Friday, March 18, 2011

Catastrophe while you are traveling

by Pat Gulley

Catastrophe while you are traveling.

I read a blog recently about an author who went off to a foreign country to do research and fell and broke an ankle. That did not deter her one bit, and she stayed on her touring and researching course. It reminded me of all the stalwart clients I had, who never allowed anything like broken bones, asthma attacks or diarrhea interfere with their travels. Yes, some of them had to delay a bit to spend unwanted time in a hospital. The average war story here was with the American attitude towards what was expected of them, and what they expected from the provider. They were exasperated, appalled, delighted and surprised finding they wished they had that service in the US opposed to being scared out of their minds because they equated the treatments to something a witch doctor would prescribe. Their travel agent always had a chuckle after they left, but I always got my two cents in with “Aren’t you glad you took the travel insurance I arm wrestled you into buying?” I always liked to remind them who the expert was.

The terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan brings up the worst case scenario of being trapped in a country when a catastrophe happens, whether a person is hurt or not. Granted the insurance does not cover catastrophe evacuation, but if you had a medical emergency, it would. A fellow TA had a client recently who was going on an Adventure Cruise to Antarctica, all expenses except airfare paid by a company she was doing photography work for. No it wasn’t an assignment from a magazine. Anyway, trying to step off the tender, Miss Clumsy, missed her footing, did some fancy somersaulting, which resulted in several breaks to one leg. Now she had gone to see my friend because she wanted a good deal on an air ticket. My friend could offer her wholesale rates, but the traveler also needed help with all the necessary travel documentation and equipment movement. Needless to say, there was a major battle of wills over buying a $98.00 trip cancellation police for this trip to protect her from all sorts of things she was sure she didn’t need. She was sure her own medical insurance would cover her, but had never checked to see if it did outside the USA. Most don’t ya’know. Miss Clumsy grumbled over the fact that She would Never cancel a trip like this and the wholesale ticket only had cancel fees, not totally non-refundable, that she could handle. Yes, but what about after you start travel? The fare rules have change fees and travel minimum restrictions that could raise fare substantially to go home early. So, eventually my friend won, and the lady bought the insurance.

Well, her little ‘trip’ required helicopter service to get her off the ship, hospital emergency room fees, air ticket change fees and the added upgrading costs to first class because she required stretcher service due to the size of the cast on her leg. The cheapy little policy she bought contained $100,000 worth of emergency medical evacuation coverage, and she used darn near every penny of the hundred grand to return home.

Bad things happen. And what about the horrors of death while traveling. Death abroad can be more that a sad thing, it can be an emotionally stressful trying to get the dearly departed back home. Even friendly countries have rules and regulations that can delay the return and interfere with all sorts of family religious rituals. The paperwork is monstrous, and asking for a cremation to make things easier is almost always out of the question. And we are not going to discuss here on this nice little blog how awful some bodies arrive home. The emergency evacuation insurance can handle a major portion of this for people and a lot of the costs. And where it helps considerably, is when under major emotional stress people make statements and agree to things that might bankrupt them. The insurance help cover some of those bad decisions.

With the situation in Japan, many Americans we heard about were there on business, so I’m sure they expect their companies to pay for everything. However, leisure travelers trapped there will have to foot all the bills themselves, and if they did buy some insurance, they have some financial compensation available to them with their return home. Think about the other tourist destinations like Tunis and Egypt during the protests.


Annette said...

Thanks so much, Pat for thoroughly depressing me this morning. And here I was, just worried about bedbugs.

patremick said...

This makes me not want to travel too far from home, although I suppose it's best that I know this information. Deprsses me, too!

Anonymous said...

Pat -
I agree whole-heartedly about travel insurance. I've never been ill or injured while traveling, but I once had a late flight cancellation cause me to get into London too late to make the train to meet up with a walking tour in Shrewesbury. The tour company arranged for a taxi to take me from London to Shrewesbury in time to meet the departing tour, and the travel insurance reimbursed the difference between the cost of the taxi and what I would have paid to take the train - more than 100 pounds!

Gina said...

OOPS! That anonymous was me. Gina.

C.L. Phillips said...

Great post. Thanks for bringing what should be an automatic back to top of mind.

I used my travel insurance to haul myself home from a twisted back in New Zealand. Saved a small fortune. Have always bought travel insurance on any trip outside the US, and any trip more than 500 miles away from home in the US.

Many thanks.

Janell said...

Thanks for the great post. I am planning a trip this fall to Spain with my 79 year old mother. I will now definitely get travel insurance for us both. What a good thing to read about~!!!

Joyce Tremel said...

If I ever fly anywhere, I'm definitely getting travel insurance. Recently I noticed that my credit card company gives their customers a large amount of insurance if you use the card to buy your plane tickets. Another thing that's good to know.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Well, not the most cheerful post I've read this morning, but it could be the most useful someday. Thanks.

Patg said...

Well, so glad to be informative. Yes, Travel Insurance is one of the best things you can buy.
YES, check your credit cards for additional insurances. Almost all credit card companies have an automatic flight insurance policy that activates the minute you charge an air ticket to it. And some call it common carrier insurance that will protect you on train, bus and ships. You have to read the coverage carefully, and if you are taking a tour and the charge comes through as a tour company, you have to call the Credit Card company and tell them.
Rental Car insurance is also available so you don't have to get reemed by the rental companies, and baggage insurance too.
When I buy an air ticket I automatically count on approximately $20 additional for coverage.
There Will Be A Test!

Sarah Glenn said...

The cost of the insurance is worth the peace of mind sometimes.

E. B. Davis said...

I usually buy tickets off the Internet from various sources. And yes, I've wanted travelers insurance. It's never offered!