The Anatomy of a Travel Plan: Emergency & Travel Assistance Services

  FemaleTravelerOnPhone_shutterstock_537006328This is the first in our series of posts dissecting travel protection plans so you can better understand these often mysterious products. Each post will focus on one benefit of the plan, explaining what exactly that benefit covers and sharing real-life applications when possible so you can understand the value of that particular benefit.

 At the bottom of the Schedule of Benefits for most of our travel protection plans, there’s a line for Emergency & Travel Assistance, indicated as “Included” on the plans. This particular benefit is not technically insurance coverage and is provided at no additional cost by a third-party vendor (not the insurance carrier). It may be listed last, but it certainly should not be considered the least among the benefits offered to travelers.

 

What is the Emergency & Travel Assistance part of travel protection plans, anyway?

 The Emergency & Travel Assistance benefit offers a 24-hour resource to travelers anywhere in the world, should they need help or have questions. This not only includes assistance in the event of an emergency or unexpected changes to plans on your trip. You can also use this service prior to your trip to help plan your itinerary, get recommendations for restaurants, museums and the like, get help on exchanging currency, and more!

 

Emergency & Travel Assistance: Real Life Application

 In mid-December, there was a detrimental fire at the Atlanta Airport, causing more than a thousand delayed flights and stranding thousands of travelers at the airport for hours with no electricity, limited information and nowhere to stay. In total, more than 30,000 travelers were affected.

 “As the day dragged on, travelers vented on social media about being stranded, the need to make alternate plans and what they complained was a lack of timely information. Some posted photos of passengers standing in the dark in the terminal.”

 What would you do in this situation? Travelers who purchased a travel protection plan would have the benefit of the Emergency & Travel Assistance Services. All they would need to do is make a call to the 800 number provided with their protection plan purchase and help would be available to wade through an otherwise uncomfortable and frustrating situation.

 

Take a look at the full universe of 24/7/365 Travel Assistance Services:

 Travel Arrangements

  • Arrangements for last-minute flight and hotel changes
  • Luggage Locator (reporting/tracking of lost, stolen or delayed baggage)
  • Hotel finder and reservations
  • Airport transportation
  • Rental car reservations and automobile return
  • Coordination of travel for visitors to bedside
  • Return travel for dependent/minor children
  • Assistance locating the nearest embassy or consulate
  • Cash transfers
  • Assistance with bail bonds

 

Pre-Trip Information

  • Destination guides (hotels, restaurants, etc.)
  • Weather updates and advisories
  • Passport requirements
  • Currency exchange
  • Health and safety advisories

 

Documents and Communication

  • Assistance with lost travel documents or passports
  • Live email and phone messaging to family and friends
  • Emergency message relay service
  • Multilingual translation and interpretation services

 

Medical Assistance Services

  • Medical case management, consultation and monitoring
  • Medical Transportation
  • Dispatch of a doctor or specialist
  • Referrals to local medical and dental service providers
  • Worldwide medical information, up-to-the-minute travel medical advisories, and immunization requirements
  • Prescription drug replacement
  • Replacement of eyeglasses, contact lenses and dental appliances

 

Emergency Services

  • Emergency evacuation arrangements
  • Repatriation of mortal remains arrangements
  • Emergency medical and dental assistance
  • Emergency legal assistance
  • Emergency medical payment assistance
  • Emergency family travel arrangements

 Next time you plan your trip, make sure to pack your travel protection plan. Visit http://www.travelinsure.com/ to view all of our various travel products and enroll online. You can also call Travel Insurance Services customer service Monday through Friday, 9 am – 7 pm EST to get your questions answered or enroll by phone: (800) 937-1387.


Travel article

Pro Tips for Your First Trip Abroad

by Sara Parker

You’ve been bitten by the travel bug, and you finally have the time, money and means to take your first trip abroad. But where do you start? There are so many places to go, people to meet, things to eat and cultures to experience. Lucky for you, there are plenty of resources available to help you decide where to go and plan your entire trip. The following are just a few tips to get you started:

Decide Where to Go

All you know is that you want to travel out of the country, but aren’t sure where to go first. Begin your journey with research. Ask your friends about their favorite trips abroad, conduct online searches of some of the most popular destinations or go to your local bookstore to browse the travel section. You also should start narrowing down what type of trip you want to take, such as a remote, outdoors trek, major city tour or a cruise. Think about what you want out of your first time abroad to help decide what kind of excursion you want. As you start narrowing down your options, you also should narrow down your search parameters. For example, only look for the best locations to go backpacking or the best places with art history museums. The lists, books, and websites you’ll find will help you pick the best destination.

