With the Christmas holidays just a week away, it may be our last opportunity to remind you all of some important “do’s and don’ts” of using your travel insurance policies during the most hectic travel season of the year. Oddly enough, travel insurance is one of those purchases that you make in the hopes you won’t ever use it; but since peak travel times and inclement weather are two of the factors most likely to cause disruption to your plans, it’s not a bad idea to get a little refresher on some of the finer points of invoking your benefits.
Get a doctor’s note. If you find yourself too sick with the virus du jour to fulfill your travel plans, you may be able to file a claim with your travel insurance company for reimbursement of your pre-paid, non-refundable expenses. However, staying home with the sniffles isn’t likely to fall under the definition of “too sick to travel;” if you’re really so ill that you can’t go through with your trip, be sure to get a note from your doctor and include it with the rest of your documentation when you file your insurance claim.
Keep the “Happy” in the holidays. Some level of stress during holiday-season travel is unavoidable, but if you hit an unexpected snag, you should absolutely take advantage of any and all assistance your travel insurance can provide to you to minimize your discomfort. For example, if your flights are delayed or cancelled and you need help with rebooking, many insurance providers can help handle that for you, so make a call to your provider’s assistance hotline before you go stand in the long lines at the ticket counters. Also, if you find yourself stranded overnight, don’t be shy about checking on your policy’s benefits — depending on the length of the delay and the coverage outlined in your travel insurance documents, you may be entitled to help in booking a hotel room for the night, as well as reimbursement for that expense. Read your policy and make mental note of any benefits like these that may help soothe your frazzled nerves in the event of an unexpected problem.
Take advantage of airport personal shoppers during an unexpectedly long layover. That is, don’t use their services, and then add the cost of those purchases to your insurance claim. Many travel insurance policies covering unexpected delays of 5 hours or more will allow you to submit a claim for reimbursement of necessary expenses you had to pay for during your wait. However, “necessary” is the key word here. A meal in one of the airport restaurants should qualify; last-minute Christmas shopping won’t make the cut.
Check gifts or valuables without the proper insurance coverage. (Or at all, if you can help it; but sometimes, especially at the holidays, checking items you might not ordinarily travel with is unavoidable.) Not only can luggage get lost even under the best of circumstances, but disturbing new reports of theft by baggage handlers at major airports gives us all a new reason for concern. Make sure your travel insurance policy includes coverage for your baggage, and check that the per-item and total coverage limits will meet your needs; if you can’t get the right amount of coverage with a travel insurance policy alone, look into scheduling some items on your homeowner’s insurance policy.
Wait until the Weather Channel tells you winter storm Zenith (or whatever) is about to slam your airport before you buy travel insurance. Remember: Travel insurance during winter storm season is no different from travel insurance during hurricane season, in that it still only covers you for things you couldn’t have predicted. If Jim Cantore can predict that a blizzard might upend your travel plans, so can you.
With these last-minute reminders, we hope you’ll be able to travel more safely and comfortably this holiday season. We wish all travelers a happy, healthy holiday!