Friday, July 6, 2012

Julia confronts her Everest... travel insurance

Do we all remember this trip?  The one that went horribly wrong?  Yeah, insurance...


We know that I am a travel insurance novice.  Frankly, I'm usually pretty careless when it comes to insuring my travel, and I am usually away for long enough that things like flight delays don't deter me from traveling.  But I'll be going to Bermuda in September, right in hurricane season (brilliant, Julia, brilliant), and since it will only be for a few nights, I decided it was worth it to buy insurance -- if something went wrong, the whole weekend would be screwed up!

My initial thought was to go to my credit card company.  I am a Delta Skymiles member, and so I got the American Express credit card that links to my Delta membership.  I thought it would be easier if I just got my insurance through AmEx, since I booked my entire trip on that card, and I might have an easier time getting miles reimbursed (I booked an award ticket) if I used that card.

But no luck -- they would only insure if the airport were completely shut down for a full twenty-four hours.  I thought that sounded pretty bogus, considering how little time I'll be away (3 nights), and that a 23-hour shutdown would ruin the weekend, and so I decided to comparison-shop.

Maybe AAA would give me a better deal?  I am a member with them too, so when I renewed my driver's license recently I picked up a brochure on their insurance options -- and BOOM!  12-hour coverage instead of 24!

Lovely!  Except that their office wasn't open outside of normal business hours, which sucks when you work full-time and don't want to make personal calls at your desk.

But I finally found some time, after a few weeks, only to be told that AAA can't insure me if my trip was not purchased through them (they of the Disney Cruise... no thanks, sorry).  But they gave my the number for Allianz, who could insure me.

Fine, I called Allianz.  But the woman had no 12-hour coverage option on file, and I didn't have the brochure with me to prove that one had been advertised (I was pacing the parking lot at work, people).  So I was annoyed, and also felt bad for the very sweet salesperson, who I think might have been working on some commission.

(Aside: Yes, she was sweet and tried to be helpful.  But it is REALLY annoying to have something as specific and complicated a travel insurance quoted to you in a flat monotone, like a truck slowly but determinedly going to its destination.  When you get monologued at by salespeople, at a constant drone, it's REALLY hard to understand all the nuances of the thing you're buying!)

So I decided to try again from home when I was next around during their business hours (...).  I had the brochure, with the number on the back so I could cite the exact pamphlet to the salesperson.  I did, only to be told that the brochure I had was out of date (by about a year), and they no longer had 12-hour shutdown coverage.

WHY, AAA, WHY DO YOU GIVE OUT YEAR-OLD PAMPHLETS?

So I got internet-y (I'm good at that).  Insure My Trip is a really helpful website (now added to my resources page!), and it let me figure out if there was anything I was missing by doing a side-by-side comparison of a bunch of plans.

Turns out, no one seems to do a 12-hour airport shutdown policy, at least not in any price range I am willing to consider for this trip (fingers crossed for no hurricanes...).  So I went back to American Express.

And you know what?  I'm not ashamed -- I love American Express.  It is this sort-of backpacker's proud concession to bougie-ness.  Because every time I call them -- EVERY FRICKIN' TIME -- they are helpful and sunny and they know their stuff.  I might have told my salesperson that I adore AmEx.  I might have.

And what surprised me the most was that they actually had the best prices, by far.  Where other companies were charging between $67-94 per person for coverage (trip cancellation, trip interruption, and frequent flyer miles), AmEx charged $135 TOTAL.

So I am not an expert on insurance yet, but I wanted to share my little foray into this part of travel.

And as always, I would love y'all's advice, stories, etc. about insuring your trips -- it's a huge part of travel, and one I need to learn more about!

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