Get Your Documents

Once you know where you're going, you need to get going on your paperwork as soon as possible. If you don't have a passport or need to update an old one, do this immediately because it can take several weeks (and sometimes months) to complete. According to the U.S. Department of State, your passport needs to be valid at least six months after your return and have at least two blank pages that can be stamped by customs. Depending on the country you've chosen and the duration of your visit, you also may need to get a visa. Each country has different rules and regulations for visas and you usually have to send your passport and documentation to that country to be granted a visa (which is why you should do it immediately). The Department of State has information broken down by country that gives you directions on how to apply for a visa.

Book Your Flights

There are several points you need to consider before booking your flights online: dates, location, and price. If you are set on a certain time of year for your trip, the first thing you need to do is make sure flights are available during this time. From there, you can narrow down your options by what airport you want to fly out of from your home and into for your destination. Be very careful when you're conducting your research because many websites will tell you they are close to major tourist destinations even if they aren't (it's all relative after all). Do your due diligence by checking how far the airport is from your hotel so you don't end up with a large taxi bill. Now you can start looking at various airlines and prices. Although you may be excited, you may not want to book your flight too far in advance, according to CheapAir.com. According to their study, you should book your flight two to four months in advance of your trip to get the best prices. They have each region of the world broken down by the best time to book flights for more information.

Reserve a Place to Stay

Just like with your flights, you need to do some research on where you'll stay during your trip abroad. Whether you make a reservation at a hotel, hostel, Airbnb or couch-surfing option, you should look into how far it is from the major attractions and destination in the city. Use Google Maps on your smartphone to input addresses and locations to see if you can walk or take public transportation to all the places you want to go or if you'll need a car or taxi to get around. Keep in mind that the cost of cab rides adds up quickly.

Your accommodations also greatly depend on your budget for the trip. If you're pinching pennies, hostels are a great option. They usually are in the heart of major cities and can be booked for affordable prices (especially if you're planning an extended trip). Hostels also provide you with the opportunity to meet new people, talk to the locals and have a more authentic experience. Hotels and Airbnb may be more expensive options, but offer more privacy, services, and luxury. Be sure to look at pictures of the hotels or homes on their website, and read reviews and comments on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Take advantage of the power of a smartphone like the LG G6 to compare all of your options and do as much research as possible. Your phone not only lets you look at websites, but also take screenshots and save information for later use in case something goes wrong.

As you plan your trip, be sure to include the major tourist attractions as well as some local activities on your itinerary. Give yourself plenty of time to explore, try new things and soak in a new culture. With a little research and planning, you'll have an amazing trip and be itching to plan the next one.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Getting travel insurance is prudent with any vacation, but it’s especially important when you’re traveling abroad. Protect your investment in your trip, and also ensure you’re covered in case of sickness or an accident while traveling (after all, many U.S. healthcare plans don’t cover you outside the U.S. Check with your individual plan). USI Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of travel protection plans, so you can find the right plan for you:

Visit http://www.travelinsure.com/ to view all of our plans and learn more.

 

Sara Parker has a passion for travel and travel writing. She lived and studied in Segovia, Spain, for six weeks, has traveled throughout Western Europe, Peru, Costa Rica and the United States. She hopes to hit every continent and share her journeys through her writing.

 


Travel

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Holiday Road Trip

By Alison Stanton

It's official: Your time-off request has been approved, and with the holidays fast approaching, you and the family are ready to head out to spend some quality time with grandma and grandpa.

But before you head over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, it's important to ensure your vehicle can withstand the harsh winter conditions. Check out the following three common mistakes people make when planning a cold-weather road trip and what you should do instead.

