In my little corner of the world as the snow begins to melt off the mountain tops and the apple, plum, and cherry trees break open their fragrant blossoms, cabin fever reaches its apex causing my wanderlust to take control of my life. I begin singing the tune, “those far away places with strange sounding names are calling calling me,” to the annoyance of my neighbors. They too are just as overcome with cabin fever and it won’t be long until they will be humming their own traveling song.
Some like to have their summer vacation planned out in detail before they close the garage door and head down the road with the driver rolling down his window and yelling with the gusto of a wagon master, “YO!!” to the delight of the neighborhood as he waves his arm forward. Others just want to reach the end of the driveway and say, “Do we turn left or right?” before the driver makes the same boisterous gesture to the delight of the neighborhood. In either case, a little planning ahead will greatly increase the joy of the trip.Here are a few tips to consider in helping to make your summer experience a pleasant one.
Protect Your Castle
Though you will be wandering, your home is still your castle and it needs to be protected while you are away. Nationwide insurance has this website www.nationwide.com/preparing-your-home-for-summer-vacation.jsp which does a wonderful job in detailing action items to consider. A couple of examples from that website:
- Shutting off water, cleaning out perishable items from the refrigerator, and closing down electrical appliances before you leave. Water damage is a peril of insurance which has a limitation based upon occupancy of home. If your home is vacant 30 days before the loss, no coverage is allowed. Check with your insurance agent to have “vacant” defined to you. Some say vacant means having nothing in the home, which would mean the peril is in effect since your furnishing and appliances are in the home. See what the difference is between vacant and unoccupied. Also check for the perils of vandalism and malicious mischief and glass breakage. There should not be any concern for any of these perils for a normal two week vacation; but if you are planning to be gone for 30 days or more, you may want to review your coverage with your agent.
Some insurance policies have limited coverage on refrigerated products where there has been a disruption of electrical service and not just for the expiration dates of the products. Doing this one thing can save you a lot of work if you come home to rotten food. Unplugging electrical appliances could save you a lot of heartache if there was an electrical storm causing damage to your appliances while you were gone.
- Vandalism and malicious mischief are other examples of factors needing your due diligence before your vacation. Again, there is a time limit, normally 60 days, where if you home is vacant or unoccupied, the peril will not apply. The website noted above gives good counsel as to what you can do to mitigate this type of loss.
Also worth noting from www.nationwide.com/preparing-your-home-summer-vacation.jsp is the consideration for travel insurance where you can protect your financial outlay for travel. This site points out several ways travel insurance can help. Among the suggestions are coverage for lost luggage, getting sick, emergency airlift, foreign hospitals, death of friend or family member, early returns due to damage to destination, job change requiring trip to be cancelled. My wife and I had to be reimbursed for a trip we were scheduled to go on due to a vehicle wreck where my wife was injured and could not travel. Glad we had it.
Two other sites you may find helpful in your planning for your getaway: travelers.com/resources/home/safety/preparing-your-home-for-vacation and www.travelinsurance.com/.
Check Points for Transportation
With your home secured, part of the excitement for a road trip is checking off things for your transportation:
- Check vehicle levels–tire pressure and the condition of the tires, coolant in the air conditioner, change to fresh oil and transmission fluid, make sure the spare tire is functional along with jack and proper tire wrench just in case, windshield wiper fluid up to level, not a bad idea to check brake pads for wear and tear, plenty of CDs to play when radio stations are out of reach. Oh, and don’t forget the marshmallow cookies and cold beverages which are absolutely necessary for survival, along with carrot sticks and cheese-filled celery sticks to munch on between heartier meals.
- Will your driver’s license be valid the whole time you are on your trip? There may be some occasions when a friendly local sheriff may want to welcome you to his county and remind you of proper vehicle operating etiquette. You may even need to use your license for ID to cash a check or prove you are the age you say you are for that senior citizen discount at the local campground or watering hole.
- How about your passport? Some states are moving in the direction where driver licenses will no longer act as identification for air travel, so another source is necessary. It takes a few weeks to get a passport, so give yourself plenty of time to obtain one if you think you may need one while traveling. Also, be aware that some limitations are imposed on passports which may expire six weeks or so before you depart. A case I am familiar with was a couple going on a guided tour to Israel who, when they got to the airport gate to depart, were turned away because the wife’s passport was due to expire before they would return to the States.
- How does my car insurance cover me when I drive in a foreign country? The answer is three fold:
- No problem at all in Canada. You just need a certificate of liability you can present at the border.
- In Mexico a vehicle accident is considered a criminal action. You can be arrested and sent to jail depending on the severity of the event, and your vehicle impounded. American issued liability policies are based on civil action and will not provide any coverage whatsoever in any territories of Mexico. Any liability exposure must be covered by Mexican approved companies and litigated by Mexican lawyers. Having spelled out that your American issued liability policy will not provide any coverage, there are in some American policies provisions to provide comprehensive and collision coverage up to 100 mile inside Mexico, with the cost of repairs beginning determined at the nearest U.S. point.
Many insurance agents along the border can write the proper insurance for you, so it is no big deal just to stop by one of their offices and sign up for the appropriate insurance. Don’t take the chance of not being properly protected. If you are just going to do some shopping in a border town, consider parking your car on the American side and walking into Mexico so you don’t have to deal with traffic delays or inspections. Just have your proper identification with you and enjoy the excitement of the wonderful mexican culture.
