Tips for Traveling During Winter Storms

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

When winter weather hits, here are some top tips to help travelers get to their destinations safely.

Skip the first and last flights. If you’re traveling during seasons with a high likelihood of inclement weather, you may want to avoid the first or last flight of the day since these flights have a higher frequency of being canceled, depending on the start and end time of the storm.

Reroute a connecting flight. There are times the weather in your departure city and at your destination is clear, but weather in your connecting city is less than desirable. If that happens, a travel advisor can help you reroute your connection flight through an airport with no delays.

Take advantage of travel waivers. Often airlines will issue travel waivers that allow you to re-book your ticket away from the affected dates at no additional charge. You should take advantage of these when they post. Your travel advisor monitors these, but you can, too.

Avoid booking flights at the ticket counter. If you must buy a new ticket, avoid doing so at the airport ticket counter, or else you will likely pay a higher rate. Call a travel advisor to book you, even if you are standing in an airport.

Consider larger airports and travel light. If you suspect there may be severe weather threats during your time of travel, consider flying from a larger airport. Larger international airports will have a greater chance of more alternate flights, and they are also better equipped to clear runways faster or with de-icing of a plane.

Pack carry-on with necessities. If you travel with only a carry-on, you’ll be in a better position to change flights quickly in the event of a cancellation. If you must check luggage, make sure your carry-on has essential necessities, such as all of your prescription medications and a couple of changes of clothes. If you’re flying to a warm-weather destination, include your swim wear so you can relax by the pool or on the beach while the rest of your luggage catches up with you.

Hotels offer cancellation waivers. If severe weather will keep you from arriving at your destination hotel, your hotel management is often quite accommodating by offering cancellation waivers to help you avoid no-show or late arrival fees. However, do notify your hotel as soon as possible if you will not be able to make it to your destination, or contact your travel advisor who can reach out to all of your reservations, from car rental to hotel or group tours to let them know.

Book a room early if you’re facing an overnight delay. If it seems weather conditions will keep you from getting to your final destination that same day, it is important to make a room reservation for an overnight stay as soon as possible. A travel advisor who has built relationships with hotels should be able to help find you a room so that you’re not sleeping on an airport cot with stranded travelers.

Sign up for travel insurance. For those instances where you may miss a flight because you were stuck in traffic or your ship sailed without you when your flight was canceled or delayed, travel insurance can be your saving grace to recoup all or part of your travel investment. Your Travel Consultant can help explain your various options for the different types of travel insurance.

Get travel advisories or weather alerts delivered to your phone. There are several apps that allow you to receive email or text message notifications from your airline about your flight’s status. A weather.com app can keep you updated about conditions.

Stay on the main roads. If you’re driving between destinations, stick to major highways or well-traveled roads to facilitate other people coming to your rescue easily should you need assistance. Travel also during daylight hours or when car repair shops or convenience stores are more likely to be open. If you’re stranded in your vehicle for an extended period, run your engine for only a few minutes once or twice an hour to stay warm and conserve gas. While the car is running, be sure to slightly roll down a window to keep carbon monoxide from building up inside.

Pack an emergency travel kit. Whether you’re driving, flying or traveling by rail, prepare for possible delays with a few essentials. Pack a small bag with an extra sweater, gloves or small throw, as well as water and high-energy or high-protein foods such as granola bars or beef jerky. You may also want to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, a change of underwear and any needed prescription medications. Remember also a flashlight, extra batteries, or phone charger, a first aid kit and a good book.

Book with a travel advisor. Weather-related travel delays inevitably happen at times, from heavier traffic on the highways to delayed or canceled flights. However, the unexpected challenges need not stress out travelers with a little added planning and some advice from a seasoned travel agent. You travel advisors are trained to monitor situations like winter weather that may impact their clients’ travel plans. As result, they can work on alternative travel plans and can likely have those in place with the airline, hotel or car and driver the moment the need arises.

More Countries Requiring Travel Insurance

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According to TravelMarketReport.com:

As tourism has grown, so has the hospitalization and medical cost many countries have had to cover for vacationers who required healthcare services while visiting

As a result, an increasing number of countries are making travel insurance compulsory, a requirement for a tourist to even enter their borders.

In a recent report, Allianz Partners, the same company that owns Allianz Global Assistance USA, noted how 15 of the 26 Schengen nations (a combination of European Union countries and independent nations like Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) currently require some type of insurance for visitors, students and expats.

Additionally, Cuba, Ecuador, Qatar, Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. are requiring the same. On Aug. 28, 2018, Egypt announced its plans to introduce mandatory compulsory insurance; and Thailand is currently undergoing a debate on mandatory travel insurance for visiting tourists.

For the rest of the report click here.

