Do you have travel insurance?
We had scrimped and saved for years in order to afford what would be a one year, 14 country, around-the-world journey.
There had been no dinners out, no summer holidays or winter getaways, no shopping sprees. At work we packed our own lunches, brought tea bags from home rather than taking the daily jaunt to the coffee shop, and said no to more Friday-after-work-beers than I’d care to remember.
We had sold our condo, our car had a new home, and all the rest of our ‘stuff’ was stuffed into a single storage locker awaiting our return. Time awaiting our departure was spent in the cheapest, dingy, furnished apartment we could find.
We were, in a word, frugal, Cheap, some would say. Smart, I would reply. We were going to be travelling and seeing the world, what was a little sacrifice now?
We got the call two weeks before our plane was set to whisk us away.
Jason’s dad had been diagnosed with cancer and was scheduled for surgery in two short days.
Heart drop. Head in hands.
We scrambled to change our travel plans. Flights to Peru were quickly cancelled and, instead, tickets to Toronto were placed on our itinerary. We tied up the very few loose ends left and, without a second thought, hopped on the flight to be with family.
Somehow, in the haze of fear and not knowing what was going to happen, we had the wherewithal to call our travel insurance broker to tell them our situation. They were stellar; expressing concern for our family, ensuring we knew where to find the forms we would need to enter a claim, and assuring us that it could wait, that attending to our family was first and foremost. We were relieved to not have this worry on our shoulders and to have assurance that, in all likelihood, we would qualify and our finances would be safe.
The following weeks are a blur of test results and x-ray images, hospital rooms and doctors offices, nurses and care-givers. Our greatest fears had come to fruition and it took the collective energy of all of us to keep us all positive and forward facing. This was not the time to worry about money, or travel, or anything that didn’t directly affect the positive outcome we were all hoping for.
The Claim Process
As the fog of confusion lifted our family started to look forward to what normal might look like again. We remembered the tickets we had so hastily cancelled and remembered that we needed to take advantage of one of our smartest decisions ever – the trip cancellation insurance we had purchased.
The process, although necessarily detailed, wasn’t onerous or difficult. We found the forms on-line just where the agent had said they would be. Filling them out was easy enough; the insurance company obviously wanted every last detail but we felt that all the questions were fair and answered them honestly.
They required proof of the plane tickets purchase, their subsequent cancellation, and assurance that we would not be reimbursed by any other means (such as the airline themselves). We had documentation for all of this and were able to contact the airline also to get the required statement from them.
We had to provide the timeline of events; when had we booked the tickets, when had Jason’s dad been diagnosed, when had we changed our plans etc.
We supplied detailed, confidential, medical information to attest to the severity of the situation and the need for us to cancel our plans. This included not only us providing that information but also having the physicians fill out forms also.
We took copies of everything, packaged it all up neatly, and sent it off to the insurance company hopeful it would all go through but wary of stories we had heard of nightmare service, long waits, and denied claims.
We were lucky. About 7 weeks later we received word that our claim had been approved and that a cheque would be issued for the full amount of our loss.
Relief. When you’ve put everything on the line, when you’re spending money that took so long to save, when you have bigger things to worry about, it’s a relief to find that something is on your side, that it worked out, and that your mind can, once again, return to what’s really important.
Saved by Travel Insurance
The key, I think, is to realize that insurance companies aren’t ‘out to get you’ but that they operate in a world with strict rules and that you are required to follow them. They can’t pay out claims without valid, detailed, proof of validity and it’s up to you to provide them with that proof. Whether it is a family illness, a U.S. travel ban to certain countries, or poor weather, travel insurance is there to help.
So, even in times of great distress, it’s important to detail as much as you can so that the process later on will be that much easier. Keep a time-line of events as they occur; just jot what’s happening down in a notebook. File every piece of documentation you come across; you never know what you might need later. Contact your insurance provider as soon as you know something is wrong; they can help direct you to what you need to do right away and what can maybe wait until later.
We continued on with our travels a few months later; happy that we had been able to be with our family and grateful that the funds had been returned to our bank account.
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