Guest Blog: Taking the kids and getting travel insurance

We’re pleased to welcome a guest writer to our blog today.  Eileen Ogintz is a travel writer who runs the wonderful site Takingthekids.com, which is an indispensable resource for families planning to travel with children.

Taking the Kids and Getting Travel Insurance
By Eileen Ogintz

For once I kept my mouth shut. I resisted the temptation to say “I told you so!”

When I heard about the couple’s honeymoon plans — a Caribbean resort during hurricane season – I suggested travel insurance.  I worried about a storm derailing their plans.

But they were too busy with the wedding to consider insurance that they were sure they wouldn’t need. None of us could have anticipated a power outage at Los Angeles International Airport that grounded all flights for several hours on the day they were leaving, causing them to miss their connecting flights and, ultimately, the first two days of their honeymoon. Their bags didn’t arrive until two days after they did.

The travel snafu ultimately forced them to spend several hundred dollars on airport hotels, meals and clothes — money that travel insurance would have refunded. Travel insurance may also have been able to get them rerouted and on their way more quickly.

Too many people think travel insurance is for seniors with serious medical problems. Not anymore. Not with volcanic ash, blizzards, hurricanes, terrorism and old-fashioned family emergencies causing travel plans to implode. These days, I like the idea of having a fairy godmother watching over my shoulder when I travel, even if I have to pay for it (typically 4-8 per cent of the trip.)

Even in the best of times, traveling with kids can be as unpredictable as hurricane season. A broken ankle, appendicitis, even an ear infection can force parents to delay departure. In other cases, families have to return from vacations early because of emergencies at home. Think of travel insurance as a way to protect your investment in your trip.  It can pay for hotels if you are stranded like so many were after last year’s holiday blizzard in the Northeast or out of pocket medical expenses—as it did for me when a scratched cornea sent me to the ER.  On a ski trip, my travel insurance picked up nearly $1,000 in costs that my medical insurance didn’t cover. Had it been necessary, the travel insurer would have arranged for medical evacuation and covered all of the costs if we’d needed to change our flights to return home earlier.

The key: Assess your needs before you sign on the dotted line, and read the fine print. Will your kids be insured free?  Once, we were delayed overnight without our bags when our connecting flight was canceled. I was annoyed to discover that, because our bags were returned to us within 24 hours, our travel insurance didn’t cover the essentials we had to buy.

Still, I think  travel insurance is worth it, especially if you’ve invested a lot of money up front — like for a cruise, for plane tickets to Hawaii, or for a ski condo during a holiday week — or if you’re visiting a country that might not have the best medical care.  It’s worth it for the peace of mind too, just knowing you don’t have to worry if your elderly mom gets sick and you have to return home or if your backpacking college student needs medical care far from home.

Most families opt for a package plan that will cover any costs incurred if they need to cancel or disrupt their trip because of a medical emergency, a hurricane, or a terrorist act. The insurance should cover the cost of changing your flight, as well as the unused portion of your vacation, if an emergency forces you to return early. If you’re traveling solo with a child and become sick or injured, some of these policies will even provide for a chaperone for your child.  But you can buy insurance just for what you need—medical evacuation, for example.

As for the honeymoon couple, their airline ultimately gave them some vouchers to make up for the inconvenience. They had a terrific time — once they got there.

Copyright 2011 Eileen Ogintz

For more on Eileen’s adventures and misadventures, visit www.takingthekids.com Her TakingtheKids  family travel guides are  newly updated and available for the NOOK and Kindle with individual sections starting at 99 cents.

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