When traveling solo it’s all up to you.
If something goes wrong you’re on your own to find a solution. If it’s resolved easily it will make you feel strong and capable. If not, it could make you question your abilities.
It’s important to plan for success should things go wrong. And travel insurance is an important element of the plan. It’s a great backup if you need it but it’s even better not to need it at all. So, I’ll begin with tips to avoid travel problems in the first place and then delve into how to address them should they arise.
Prevention: How to Minimize Travel Problems Before You Leave
To avoid travel problems while on the road, you have to look at your trip from all angles. Here are a few…
- Avoid problems at home: Leave your keys with a trusted friend, put out the garbage before leaving, unplug devices to conserve power, pay anticipated bills in advance, have someone pop by to water plants or, if your insurance policy requires, to check on your home in general.
- Plan in advance for security when using public WiFi on the road: Sign up for a VPN service before leaving so that you can access important sites securely. Using a VPN will allow you to securely manage your banking online. I use StrongVPN. You can get a month’s service for about $10 or an annual plan for about $55. Read Travel Technology: Increase your security and reduce costs.
- Backup important documents in the cloud: Carry your passport, travel insurance and other documents in a safe place – a money belt or pouch is a good idea. But you also need to have backups of your documents in case you need them. Our tech columnist shares how to have access to your documents while maintaining your privacy here.
- Ensure you have access to money: Inform your credit card company when and where you will be traveling. Carry more than one kind of credit card with you in case your preferred card is not accepted. Use ATMs to get money but don’t take out large sums. Keep emergency backup funds in a separate place. It’s always a good idea to have some American money on you. Keep it in a couple of places.
- Address health issues before leaving: Check with your doctor to determine whether you need special shots for your destination. Book an appointment with a travel clinic if you do. Make sure that you have enough of any medication that you take regularly and travel with it in the bottle labeled by the pharmacy where you bought it.
- Pack wisely: Whether you only take a carry-on or you travel with more, it’s a good idea to put your ownership information inside your bag. Check the airlines policies regarding carry-on luggage and make sure that you meet their restrictions in terms of size and weight. If you’re over on weight try wearing the heavier items and packing the lighter ones.
- Carry and back up all travel arrangements: With so much travel planning done online, you’re responsible for managing your tickets and flight information. At the beginning of planning a trip I start a new folder in my travel folder on my computer. I store all flights, bookings, etc., in that folder. Before leaving print out all documents and back up the folder in the cloud so that you have access to it even if you lose your hard copies.
- Buy travel insurance: I have a premium credit card but I still never travel without buying specific travel insurance. I buy multi-trip insurance which covers me for an entire year of travel. You’ll need to decide on what’s best for you – insurance for one trip or multiple trips. Also, if you’re planning a long trip, watch carefully for the duration of trips allowed. Note: you must buy insurance before leaving on a trip.
During Your Trip: What to Do When Things Go Wrong
Unfortunately, there are some travel problems, medical and non-medical, that you can’t plan for. In these cases, travel insurance comes to the rescue.
- If you need to delay, cancel or shorten your trip: You may not be able to travel due to an illness, job loss or an immediate family member’s medical emergency. You may need to return home earlier than planned for similar reasons. In cases like these, travel insurance can protect your travel investment. But call your insurance provider before changing your plans.
- If you have a medical emergency: When selecting your medical insurance, make sure that it includes upfront payment for claims and adequate emergency medical coverage. When an emergency happens, call the emergency contact number as soon as possible. You will reach multilingual representatives who are experienced in coordinating emergency care for travelers. They know your coverage and will coordinate your care with the hospital nearest to you. If the emergency prevents you from calling, call when you can or have someone else call on your behalf. This will protect your from receiving treatment that is not covered by your policy.
- If your luggage is lost: You are more likely to be one of the 18%* of Canadians to lose their luggage if you are taking many flights with connectors or using small carriers with planes that cannot manage the standard carry-on. Unfortunately, many airlines will not reimburse you for lost luggage. Make sure your travel insurance covers lost luggage and contact your travel insurance provider should this problem arise.
To learn more about travel insurance and find out what type is best for you, check-out the AMEX Travel Insurance website.
This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.
*Source: National survey conducted by a third party on behalf of American Express Canada in July 2013. Sample size included 1006 respondents from across Canada.