Tuesday, October 28, 2014

6 things to do after missing a flight.

STEP 1 of 6: Get to the Airport as quick as possible. 
A missed flight can occur amid the best-laid plans.
Sometimes a serious traffic accident all but closes down your route to the airport. You might have mechanical trouble or a flat tire. There are circumstances that will preclude an on-time arrival at the airport for your flight.
If you're like most budget travelers, you've purchased a non-refundable ticket as part of a low-cost air travel strategy. It's likely your reservation for the return flight will be canceled because you failed to board the outbound flight.
Take a deep breath.
There are ways to navigate this unpleasant situation and minimize the damage to your travel budget. The first thing to do is proceed to the airport, even when it is clear you will not make it to the gate in time for boarding.
To turn around and go home out of desperation will not help your cause. Remember that there are likely to be other flights leaving that day for the same destination. You want to be on one of them.
With some airlines, there is a chance you can board one of those flights without paying an additional change fee. Click "next" and find out how that could be possible.

STEP 2 of 6: Ask about the "Flat Tire Rule".   
There is an unpublicized policy to help customers who miss their flights because of circumstances beyond control. If you can benefit from this policy, the missed flight that caused so much stress could wind up costing you nothing.
The slang term within the airline industry for this policy is the flat tire rule. The idea is that if you experience some mishap that prevents you from arriving at the gate on-time, the airline will re-issue a standby boarding pass for the next flight to your destination at no charge. It doesn't apply to someone who shows up the next day -- and generally becomes unavailable about two hours after the original departure time. Note that some will refer to it as the "two hour rule."
That's why it's important to proceed to the airport, even when you know the plane will be leaving without you.
This is not a courtesy that is associated with low-cost carriers. Remember, their business model charges for anything beyond basic transportation. Missed flights on budget carriers frequently carry a penalty.
This is a nebulous policy, and some airlines won't even talk about it. After all, they want you to buy refundable tickets at much higher prices.
But airlines concerned about customer service frequently try to accommodate domestic passengers caught in these circumstances. Just remember: it's usually a discretionary policy, which means the decision to help you often depends upon the gate representative's decision and the availability of seating on the next flights.

 Step 3 of 6: Plan on paying the change fee.

If the airline won't waive the change fee, you could be paying $150-$200 per ticket on many airlines for a standby reservation on the next flight. The good news is you'll only pay the change fee one time. If you can't get on the next standby flight, you'll be on the list for flight opportunities that follow.
There will be circumstances when it's tempting to find a last-minute one-way ticket to your destination that comes in at less than the cost of the change fee. It's not easy to do, but it happens.
Resist the temptation and pay the change fee.
The airline will cancel your return flight reservation if you don't check in with them and deal with the circumstances. Unless you can find a round-trip fare at the last minute that is lower (not likely), you'll often lose money by not paying the change fee.  

 Step 4 of 6: Recognize the consequences of Missing an International Flight. 

 Don't expect to invoke the "flat tire rule" on missed international flights. Those very expensive seats generally fall under a different set of rules.
Remember that the reward granted through this rule results in a standby reservation on the next available flight. But many airlines will not allow standbys on international flights. So you could be booking a new seat reservation at the current price, which is likely to be far higher than the original fare you booked weeks earlier.
When you factor in flight conditions, airport traffic and airline policy, there are obviously many results that become the product of those variables. But generally speaking, missing an international flight will exact a bigger penalty.
 That's why it is wise to allow a lot more time for international departures and to pick up some travel insurance that covers such situations.
Step 5 of 6: Document everything.
No matter what situation you encounter with the airlines, it always makes sense to document everything that happens at the ticket counter. Get hard copies of everything, including the airline policies the agent applied to your situation.
Should you later decide to file a travel complaint, this paperwork will prove extremely useful. If you file a travel insurance claim, lacking this documentation could prevent collecting money to which you are entitled.
Step 6 of 6: Be calm and polite. 
After missing a flight, you are likely to be stressed and irritated. If a situation not of your making results in added travel costs, clearly you will not be happy.
But it's important to control such emotions when it's time to encounter gate personnel who can help you out of this bad situation.
Although they're quite accustomed to dealing with unhappy passengers, they're also human. They'll react better to people who are asking rather than demanding. Experienced travelers will tell you that politeness is far more effective than bluster in these situations.