Do you need insurance for your next trip? Click here!

Lost Luggage? What to do before and after.

The following post is based on a Travelers United article by Charlie Leocha.

Three categories of lost luggage rules … before, during, and after travel.

Every traveler needs to be aware of the luggage rules that should be followed prior to traveling, during check-in and subsequent travel, then finally, upon discovery that their luggage has been damaged, delayed, or lost. Leoca suggests that, “Passengers who follow these rules have far fewer lost and delayed baggage problems and get top compensation from the airlines.

How can travelers reduce the chances of lost luggage? What should a passenger do if their luggage doesn’t arrive on the expected baggage claim carousel?

The basic lost luggage rules follow:

Plan for potential problems

Particularly for longer trips, travelers should use their carry on for essentials: a change of clothes (top to bottom), all prescription medications, and travel-size toiletries in a ziplock bag.

In most cases, airlines typically recover and deliver lost luggage within 24 hours.

Take photos

Travelers should take photos of the items they packed in their luggage to help provide evidence of loss if their luggage goes missing.

Verify that luggage will be transferred at connecting cities

This is typically a problem if the traveler is using airlines that partner with different alliances or are traveling on separately ticketed segments. For example, if your flight includes segments on both Delta and American, there is a good chance that you will need to claim your luggage at the end of the Delta segment and re-check it with American. Additionally, if you are continuing on with the same airline (same day, same city), but the segments are ticketed separately, you will likely need to claim your luggage and recheck it for the second segment. Ask the agent at check-in whether your luggage will be transferred or you will need to claim/re-check it.

Verify the destination

At check-in (whether curbside, self-service kiosk, or with an agent), visually verify that all your luggage is ticketed (or tagged) to the correct destination. Since the bag-tags will use a 3-letter code for the destination airport, make sure you know the correct letters for your intended airport. For example, the two airports in Dallas, Texas are Love Field (DAL) and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). A traveler who is not aware of the 3-letter codes, can easily confuse DAL with DFW because DAL clearly means Dallas and he is going to DALLAS Fort Worth Airport.

Submit your luggage on time

Be aware of your airport’s guidelines for luggage submission. Frequently, travelers that use smaller airports think “My airport is small; an hour is plenty of time.” While that might be sufficient most of the time, it may not always be enough, and certainly doesn’t meet airline/airport guidelines. Also, keep in mind that TSA may randomly pick your bag off the belt, adding additional delays for your luggage.

Identify luggage inside and out

Few travelers put identification and destination information inside their luggage, but this small effort will be amply rewarded if your luggage tag gets torn off. Especially if you don’t know exactly what your luggage looks like — and many travelers do not (ask anyone who has stood in a lost-luggage line). So take a moment to note the luggage maker (TravelPro, Samsonite, Delsey, American Tourister, etc.). Also, take a good look at the color. Is it dark blue or is it black? Is that a stripe or a wavy line? Better yet, if you have a camera phone, take a picture of your bag before you hand it over.

Know the compensation limits

Compensation for lost/delayed/damaged baggage is $3,500 per passenger, not per bag. Be aware that you will not be compensated more than $3,500 even if the value of your contents is higher. Be thoughtful in how much you pack.

Fill out all forms at the airport

If your luggage doesn’t arrive at the designated carousel, know the next steps. Contact the airline personnel, who may be able to locate the item(s) through their tracking system. At that point, the airline representative should be able to estimate the time of arrival of your property. If you can wait, do so. If not, complete all the necessary forms so that the airline may deliver your property to the appropriate location.

Ask what the airline can do for you

Depending on the airport, the lost luggage representative may be able to do different, and typically unknown, things for you. For example, if the agent can see that your bag(s) will be delayed for an extended period (i.e., some hours or a day or more), they may be able to give you petty cash to get some necessities. If you are on your way to the ski lodge, you may be able to get coupons for rental clothes for the mountain so that your vacation isn’t delayed.

In the case of damage, the airline may be able to have it repaired during your stay … if you let them know of the damage.

Make a claim

If your luggage is actually lost, which is pretty rare, the airline’s liability in domestic cases is $2,800. In international cases, their liability is less. Be aware of any benefits that you may have through a travel insurance policy, your credit card, or your homeowner’s/renter’s insurance. It’s not a bad idea to make an itemized list (even photograph) of the contents of your luggage in case you need to make an insurance claim.

Again, though completely losing your luggage is rare, it does happen. More often, your luggage may be delayed. In either case, your plans will be disrupted, and the disruption may cause you financial harm. The better prepared you are and the more closely you follow the above suggestions, the more likely your damages will be reduced.

