Donna Hull had been feeling like something was off with her back during the river cruise she was on, but forged on anyway with the day’s excursion they had already booked.
On the land extension of a luxury river cruise, I woke up in a Lucerne, Switzerland, hotel room unable to get out of bed. With my husband’s help, I walked the few, excruciatingly painful steps across the floor to the bathroom. Returning to the bed, I curled up into a ball and cried.
After spending two nights in a hospital, my bill had ballooned to over $7,000. The back injury resulted in surgery, once I returned home to the U.S. This required that I cancel an upcoming month-long South Pacific cruise. Thankfully, both trips were insured. The travel insurance company covered 100% of my medical costs also refunded every penny of the cancelled cruise.
People who have traveled a lot tend to get giddy with anticipation and enjoy the planning process as much as the actual journey. Many who have been stationary most of their life see the big scary world out there quite differently, however. They concentrate on all the things that could harm them.
Whether you’re just starting to explore or you’ve been to 50 countries, however, you’ve got one thing in common. There’s at least some chance that something will go wrong along the way. No matter how good your luck is, you’ll eventually hit a snag: sickness, an injury, lost bags, or flight cancellations. You could let this possibility worry you to death, or you could just be prepared for it when you go.
Some preparations are just a matter of having options in your wallet or on your phone, whether that’s loyalty points that are banked for free hotel nights or a Priority Pass membership that will get you into airport lounges during delays. A credit card with a high limit can take care of a whole lot of problems, including a hospital stay in countries where medical costs haven’t outpaced inflation for two decades like they have in the U.S. system. If something major happens though, these backups may not be enough.
That’s where travel insurance comes in.
When Injury Strikes
When Matt Gibson went on a snowboarding trip near Jasper, he expected the day to be full of thrills, but of carefree fun as usual. Until the last run, it was.
On one particularly steep pitch, my board hit an icy patch and slid out from under me. I was facing the slope, so I put my hands down to hold myself up until I came to a stop. It was quite steep and I was going pretty fast, so it took a few seconds to stop. As I finished the run, I noticed my shoulder was sore. By the time we got back to the car, I couldn’t lift my left hand above my shoulder.
The stress of holding myself up as I stopped had cracked a bone in my left shoulder. Fortunately, I carry travel insurance that includes adventure sports, which covered both a hospital visit and several trips to rehab.
Other friends of mine have fallen off a horse, sprained an ankle while hiking, or simply fallen down and broken a knee while walking on a cobblestone street in a colonial city in Mexico. Even when you’re careful, accidents can happen. Or sometimes we just screw up.
Protecting Your Bad Decisions
Despite all my experience, I’ve got a long list of stories about leaving a jacket somewhere, losing a gadget, or missing a flight when I was already in the airport on time. What if you lost your wedding ring, like John Widmer did?
It started off as a fantastic sailing trip, from Panama to Colombia. Along the way, we were island hopping throughout the remote San Blas islands. For one of our snorkeling trips, the waters were a bit rough along a shallow reef. So I decided to remove my wedding ring and leave it securely on the sailboat. There was a little nook along our cabin wall, perfect for safekeeping.
After the snorkel as the anchor was being pulled, I went to retrieve the ring. It was missing. We were traveling with only five other passengers, all completely trustworthy. So where did it go? That’s when I noticed there was a little slit at the end of the nook. The slit dropped down to the hull of the ship. The Captain assured me there would be absolutely no way to retrieve the wedding ring unless the boat was brought into dry-dock and had some serious surgery done to it. So on the bottom of the SS Mintaka is where by wedding ring remains today, rocking around in those warm Caribbean waters.
Thankfully, we had travel insurance. We were able to get a duplicate ring, which was fully reimbursed. I no longer remove that ring during snorkeling trips and it’s still on my finger today!
Sometimes we take “vacation risks” when feeling relaxed and carefree, like Inma Gregorio did in the polluted Kerela backwaters of India:
Young and inexperienced or simply with way too much energy, I jumped off the houseboat we were spending the night in while floating in Kerela state and went for a swim.A few days after, already in Goa, an ear infection kicked in. As the pain got worse, I kept thinking back on that impulsive swim. It took a couple of calls to my travel insurance company, a local doctor’s visit to my Goa cabin, some medicines, and a week at the beach without swimming to feel normal again.
A Lot Can Go Wrong With Airlines
We were so very happy we had travel insurance after a frustrating debacle with a Chinese regional airline. Along with a full load of passengers, we’d been left stranded overnight in Bangkok when no plane arrived for our 11 p.m. flight to Shanghai on Christmas night. Even worse, this airline left its hapless local representatives hanging without any communication whatsoever. Phone and online customer service support in English was non-existent.Our plans were such that people were depending upon our timely arrival in China. This necessitated paying full price for two Bangkok-Shanghai seats with a Thai carrier at the very last possible moment and then running for our lives to catch that only flight. It felt like a real victory to be reimbursed by our travel insurance after the Chinese airline actually charged us for the unused tickets on the flight that never happened!
Peace of Mind in Your Pocket
Sometimes just knowing there’s a human you can contact when there’s a problem can ease your worries considerably. If you’re traveling independently in a strange country where you’re not fluent in the language, being prepared with an emergency phone number is insurance it itself, as Anne Belle learned on her vacation.
Upon landing in Costa Rica my traveling partner discovered he left his wallet and money at the Miami airport. We weren’t really sure what to do, but figured we should call our travel insurance company and hopefully someone could help. It was a toll-free number and we had no other options.
They immediately gave us some advice, connected us to his parents in Miami, and helped us sort our short term needs. While the company didn’t cover the lost money, we still appreciated their help. They were a calm voice on the other side of the phone that walked us through our options and connected us to people without having to pay an extra fee. They immediately lifted all of our worries and we were able to continue to have a nice vacation.
“I would never travel on an expensive trip without purchasing travel insurance that also includes pre-existing coverage for immediate family members,” Donna Hull says. If you’re investing what it costs to go on a luxury cruise, a luxury tour, or a big trip of a lifetime, you can eliminate a lot of the worries by taking the right precautions.