May 13th, 2013
This morning, some news from the Weather Channel caught our eye: Although June 1 is marked as the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane season each year, it’s not unheard of for tropical storms to develop earlier than June 1. In fact, in recent years, early formation of storms has happened several times.
What does that mean for travelers? Better safe than sorry; better early than late. In other words, don’t forget the cardinal rule of purchasing travel insurance for hurricane season: Buy it before the storm is named. Once tropical storms are named, they’re officially considered an active threat, which makes them “known perils” in travel insurance parlance. And if you’ve ever read a travel insurance policy from cover to cover, you probably figured out somewhere in that reading that “known perils” are not generally covered by even the best of travel insurance plans.
If this information surprises you, picture this: You’ve just purchased a vacation home and are calling to have the house insured. While you’re on the phone with your insurance company, water from the nearby lake is rising and lapping at the back door. Would you expect to be able to purchase flood insurance for your house? That’s the scenario travelers are facing when a major weather event has been identified as a threat. For this reason, we have always strongly encouraged travelers to make sure that they’re aware of hurricane season as a period of high potential for travel disruptions, and that they purchase their policies well in advance to avoid any issues that might prevent them from being eligible for coverage.
Knowing that June 1 is fast approaching, and that it’s no magic number — realistically, as the Weather Channel reminds us, a storm could strike at any time from here on out — the smartest and safest thing you can do to protect any upcoming trips you’ve planned is to look into purchasing a travel insurance policy as soon as possible. That way, you’ll be protected fully within the parameters of your plan if a storm does strike, while those who haven’t planned ahead could find themselves out of luck.
For more information about travel insurance during hurricane season, you may be interested in reading these posts from our archives:
How has travel insurance coverage changed since Hurricane Katrina?
What happens if my travel plans are delayed or cancelled due to a hurricane?
What if my accommodations are destroyed by a hurricane?
What if my home or the area I live in is severely damaged by a hurricane, and I can’t travel?
Are there any “little known” scenarios I should learn about before I travel during hurricane season?
April 25th, 2013
Image credit: Wikimedia user Piotrus, licensed under Creative Commons attribution
There’s a lot going on in the world of travel this week — so much, in fact, that it’s almost difficult to decide what to talk about. Should we discuss the ongoing snowstorms and raging floods happening in various parts of the country, which are having the usual deleterious effects on travel? What about the sequester-related furloughs that are crippling airports and creating a demand for exemption to the tarmac delay rule? Or how about some discussion on the subject of the sudden and shocking change fee hikes announced by major airlines?
The truth is, there is almost no event in the travel world that doesn’t tie back to insurance somehow. Whenever things go wrong and travelers are stressed or inconvenienced, there’s the possibility that some type of travel insurance coverage, somewhere, in some policy offered by some provider, could be of help. There are no guarantees, and as always, coverage for events like the ones unfolding so rapidly in recent days is entirely dependent upon the individual traveler’s situation and insurance policy. However, it’s worth running through some of the highlights in case you find that your circumstances resemble any of the following:
- FAA Dismay. If you’re waiting at the airport…and waiting…and waiting…to get on a flight that has been delayed by the ongoing FAA furlough drama, check the terms of your insurance policy. Most of them stipulate that after 5 or more hours of travel delay, you can at least seek reimbursement for incidental expenses related to your comfort and well-being, such as food or lodgings near the airport (in cases of extreme delay). Make sure that if you’re planning to file a claim for these items, you keep all your receipts to help make your claims process go more smoothly. Travel insurance coverage may also, in some cases, allow you to cancel your trip altogether after a significant delay (usually 24 hours or more, or a certain percentage of your scheduled trip length), and receive reimbursement of your pre-paid, non-refundable expenses.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that beyond financial reimbursements, travel insurance providers are able to provide you with tangible assistance to navigate the frustration of a hitch in your plans. A phone call to your provider’s assistance hotline could get you help in rebooking flights or finding hotel accommodations as needed.
- Speaking of rebooking… Rebooking your flight could, of course, come with one of those monstrous change fees that’s just been announced by some of the major carriers. The good news is that since travel insurance tends to operate on a “make-whole” philosophy, chances are good that you’d be able to file a claim that includes your rebooking fee. The intention of a sound travel insurance policy would be to ensure that you are able to change plans due to unforeseen circumstances without having to absorb significant additional costs. Your travel insurance company will, of course, only consider reimbursement of expenses that aren’t already refunded to you by the airline, so you’ll need to make sure that you understand and account for any adjustments made to your account by your carrier before you file your claim. Also, while it’s not a given on all policies, your particular insurance company might have a maximum amount that can be reimbursed for change fees, so make sure you know what the terms of your plan are.