Citing Source: About.com


Friday, October 24, 2014

Traveller's Diarrhea: A Real Story

When I look back on my trip to Tonsai, Thailand, I smile remembering the good times, then I feel a funny twinge in my stomach. It was a trip of a lifetime, despite a 24 hour bout of the infamous ‘Tonsai Tummy’ aka travellers’ diarrhea. Let’s just say that my intestines took a beating, making for one hilarious “type two” fun (the kind of story that’s horrendous at the time, but funny to recount later). Go ahead and laugh (or cringe) at my travel food poisoning, and try these tips!
travel food poisoning
Climbers and tourists lounging on Tonsai Beach
The Thai peninsula, Railay Beach, is world famous for beach lovers and rock climbers alike, but boy oh boy does it have infrastructure and sanitation issues! When I was there, it didn’t matter if you stayed in a 5 star resort with pool, or the dingy bungalow on the hill. No matter where or what you ate, or how clean you tried to stay, almost everyone fell victim to the rumbling, explosive, raging belly-demon, that infamous, nomadic, unwanted guest known as travellers’ diarrhea. It’s a funny travel story now, but there’s nothing quite like tag-teaming it in the bathroom with your bungalow roommate. Talk about getting to know someone—fast!
I was pretty lucky: Tonsai Tummy only hit me for 12 hours, and less severely than my roommate, who had to make a run for the bathroom mid meal! I had taken Dukoral, which might have helped. In a nutshell, I spent most of an evening and an entire night moaning in bed with aches and chills, running to the bathroom, and forcing myself to consume liquids to prevent dehydration. The next day, I was weak, but pretty much back to normal. Needless to say, I was glad it didn’t hit me while I was on a climb, like some of the others I met on that trip!
Every night for the rest of my stay, the raucous night calls of the jungle were punctuated with the sounds of my neighbours’ distress. From every bungalow on the hill below us, you could hear the belly-demon’s revenge!
travel diarrhea
Thai bungalows on the hill: the jungles truly ‘comes alive’ at night!
Travellers’ diarrhea isn’t limited to Southeast Asia, of course. You can get it anywhere. Gastrointestinal illnesses are common on cruises, for example, where close quarters make it easy to spread germs, despite the cleanest of crews.
I remember the ghoulish hue of a woman on the last day of our Mexican cruise as she emerged from her stateroom for the first time.  The poor thing was determined to have a good time, despite spending the first four days in the bathroom! If you’re curious about your cruise liner, you can always read up on the types of tummy trouble specific ships have encountered, like the norovirus, on the CDC’s website.
Here are my tips to combat travel food poisoning and travel diarrhea. (I’m no doctor, but these have helped me on my trips!)
  • Bring along active charcoal, and take it if you start feeling the ‘gurgle’.
  • Eat lots of yogurt, and bring probiotic pills (especially useful if you have to take the charcoal!)
  • Antacids are good. Pepto Bismol seems to be popular with some (but doesn’t work for me).
  • Buy bottled water, and if you are in a remote area, boil or treat it too.
  • Those street kiosks with smoothies and shakes look appealing, but question the ice’s cleanliness. My technique: watch if others reacted to a beverage before trying a drink myself wasn’t necessarily fool proof!
  • You might want to take Dukoral. It can lower your chance of travellers’ diarrhea by 25%. It’s not covered by provincial or travel insurance, but it might be worth it if you tend to have a sensitive system, or if your children do. You usually have to pay a fee for a doctor’s consultation (travel clinics are usually not covered in your provincial health plan).
Most of all, remember that if you’re covered by good travel medical insurance, your visit to the doctor and medications will be covered. It would be a shame not to eat adventurously on your next trip!

*Above is a story from website of Travel Underwriters.
 Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Eat adventurously and win a trip!

Do you have an experience of fantastic local dishes at your travel destination?  Do you have a photo of them?
Share a photo of a local delicacy from your travels abroad.  Travel Underwriters is hosting a contest of travel photos. Win weekly prizes or $1,500 towards your next trip!
Whether it’s balut from the Philippines, haggis from Scotland, or cuy from Peru, #EatAdventurously knowing you’re protected with travel insurance.

Contest runs from October 14-November 13, 2014.
Contest is open to all Canadian residents excluding Quebec.

Enter now!

Tilapia at Ada Foah
Grilled tilapia with kenkey at Ada Foah, Ghana

Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.

Travel Insurance Dental Coverage for Canadians

Gobble, gobble, chomp, ouch!
Hopefully, that’s not how your Thanksgiving plays out this weekend… but if it does, and you’re out of the country for an extended long weekend (or more), here’s what you should know about travel dental insurance.