Common Reasons Insurance Claims are Denied

Unfortunately, many travelers find themselves in financial difficulties because they did not purchase travel insurance. There is great wisdom in purchasing travel insurance, but sometimes, even though they did buy insurance, travelers unwittingly negate their insurance benefits or misunderstand what is covered. Below are some common reasons travel insurance claims are denied.

Be aware that it typically takes 30 days from reporting a claim for a final decision to be rendered by the claims adjuster.

Are you sure your policy covered you for this kind of claim?

We’re all aware of the importance of reading the fine print of contracts. But, too often, travelers don’t read their insurance plan completely. Only after a claim is denied or delayed do they realize they haven’t followed the agreement they purchased.

Travel insurance can certainly be confusing. And every policy is worded differently. Travel Insurance Claims 101 says, “check your terms and conditions.” There’s a reason behind the insurance rules, and you have to follow them.

For example, too many policyholders believe even the slightest flight delay qualifies them for a claim, when typically, a delay needs to be for three hours or more.

Another common misconception is trip cancellation due to a storm. During last year’s terrible hurricane season, insurance companies saw a large spike in claims for canceled or delayed vacations. What many vacationers found out was they weren’t covered because they waited too long to purchase their policy, or the storm’s impact wasn’t sufficient enough for a trip to be canceled.

Additionally, a cruise company or airline has to cease service due to weather for most basic coverage to be activated. The flight has to have been grounded, or your resort badly damaged. Simply being afraid to visit a destination hit by a storm, when your travel suppliers haven’t been damaged, could delay or deny your claim.

If you are really worried about hurricanes, ask for the most hurricane related coverage your provider offers, which might be ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage.

Travelers should review their policy with a licensed travel insurance expert prior to purchase and make certain they know everything about their covered perils and exclusions.

What was diagnosed by a professional, and when did you report that to the insurance company?

You may feel sick, and know you have to fly, but you don’t go to the doctor. So now you don’t have proof of your physical condition, but you’re asking an insurance company to believe you. Insurance companies need proof. Without notes from your doctor, you’re probably going to have a problem getting your claim approved.

If you are feeling sick, feeling concerned not to go on trip, call in advance to get some guidance before making a decision and starting a claim process.

Do you have all of your paperwork, and did you file the right claim form?

It’s easy to lose receipts and printouts from doctors, hospitals and others that might have been involved in an event. But the more you follow your travel insurance company’s process, the less likely you will experience a delay, or be denied.

It’s also critical that you follow your insurer’s documentation requirements for things like lost and delayed luggage.

When did you seek medical treatment?

Just because you got sick while traveling, doesn’t mean you have documentation to prove it. Seeking treatment prior to returning home and saving all medical documentation is critical to proving both your expense, and the fact that an event occurred.

Definitely get documentation during the trip, and if you forget, seek additional treatment upon return. Anything you do to get an independent, qualified party to document your case will be of assistance to you during your claim.

Was your condition pre-existing?

Pre-existing conditions are a common tripwire for claim delays and denials. Travelers should request a plan that includes a pre-existing medical conditions waiver if this could be an issue. Often purchasing a policy within a certain amount of time (usually 14-21 days) after the first payment of the trip provides coverage for pre-existing conditions. (NOTE: the traveler should verify the accuracy of this information as it relates to the specific policy they are considering.)

Important steps to take:

*Gather all paperwork and documentation in advance and obtain any claims-related medical documents and/or police reports prior to returning home.

*Understand your travel insurance policy language prior to departure.

*Buy travel insurance as early as possible to increase your eligibility for time-sensitive benefits and to ensure your trip cost is accurate.

*Expect claim processing delays following major travel events, like hurricanes.

If you need insurance for your next trip, click here for a variety of coverage options.

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Most Common Travel Related Accidents and Injuries

Travel Guard has published their list of the most common travel related accidents and injuries.

*Renting and using vehicles such as mopeds, Segways, jet skis or scooters without proper instructions.

*Drinking alcohol: Falls cause numerous injuries, and poor judgement in any situation can lead to an accident.

*Going beyond physical limits: If your knee hurts while walking the dog, it will hurt even more on when you attempt to cover Paris in one day.

*Falling during transfers on and off the tour bus, from dock to boat, etc.

* Riding or approaching animals.

*Ignoring existing medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Getting ill. (Wash your hands, a lot.)

*Taking selfies: Watch where you walk and remember that circumventing safety measures to get better pictures can lead to injury.

*Eating exotic cuisines that can cause stomach problems. Engaging in adventurous or strenuous activities with no experience—rock-climbing, challenging hikes, zip lines.

A travel insurance policy may be very helpful if you find yourself in one of the above situation.

To compare policy benefits or to purchase insurance click on the Travel Guard banner below.