Low-Cost Travel Insurance For Adventure Travelers

travel insuranceStart talking about anything even remotely related to the topic of travel insurance and odds are the conversation will be short. This is not something that travelers dream about, plan for or share with their social networks. No one we know of has a scrapbook of insurance mementos picked up along the way or has written a song about it. To many travelers, travel protection is an annoying, unnecessary expense. Still, have a situation while traveling where we need it, and all of the sudden the cost seems a trivial matter.

In the past, Gadling has reported on the difference between travel insurance, which covers monetary damages, and travel protection, which provides immediate support and assistance in an emergency. We explained how insurance that covers medical evaluation could help avoid a $100,000 airfare too. Our friends at airfarewatchdog have a nifty chart explaining the difference between three major players in the travel assistance game, OnCall International, Medjet Assist and AirMed.

Traveling to any place on the planet to hike, climb, ski or scuba dive? These plans have you covered.

Any of those companies will transport travelers from anywhere in the world back to a hospital or medical facility of their choice. Prices run between $55 and $115 per person for a short-term plan and annual plans are available for those who travel extensively.

But what if travels take you camping, biking or skiing somewhere around North America, on a cruise to the Caribbean, Bermuda or Mexico? For you, there may be similar coverage at a fraction of the cost.Another company, SkyMed, covers just the USA, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas with short-term plans as low as $9 per day.

Important to adventure travelers, SkyMed uses mostly medically equipped and staffed jets, and other fixed-wing aircraft appropriate for the type of airport or landing strip available. Should the situation call for a helicopter, they have those too.

I learned about travel protection about this time last year, avoiding a $2500 cruise ship medical center bill by having similar protection with an annual TravelGuard policy.

In the video below, a hiker in Wyoming with a broken ankle sits waiting for help to come.

We do not want you to be in this situation.


[Photo credit – Flickr user slworking2]

How to Buy Flight Cancellation Insurance

canceled

As American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights through October, passengers were left scrambling for alternate flights or airlines to handle their travel plans. Those actually flying experienced more flight delays than normal too. Savvy passengers with travel insurance came out on top though, thanks to a normally unused feature common to many policies.

Blame it on American Airlines bankruptcy issues, labor problems, maintenance problems or layoffs, in a week’s time the troubled airline had canceled about 300 flights, mostly in and out of Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) airport.

“Prior to the recent issues, American had been running a good operation, with on-time performance and reliability measures at their best levels in many years,” American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks said in an LA Times story. “The recent disruptions are primarily due to the significant increase in maintenance write-ups by our pilots, many right at the time of departure.”

It’s a situation totally out of the control of passengers but one that can be made a bit easier to swallow with some basic travel insurance that covers flight delays or cancellations and, most importantly right now, offers traveler assistance.Travel Guard, for example, has a single trip plan and an annual plan for frequent travelers.

Their Savvy Traveler plan covers trip cancellation, interruption and delay, emergency medical treatment or evacuation, lost, stolen or damaged baggage or personal effects and baggage delay on any one given trip. The cost? About $25 for a $500 flight in October.

Frequent fliers can get Annual Travel Insurance for personal or business travel that covers trips or vacations throughout the year. This one includes everything from trip cancellation and interruption to unannounced strikes, weather delays and more – plus it comes with coverage for medical expenses that might be incurred away from home. That’s especially important when traveling internationally.

I bought one of their annual plans last year for about $200. It paid off when some medical expenses I incurred sailing on a cruise in international waters added up to over $2000, little of which was paid by my primary health insurance. The travel insurance paid the rest.

canceled flightSay a flight booked on American Airlines was cancelled. The airline would do its best to reschedule. Frequent flyers know the drill too: flight canceled, stand in long line at airline customer service counter and hope to get to destination at a reasonable time.

But what would my travel insurance have done for me? We asked Travel Guard to find out.

“In addition to the 24-hour assistance Travel Guard provides customers in rebooking their flights, accommodations and other pre-planned travel arrangements, in the event that their trip is delayed five or more hours, travel insurance can reimburse for expenses incurred until travel becomes possible,” Carol Mueller, VP of Travel Guard North America told Gadling.

