Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?
Do the current attacks and events have you a little nervous about travel? It may be time to reconsider travel insurance.
This is a question that has personally confused me over the years. First, how do you know if you need it? Second, how do you pick it?
I think the answer is there are a few “ifs” and a lot you need to check out. Fortunately, it’s getting much easier to know whether you need it, and then to find the right coverage.
What to consider…
Where are you traveling?
If you’re headed to the coast with the kids for a weekend you probably don’t need travel insurance. Headed down the road to visit Grandma? Same answer.
If you are traveling over 100 miles, have to prepay for tickets, expensive events, or a tour, you may want coverage.
Keywords are “prepaid” and “non-refundable”. You can’t get insurance to reimburse you for money you haven’t spent.
If you are flying, you may want coverage in case there are flight delays or baggage issues.
Sit down with pen and paper and add up trip costs that are non-refundable. Things like pre-paid flights, hotel, all-inclusive packages, tour packages and event tickets. This will show you the travel coverage that you need.
International has more considerations. It’s more expensive and insurance coverage that you have may not cover you.
- If traveling internationally, you may want to supplement your health insurance. This may also cover emergency medical evacuation. Medicare does not cover international travelers.
- Are you a regular traveler? You can purchase coverage that covers all your travels in a year. There are some restrictions and caveats.
- Another way to save on insurance is to cover all family members traveling together on the same policy.
- Be aware of the limits and exclusions on the policy.
- Think about extra coverage – for failure of an airline, cruise ship or travel
- Activity coverage. There are a lot of common tourist activities that are only covered if you request this. You may not ride an elephant or camel at home, but tourists do this. One woman was badly hurt falling off a camel.
- Winter sports are a lot of fun but can lead to accidents. You need these covered, just in case.
- “Cancel for any reason” this covers you for all eventualities. This covers you for things that are foreseeable but unavoidable. If you are traveling with a known medical condition, it’s the only way you can get reimbursed for last minute cancellation.
- What about coverage through my airline reservation? Do some comparisons. These generally are much more restrictive and harder to receive reimbursement on.
Will you be driving internationally? Most travel policies do not cover international car rental. Your existing auto insurance may not cover this. Some credit card benefits do cover international car rental – check it out. But there are specific restrictions you need to be aware of. Reading the fine print is the only way to know.
When you start making reservations, you need to find desired coverage right away. Most companies require you to purchase coverage within 10-21 days of making your initial purchase. If you have additional purchases to make, contact the company.
Once you have decided what you need, you need to go to an insurance comparison website. Three of the leaders are:
I recently used Squaremouth based on a travel insurance review that I read. The company is top rated and has 44,795 travel insurance reviews. They made it easy to compare coverage and find exactly what I needed. And the price was less than I was expecting to have to pay.
[Note: I have no financial interest in Squaremouth and receive no reimbursement from them.]
Take documentation with you
In addition to your travel documentation, be sure to take copies and contact information for:
- your travel insurance policy
- international health care coverage
- credit card details on international car rental if applicable
Proper insurance coverage will allow you to relax and travel knowing you have it covered.
In the past, brides, as well as grooms, have celebrated their upcoming nuptials with a weekend away partying. But with the growing focus on health and wellness millennial brides are opting for something more low key. A de-stressing bachelorette spa wellness retreat.
If you’re a bride or know a bride, it’s a great way to arrive at the wedding, relaxed, pampered and calm.
It might be just you and your bridesmaids or include some of your best friends. It’s a time to enjoy each other’s company and bond. Find somewhere local or pick a destination location.
Make it personal and include activities you and your friends enjoy.
- Spa treatments
- Yoga together
- Outdoor activities
- Horseback riding
- Water sports
- Local walking tour
- Personal fitness advice
- Cooking class
- Wine tasting
If fitness is a goal, find somewhere that offers healthy food choices that taste decadent. If the spa you want to visit isn’t in a hotel, is there a nice one nearby that meets those needs? It’s great to keep the group together for the best bonding and fun.
Some hotel resorts offer a great wedding location. They may also offer a package that will allow you and the girls to arrive a few days early. You can have your bachelorette spa retreat on-site. You will feel pampered, rested and relaxed for your magical day.
Their event planner can assist you with all the details and support services you will need.
Here’s a link to Brides for more ideas.
Car rental or no?
Car rental while you are traveling can be liberating. Using public transit is the best route if you are in a major city. Why fight the traffic, pay high parking fees or having to feed a meter? It’s a major reason why the locals avoid driving. See it as the locals do… on foot, bicycle, bus, trams, trolleys, trains.
But if you want to get out into the countryside, or do a road trip, then car rental is a must.
