Previous month:
February 2012
Next month:
November 2012
Waters rising at New York's JFK Airport
Photo by: @PANYNJ/Twitter

Yesterday, we talked about what to do about your travel as the landfall of Hurricane Sandy was imminent. And as you can see, the storm was not something to take lightly. Our thoughts go out to all of those who are affected by this storm in some way: millions are without power, and damages will be valued in the tens of millions when everything is assessed.

At this juncture, there will be a lot of people who will be grateful that they have some sort of insurance protecting their cars, homes, and valuables that have been irrevocably damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Just as grateful will be those who purchased travel insurance to protect their journeys, and will not have to face extraneous expense as a result of trying to get where they are going. But in this situation, what do you need to know about travel insurance to make the most of your purchase?

First, always know what's going on where you are coming from, where you are going, and for everything else inbetween. In  the situation of Hurricane Sandy, it became a known event on October 24, 2012. In order for your travel insurance to provide coverage, you would have needed to purchase your insurance on October 23 (or sooner).

Second, know what your travel insurance covers. Our Travel Insurance Select product covers trip cancellation, trip delay, and travel interruption - but not all products do. Make sure you are clear about what they do and do not cover when you buy.

And make sure you have a copy of your travel insurance policy with you in your travels. This way, you will always have a clear understanding of what you can and can't have coverage for when you go.

With all of that said, there is still a limited number of circumstances to be aware of when planning on making a travel insurance claim:

  • In the event of a covered hurricane or other unforeseen severe weather (and your travel insurance is purchased 24 hours before they name the storm), most travel insurance provides coverage under the Trip Cancellation and Interruption benefit. If your trip is cancelled for a covered reason, your travel insurance may provide you with a refund of the pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs trip up to the limit of coverage.
  • If you pre-paid for a resort stay, and the resort is damaged and cannot accommodate you or provide comparable accommodations, your nonrefundable costs may be reimbursable by your travel insurance plan.
  • If a storm or hurricane directly affects your travel arrangements or accommodations, you may be entitled to Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption benefits. For instance, in the situation that an airport is closed due to the high winds, you are forced to evacuate your hotel, the road you are traveling is impassable due to high water, or your originating or destination airport is closed due to a hurricane, you may be able to make claim on your benefits.

Should you choose to cancel your trip based on your best information, always contact your travel provider first. And if your travel dates change, your travel insurance can change just as easily - simply call or email us, and we can make that change for you.

Does this help you understand how travel insurance plays into your plans? Can we answer any additional questions for you? Let us know how we can help during this time in the comments below.

(Ed. Note: The writer's thanks go to Linda in our customer service department - for helping to compile this travel insurance blog.)

At201218_5day[1]A lot has been made of Hurricane Sandy over this weekend and today. And its not much ado about nothing - with sustained winds of over 80 MPH, there is a lot to worry about for those living in the northeast. Out of concern for safety, our corporate headquarters in Philadelphia closed on Monday as a result of the storm. And according to USA Today, over 9,000 flights experienced a travel delay or trip cancellation as a result.

In this event, you will probably find yourself behind a trip delay or cancellation - there's nothing you can do about it. During times like these, personal safety takes absolute priority over getting where you want on time. So what if you can't get out that same day - I'll take the delay over getting caught somewhere in the storm.

So what should you do if you have a trip cancellation in the heart of a storm or other natural emergency? There are several things you can do to prepare yourself in the event you're caught behind a storm:

  1. Maintain your personal safety at all times
    I cannot stress this point enough: before you even think about your trip cancellation, make sure you're safe and secure. And in the event of an emergency, always follow the directions of qualified emergency personnel. Your flight can wait - your life can't.
  2. Contact your travel provider for assistance
    During Hurricane Sandy (and traditionally, throughout hurricane conditions), airlines are usually forgiving of flight change fees. In the event that you find your travel arrangements cancelled, contact your carriers - blogger Johnny Jet has their policies listed on their website. It is in their best interest to work with you to find a way to get you where you're going - and as long as you express patience and understanding with them during this difficult time, you would be surprised how far you can go (both literally and figuratively).
  3. Keep in touch with connections for updates
    It can be very isolating being at an airport - especially when you're surrounded by new best friends all crowding around one monitor to gather new information. When stuck behind a trip delay, be sure you have a charged phone (or a phone charger) to keep in touch with all of those important to you. Coordinating your plans with work colleagues or family may be easier than trying your luck figuring it out with complete strangers.
  4. Monitor the developing situation
    There are many websites you can use to keep an eye on the developing situation during a trip delay - especially when weather is involved.
    During Hurricane Sandy, Google prepared an emergency map with current weather readouts, emergency shelter locations, and projected storm movement. When Google does not have a page available, my preferred weather site is Weather Underground, for its many different real-time views and availablilty.
  5. Save your reciepts and contact your travel insurance provider
    The main reason you have travel insurance is to protect your investment under trip delay and travel cancellation.
    In the event your flight is cancelled for more than one day and you need to eat, stay at a hotel, or make alternative arrangements, make sure that you keep your reciepts. In the event you need to make a travel insurance claim, those will be invaluable to you. Just make sure you know your travel insurance plan limitations. (Ed. Note: Our call center will be open tonight until 8 PM EST/5 PM PST to take your questions about travel insurance and assist you as needed - call us at (800) 937-1387.)

