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Like any form of insurance, travel insurance can be overwhelming. When do you need it? Do you need it all? What does all the fine print mean? We turned to Virtuoso travel advisor Tiffany Figueiredo, who is based in Fort Worth, for details on when and why she advises her clients to purchase insurance.
Should clients purchase travel insurance for every trip, even a weekend getaway?
“I recommend insurance on domestic trips that have non-refundable components like hotels, transfers or tours, and on all international trips. In fact, if clients are traveling internationally and choose not to purchase insurance, I require them to sign a waiver. I want them to have medical coverage in the event they are sick or injured while traveling. People assume their regular insurance will cover them abroad and that is not always the case. The companies I work with offer policies on a trip-by-trip basis, but I also recommend MedjetAssist, which offers annual plans.
What insurance companies do you work with the most, and why?
I work mainly with Travelex because of my good relationship and history with them. They have gone to bat for my clients in several instances, and while filing an insurance claim is not something anyone wants to do, Travelex has provided assistance with the process and has been very fair. In some cases, vendor insurance, like that offered through a cruise line, is sufficient.
When has travel insurance mattered for a client of yours?
The primary purpose of travel insurance is to cover the cost of delays or cancellations, but the medical assistance benefits cannot be overstated. Last year, I had a client traveling alone in Europe who suffered a serious, totally unexpected heart episode on her second day in Rome. She had purchased Travelex insurance, and they stepped in right away, talking with her family, making sure her doctors in Italy communicated with her doctor at home, and even covered the cost to upgrade her return flight once she was released, as her doctors would not let her fly economy. They provided assistance for the five days she was in the hospital and again once we were ready to file the claim. That same week, I was on a work trip in Spain when one of my fellow travelers took a hard fall over a loose cobblestone and broke her hip. She was flown home via medical jet with a nurse onboard thanks to travel insurance.
What do plans actually cover?
Each policy is different. You may not get 100 percent of your money back for a thunderstorm that causes a huge delay. It’s up to the client and agent to thoroughly understand what they are buying and what they foresee needing to cover.
Terrorist activity is usually only covered when the client’s exact destination has been attacked within a specific timeframe. So, you can’t cancel Normandy because there was a subway bombing in Paris. And you can’t cancel Paris because of something that occurs more than 30 days before your trip there. However, I haven’t had a single client want to cancel a trip because of a terrorist attack.
To get a policy that you can cancel for any reason, shop early, because this benefit is only available for a short amount of time from the initial trip deposit date. Once the first payment is made toward the trip – whether for a flight, lodging, cruise, or other – travelers have between 14 and 30 days to buy coverage. Most policies offer this benefit as a selectable upgrade, which will raise the premium cost by about 50 percent.
“Cancel for any reason” requires that all prepaid and non-refundable trip costs be insured on the policy. This means travelers don’t have the option to only insure a flight and not the cruise. Bottom line, if it’s paid before the departure date and the money would be lost if the trip were cancelled, it has to be listed on the policy.
Any tips or tricks to filing claim paperwork and getting the maximum reimbursement?
Save all receipts, first and foremost. I will have already documented the cost of the trip, but if it’s delayed or cut short, clients will have to provide receipts for the cost of meals, taxis, hotels, clothing, and toiletries that were incurred as a result. For a medical situation, they’ll need to make sure the doctor fills out his or her portion of the paperwork very specifically and correctly. Don’t be vague – that’s the general trick to not having the claim kicked back or denied.
There are gray areas on the forms, and my best advice is to fill out the claim with your travel advisor, who can call the insurer directly to clear up any questions. If the claim is denied, the advisor can help again, providing additional details or calling his or her insurance company rep to see if it’s something that can be remedied.
Any more tips?
If you feel that the cost of insuring a trip is prohibitive (or don’t care about getting your money back), you can purchase a plan without trip cancellation.
You won’t be reimbursed for the cost of the trip if it’s cancelled, but you will still get many of the in-travel benefits such as trip delay, emergency medical, lost or delayed baggage, and so on. The cost is quite a bit lower and worth looking into for those services.”
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