Your credit card may be an asset
You can save yourself some money by doing your homework before you make that car reservation. Start by looking at the benefits provided by your credit card company. Most card companies have a downloadable guide to benefits they provide.
Yes, the benefits guide is tiny print but you need to read it carefully. It may save you money. In order for their coverage to be in effect you must charge the car rental onto the card. You must also decline the collision coverage offered through the rental agency. Your benefits details will tell you exactly what you need to do.
The benefits guide will also tell you what it does not cover. I found they don’t cover your liability and medical benefits. Check with your auto insurance coverage company. If you will be renting in the US or Canada you may automatically have coverage.
International car rental
However, if you are going abroad, the game is different. You need to check what requirements you need to meet to drive in that country. Then using your credit card benefits information to check for coverage on
- Collision/theft Damage Coverage
- Loss of use charges assessed by the rental company while the damaged vehicle is being repaired and not available to use.
- Reasonable and customary towing charges related to a covered loss to take the vehicle to the nearest qualified repair facility.
You need to know what is not covered. It may seem like common sense but if you are in any way breaking the law, you forfeit coverage.
Not all US auto insurers will insure outside the country. Mine doesn’t. That means purchasing the liability/medical coverage from the local rental agency.
Not all vehicles are covered. “Exotic, expensive” vehicles are generally listed as excluded. Antique automobiles, some vans and trucks are not covered. Renting an RV? Be sure to check to see if it is covered. If in doubt, be sure to ask your credit card benefits department.
It’s a good idea to go over the rental agreement thoroughly. This can be a challenge if you don’t speak the local language. If the rental company insists you take coverage, call your credit card Benefits Administrator. It’s smart to take a copy of the benefits information with you. It will have the details and the contact numbers domestically and abroad.
Before a signing of the contract, ask to see the car. You want to assure yourself that there is no existing damage to the vehicle. If there is anything amiss, make sure you document it with a photo and have it noted on the agreement.
Take a look in the trunk
Is there a spare tire?
Many new cars have no spare. Some have “hard” tires that when damaged give you 50 miles to get to a repair shop. Others have a little kit that must when a tire goes soft. This seals the leak and prevents further problems. Note: it’s only good for a single use.
Get familiar with what is there, how to use it and what to do if you have to use it. Should you contact them for a replacement kit? If a tire requires replacement, who pays?
It may sound far-fetched but it happened to us on our trip to the UK last summer. Tire acted funny. Then going down the heavily traveled M4, it started deflating. All we could do was get to the side of the freeway before it was flat. No spare tire. The kit didn’t work. We called AA.
When the truck arrived, they drove it onto the truck. When we got to the shop, they drove it off the truck. New tire time. We hadn’t selected “that” section of coverage and I hadn’t checked the credit card benefits. We had to pay for it out of pocket.
Lesson learned. Check everything ahead of time and know what’s in the trunk… or not.
It’s best to have a navigator so the driver can focus. There’s the traffic, strange environment and staying on the correct side of the road for where you’re visiting.
If the car doesn’t have a navigation system, consider taking a Garmin or the like with you. Be sure to get the card for the area’s location if it is not included. It’s a worthwhile investment. Mine got my girlfriend and me to all sorts of places. Everything from restrooms to restaurants and home again. In a strange country, it was liberating security.
Pay attention to landmarks and your surroundings. Things will look different after dark. Street lighting is not common on all rural roads.
Wellness Lifestyle Travel
You feel good with your commitment to a healthier wellness lifestyle. Your stress is more controlled, your body feels better, and your clothes fit better. You exercise regularly. You focus your food choices on fresh organic, local, seasonal…
Now you want to maintain those choices while traveling. It can be a challenge. Long hours sitting in transit, airport and hotel food.
Here are ten tips to help you incorporate wellness into your travels.
1) Plan ahead and take favorite snack foods with you.
While you cannot take beverages through security screening, you can take
food. Proteins, (nuts, seeds, organic snack bars), firm fruits/vegetables, dried fruit… a little advance planning can have you feeling better about your choices.
2) Schedule time to move between flights.
Instead of racing from one flight to another, consider giving yourself a little more time. Walk the airport, explore, make use of the yoga room to stretch and rebalance. All airports have places to walk, more are adding gyms, quiet rooms and massage.
3) Check your destination hotel.
Look for those that feature healthy lifestyle choices. Fitness facilities, access to bicycles, walking paths, yoga and more. Increasingly properties are making healthy food choices available. Don’t see what you are looking for on their website? Call them and ask questions to see if they can accommodate your needs. If not, are there restaurants or grocers nearby that feature organic, seasonal local?