Travelling with a storm pending is not fun to anyone involved. But by keeping calm and preparing for the storm and knowing what to do when caught behind trip delay, you can make the event easier to weather. How do you make the best of a bad storm? Let me know your best advice in the comments below.

TravelutilitiesBeing the seasoned traveller that I claim to be, I know that I have to be ready for whatever may come. Part of that is making ready the tools of travel. I'm not talking about packing the right sized bag, or making sure you have all the chargers for phones, tablets, and whatever else you need (though those are also both very important). I'm talking about arguably your most important tool: your smartphone. 

The smartphone is your select lifeline to travel assistance should something happen during your adventures: be it a trip cancellation, interruption, or even a missed connection. And as you well know, it can do more than dial numbers and sit on hold all day. Your smartphone can also give you valuable access to flight information, ground transportation, and even reservations (should you need them). 

So what do I pack in my smartphone? Like a Swiss Army Knife with a 1 terrabyte USB Drive attached, I have an app to do everything from change a flight to get dinner ideas. Here are the select few that I refuse to leave home without:

  1. Airline Specific Apps
    If you're flying on a major national carrier, odds are they have an application. I cannot stress this enough: if you are flying a national airline, download their app to your phone. They are free, allow you to check in on your mobile device, and can be a huge help in case your trip is delayed, your trip is cancelled, or you have a missed connection.United, Delta, American, and even Southwest all have apps that can help in a pinch!
  2. Uber
    In a major city, getting a taxi can be a major headache. If you have a missed connection and need to get somewhere, how do you get a cab? Once in the cab, how do you pay and tip? If you need to get moving, pull up the Uber app, give your location, and it will send a black car to your location! The cost can be higher than a regular cab - but you also have the security of having a licensed driver, and know that you'll only be charged the GPS-calculated fare and included gratuity. While the Uber team is still adding locations to its service list, their service is available in many major cities in the United States, Canada, and even Europe!
  3. OpenTable
    So everything goes fine, and you are spared a trip delay, cancellation, or missed connection. Once you're at your destination, you still have to eat.
    This is where OpenTable is invaluable to me. Not only do I get restaurant recommendations, but I can also see where I can still make a reservation. While I still am a big fan of Urbanspoon, this app takes it one step further - giving it a reserved spot in my travel apps folder. 
  4. HotelTonight
    In the worst case scenario, your trip delay, cancellation, or missed connection will force you to stay overnight somewhere.
    And I'm 77% confident you don't want to spend the night on the floor of the airport. This is where the HotelTonight app comes in - available in many major cities, it lives up to its name: book a hotel, usually at a discount, tonight! Not in a city supported by HotelTonight? Then might I recommend the Priceline app?
  5. Award Wallet
    Now the travel has been completed - you travelled, you stayed, you rented, and now you're on your way home. And like a savvy traveller, you collected points and miles for all of your expenses. How do you keep track of all of them? I like Award Wallet - one website and app that keeps all my points in one place. Yes, you will have to plug in your accounts and passwords - but they are all kept behind 128 SSL encryption (the same one we use to process travel insurance orders). It gets my vote for best points binder.

And whatever you do, do NOT leave home without first programming your travel insurance customer service number in your phone. 

So what about you? What can't you travel without? Let me know what your picks are in the comments below!

 (Ed. Note: No compensation or consideration was offered to mention any application in this post.)


 Photo by: Counselman Collection/Flickr

There's nothing worse than being stuck at a bad airport terminal. Okay, that was a hyperbole - there are truly worse things...but for the frequent traveller who feels at home surrounded by thousands of their closest friends, there's nothing worse than being stuck in a lame airport terminal when you don't have to be. Especially when you're stuck under a travel delay.

In my regular rounds of internet reading, I came across Frommer's guide to the ten worst airport terminals in the world. I've been to one of them - and have trips planned that might take me through the rest. And if this list holds any truth...I'm not sure how excited I should be.

But with the bad comes the good. Reading their list made me start to think back on my favorite trips - good, bad, and otherwise. And after some consideration, I wanted to add my two cents to that list. After all, I've flown enough to know which terminals are my favorite - and, if given the inevitable truth of a trip delay, where I wouldn't mind being. So, with no further ado, here's my top three airports to get stuck in.  

