Why I never leave home without travel insurance!


“Hey do you mind if I join the tour?”            March 2014: Israel

We all look forward to our vacations and once the trip is booked we have no intentions to cancel or reschedule.   Of course life is unpredictable at times and we never know what tomorrow will bring for us.  Take for example this baby camel who was seriously considering joining our tour group until the bus driver closed the doors.





Morocco Medical Evacuation

Many years ago while traveling in Morocco one of my travel companions had an accident.  On the second day of a week long trip, we were traveling by train which required a transfer part way through a long journey.  The station where we stopped at was extremely rustic with station platform made of mere dirt and gravel.  In the process of exiting the overcrowded train a local gentlemen grabbed our luggage which raised concern for all of us.  My friend was so focused on watching the man with the luggage and that she lost her footing coming off the train.  The pain was instantaneous but we managed to get onto the transferring train.

After arriving to our final destination we stopped a local clinic where no one spoke English and my limited French was not enough.  The progress at the local clinic was not going well so we asked our local guide to bring us to an English speaking doctor that we found in our travel book (thank you Lonely Planet).

Bottom line the diagnosis was not good as she had pulled ligaments on one side of the ankle and a strained ligaments on the other side.  Given our itinerary was primarily walking and hiking this was not going to a very enjoyable trip for her.  She was able to work with the travel insurance company for immediate evacuation back to England.  The last minute return flights were all arranged and paid for by the travel insurance company.  While my friend was very sad to miss the remainder of the journey; the thought of seeing her own doctor and sleeping in her own bed never sounded so good.

Turkish Delight

Almost 10 years ago I myself had an accident that involved “bouncing” down several marble stairs in Turkey.  While the pain was incredible and bruising occurred within hours I was extremely lucky the injuries were limited to muscular.  I was at the beginning of a week long trip that involved a stop in London, trip to Turkey and then back to London for a wedding and concert before returning back to Chicago.  I managed through the trip thankfully with lots of support from my lovely British friends taking shifts as my nurse.  In this instance my expenses while in Turkey to the doctor and prescriptions were all covered by my primary medical insurance through a reimbursement.  While travel insurance was not utilized for this situation I was relieved to know I had options.

Trip Cancellation/Rebooking

Every January or February I schedule a “flip flop trip”; which is basically an opportunity to get out of the below freezing temperatures in Chicago and yes you guessed it…wear flip flops.  This past January I had my annual “flip flop trip” was departing in 2 days when a family member passed away.  Sadly the airline industry is not very helpful in these circumstances; unless of course you happen to be flying Southwest who has a very generous customer service policy.  Anyway I digress, I ended up canceling the original tickets for myself and my travel companion.  I booked new tickets utilizing frequent flier miles which had last minute bookings fees over $200 each.  I was able to get reimbursed by my travel insurance company for the last minute rebooking fees.  The trip may have been delayed but the flip flops and I still got our day in the sun.

Things to consider. . .

Everyone will have different travel insurance needs but it will protect your investment in your trip.  I travel several times a year internationally and domestically therefore I choose an annual policy that covers all my trips.

So there are a few things I consider when looking for travel insurance depending on my travel plans for the coming year:

  • Does the coverage include medical evacuation & repatriation?
  • What is the maximum trip length covered?
  • Do they offer 24 hour telephone assistance?
  • Do they limit maximum number of trips covered per year?
  • Do I need to consider trip cancellation coverage?  What has been pre-paid for the trip that is non-refundable?
  •  Does it cover trip cancellation or interruption due to terrorism?

I have purchased annual policies for several years on Squaremouth.com website.  You can purchase annual policy or single trip policy all depending on your needs.  Once you have your travel insurance be sure to make a printed copy and take it with you on your trip!  Pack your bags and get ready for some fun.

Seek your adventure now!

How do you select a hotel?

