical insurance plan does not cover them when outside the USA – Medicare, for example, does not cover the costs related to injury or illness that occur outside the USA.
As with most insurance products each policy will have specified limits of coverage. Generally speaking, the premium (cost) for travel insurance is based upon the per person cost of the trip and the age range of the traveler. When an insurance product is properly selected and purchased in a timely manner, most providers will extend benefits such as Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver, meaning you don’t have to worry about Pre-Existing medical conditions; and Trip Cost Bankruptcy Protection to cover you if the tour operator, cruise line or airline declares bankruptcy; and even Change of Mind Coverage that reimburses your cancellation penalty up to a limit if you cancel your trip simply because you change your mind!
Travel Insurance plans often include complimentary services that the consumer may not expect such as:
? Emergency assistance anywhere in the world.
? 24-hour hotline to make emergency travel changes, such as rebooking flights, hotel reservations, tracking lost luggage and more!
? Relay of any e-mail or phone message to family, friends or business associates.
? Emergency Cash transfers
? Assistance in coordinating an emergency cash advance.
? Pre-trip travel advisories
? Around-the-clock access to passport, visa, inoculation and vaccine requirements; travel advisories; embassy and consulate contacts; travel health advisories; weather and currency information – all for your planned destination.
? Lost Baggage Tracking
? Assistance in locating lost or stolen possessions
? Restaurant Referrals and Reservations: Worldwide dining referrals and reservations made on the covered person’s behalf.
? Airport Transportation: Will locate and arrange for a transportation service to pick you up and deliver you to your desired destination.
? Event Ticketing: Will assist with the purchase of tickets to such events as sporting events, theatre, and concerts.
? Tee Time Reservations: Will facilitate the reservation of tee times at available courses and recommend alternatives in case of a booked course.
? Floral Services: Will facilitate the ordering of flowers for such events as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions.
      There are just a few companies that offer travel insurance products. Most travel agencies have a travel counselor on staff that is licensed by the State Insurance Commission to sell travel insurance products; that person should be able to help you select the plan that best fits your needs and your budget.
      May All of Your Journeys Be Happy and Safe!