Most travel medical insurance plans should cover:

1)    Biting down on something and chipping or breaking teeth

While not all plans are created equal, you should expect your provider to cover up to $500 for emergency dental expenses you incur while abroad.
travel dental insurance

2)    Experiencing tooth pain

Again, it will differ plan to plan, but you should also expect coverage if you experience tooth pain, and need to get checked out by a dentist abroad. Your travel insurance provider should cover up to $500 for emergency dental pain.

3)    Emergency dental coverage due to an accidental blow to the face

Hopefully, this won’t ever happen! But if this type of extreme situation does, your travel insurance provider should cover up to $4,000 for the repair or replacement of your natural teeth (or permanently attached artificial teeth) performed by a licensed dentist or dental surgeon, as well as prescription drugs and x-rays.
If you have an emergency medical travel policy, you should expect your coverage to include an emergency dental services benefit. But as always, be sure to check with your broker to know what you’re covered for.

Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.

How to Swap Your Awful Airplane Seat

Most of us have probably felt the overwhelming desire to swap airplane seats with someone else.
Some love the freedom and ease of an aisle seat, and others want to catch all the action from a window seat. Then there’s the dreaded middle seat—you’ll find very few people wanting that one.
AirrTrade, a new travel app, lets passengers swap or buy different seats. Are you an aisle person desperately seeking a window seat? Want an exit row seat but don’t want to pay the extra $50? You may be able to get away with using AirrTrade and paying a fraction of the price.

AirrTrade is independent of the airlines, which means the seat swapping/buying is entirely between you and the seller/swapper. Boarding passes won’t change, so you’re free to swap seats once you’re past security and on board the plane. If a new seat isn’t going to do the trick, read our top tips on staying comfortable on longer flights.

AirrTrade is currently available by invite only. Read the original blog post by Airfare Watchdog for more details.

Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.

Travelling with Food Allergies

Communication is key when travelling with food allergies. Communicating your questions, needs, and wants to others is especially essential when you need to tell them something really important, even life-threatening.
It is difficult enough to decipher a menu in German or Japanese when you don’t have to worry about being allergic to any of the food items on offer. But if you have a gluten, marlin, dairy, or nut allergy, it’s a whole other world of uncertainty that can transform your lovely holiday into a nightmare, in just one breakfast, lunch or dinner.
If you’re travelling with food allergies, it pays to plan ahead to prevent such problems from ever taking place, and to give yourself some precious peace of mind.

What to do when travelling with food allergies:

1)     If you or a family member has a food-related, life-threatening allergy, ensure that you have packed a new, labelled EpiPen®. Include it in your carry-on luggage or purse, along with some Benadryl® to counter any lower-level allergic reactions. Any specific allergy medications and equipment, like an inhaler, should always be part of your standard travel first aid kit, including pain medications, Band-Aids, and anti-bacterial cream.
nut allergy travel insurance
2)     Ensure that you have travel insurance for allergy sufferers. Make sure you’re covered for various allergies, be it a dairy or nut allergy; travel insurance will come in handy. Look for a travel medical insurance plan for Canadians that includes medical assistance and hospitalization for the country that you are visiting. A comprehensive plan should have a worldwide multi-lingual 24/7 emergency contact number and/or translation services for healthcare providers at your destination. Read on to see what other benefits your travel medical insurance plan should have.
3)     Prior to departure, write up and translate key phrases in the languages of your destination, that you can use in the event of an emergency (using Google Translate or a friend’s help). These phrases should be in plain language that identifies the issue of concern, such as “I have a nut allergy” or “Does this contain milk (or) gluten (or) nuts?”
It’s great to have these on your phone or iPad® as well, but a hard copy (you could even laminate it) is important as well. Phone batteries die often at the worst possible times.
We’ve included some examples below in various languages.
I’m allergic to peanuts / milk / gluten. Does this contain peanuts / milk / gluten? (French, Spanish, German, Mandarin)


Je suis allergique aux arachides / au lait / au gluten. Est-ce que ça contient des arachides / du lait / du gluten?


Soy alérgico al mani /a la leche / al gluten. ¿Esto contiene maní / leche / gluten?


Ich bin allergisch gegen Erdnüsse / Milch / Gluten. Bedeutet dies enthalten Erdnüsse / Milch / Gluten?


Wǒ duì huāshēng, niúnǎi hé miànjīn guòmǐn. Zhège bāohán rènhé huāshēng, niúnǎi huò miànjīn zài lǐmiàn ma?
You can practice saying these phrases as well, but given the nuance of language, having the security of the written phrase will help ensure that nothing is lost, in translation.

Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.