I always find that selecting the hotel is the hardest decision for any trip.  It comes along with so many additional questions that need to be answered.  I am not married to any hotel chain loyalty program so the field is wide open.  Finding a hotel is like buying a house; although the commitment for hotel may only be one night the same rules apply…location, location and location!

For me it is a game of 20 questions or more:

  • How big is the city?
  • Where do I plan to spend most of my time?
  • How long will I be there?
  • What are my local transport options?
  • What neighborhood do I want to stay in?
  • Are there any restaurants and/or evening entertainment options within walking distance?
  • Will I be driving? Is there a fee for parking?
  • What are my hotel amenity needs?
  • Do I plan on spending any time in my hotel room other than sleeping and showering?
  • Is there any outdoor space?
  • Do I want a pool?
  • What time is check in / check out?
  • Do I need luggage storage before check in or after check out?
  • Do I need to be concerned about security?
  • Does it include breakfast? Bonus points!
  • Are there additional taxes or resort fees not included in price shown online?
  • Is there free wifi?
  • Is it possible to book non-smoking room?
  • Is there an elevator to carry luggage?
  • Is there air conditioning?


So with all of these questions I start the process by getting a basic understanding of major sights and neighborhoods to get a lay of the land.

Google Maps is an amazing way to get an overview of where things are located and I love the street view!

Lonely Planet will help you identify the top attractions you want to visit in that city.

Google the city or country you are traveling for tour itineraries.  For example: “Mendoza tours” will give you a quick list of top tourism sights to consider.

Wikitravel will give an overview of the city districts and suburbs; following links to each district will have tourism sights.

Tripadvisor.com is an excellent source of independent traveller reviews.  However I always take their reviews with a grain of salt as I don’t know what their baseline travel experience and expectations might be.  It is like asking a waiter if a particular dish is spicy; it is all relative.  I generally focus on a blend of the comments but love looking at the traveller photos that were posted.

When it comes to actually looking for availability and prices I personally like Expedia as it allows so many different sort and filter options. It always has a map view with $ so you can easily see the most inexpensive and most expensive areas.  I avoid the pre-paid option unless there is a difference in price.  Similar to my strategy with booking flights I try to book directly with hotels if possible.   However Expedia is my second choice as it has great prices and you can earn points the help you get better rates in the future!

There are a few alternatives to staying in a hotel that I would recommend that you explore.   Be prepared with specific questions if you are in need of any specific amenities.  I do find that with these options I might need to be specific about your arrival time in order to be greeted and receive the keys.  However in many instances the additional planning is well rewarded with local advice!

Airbnb is independent people renting their home, apartment 0r even a room as an option.  This is usually at a reasonable rate lower than hotel prices but limited availability at times.  This also gives you the option to “cook at home” which can be exciting adventure to the grocery store and save money.

Vrbo is again independent people renting their home or apartment usually for a week or weekend timeframe.  I have used this several times for family vacations with great success.  This again is a great option to allow you to “cook at home” and save some money.

TIP:  Change your google browser to the country specific version of google browser then search for bed & breakfast.  This may require a little extra effort in translating pages but I have found some local treasures through this solution.

For example: “Google Argentina browser”  I find that “.ar” is the local country extension so I change my url to “google.com.ar”;  then in the search “bed and breakfast Mendoza”.  I will find local bed & breakfast places that do not appear on the US Google search browser.   I also use this trick to search for hotels, tours, restaurants etc.


Sometimes all the other questions get tossed aside and it simply comes down to the amazing view you can enjoy from your hotel room.  On several instances for me it has been location, location, location with a view please!

Jungle Land
November 2013: Panama Canal –  Jungle Land, Panama   staying on a houseboat on the canal with an amazing view!


November 2012: Iguazu Falls – Sheraton Resort Iguazu, Argentina with Thanksgiving dinner on the balcony enjoying the sunset view!


May 2005: Arenal Volcano –  Lost Iguana, Costa Rica enjoying the view from our patio of the active volcano.