That could come in handy when a late, weather-delayed flight causes a missed connection and the next flight out is tomorrow. Weather-related flight delays? Technically, not the airline’s problem. The travel insurance company, much like a travel agent, is on your side and ready to help when needed.

“Cancellation would be covered when due to mechanical/equipment failure of the carrier, or when inclement weather causes delay or cancellation of travel,” added Mueller. “We recommend customers contact us at our toll-free number as soon as they know their trip is going to be delayed, interrupted or cancelled and we can help with alternate solutions to their travel plans.”

Regardless of which travel insurance company we choose, having that protection along for the ride when traveling can pay off. Liability-limiting reasons for airlines to cancel or delay flights due to weather events and “maintenance” issues seem to be on the rise. That takes travel insurance from an optional extra not likely to be used to something that may be seriously considered.

 

When Do You Really Need Travel Insurance
[Flickr photos by Scott Ableman]

International Business Travel Tips, From Business Travelers

business travel

After posting our 10 Tips For International Business Travel, readers responded with some engaging comments. Chiming in with additional tips that work, their ideas for international business travel have an undeniable common sense. Based on their personal experience, with some lessons learned “the hard way,” readers shared not what they heard would be a good idea, but what they did that worked. Take a look and see if you agree.

Bring Local Currency With You
“Take foreign currencies with you,” advises Rosie in her comment, adding “In France, you cannot go to a bank to change dollars, you need to go to the Post Office, but they will NOT exchange $100 bills unless they have been verified as genuine by the French Banque de France. And this could take a minimum of 3 weeks. Apparently, a lot of fake $100 bills ‘manufactured’ in Russia have been floating about.”

Notify Credit Card Companies In Advance
Annie recommends, “notifying your credit card company(s) of your itinerary. Also if on a cruise notify them of the name of the line & where they bill from. My card co. did recognize the name of the billing co. & it was really annoying as the card co. doesn’t have 24/7 call service. Also check your medical insurance! Medicare participants especially need to check their supplemental as most only cover $10,000 out of the country (except emergencies in Canada).”

Scan Documents, Be Prepared, Know What To Do
“In addition to carrying copies of your documents and cards and leaving a set with family, scan copies to your email account,” commented reader brinniewales. “This helps considerably in case everything you are carrying is lost or stolen and/or no one is available at home to respond to your immediate needs. Internet cafes are available around the world, so those copies of documents and cards are just a few clicks away.

If your passport is lost or stolen, and if possible, check the government website to determine the requirements for a replacement passport before going to your embassy or consulate. You may be able to complete the form online and print a completed copy to submit. Photos are necessary so, if necessary (if not taken at the embassy), take the appropriate number (and size) of photos.”Have A Backup Plan and Know The Rules
Lou had a bunch of comments including, “Leave a complete list of the contents of your wallet and valuables home with someone who can immediately report these items to credit card companies, law enforcement, US Customs or insurance companies.

Business travel may require a VISA where tourist does not. Business travel laws and rules vary in most foreign countries. Also items you travel with may be considered for tariff. It’s smart to have a letter of invitation from [your] client stating your business.”

Better Than An App For That
“Here’s a good idea for protecting your valuables and keeping track of your iPhone, your iPad, your laptop and even your camera, keys, luggage and passport,” wrote Gordon. “Two years ago, I found Okoban and obtained tracker tags for a free global lost and found service. I put them on all of my valuables.”

It paid off in Rome. I left my passport at a restaurant at lunch. That afternoon, I received a text message from Okoban saying that my passport had been found. I did not even know it was missing.”

Know Your Cards And Don’t Assume
Hanky wanted us to know that he “just returned from Europe a few weeks ago, so my experience is fresh.