Travel Insurance for Cruise Holidays

More and more Canadians are booking cruises. If you’re lucky enough to be setting sail this winter, make sure to get cruise travel insurance first. While emergency medical insurance policies may cover medical emergencies, trip cancellation/interruption insurance may meet your other needs.
Cruise travel insurance over 65 Below, we answer your frequently asked questions about cruise travel insurance.

“Is cruise travel insurance for over 65 available?”

Many cruisers are over the age of 65 and have this concern. A comprehensive emergency medical travel insurance plan should cover you all the way up to age 89 and sometimes beyond. Just make sure you’re not travelling against a doctor’s advice and you haven’t been diagnosed with a terminal condition.

“What if I get seriously sick in the middle of the ocean?”

Cruising is mostly a safe way to travel, but getting sick or injured on a cruise is a common concern. Comprehensive emergency medical travel insurance for cruise holidays won’t leave you stranded. In fact, if needed, your insurance provider should arrange for you to be air evacuated to a proper medical facility. Travelling with a friend? If you’re returned to your original departure point, your insurance company should arrange to fly him or her home too!
Still not ready to throw in the towel?  You might not have to! If you want to continue your trip after returning home for treatment, you could be covered for a one-way return airfare to continue as originally booked.

“What if I miss my flight and miss getting on board the ship?”

Many cruises start off in the US. This means you may have to fly to your departure port. That’s why trip cancellation/interruption insurance is crucial. It will cover the cost of your flight. It could also reimburse a one way economy airfare or transportation costs to catch up with a tour, or a one way airfare to your next destination.
Have more questions about cruise travel insurance? Ask us!

Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.

China Visa Application Guide for Canadians

From the Great Wall to the Terracotta Army, China is truly an amazing and mysterious place.  In 2008, China hosted the summer Olympics in Beijing where they announced to the world that they were open for business. 
The world responded with a record number of visitors heading over to China, but oddly enough, the biggest obstacle for tourists wasn’t communism, safety, or pollution; it was the China visa application.  Getting a visa for China is notoriously difficult and the requirements listed on the China Visa Application Center website seem to be open for interpretation. This guide will help you go through the application process with a lot less stress.
trip cancellation insurance visa

Where to get a visa for China

Canadians can’t get visas at consulates anymore. They must be obtained at one of the Chinese Visa Service Application Centres located in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.  If you can’t go in person, your application can be sent via post.
Addresses can be found here:
China Visa Centre, Toronto
China Visa Centre, Vancouver
China Visa Centre, Calgary
China Visa Centre, Ottawa
China Visa Centre, Montreal
There are companies online that you can pay to process your visa for you, but they’re literally just mailing your documents to the application centres–you might as well do it yourself.

China visa cost

This is the complete fee chart for China visa applications.

China visa Toronto

Basic documents required for a China visa application

1) A valid passport with at least 2 blank pages and at least six months of validity from the expiry date of your visa.
2) A completed China visa application form.  This can be filled out online and then printed; handwritten forms are not accepted.
3) One recent colour passport photo measuring 48mm x 33mm – This is not a standard Canadian passport size photo, so be sure the measurements are correct when having the photo cut.
4) Proof of legal status – This mainly applies to non-residents; they are looking for documents to prove you are legally allowed to be in Canada.  I should note that if you’re applying for a visa to China from Canada with a passport that is not Canadian, there’s a good chance they’ll flag you.
If you have dual citizenship, but haven’t applied for your Canadian passport yet, it’s probably a good idea to get it before applying for your visa.
5) Original copy of previous Chinese passport – This only applies to people who used to reside in Hong Kong or China, and entered Canada using this document. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in Canada or if you’re now a landed immigrant or citizen; China still requires you to show this documentation. There are some exceptions, but they are made on a case-by-case basis. If you’re a former resident, it’s best to bring any documentation you still have.
China visa Toronto
Yu Garden, Shanghai
Last year, when I applied for visas for my parents along with my own, the China visa centre in Toronto wanted to see all of my parent’s original documentation from when they entered Canada.  My parents came to Canada almost 40 years ago, and have been Canadian citizens for more than 30 years, yet the application centre still insisted on seeing the original documents.  Fortunately, they kept everything so it wasn’t a problem, but you can see why this frustrates many.
If you’re a former resident of China or Hong Kong, I advise you to bring all and any supporting materials that you may have e.g., birth certificates, citizenship cards, marriage certificates/affidavit (if you changed your name since entering Canada).  Having these documents handy will definitely help with your application.
Oddly enough, as a born Canadian, I had no real problems with my China visa application.