- This author is not aware of any American based insurance company which provides any insurance for countries that are not contiguous to the United States (Alaska and Hawaii are not foreign countries and therefore insurance does extend to them.)
In my research I did discover some major credit cards provide material damage coverage when you rent a vehicle abroad. It would be wise to see if your card qualifies. Also, the website www.insuremyrentalcar.com gives directions to finding additional information regarding insurance abroad. For example, if you are wanting to rent a vehicle in Ireland or UK, see www.icarhireinsurance.com; for Germany see leihwagenversicherung.de; for France see www.assurancelocationvoiture.fr. Other countries are also available on www.insuremyrentalcar.com.
Apparently, liability coverage is provided by the rental company. It was not clear to me in my research as to what extent you could be held liable for damages. One article even suggested it wouldn’t be necessary for you to worry regarding liability because the Europeans are not prone to litigation (traveltips.usatoday.com–Does US car insurance cover driving in Europe). What happens if you are the unlucky one who does encounter a suit? I can only think a good point of reference would be to contact the U.S. consulate or embassy to obtain proper information on how to meet that country’s insurance requirements.
- How do I meet individual state insurance requirements since some are no-fault while others are tort (at fault)? This is a thoughtful question because car insurance is based on an individual state’s statutes with no-fault and tort states sharing common state lines. Insurance companies have simply built into their policy contract wording which is similar to this found in Idaho Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance policy, “If you have liability insurance under section 3 and if an insured is traveling outside the state of Idaho in a state or province which has a compulsory insurance, financial responsibility, or similar law applicable to nonresidents, we will automatically provide the required minimum amounts and types of coverages, if your policy does not already provide these coverages. . . .” (Farm Bureau City Squire policy, page 29, Section 3 provisions, 1. Out of State Insurance). No worry on your part then. If you are in an accident, you simply have to document what state you are insured in and the adjusters will take care of the details.
- How do I go about covering my neighbor’s RV he lets me borrow in exchange for babysitting his two lovely St. Bernards while he is away from home? Several items should be considered when answering this question. If he is just letting you borrow it out of the goodness of his heart, he will also be lending you his insurance. Very generous. If he establishes some form of remuneration, then under his policy the vehicle becomes a commercial or business vehicle and is no longer available for coverage under his personal policy while the RV is in your control.
The option which removes any quesswork is for you to go to your insurance agent with all the pertinent information in hand and request the vehicle be added to your policy under a trip permit. This will allow you to absorb the cost presented by your care, custody, and control of the RV. The trip permit becomes part of your policy with all pertinent coverages on your policy extending to his vehicle without any reservations other than those included in the policy provisions. The premium charged will reflect the value of the RV, miles to be driven, and length of time you will have care, custody, and control of RV. Your agent will give you a certificate of liability showing you are meeting the insurance requirements necessary. This is relatively cheap insurance, so it won’t be a major expenditure to consider in preparing for your vacation.
- Are my personal belongings covered for losses while away from home? The answer to this question depends on the type of homeowners policy you purchased. There are perils of insurance which go wherever you go–like fire, windstorm, vandalism, water damage, etc., but the peril of theft only applies if your policy has been written with extended theft coverage–the peril which allows your belongings to be covered for theft when you are away. It is also usually worldwide in scope, so there is no worry as to where you may be when the theft occurs. The difficulty would be getting a police report which would establish the items were stolen. Of course, any loss would be subject to appropriate deductibles and the values of items lost due to governing perils.
- What if I have a cargo bin on top of my car for suitcases, two bikes on a bike rack attached to the back of the car and a jet ski on a trailer I am towing? If these items come loose, get blown off, or otherwise become separated from the vehicle, how are they covered? These are all personal belongings and would be subject to perils normally covered under a homeowner personal belonging portion of policy. An adjuster would be hard pressed to find a perils which would govern any of the three examples. The one saving grace could be your having insured the items under an inland marine floater attached to your homeowners policy. These floaters can be very specific in nature as to what is covered and to what amount. The floaters themselves are normally considered all peril policies, so exotic losses like those referenced above could cover your expense.
Health Insurance during Travel
Does your health insurance meet your travel requirements? With all the confusion with health insurance policies, it would be a good idea to visit with your insurance provider about coverage limitations during travel. It is very clear that if you are a recipient of coverage under medicare and medicaid, no coverages are impacted by stateside travel. However, according to https://wheelchairtravel.org, medicaid has no provisions for any coverage outside of the United States; and in fact, if you travel outside of the United States for longer than 30 days, your insurance coverage can be suspended and can be very difficult to be put back into effect.
Medicare on the other hand is simply not going to provide any coverages with the exception of allowing health insurance services to apply if you are on a cruise ship within 6 hours of a U.S. port. If you are within 7 hours you might tell the captain to put the hammer down and make some waves.😎 (Tongue in cheek). Reviewing your medicare supplement plan with your provider may give you some options as to how to proceed with your health insurance needs. Other health care providers like Blue Cross do provide coverage but may have some restrictions. Again, review your coverage before launching your trip.
Well, are you ready? After doing all the above, you deserve a vacation!! Go and have some fun crossing those unknown bridges with a positive attitude that everything will be just fine and your vacation will be the source of a veranda of pleasant thoughts you can enjoy later on. “YO!!”