Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Do all travel insurance policies cover the same things?

Travel Insurance is varied in what it covers. Different companies and even policies within companies may offer different levels of coverage and different exclusions. Of course various riders can be added to enhance coverage but not all riders are available on every policy.  Thus, a simple summation is that all travel plans are not created equally.

Price alone is not a good way to determine what policy is better than the next policy either. Pricing of travel insurance usually varies with age, sex, destination, length of the trip, and of course the cost of the trip. The next level of differentiation is the coverage itself. Coverage is a function of what is explicitly covered along with what is explicitly excluded from coverage.

When choosing a policy you need to make sure the limits of coverage are at a comfortable level along with the exclusions. For example it is worth deciding will missed connection coverage offer you enough money to cover a hotel in connecting cities along with extra meals and taxis to and from the hotel.  Will medical evacuation allow you to come to a hospital of your choice? Will it cover two evacuations, one to the nearest place for appropriate care and then a second transfer back to your hospital of choice?

It is a good idea to examine the features of the plans you like and if there are more than one compare them to make sure you are getting the coverage you want or need. Onesite I like will help with the comparison.  By comparing policies you can pick one that covers adequately the things most important to you. A very good overall plan though, especially if travelingwith your children under age 18 is the Travel Guard Gold policy. One feature I really like with the Travel Guard Gold plan aside from the good rates and more than adequate coverage for most items, is that kids living in the same household as the traveling parents are covered for free. When you have three or four kids going with you this can really bring down the average cost of excellent coverage.

Also, when looking at vendor provided insurance make sure you are looking at that travel insurance policy and see how well it stacks up to the likes of Travel Guard Gold. Usually, the vendor provided coverage does not, unless they are using a branded product that essentially is the Travel Guard Gold plan. 

When traveling it is usually a good idea, especially when traveling outside the country, to ensure you have travel insurance. Buying from an independent travel insurance carrier you ensure you don’t put all of your money at risk should the tour operator fail, unless that vendor is on the do not insure list of the travel insurance company.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Should I buy my travel insurance thru the cruise line?

I do not really favor buying travel insurance thru the cruise line. In most cases what you get only covers cruise related travel, not the air going to or from the cruise. Also, for the cost unless you are well into retirement you can usually get far more comprehensive coverage thru a reputable travel insurance program. I personally like a couple of travel insurance programs with my overall favorite being the Gold Level plan offered thru Travel Guard.

The cruise line programs are backed by an actual insurance company, but it is one who does not regularly sell directly to the public. Instead they create programs customized for each cruise line. In many cases money back is in the form of future cruise credits which actually is more beneficial to the cruise line than the passenger. Other areas of concern with these policies, usually unless you specifically force payment of them before final payment, there is no coverage and no pre-existing condition coverage will be available when it is needed.

The limits on coverage for these plans are often very small. In fact one area I where I have big concern is medical evacuation coverage. They usually will only fly you to the nearest appropriate facility, not to a facility of your choice. That means they may not even fly you back to a US facility.  Also, the cost limits are such that depending on where you start and need to go the coverage may not fully pay for the medical evacuation.  Thus, even with insurance you could still have to shell out quite a bit of cash to get to an appropriate hospital and more to get home.

I’ve heard many people complain after the fact about how little was covered when they really needed the help.  This is of particular concern since the idea behind insurance is to have it there when needed, not to have it so limited that you only get partial coverage or worse find out many typical conditions are actually excluded from coverage. Of course only getting future cruise credit may depending on circumstances amount to no reimbursement at all.  Thus, I strongly recommend my clients both get travel insurance and that they get it and that they take true travel insurance from a reputable company as linked to above.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Should I buy the video put out by the cruise line while aboard?

I write from aboard the Island Princess where I am enjoying myself and thinking about how nice it would be to have a good DVD related to my transit of the Panama Canal. Also, it seems I may end up in one of the videos produced as I ended up a few times on the camera while they were shooting on the ship’s excursion we took today.  These DVDs are somewhat expensive compared to what you would pay for a movie when shopping at Target or Wal-Mart. The DVD typically is a mix of stock video collected over many cruises and updated periodically and lots of events collected on your specific cruise. 

The video is one great way to memorialize the cruise. If you have friends who likely will want to see the cruise it also serves as a great way to show them what you saw and what happened on the ship. Of course unless you are followed constantly by the ship’s videographer all of what you do and see will not be on the video, but given the amount of video you could create think of the editing that you would have to do to make it palatable to the general audience.

Yes, you can shoot all your own video, but the time it takes to edit it all down to one or two reasonable length shows can get lengthy. That said, do you really want to spend hours creating one or two videos that you can show your friends?  Yes when you make it yourself you are able to then go put it on Youtube etc… but unless you plan to post your video out there having a nice DVD from the cruise often is much easier to have.
Prices vary from really not too bad to fairly expensive depending on exactly what you purchase. The longer more involved cruises often have special packages that provide more than one DVD which allows you to tailor your presentation of DVDs to the audience you have watching them.  Overall in most cases if you want a unique and nice souvenir from the cruise, getting the DVD tends to work out to be a nice idea.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Should I buy my air thru the cruise line?

Air from cruise lines is one of those things that over time, has really changed.  Years ago, it was usually a good idea because they would get you essentially the same price you could find for your own air. Also, you could pack your bags and check them right thru to the ships at no extra cost.  Times have changed, especially in the post September 11th days.

These days buying your air thru the cruise line is more, dicey.  You may save money or you may end up paying quite a bit more. Regardless you don’t get to check your bags straight thru to the cruise ship cabin.  You also no longer even get free bags on most airlines unless you happen to be one of their elite flyers.  Buying air thru the cruise line, unless you pay more for specific choices in the air reservation can easily yield you flights on non preferred airlines and at bad times. Also, unless you specifically pay the air portion at the time of booking, the air price may fluctuate up or down.

Paying for what is called an air deviation will allow you to select the airline and specify the time of day you want to fly. This can help at least get you on a preferred airline etc….but does not necessarily help with the airfare.  A new program offered by some airlines allows you to actually pick your own flights. In most cases you also pay a surcharge for this service. It does however offer some protection that just letting the airline pick does not offer.

Buying your air thru the cruise line does not guarantee you will arrive at your ship on time, nor does it guarantee they will get you caught up with the ship if a problem occurs while you are flying in. A common myth is that buying air thru the cruise line will have them holding the ship at departure dock or paying for connections to catch you up with the ship. That is simply not true, unless you also have unlimited travel insurance coverage.

Some of the new air programs, where you pay a fee of as much as $50 per passenger included special protections. They have a center monitoring all flights on which they have customers heading to cruises. When they see problems develop they try to work out rerouting where necessary to ensure you make the ship (your luggage may have to catch up later) on time. They also work with the cruise lines where possible holding ships to ensure slightly late passengers sail from the embarkation port.  When things go terribly wrong, they will reroute you to the next port of call where they can embark passengers. They cover the cost of the reroute also, but other costs such as extra hotel nights are on your own thus the need for travel insurance still exists.

It is worth looking at various factors when you are booking before picking if you will plan the air on your own or if you want to have the cruise line plan it for you.  Be sure you know what the benefits and costs are for choosing cruise line air.  We are here to help you with the entire cruise experience booking process.