1. Assuming Your Vehicle Can Handle Winter Weather

If your car is humming along nicely on the way to work and/or school, you might assume it will be able to handle a road trip with ease. However, going a few miles to and from work is vastly different than driving hundreds of miles in winter weather. Prior to leaving, schedule a winter tune-up at your mechanic to ensure your:

  • Anti-freeze and other fluid systems are topped off
  • Spark plugs are replaced
  • Windshield wipers are in good condition

Additionally, you'll want to inspect your tires carefully for any rot or damage. Beyond having plenty of quality tread, also check the brand of your tires to determine whether they're designed to handle slick and icy road conditions. If your tires are showing signs of baldness and aren't designed for harsh conditions, invest in four, new winter performance tires before you skip town.

Not sure where to turn with your trip fast approaching? Check out resources like TireBuyer.com to shop for tires meant to handle snow and ice. The online retailer offers a variety of winter-ready tires at affordable prices.

2. Not Checking the Weather Report

You and your family may be chomping at the bit to leave and see grandma and grandpa as soon as possible. But before heading out, be sure to check the seven-day forecast for your impending route.

It's possible a snowstorm may hit the areas in which you plan to travel. If this is the case — and, more importantly, you know this information well in advance — you can delay your trip by a day or two instead of ending up being stranded along the way.

Looking for a trusty resource? Check the conditions and forecast by using the National Weather Service as a resource. Through this website, you can enter your current location and destination to find out if any inclement weather is headed your way.

3. Forgetting to Pack an Emergency Roadside Kit

You may assume having your vehicle thoroughly checked over — and with four new winter tires — means you won't experience any issues on the open road. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts and intentions, you may wind up getting stuck along the way.

For example, your options will be severely limited if an accident involving multiple vehicles shuts down a portion of the highway for several hours. Additionally, you could experience unexpected car issues or have the battery go dead. Talk about a holiday downer.

Before leaving on your trip, pack an emergency roadside kit that includes plenty of warm blankets, extra food and water, and Thermoses filled with hot drinks like coffee and cocoa. Additionally, keep your smartphone fully charged, and try not to let your gas tank dip below half full.

Have a Great Time!

With some proper planning, you're bound to enjoy a safe and fun winter road trip that will provide you and your family with plenty of lifelong memories. Just be sure to give grandma a big ol' hug when you get there.

 

About the Author: Alison has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.


Veterans Day 2017: Where to Celebrate

VeteransDay1


Veterans are the nation’s protectors, the defenders of American ideals and freedom. This Veterans Day marks the 99th year of celebrating these military heroes, both past and present, and collectively thanking them for their sacrifice. Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day until 1954, is a day to show appreciation for those who have served as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen for the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. This year, in particular, is made more significant in that it is the first to celebrate not only veterans for one day, but veterans and their families for the entire month of November, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Celebrations honoring Veterans Day take place across the country. Below is a list of just a few of the events happening across the nation to celebrate the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces:

Arlington, VA— Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of fallen service members and is exalted as a national landmark honoring the nation’s heroes. The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held at the Cemetery each year on Veterans Day beginning at exactly 11:00 a.m. The opening ceremony, which includes a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns, “is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.” To plan a trip to the Arlington National Cemetery or for more information on the Veterans Day events taking place there, click here.

Simi Valley, CA— The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library will be hosting its annual Veterans Day Event today, November 10th. The renowned Library’s commemorative activities will include live musical entertainment, a public showcase of military vehicles, a Civil War encampment reenactment and a special program to honor veterans from each branch of service. To learn more about the Library and/or its Veterans Day celebration, click here.

Branson, MO— The self-proclaimed host of Veterans Homecoming Week is the largest Veterans Day celebration in the country. The week leading up to Veterans Day is packed with activities to honor veterans and their families, including a Blue Star Mothers Afternoon Dessert and POW/MIA Service of Remembrance. For more information, be sure to check out the website here.

Philadelphia, PA—The birthplace of America is keen on honoring its nation’s heroes for Veterans Day. Earlier this month, the city held its third annual Philadelphia Veterans Day Parade to kick off the celebrations. On Veterans Day, the Constitution Center will host the Macy’s Family Day to honor veterans, which includes free admission to the museum, writing thank you post cards to veterans, a flag raising ceremony and more. To learn more about the Veterans Day events happening at the Constitution Center, check out the website here.