Use internet search engines to help you plan. Find healthy choice restaurants and grocers near where you will be staying. Keep a list of those who meet your specific preferences.
4) Locate the nearest farmer’s market.
This is a great place to find
seasonal organic items. Often they include vendors offering prepared healthy selections.
5) Ship it ahead.
Consider shipping your own care package of non-perishable foods ahead of time. On arrival, collect the package at the hotel’s business office.
6) Schedule your travel to include time dedicated to your fitness activities.
Don’t let a tight schedule prevent you from a morning walk or time at the gym.
7) Opt for in-room fitness.
Many savvy travelers carry lightweight packable devices like stretch bands. These plus normal in-room furniture allow them to get an exercise routine in. This is a bonus if the weather is inclement or the hotel’s fitness center gets high use. Some hotels also have fitness tools available for in-room use including DVD workouts.
8) Skip the elevators… take the stairs.
If you are staying at a larger property, select a floor that coincides with your fitness level. Then instead of standing around waiting for the elevator, take those stairs.
9) Track your fitness goals.
If you don’t have a personal activity device, there are free applications you can download on your smartphone. Most can track your distance, steps, kcal, time spent and movement speed. Some can be set up with alerts and reminders.
10) Relaxation time.
Relaxation and focused breathing is a proven way to
destress. Work stress, travel stress, too much technology stress. All benefit from dedicated time to relax. Yoga, meditation, and massage are recognized “safety valves” to reduce stress and enhance wellbeing. Schedule some into your trip and renew.
With a little preparation and planning, your next trip can be a wellness fitness trip. You’ll feel better, be more alert, have more energy and come home rejuvenated.
Tall Ships take you back to the 18th Century and the Era of Buccaneers…
Under a brilliant blue sky, the helmsman cut the trolling motor. The silence was complete. The 112-footlong “tall ship” wallowed in gentle swells that felt much stronger than their size.
There was no denying the power of the ocean around us. My hands gripped the nearest solid wood to steady myself against the roll. First-time sailors, my girlfriend and I caught glances and smiled. Here we were, senior citizens, ticking off a bucket list dream.
Wind whipped the sails. Wood creaked. Sailors, dressed in well-worn period garb, worked the rigging. Raising 4442 feet of sails using over 6 miles of ropes, (called rigging), and then rotating the angles of the masts to catch the wind is a complex job. It requires teamwork and precise orchestration.
Then the wind caught, the sails billowed and the ship surged forward cutting smoothly through the waves. We were sailing on the ocean.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the first mate shouted over the noise of the wind. “You are traveling at the speed that conquered the world.” The wind whipped and billowed the tall ship’s sails. The first mate shouted commands. Sailors chanted replies over the sound of ocean swells meeting the hull.
Skillfully, the sailors guided the brig back into the long jetty that protects the Newport, Oregon harbor. Just off starboard, a kayaker skimmed across the water, keeping pace with little difficulty. Gulls cried, sails whipped, rigging groaned.
A dozen crew and 45 enchanted guests sailed for the next 45 minutes before heading Lady Washington back to dock. As sailors, both male and female tend to the ship, their bawdy songs provide a tempo for the work.
One of the crew sat on the deck, gathering children around her and exploring the contents of a sailor’s rucksack and telling stories. Shutters clicked as passengers tried to capture the moment. Eighty-nine feet above us the peak of the main mast towered. There is no experience like it.
Lady Washington is called a tall ship because of the height of her sails. She is a full-scale replica of the original Lady Washington. Following the Revolutionary War, the original ship was refitted and set on an adventure. She sailed around the horn in 1778 to become the first US vessel to sail the Pacific and reach the west coast. From there she traveled for the next 10 years around the vast Pacific Ocean on trading missions.
The modern Lady Washington was launched in 1989. She is dedicated to bringing the magic of the age of tall ships to locals and visitors up and down the west coast. Her goal to educate, excite and preserve the history of the era.
Her home is in Gig Harbor, Washington but Lady Washington spends much of her time with her crew at sea. She is famous, having appeared in several movies including “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl.” Each year in December she departs with her companion the Hawaiian Chieftain. The two tall ships sail from Gig Harbor to San Diego, CA.
Slowly, they sail back up the west coast with numerous ports of call. School children are given tours. Living history. The public may also pay to tour the ships while docked or go for a sail. If you want to go sailing, buy your tickets early as they generally sell out in advance in every port.
A limited number of guests are allowed to book passage and travel between ports with the crew. There are restrictions for these guests available on their website.
Because these are accurate historical replicas they are not handicapped accessible. But there is always a ready hand to assist guests safely on and off the ship. For complete information on the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, their history and their schedule please visit http://historicalseaport.org/. Step back into history and enjoy the age and magic of the era of Buccaneers.
