Travel insurance worth a hard look  

Posted April 10, 2011, at 7:21 p.m.

I’ll admit, I was surprised. After last week’s column on air travel, several people wrote to say that they have had it with the overbooked, overcrowded, and overhassled system that has taken every ounce of joy out of flying.

Surprised, because the figures I cited on increasing numbers of passengers seemed to indicate the airlines had its passengers right where they wanted them: under their thumb, reliant on the only mode of transport that can get people where they need to go in the time frame our increasingly frenzied world demands.

Surprised, because the tone of some of their writings implied that I was likely to be spotted shuffling down the security line with those millions of air passengers. The writers, meanwhile, would be happily avoiding the once-friendly skies to return to the rhythm of the rails or other earthbound conveyances.

Well, sign me up with those writers as another traveler who has sworn off the lure of the flyways. After several bad experiences involving weather delays, unplanned (and unreimbursed) hotel stays and more herding than anyone should endure in a lifetime, I’ve taken the pledge.

I’ve heard people say they’ll never fly again, then try to beat the baggage weight limit one more time once they’ve found a fare that beats the competition by a nickel or two. Not me.

If I can’t get there some other way, I’m not going.

From a bunch of postings on the Internet, it appears I’m not alone. The phrase “I’ll never fly again” returns just shy of 50,000 cyberentries, a number likely to grow before it shrinks. We documented many reasons for discontent last week; let’s turn to some ways that might take a bit of the sting out of the experience, if there’s no choice but to fly.

We’d urge taking a look at traveler’s insurance. Coverage can help avert some headaches that could ruin any vacation. It might get you where you need to go when your regular transportation is delayed or canceled.

Travel insurance can also cover lost or stolen baggage. Medical coverage could mean you’ll have a choice of hospitals and ambulance service to get you there, if necessary. That can be a major point, especially if you’re traveling outside the U.S.

Your needs may depend on the locations where you’ll be traveling. Talk with friends who have gone before you; their experiences can help you plan for things you might not otherwise consider.

There are many insurance plans out there, so do lots of comparisons before making any decisions. Know exactly what coverage you’re getting. Don’t be embarrassed about asking questions; that’s what the insurance agent is there for.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, go to http://necontact.wordpress.com, or email at contacexdir@live.com.

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