New York, NY— With 1.6 million veterans in the New York City/Tri-Sate area, the Big Apple’s Veterans Week NYC is an initiative designed to highlight New York City’s commitment to veterans and the military community as a whole, including military families. New York City's Veterans Week events are geared toward promoting issues faced by veterans and their loved ones as well as providing resources to help veterans transition from the military to the civilian world. For more information about Veterans Week NYC, click here.

Honoring the nation’s retired and active service members is an important bastion of the American people, as reflected by the number and grandeur of the events nationwide. This is a small way for Americans everywhere to thank veterans, whether currently serving or having served. How does your hometown commemorate Veterans Day?

This Veterans Day, Travel Insurance Services thanks all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen for their service and sacrifice. 


Take a nice trip this fall

As colder temperatures sweep across the country and the leaves are set aflame with color, the U.S. settles in with the arrival of autumn in all of its pumpkin spice-scented glory. Many think of fall’s predecessor or its successor as the ideal times to travel for various reasons, whether summer beach vacations or the winter holidays. However, the fall season has its own charms to offer any vacationer looking to get away. Here are just a few of the top places to travel for a full fall experience:

Vermont

Northeast Region: Montpelier, Vermont—There many locations throughout the various regions of Vermont with world famous views of the changing leaves. Whether you choose to conquer one of the many hiking trails the Green Mountain state has to offer, enjoy one of its eclectic art events, or tour its scenic byways, Vermont has something to offer for everyone. For more information on places to visit in Vermont during the fall season, including two maps for the current conditions and forecasting the fall foliage, click here.

 

Washington

West Region: Washington—
The Pacific Northwest is famous for its landscapes among other things. Therefore the fall season is a prime time to visit the region, particularly the state of Washington. Set the stage at the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway:“[c]olorful sights include the vibrant yellow larches of Ross Lake, the golden-grassy farmland of Winthrop and blazing yellow-red maple vines in Leavenworth,” according to ExperienceWA.com. In addition to scenic overlooks along these and the many other drives, Washington offers hiking opportunities, like Wallace Falls near Gold Bar, as well as fall festivals, such as Autumn Leaf Festival in Leavenworth. To learn about other scenic drives in Washington for your next fall time excursion, check out this article.

  St. Paul

Midwest Region: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota—According to Travel Channel, Minneapolis-St. Paul offers a plethora of fall fun opportunities. The area offers a “scenic leaf-peeping drive” using either the Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis or Summit Avenue in St. Paul. If you prefer to get closer to nature, Minnesota’s Fort Snelling State Park and Afton State Park give hikers and bikers that chance. To learn more about the different autumn scenic views, sports activities, shopping and more — click here.

  Grand canyon

Southwest: The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona—The Grand Canyon National Park is hailed as one of the country’s most popular parks with approximately 5.9 million people visiting the 277 mile wonder last year alone, according to National Geographic. U.S. News & World Report suggests that the best times to visit the park are either in the spring between March and May or in the fall between September and November. During the fall, the temperatures cool down and the summer crowds disperse, leaving more hotel rooms and trails available as you enjoy the beauty of the Canyon. To plan your trip the Grand Canyon National Park, visit the National Park Service website here.

  New orleans

Southeast: New Orleans—New Orleans, also known as the Big Easy, “keeps locals and visitors busy with countless events from late September through November…,” according to Travel Channel. From the city’s own Oktoberfest or its famed Oak Street Po-Boy Festival to the Louisiana Seafood Festival and the Voodoo Music Festival, the city has something for everyone to enjoy during the fall season. For more information about the best times to travel to the Big Easy, check out this article from U.S. New and World Report.

Outside of this list, there are many places across the United States that offer fall enthusiasts spectacular views of the changing leaves, traditional hay rides, fall festivals, Halloween celebrations and more. Wherever you travel, USI Travel Insurance Services is here to help protect not only your travel plans, but also your experience. For information on how Travel Insurance Services can protect your trip, visit our website here.