One of my readers commented they’d like to experience sailing but had physical challenges. Not a problem. There are companies that specialize in helping every level of ability enjoy sailing. Here are three links I found:
Enjoy your adventure!!!
Author: Judith Culp is a freelance wellness travel writer. She is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance as well as the Professional Writer’s Alliance.
Mysteries of International Phone Use Explored
When traveling abroad you need to plan ahead for your international phone and data use. We are so used to grabbing our phones for information, being without them can be daunting.
Planning for international phone travel
The easiest way to travel with your smartphone is to use your existing carrier.
Unlock a smartphone.
Locked phones only work on a single carrier. Unlocked phones can get a
separate SIM card and work on a local carrier. You will need to buy the SIM card and a local service plan for voice and data.
Purchase a local smartphone…
Other travel tips
Traveling with Physical Challenges?
Traveling with physical challenges requires planning. I know, I grew up
around someone with physical challenges. My sister was born with cerebral palsy. She is fortunate and with a lot of help has been able to lead a pretty normal, independent life as an adult.
Sis has some physical issues. Motor skills, balance, hearing and speech issues, and trouble judging changes in elevation. She has the heart of a tiger. And big dreams. It was always her dream to visit Africa. Elephants are her passion.
Finally, she had to accept it would be a physically and emotionally difficult trip for her. Her doctor advised against the arduous journey. That was a bitter pill to swallow.
My son, his wife and I decided to give her the next best thing to visiting Africa… A trip to Disney World with a stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The wildlife was right out the window. Giraffes, zebra, flamingos and her favorite… elephants, are in the park. She loved wandering through the African art and shopping for trinkets to take home.
Watching her so excited and blossoming was amazing. But it did take a bit of planning. Here are some thoughts.
Plan for Physical Challenges
Individual limitations – clearly define what their challenges are. Think about how those challenges may be affected by things you will encounter.
- Luggage handling What will they need through each phase.
- Airport help – will they be able to board safely and get from gate to gate if there are transfers? If it’s a long distance, you might consider a wheelchair assist.
- Room needs – sis needed a handicap accessible shower. But she and I were
sharing a room and needed two beds. Couldn’t get both in the same room. With adjoining rooms, my son and his wife took the one with the single bed and the shower. Sis and I took the two-bed room. While my son went for a gym workout she got her shower. This gave her a bit of privacy. It worked great.
- Meals – table service is easier than buffets. If your meal plans include buffets, be ready to assist them with food selection and getting it to the table.
- Transportation – like lots of places, shuttles were the best way to get around. With the three of us, it was no problem to give sis the extra hand/support to make her feel secure.
- Pace your tour – this varies by individual. Physical challenges can makeyou burn more energy just getting through the day. Be sensitive to signs of tiring and suggest a break. At a theme park, there are always places to sit and people watch. That was a real bonus.
Timing can ease the challenges
Theme parks tend to be busy year around. But if you can go at what is
normally a slower time, it can make it easier. We found out that the first half of December is a great time to visit Disney in Florida. It is between the Thanksgiving crowds and the Christmas ones. Lines were shorter, rates a little lower, fewer masses of people to negotiate. Weather can still be warm – or surprise you. It’s smart to either take a warm jacket or plan for a shopping opportunity.
Sis discovered she could go and conquer. She mastered escalators – which had terrified her. Staff also spotted her and helped us so she was able to get on and off rides. She had the adventure of her life and we all came home with some great memories.
I’d love to hear your stories/comments/questions about traveling with disabilities.
I love memory making trips. On a whim of inspiration, I decided to take
my 80-year-old Mom to New England to explore some family history. It was the first time I’d ever traveled alone with Mom. We made a lot of memories, and I learned some tips for senior travelers.
Take charge of the travel reservations choosing flights with the fewest transfers. Non-stop are great. Avoid early morning or late night travel. Seniors have more challenges with these. Mid-morning or afternoon travel is much easier for them.
When I didn’t have that choice, we stayed at a hotel near the airport and let them transport us and our luggage. One less hassle for me.
Plan to do less
Plan to do less than you want. That senior traveler doesn’t have your energy levels. They will need breaks and or naps. Plan those breaks into your schedule. While they rest, head to the lobby to get online, or head to the gym or for a walk.
What are their favorite things? Is there something they would really like to do or see. If they haven’t traveled much, they may have no clue. Even though we had talked about the plan, Mom was repeatedly surprised and delighted. She knew it, but all of a sudden it was REAL.