- Tarmac Torture. Time for some brutal honesty: There isn’t much that your travel insurance can really do for you if you’re subjected to an unbearably long tarmac delay, beyond the benefits for travel delay that we’ve already discussed. Complicating matters further, once you’re on that airplane and the push-back is stopped, your options for changing plans are obviously quite limited, since you’re not going to be allowed to leave the aircraft. However, if you do get to deplane after some length of time, it’s better to be one of the lucky travelers who has an insurance company to assist with rebooking hassles and reimbursements than to be without.
This is, without a doubt, an interesting time to be traveling. With greater potential for inconveniences than we can recall in recent memory, something as relatively simple as boarding an airplane is suddenly an action that’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re traveling in the near future and would like to discuss the terms of your travel insurance policy with an expert prior to your departure, so that you can be fully prepared for any eventuality, please feel free to call our licensed Customer Care representatives at 800-590-2650.
April 15th, 2013
The news is stunning: Fifty-five passengers, according to preliminary reports, robbed at gunpoint while enjoying a sponsored excursion from their cruise in St. Lucia. Witnesses tell of masked gunmen, money and jewelry taken, and a possible injury to one passenger who may have fallen and broken her leg in the course of the events. The cruise line has reported no injuries, but has confirmed the robberies and the rest of the witness accounts.
Even in the midst of the most diligent preparations for “unforeseen events” during your vacation, chances are, you’d never envision falling victim to a crime such as this one. Shore excursions, particularly the type these passengers were engaged in — sightseeing at the botanical gardens! — are generally regarded as safe, convenient ways to maximize the enjoyment of a cruise. Yes, everyone knows that the advice is to be aware of your surroundings while on shore, and to take safety precautions to avoid getting lost, being pickpocketed, or becoming injured in a needless accident. But “watch out for masked men robbing your entire tour group at gunpoint in St. Lucia” isn’t usually on the list of warnings for travelers.
Fortunately, for those victimized passengers who had the benefit of travel insurance, there is some assistance that can be offered to them by their insurance providers. There are a few key areas of help and recovery that can be addressed by travel insurance:
- Reimbursement for stolen items. Most travel insurance policies include some coverage for loss or damage to your property while traveling. Victims of theft who have this type of coverage can file a claim with their insurance company to help offset the costs of replacing stolen items. Before filing a claim, however, it’s important to check the coverage limits on your travel insurance policy, as well as the benefits offered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Often, homeowner’s insurance will offer coverage for big-ticket items like jewelry that may exceed the limits of a travel insurance policy, while travel insurance can take care of the reimbursement for additional smaller items that a homeowner’s policy will not cover. Make sure that in any case, you are able to provide a police report verifying the incident, as well as any proof you may have that documents what items you were traveling with at the time the crime occurred. The more documentation you are able to provide, the easier it is for an insurance company to process your claim.
- Replacement of stolen documents. If any personal documents or identification are involved in the theft, an immediate call to the 24/7 assistance hotline offered through your travel insurance provider can help in starting the process of replacing them. Often, the assistance will include acting as a liaison on your behalf to handle many of the stressful details of reporting the theft and submitting the necessary paperwork to get replacements. Additionally, if your credit cards were among the items stolen, your travel insurance provider may be able to help you in contacting the companies to cancel them and get the cards re-issued. Before calling the assistance line, be sure to check the terms of your specific plan to see which of these assistance services are included in the benefits available to you.
- Identity theft mitigation. Adding insult to injury, being robbed while on vacation can leave you more vulnerable to identity theft. In addition to helping with the process of cancelling stolen credit cards and replacing stolen documents, some travel insurance providers offer specialized benefits to help minimize the damage of possible identity theft. Identity theft coverage typically includes services such as credit monitoring, assistance in reporting to all the necessary authorities, and continued attention to the resolution of any problems and the restoration of your reputation for a defined period of time after the theft occurs.
Our thoughts are with the victims of this dreadful crime, and we are relieved to know that there were no serious injuries or fatalities. We hope that there is a swift resolution for each of them in recovering or replacing their stolen belongings and in controlling the damage of these horrible events.