Travel with peace of mind

Whether you find yourself stranded in an airport you never expected to visit or end up having emergency hip surgery in a Hong Kong hospital because you accidently slipped while using a ground-level privy, the bottom line is, to be prepared by getting travel insurance.

Fredric Havens, owner of Safety First Travel Insurance, based in Santa Monica, said “travelers have a 25 percent change of encountering some kind of travel problem or emergency.” He recommends hedging your bets by purchasing travel insurance before sending in the final payment for your cruise or tour. “If you don’t have travel insurance you simply are not safe,” he said.

Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman, authors of a feature on travel insurance published in Westways Magazine agree, and urge travelers to ask about exclusions in the event of a preexisting medical condition. They recommend you “buy from an insurance carrier, not directly from a cruise line or tour operator in the event the company you are traveling with goes bust.”

Wanting to avoid the escalating charges that result from trip interruption, delay or an accident, I signed on for a policy called Trip Protector from HTH Worldwide. According to their rates, a $209 premium covered a $3,000 trip for those in the 56- to 70-year-old category. The coverage included up to $500,000 for emergency assistance and up to $1,000 for baggage and personal effects loss . Travel delay is limited to $150 a day and their 24-hour emergency hotline service covers nine situations, including lost ticket and passport assistance, embassy and consular services and emergency prescription refills. Adding a layer to all of this is the HTH Worldwide’s Passport Travel Well, enabling you to use your mobile phone to access selected hospitals in more than 1,200 destinations, as well as personalized safety and health alerts, among other services. This coverage came into play when a routine flight between Palm Springs and Chicago on the controversial (read: sadly outmoded) MD-80 plane ended up landing in St. Louis, Mo. for “emergency refueling.” Due to minimal assistance from American Airlines and without the benefit of a much needed Passenger Bill of Rights, this travel writer was detained for 24 hours before landing in Porto, Portugal. Travel insurance covered the cost of the delay but not my frazzled state. Don’t depend on the airlines for emergency overnight accommodations or anything else related to the delay because “the weather” seems to absolve them of any responsibility when it comes to covering your expenses.

Had my cousin heeded my advice and taken out a travel insurance policy, she wouldn’t have had to foot the bill for a slip and fall accident that ended her three-week vacation in Corfu, Greece after three days. “I had to come up with over $8,000 (based on the Euro conversion) for the hospital, ambulance and doctor bills, $5,500 for a last-minute, one-way business class ticket from Athens to Los Angeles and that was just the beginning of the bills,” Valerie Moro said.

I described Moro’s situation to a Trip Protector representative and was told their insurance policy would have covered these expenses under the category of “trip interruption.” Having your insurance company navigate you through the complexities of a medical evacuation is worth every penny of the premium.

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Other travel hazards, such as a “terrorist incidents” and “acts of piracy,” can be covered as well.

Regardless of unpredictable travel situations you can reduce your worries by investing in travel insurance and asking questions that pertain to your particular situation. The cost of the policy can be as little as 4 percent up to 10 percent of the cost of your trip, but it could be the best investment you make.

Pamela Price is the coauthor of “Fun with the Family in Southern CA,” www.globepequot.com

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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