My Thoughts on Travel Insurance
TRAVEL INSURANCE… DO YOU NEED IT?
Before I started travelling 100,000 miles a year and booking high-cost trips for clients, I was probably like many travellers today: Travel insurance seems like an annoying extra cost you get presented with at the last minute and that doesn’t really seem worth it. But over the past year I’ve learned the value of travel insurance –both through my personal experiences and through my clients’ experiences. The key to travel insurance, I’ve found, is to build it into your trip costs ahead of time so that you do not make decisions based on financial cost but rather on the peace of mind and your specific needs. Now as a travel agent I always present travel insurance options to my clients!
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed insurance provider, so all opinions expressed are my own. It’s your responsibility to read the Description of Coverage for any travel insurance you wish to purchase – not all insurances cover the same things! It’s also your responsibility to find out when pre-exisitng medical conditions are excluded or what definitions the insurance uses for “terrorist incidents,” “cancellation due to illness,” “trip delay,” etc.
Just this year alone, here are my experiences both with clients and with my own personal travel:
- Clients booked a multigenerational trip to Europe, grandfather was in a vehicle accident 10 DAYS BEFORE DEPARTURE and forbidden from travelling by his doctor. They had already paid in full and the trip cost was $17,000. Travel insurance will help them recoup this money!
- I had a client doing a self-drive trip in Europe. While they were already over there, a terrorist incident occurred in the city they were due to fly out of. They changed their plans and drove to a different city and travel insurance paid for the flight change fees so that they could fly home from the 2nd city and avoid the 1st city entirely.
MY OWN EXAMPLES:
I have an annual Business Traveler insurance. I got it in March and have already filed 2 claims – one for $134 worth of clothing when Avianca left my bags behind on purpose overnight, and another for $150 when flights were cancelled and I became stranded in Miami. And it was great pulling out my Hilton app and just booking a hotel from the app while still on the plane and going straight there rather than stand in line an hour like everyone else who wanted to claim a “free” night on the airlines.
Here are my responses to the most common reasons not to get travel insurance:
”Why do I need insurance for baggage getting lost? The airlines are obligated to pay for my supplies!” NOPE. Not a chance. Not in Honduras anyway!! And believe me I googled the Geneva conventions and everything else I can think of, and I had NO legal recourse in this instance. Avianca was NOT interested in helping us out , even though they told us to our face that they deliberately left our bags behind because they were worried about taking off too heavy in a storm. It was 8pm at night and I had business meetings in the morning followed by a 2pm flight to Colombia on a different carrier. Luckily we wore business clothes on the plane. The next morning after our first meetings, we ran to a mall for an hour and bought clothes and supplies because Avianca was telling us that we probably wouldn’t get our bags for a few days. Luckily (long story short) the bags showed up an hour before our flight to Colombia left and we managed to get them back. But it was wonderful having the financial freedom to run into a mall and buy anything we wanted (my policy will reimburse up to $200 per day) within reason and know we would be reimbursed, and to be able to change into new clothes after being in the same clothes for 24 hours.
“It’s a short trip/direct flight, what could go wrong?”
Let me tell you… the flight that they left my bags behind? That was a direct flight from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula. 40 minutes long. And our bags didn’t make it.
“Why do I need delay and cancellation protection? The airlines are obligated to get me to where I’m going”
In theory, yes. But you’re also battling thousand of other travelers who also may need assistance. On the same trip, multiple flights from San Pedro Sula to Miami were cancelled. I was automatically rebooked, but that flight kept getting delayed as well! Eventually, before I even got to the airport, I could already see I would miss my connection in Miami. (I was originally supposed to be at the airport at 4am… didn’t end up leaving for the airport till 5pm!)
I called my travel insurance and they went over my description of coverage for me and also offered to search for alternate flights for me. If I had been able to find a one way flight from San Pedro Sula to Miami on a different carrier (for instance – it was only American’s flights getting cancelled, there was a Delta flight I could have gotten) up to $500 I could have just bought it and hightailed it out of there. Now, since it was leaving in an hour it wasn’t even close to $500 and I didn’t want to get out THAT badly, but still good to know that would have been covered. By the time I landed in Miami, American had already automatically rebooked me on the outgoing Pittsburgh flight for the next day.
The entire plane was full of people who had missed their original San Pedro Sula flight, so they all went over to American Airline counters at 10pm at night to demand free lodging in Miami until the next flight the following morning. People told me the line was over an hour long. I got my bags, finished booking a Hilton hotel on my app, and got a taxi and went straight to bed. It was great and I knew that I was covered since I already had all the proof of the claims I planned to file.
I’ve already gotten fully reimbursed for my costs. (Note: always check your limits – in the hotel case above, I am reimbursed up to $150 per night so if I’d chosen to go over that amount I would have been responsible.)
“I know I’m definitely going on my trip so why would I want to protect against cancellation?”
First of all, there are actually some insurance policies you can purchase that will protect trip interruptions (flight delays or illness, etc) as well as provide you with robust medical insurance in case of emergency, so don’t rule out travel insurance yet.
Second of all, we can all PLAN to go on a trip, but an elderly family member may pass away unexpectedly, world events such as terrorism or government unrest may make us uneasy about our travel plans, a travel tour company may declare bankruptcy, or we may fall ill at the last minute and receive doctor’s orders not to fly at all. We just can’t predict the future.
So in summary, 1) I’ve been very pleased with my travel insurance so far and 2) don’t think that just because it’s the airline’s “fault” that you will be better off NOT getting insurance. I loved having insurance for this trip and it definitely made a huge difference in my stress level as I did not have to consider cost for anything at all.
PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT, BE PROTECTED FOR MEDICAL EMERGENCIES, AND HAVE PEACE OF MIND WHEN YOUR BAGGAGE IS LOST… GET TRAVEL INSURANCE!
Don’t forget if you have any questions about travel or trip planning, you can reach me on my Contact Me page!