Supporting Documents Required for a China visa

1) Booked airlines tickets showing your entry and departure dates.
2) Booked accommodations for the duration of your stay in China.
3) An invitation letter from a relevant individual—if you’re staying at a hotel you don’t need this.
You are not reading this wrong, China requires you to have EVERYTHING booked and confirmed before they will issue you a visa.  China is very strict about this and they require the names of all travellers to be on the reservation regardless of what accommodations you book.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a family; they expect to see every name on the reservation.
The invitation letter is required if you’re staying with friends or family.  It’s basically a letter saying that you’re invited (again all names need to be on this letter), the purpose of your trip, the address of where you’ll be staying and a photocopy of the inviter’s identification.

Visa trip cancellation insurance

If your visa doesn’t get approved, what should you do with the airfare? It’s actually pretty easy to protect yourself; if you’re applying for a tourist or student visa, just purchase trip cancellation insurance prior to applying for your visa. You will be fully covered assuming you are not denied a visa due to something within your control e.g. not submitting your visa application on time. Also note that if you booked with Air Canada, the ticket is fully refundable if the visa was denied.
Coverage for non-issuance of travel visas is pretty common among trip cancellation policies but if you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage consider Travel Underwriters’ Freedom Policy.  Regardless of which plan you decide to go with, always read the fine print before making your purchase.

What are some China visa exemptions?

Surprisingly enough there are a few situations where visas are not required for entering China.
China has adopted a visa-free policy of 72 hours for those who are flying directly to any of the following cities: Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Xian.  Additional Chinese cities plan on implementing this policy and certain restrictions do apply, so be sure to check online for updates.  You technically still need a 72-hour visa but this is obtained in the airport for free with proof of your outbound flight.
Hong Kong and Macau are both Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China but neither require a visa to enter.
If your flight is stopping over in China and you’re in the airport for less than 24 hours then no visa is required.

Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.

Valuable information for Canadian students overseas

Did you know that students are rarely eligible for local health plans when studying outside of Canada? With that in mind, it’s really important to get coverage before you go, if you’re heading abroad to study.
Student travel medical insurance is generally applicable to students aged 40 and under, since they typically need more non-emergency medical care, like eye exams, annual check-ups, and even maternity care. Students abroad may need more follow up visits too, after an emergency as they remain in school, instead of returning home for treatment.

For example, Travel Underwriters’ Student Medical Insurance offers emergency coverage for doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist visits. Dental issues can also be unexpected and expensive! Luckily, dental coverage is available for accidents, dental pain and impacted wisdom teeth.

Student Medical Insurance – Benefits Specific to Travel Underwriters

  • Tutorial services, in the event of hospitalization for 30 consecutive days or more.
  • When you’re enrolled in school and have valid insurance, you’re covered during school breaks.
  • You can head home to Canada for temporary visits and your insurance won’t terminate. However, while you’re back in Canada, you won’t be covered if something happens. Provincial health coverage should cover you while you’re home.
  • We’ll cover you if you’re on vacation anywhere other than Canada.
  • Family members can be covered under your Student Medical Insurance too, as long as you’re enrolled in school! To be eligible, they must be:
    • 40 years and under
    • Your spouse or immediate family
    • Dependent children who live with you. A dependent child is up to 21 years old, 25 years old if a full time student, or a physically or mentally handicapped child of any age.
 student travel insurance

What Happens if Your Student Visa Gets Denied

With Travel Underwriters’ Student Medical Insurance, a full refund of your travel insurance is available if your student visa is denied, or if you arrive to the country of study but you are denied entry. All you have to do is submit your refund requests to us within 45 days from the effective date.

Not Covered by Travel Underwriters’ Student Medical Insurance

Student Medical Insurance comes in handy, but you also need to know what’s not covered. Here are a few exclusions to note, but be sure to check the policy wording:
  • Pre-existing conditions (current health conditions) unless conditions have been stable for 90 days before the effective date.
  • Claims caused by your consumption or abuse of alcohol, drugs or medication, or any event, act or omission caused by the use of the above.
  • If you’re a professional athlete, and something happens to you while you’re playing the sport.
  • If you engage in high risk activities such as motorized sporting events, racing or speed contests, you won’t be covered if something happens to you.
Regardless of the coverage you decide to buy before your adventures abroad, speak to an insurance expert and review your policy wording; pay attention to the exclusions, limitations, and conditions specified in your policy.
I hope this information gives you a better understanding of student travel insurance. I’ve used our Student Medical Insurance as an example, since we can’t speak to other policies on the market, but the information provided should help you know what to look for in a good student travel insurance policy.
Interested in doing some travelling when school’s out? Here’s our budget travel tips for students.

Copyright © 2014 Travel Underwriters, All rights reserved.