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Entries during 2016-10

Is Travel Insurance Worth It?

Q. With my domestic flights, I usually add on travel insurance since it is often inexpensive. In the coming year, I have two foreign trips planned. When I have priced travel insurance to these locations, I find the price to be very expensive but I recognize that these will cover cancellations, as well as, medical coverage. Since we are healthy travelers, I am not sure that it is worth the major expense. Any recommendations? Is there a way to compare travel insurance prices?

A. It really depends on how expensive your trip is and what the risk is. If you can afford to forfeit the value of your trip without financial hardship, then perhaps insurance isn’t necessary. Do consider emergency evacuation (Medevac) coverage however, since most people cannot afford the cost of a medical flight from abroad back to the US. Try insuremytrip.com to compare travel insurance prices.

Best Time for Death Valley

Q. We are planning a trip to Death Valley National Park. When is the optimal time of year to visit and what’s the nearest airport?

A. If you’d like to avoid the extreme heat that this area of the country is famous for, experts (i.e., park rangers I spoke to) suggest visiting between mid October and mid March. You’ll also avoid the rainy season that way, and in mid March you might also be treated to a profusion of wild flowers. Although it’s located in California, I’d suggest flying into Las Vegas for the cheapest airfares. It’s about 130 miles from the park’s entrance.

Baggage Compensation and Depreciated Values

Q. At the end of last June, I flew with Norwegian from Boston to Berlin. My outbound flight was absolutely great and without issue. I scaled down my luggage to just a backpack and a small carry-on, which I easily stored on board during my flight from Boston to Oslo, and onward from Oslo to Berlin. On my return flight home, I arrived at the airport super early, and was told by the check-in agent that my carry-on was too large and must be checked. This came as a shock to me, as I had only just purchased the bag based on the fact that it was standard carry-on size. As I pleaded my case, the agent informed me that not only was my bag too big, but there was suddenly no room for it on the plane. This seemed odd to me as I had arrived so early and was one of the first to check in for the flight.

Ultimately, my bag never made it to Boston. While the Norwegian staff in Boston were very helpful in filing a report, my bag has yet to be found and I'm wondering what my options are in terms of compensation for my lost items which I estimate to be around $1,025.

A. Sorry to hear about your bag! Every traveler is bound to suffer a lost bag at least once, probably more than once, no matter who we fly or where we go. As far as compensation goes, airlines will typically depreciate the contents value, unless the passenger can provide proof that the missing items were very recent purchases. Of course, these rules tend to be more favorable for passengers traveling international rather than domestic. And according to international regulations, liability is limited to 1131 SDR (Special Drawing Rights).

We reached out to Norwegian who, as mentioned above, depreciates the claimed value by 30% unless there is documentation showing that the contents are less than a year old, in which case they cover the amount claimed. Given the misunderstanding surrounding your baggage size, Norwegian has offered to compensate the full $1,025 listed in your claim.

Cruise Cancelled, No Insurance

Q. My husband and I were booked to go on a cruise earlier this month, which we had to cancel due to my husband having an accident four days before we were meant to depart. His doctors would not clear him to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle, and then onward to Vancouver for a cruise.

Unfortunately, we did not have travel insurance. Upon speaking to our rep with Holland cruises, she said there is no refund and no rescheduling allowed 30 days or less from departure. To add insult to injury (literally!) they would not refund the hotels we had booked for our stay in Seattle. Nothing apart from the taxes and port fees has been refunded.

Other than sucking it up, do we have any recourse? We have asked our Holland rep to put us in contact with their corporate department who deals with concerns/complaints. We have medical verification for the injury. Can we do anything else? I know most hotels will allow a 24 hour cancellation without charge. We gave Holland four days notice. Surely, they will be getting a refund from the hotels, and possibly other excursions/bookings, but we are not.

 A. There still may be hope if you charged the cruise to one of the many credit cards that offer free, built-in cancellation coverage for scenarios just like yours. Many people don't read the fine print, but a number of credit card issuers actually provide a wide range of travel insurance whenever you use their cards to buy a trip. More about that here.

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