One of our family’s most favorite vacations was almost over before we left town.
A few summers ago, I pre-paid for a week in the Rocky Mountains. It was going to be five FUN-tastic days of dude ranching and whitewater rafting adventure. To kick off the trip, my husband and I promised our sons pancakes at a Food Network®-acclaimed diner. It really doesn’t get much better than that for two “tween”-aged boys. As luck goes, we were bumped from our departing flight while at the airport check-in counter.
That’s also when we learned that the discount airline from which I bought our tickets was “discount” because they did not have reciprocation contracts with other carriers. This meant our tickets were worthless, and we were stuck. Our boys were devastated!
Within minutes, my husband and I decided that not going was NOT an option. After a few frantic phone calls and a good deal of angst, we bought four tickets on a different airline and arrived at the much-anticipated diner only an hour and a half later than we’d planned. I call this the day of the $2,000 breakfast.
Lesson learned; next time, buy travel insurance.
Travel agents may offer you insurance, but they are in the business of travel and not insurance. Until recently, I thought that I had to buy whatever insurance my travel agent, hotel or airline offered at the time of purchase or forgo the coverage. That is not so! A lot of insurers offer travel insurance policies. The trick is finding the best coverage to fit your needs at a good price.
Travel search engines are my secret weapon; they simplify the purchasing process by helping value-conscious travelers like me to:
- Shop for options
- Compare policies and prices
- Buy the product that best fits our needs at the best price directly from an insurer
Using search engine quotes, I have found better coverage at lower prices than offered by my travel agent, auto club, warehouse buying club or my credit card company. Some carriers even insure children 17 and younger for free.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Time is of the essence. You usually must buy travel insurance within 10-15 days of making a deposit or paying for your trip.
- Have your details ready. To generate a quote, you’ll need to provide: the price of travel, dates of travel, your destination, date of trip deposit, date of final payment, number of travelers and ages of travelers (as of the date the policy is purchased).
- Shop around. If buying through a travel agent, ask them to quote coverage, too. One time our agent saved us 50%. Another time, the search engine produced a quote for the same policy written on the same form for $60 less.
- Prioritize your key risks. This helps to pare down the options and select coverage. It also helps you to avoid duplicating coverage, for example, buying medical insurance or auto insurance coverage that you already own. Your local independent insurance agent can help you figure out where your personal coverage ends and travel insurance coverage begins.
- Read the policy carefully. Each policy defines risks differently. For example: a “delay” in one policy might be three hours; in another, five hours; or in another, 12 hours; “lost” bags are different than “delayed” bags; “bags” may not include equipment; etc. You get the point.
- Consider extras. Access to a dependable concierge service is important. If you have an event, it will be stressful, and you’ll need to work with your travel provider directly. A good concierge service will get you where you need to go as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Ask questions. Call the provider if you have any questions. They want to sell policies, so they tend to be very helpful.
After purchase, read the Policy Declaration and make any changes or correct any errors as soon as possible. Each policy has a review period during which you may change or cancel the policy for a full refund. After that, you own the policy. Once, I needed to have a policy reissued because the computer application divided the total price of travel uniformly across all travelers in our group. But the actual amounts we had paid varied, resulting in some travelers being overinsured and some underinsured. If our trip had been canceled or interrupted, this might have created an issue. A five-minute phone call resolved the matter.
Finally, a good rule of thumb is to expect to spend about 10% of the cost of your trip on travel insurance. This makes me think of it as a tip to myself! There’s no reason for anyone to have to buy a $2,000 breakfast.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.