  • Be sure you have a credit card that can be used internationally, i.e. Citibank cards in the US are not used in Europe, call for the upgrade at least one month early and they will send a new card that can be used in all locations.
  • Be sure you call all your banks and credit/debit cards to tell them your travel dates, so they don’t reject a bill.
  • Be sure you take the appropriate electric converters, we stayed at the Ritz and even they did not (have any to loan)”

Share Your Story, Work The Maps
Reader Joy has multiple suggestions too, advising:

  • Give someone at ‘home’ your complete itinerary, and numbers where you maybe found.
  • Take foreign money with you, and be ready upon landing to get where you need to be.
  • Do not assume anything, so be prepared. Maps help too. (show and tell cab drivers).
  • Take all medicines with you, in your possession, and not in luggage.

Thanks to all who commented, these are great tips we think others can use too. You lived and learned and we benefit. See more comments at “10 Tips For International Business Travel” or add yours here.




[Flickr photo by _tar0_]

How to Find Adventure Travel Insurance

adventure travelersAdventure travelers have needs. Insurance needs that are unlike those of other travelers that choose a different, maybe easier path. Now, a major insurance plan provider has what they think is just what this edgy group needs.

With their new Great Outdoors plan, Travel Guard North America has enhanced coverage and benefits, offering a streamlined solution to travel insurance.

“A lot of time, effort and money go into planning active and adventure vacations,” said Carol Mueller, Vice President of Travel Guard North America in a release. “Whether you’re planning a relaxed sporting vacation or participating in extreme adventure, many factors can cause a dream trip to go awry.”

On safari, surfing, spelunking or mountain climbing, the comprehensive Great Outdoors plan covers gear and equipment, along with coverage for emergency medical expenses and evacuation, trip cancellation, interruption and delay, and more.

“Travel Guard’s new Great Outdoors travel insurance plan provides a wide range of coverages and specific sports travel services to help put active travelers’ minds at ease,” adds Mueller.

Along with this plan comes 24/7 access to Travel Guard’s travel assistance and emergency services for flight re-bookings, physician referrals and prescription refills. Plus, the Great Outdoors plan includes additional sports-related concierge services like hunting and fishing guide referrals, coordination of equipment pick-up and delivery, driving directions, and any other requests active travelers may have.

Often though, what makes or breaks a travel insurance plan is not what they cover but how they pay. TravelGuard has a bit of a reputation for paying fast when the required documentation is submitted by fax or email. Some other companies are known for making those covered jump through enough hoops to count as an adventure of its own, trying to collect.

I can personally attest to TravelGuard’s process, experiencing it first hand when injured on a recent trip. It was just 3 weeks from the time I submitted the claim until I had a check in my hand, about half the standard time for many insurance companies.

 

Top Adventure Travel Destinations

Flickr photo by Se7en Summits

Outside magazine’s inaugural ‘Travel Awards’ winners

travel awardsWith twenty-three categories and every continent up for consideration, the competition is fierce, but today Outside magazine released its picks for its new Outside Travel Awards. The winners include everything from travel companies and locales to cameras, suitcases, hotels, and apps, road-tested by those in the know (you know, those people).

Amongst the chosen is Seattle-based Mountain Madness, a mountain adventure guide service and mountaineering school, for its new Tsum Valley trek in Nepal, named “Best Trip in the Himalayas.” Known in sacred Buddhist texts as the “Hidden Valley of Happiness,” the Tsum Valley lies on the edge of the more visited Manaslu Conservation Area, which opened just three years ago to tourism.

Best travel company Geographic Expeditions (GeoEx) has “consistently taken travelers to the most remote regions of the world, from Everest’s north side to Patagonia’s glaciers to the far reaches of Papua New Guinea. This year its trailblazing new terrain with a 27-day trek to the north face of K2 ($11,450).” Bonus: “the price of every GeoEx trip includes medical assistance and evacuation coverage from Global Rescue and medical-expense insurance through Travel Guard.” Not too shabby.

Also making the list: Myanmar is the “Best New Frontier;” Canon Powershot G-12 makes the “Best Camera;” the “Best New Adventure Lodge” is the Singular, outside of Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile; and the “Best Eco-Lodge” is the architectural marvel, The Mashpi in Ecuador.

[Photo credit: Flickr user tarotastic]