Pick a good location with a helpful hotel
Once you know have chosen places to see, locate them on a map.
Foursquare (www.foursquare.com) is great to help you find what you are looking for and map it.
Now you can locate lodging close by. Do a search for “lodging near” and insert where you want to visit. Depending on their abilities, you may want to go for a room with disabled access. Onsite food services is a bonus if you arrive back to the hotel with a tired traveler.
Even if your companion loves food, older people tend to have a few more issues. They will appreciate casual dining choices.
Mom is diabetic so I had to make sure we stayed to meals at regular intervals. While I’m not into fast food, McDonald’s salads did come to our rescue a couple of times when traveling from one destination to another.
When making your plans, it may be helpful to see what type of restaurants are en route. Smartphones make this much easier today.
Plan for Assistance
They may not be able to handle their luggage. Especially true if they walk
with a cane. If there aren’t bell persons to assist, be prepared to tote those bags. Allow extra time as you will be moving bags for two.
Take advantage of airport services. Check your bags. You won’t be able to handle both of your luggage and be able to help them.
Make sure any medications they may need are with them in their carry-on.
I didn’t want to risk Mom having to rush to catch a plane so made arrangements for wheelchairs to whisk her along. They worked great! From check-in to the gate and making transfers. I made sure she had a few dollars in her hand or pocket so she could thank them.
Be aware of what the facilities are in the places you want to visit. A couple
of historical sites had gravel paths. I’m a pretty small person. Pushing Mom in a wheelchair became a real problem. Thank goodness for a couple of nice big young men who helped me get her back to the entry. But meeting new people and finding them generally helpful and friendly is a great part of travel.
If visiting a location where there is significant walking and it is ADA compliant, consider renting them a scooter to whisk them around.
Save the memories
Take lots of pictures. They will save the memories. There are some great online services like www.shutterfly.com. You upload your photos and convert them into a memory photo book complete with comments. Makes a great present to help them remember your trip together.
Travel Packing Secrets
There are definitely some ways to make packing for your next trip less stressful. These travel packing secrets will make your life easier and your suitcase lighter. Not to worry, you will have everything you need.
- Define the activities you will be doing on your trip that take different clothes:
- in transit clothes
- casual touring
- dinner out
- Plan for mix and match. I love color, but for travel, it’s easier if you plan around a basic neutral, like black. Toss in a colored shirt or two for fun.
- Pick fabrics that travel well and are comfortable to travel in. Like denim? You might want to consider some with a dash of spandex, way more comfy to sit long hours on a plane.
- Rule of thumb. Every top must go with at least 3 bottoms and vice versa. It will save you trips to a laundromat and waste time sitting there instead of vacationing.
Have a business event to attend? Use the same rules. Select outfits that make use of core pieces but can be put together for different looks.
- Select shoes for comfort and that are multi-purpose. Some people like to travel in work-out shoes so they don’t take up space in their suitcase. Other people prefer slip-on shoes that are easier to get on and off in security. Some people need 6 pairs of shoes for 4 days, others can get bywith 2 pairs for 2 weeks – dressy casual and walking.
- Think about fitting it all into a 24″ expandable suitcase. Make sure it has wheels.
- Think about using packing tools. Something like ebags packing cubes. After living out of a messy suitcase for 19 days, I was ready for less mess. Then I stumbled across this website: www.ebags.com. They had mesh topped zippered packing cubes. Have only used them once but wow, what a difference in packing and how your clothes arrive
When you get there, you can just put the cubes in your drawers. Bam!
Or if you are living out of the suitcase, consider packing outfits in a bag. Grab one and you’re ready to go. Everything from the top and bottom to what goes underneath.
- Traveling with toiletries can get cumbersome. Take the smallest sizes you can find. (Giant hairspray cans take up a lot of room.) Ask your stylist for a suggestion of one that works for your hair and meets the 2 oz travel requirements. If checking a bag, you can avoid the lines at the Security Check Point by putting toiletries in the checked bag.
- Concerned about missing a flight and an overnight without them? Then you want your minimal needs with you. To give yourself more room, look for an approved gusseted plastic zip bag to put toiletries in. You can get more in the same size quart container with this type of bag. With its approved emblems right on the outside, there are no questions.
Travel wraps and incidentals
- What do you need for a wrap? Remember airplanes can be cool so layering can keep you comfy. Going where it’s cold? Carry the jacket with you, or put it in an outside pocket of your checked bag. This will assure it is easily accessible when you get your luggage.
- Don’t forget incidentals. What will the weather be? Chance of showers or bad weather? Make sure your outerwear and shoes will hold up to what you may encounter.
Pack light, pack well, travel light, save your back and go have fun.