#1 Top Airport Terminal: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Why is this one my number one? Simple: if I'm stuck behind a travel delay, I want to be at an airport where it will be relatively easy to kill time. Minneapolis/St. Paul - with their solid Airport Mall and decent food court - makes for a great place to eat, window shop, and even catch up on my reading list. Oh, and this isn't to mention their double secret observation deck that is perfect for those quiet moments you need while travelling. Absolutely an airport that I look forward to visiting!

#2 Top Airport Terminal: San Francisco International

What do I love about this airport? First of all, there's plenty to see both pre- and post-security - have a bite to eat, drink, or visit one of the many shops. There's always plenty of seating space, and all of the terminals are clearly marked - just hop on the Air Train and get off at your departing airline. Did I mention the free WiFi throughout all terminals?

#3 Top Airport Terminal: Chicago O'Hare

A lot of people are going to be perplexed as to why this is one of my personal favorites - especially consdiering all of the trip delays I've suffered as a result. I have an affinity for this airport (no pun or endorsement intended) because the City of Chicago has really made an effort into making O'Hare an experience. There are plenty of shops, excellent views of the runways (and sunrise/sunsets if you're there at those times), and free WiFi is coming soon! Not that you'll need it. And the eight straight "Best Airport in North America" ratings by Global Traveller certainly don't hurt it, either.

So what do you think? Am I right on about the best airports to be stuck under a trip delay at, or am I off the mark here? Let me know where you wouldn't mind being stuck at in the comments below!

By the way, I never told you how my trip to Richmond went, did I? It was a lot of fun! That is, until I had one amazing race to get back home. And I'm not talking about the fun one they show on TV. I'm talking about one where I had to go against our common foe: trip interruption.

The short of the story is: I arrived at the airport in Richmond in plenty of time to catch my flight out to Cleveland, and on to Columbus. The flight was oversold, and also heavily delayed by Cleveland. My best bet was to reserve me a ticket on another flight going out the next day. I waited patiently, hoping that the trip delay would work itself out and I could still get home. I was especially patient when I found out I wasn't alone - many others had a connection to make in Cleveland, and at least 10 of them were going to Columbus.

Because of all the people depending on this flight, there was a small chance they would hold the plane for us at Cleveland and not have a major trip interruption on their hands. With boarding formalities skipped, we boarded in record time. But despite our best effort, we were too late to get Cleveland, and the flight left without us. The carrier helped us out by putting us in a hotel and feeding us. And Superman was there to help us out - so overall, not too shabby.

The next morning, all of us are rebooked on the next flight out to Columbus. But with so many missed connections, the plane was oversold once again. My trip interruption was about to extend - as I surrendered my standby seat to a soldier in uniform. But to be nice about extending my trip delay, the carrier gave me a travel credit - and offered to help me with a rental car.

So my trip delay has come to an end, right? Not quite: the rental car was twice as much as the amount of the voucher - so once again, my trip interruption grew. I went back to the airport, hoping to stow away somewhere for the 143-mile trip between Cleveland and Columbus. Luckily, I was able to whimper my way onto the next flight out: the never-ending trip delay was over, and I was back to work by lunchtime dressed like something off a country & western album cover - just in time to walk straight into a meeting with our regional CEO.  

This trip interruption consisted of two days, five flights, one hotel night, and about 600 miles. It was an excellent exercise on how to manage a trip delay - and a reminder of how lucky I am. If  the airline didn't help me, travel insurance would have made a big difference in my pocket.

So here's what I did to make the trip delay more negotiable:

  1. Be nice to EVERYONE
    Have you ever heard the saying about catching flies with honey? That absolutely applies in this situation. I don't care if someone gave you a dirty look. Or prevented you from being on the next flight. Be nice to EVERYONE you meet. From the gate agents who are getting mobbed, to your fellow travelers: a laugh and shrug will get you a lot farther in a trip interruption than yelling. Just make sure all of your jokes are appropriate.
  2. Be flexible
    Trip delays are an unfortunate and common part of air travel anymore
    . And there are many factors that go into that: weather, airline consolidation, and ticket availability. With that, you can avoid a trip delay if you are flexible about your travel plans. Plan your trip with wiggle room (a day on one end or the other). This way, if or when you experience  a trip interruption, you can meet it easily and not have to worry about obligations at home.
  3. Join ALL the travel programs
    This is something I talk about often: if you're not a member of all the programs, join them. Because of my trip interruption, I got bonus airline miles, hotel points, and (almost) extra rental car credits. Do it right, and that equates to free trips in a hurry!

How do you manage a trip interruption? Please share with me your tips in the comments below - because frankly, I could really use them!