March Spring Break: How to avoid an airport meltdown

March Spring Break: How to avoid an airport meltdown

By Eric Foss and Manmeet Ahluwalia, CBC News

It’s been a long, cold winter in many parts of Canada, and as spring approaches, many lucky Canadians have made plans to escape to warmer climates.

March Break, which for many Canadians starts next week, is one of the busiest times of year for Canadian airports, and while frequent fliers have a pretty good sense of the do’s and don’ts of travel, many Canadian vacationers aren’t aware of the rules and new services available at international airports across the country.

March Break is one of the busiest times of year for Canadian airports. (Eric Foss/CBC)

Arriving at the airport with the wrong travel documents or items that are not approved for airline travel can quickly change a dream vacation into a stressful and frustrating experience.

So before you imagine yourself walking barefoot on a sandy beach, you might want to reacquaint yourself with some useful airport travel tips and Canadian Customs rules.

1. Before you arrive at the airport

Consider using your airline’s online check-in, which opens 24 hours before your departure. Online check-in will secure where you’re sitting – you may even have a better choice of seat if you haven’t already reserved one. As well, you can avoid long check-in lines the following day at the airport.

Screenshot your boarding pass and save it as a photo. That way, you have an image of your boarding information on your smartphone in case wi-fi is spotty or too costly to access.

Also, check to make sure your flight is still departing at the scheduled time, especially on days when the weather is in question.

If you share custody of your children and the other parent is not coming along, or if you’re travelling with children that aren’t yours, it’s recommended you carry a consent letter to provide authorization to show Canada Customs when you re-enter the country.

2. Arriving at the airport

Make sure you arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight — at least two hours before a domestic flight and three if you are going international.

Know what choices you have for parking. The closer to the airport, the more expensive it can be. If you decide to leave your car at the airport, make sure you find the right location for the duration of your trip. Public transportation is often cheaper and more reliable.

Familiarize yourself with the airport’s facilities. Toronto’s Pearson International, for example, has many restaurants, a gym facility and places of worship. Modern airports have changed dramatically in the last decade, offering many different services.

Make sure check-in bags are under weight and within size allowances. Overweight bags will incur additional charges, or you will be required to reduce the weight on site. If you decide to carry your luggage onto the plane, make sure those bags are within the airline’s baggage allowance for size and weight — every airline is different.

If you haven’t checked in online or require boarding passes, consider using the self check-in kiosks. Located near the airlines’ check-in counters, these are great time savers allowing you to view your itinerary, select seats and print boarding passes.

3. Going through security

Make sure any sharp objects — including files and scissors — are in your checked bags. See the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority site for the latest on what is allowed through security.

Be prepared to remove your shoes, belt, watch and anything that has a substantial metal content. Bins are provided to keep loose items together.

Located near the airlines’ check-in counters, self check-in kiosks are great time savers that allow travellers to view their itinerary, select seats and print boarding passes. (Eric Foss/CBC)

If you’re carrying a laptop, remove it from its case or bag and place that in a separate bin.

Keep your ID and boarding pass available to show security screeners.

Jewelry and valuable items should be removed before entering security.

4. Before you board

It’s not a bad idea to eat something before you fly. Many airlines charge for food items and the selection may not be to your liking.

5. Boarding your aircraft

Most airlines will start boarding a flight at least 30 minutes before takeoff, even earlier with some of the larger aircraft.

Delays in boarding affect all passengers and can result in a missed travel slot for the aircraft. Make sure you board when the flight is announced and listen for your row. Families with small children, as well as people with disabilities, get prioritized boarding on most flights. 

6. Finding your bags

Once you have disembarked from your plane, follow the signs to Baggage Claim. When you arrive, check the monitors to find the carousel that corresponds to your flight number.

Have your bags, entry documents and ID ready for inspection if you are coming off an international flight. Be prepared to show items that you purchased to customs officers if asked.

7. Canada Customs

A passport is the preferable piece of identification for entry into Canada. Other acceptable identification includes an enhanced driver’s license, a birth certificate with accompanying photo ID (such as a regular driver’s license), a permanent resident card, a citizenship card or a certificate of Indian status.

Souvenirs can be a fun way to remember your trip abroad, but certain goods are prohibited from entering Canada, including some food, plant and animal products. Be aware of what goods are prohibited from entering Canada by consulting the I Declare brochure.

Whether you are leaving or returning to Canada, you must declare if you are carrying more than $10,000 Cdn.

What to do if you’re a Canadian facing an emergency in a foreign country

Canadians who travel outside the country may plan their vacations to a meticulous degree, but they often don’t know what to do if the unexpected happens.

The latest example is a Winnipeg woman whose daughter died at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Holly Twoheart told Global News that she was “lost” dealing with all the different things that arose.

The federal government recommends all travelers check in before they leave Canada.

Registration of Canadians Abroad is a free service that allows the Government of Canada to notify you in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home. The service also enables you to receive important information before or during a natural disaster or civil unrest.

That’s the first step and recommended for any Canadian planning on travelling outside of the country.

If you, or a loved one, are outside Canada and lose your passport, need urgent medical care, have been arrested or detained, or face an emergency, Canadian consular officials may be able to help you. This help provided to Canadians abroad is called “consular services.”

You can email sos@international.gc.ca or call directly at 1-613-996-8885.

Global Affairs Canada should also be contacted immediately at 1-613-944-4000.

The following is a credit-card sized information card that can be printed, folded and put into your wallet. Take the five minutes to download, print and write down the relevant information and tuck it into your wallet or travel case before you leave on your vacation.

You can reach consular officials 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in 150 countries and through the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.

The website includes links and information to help Canadians with the following:

  • Arrest and detention
  • Child welfare, abduction and custody issues
  • Death abroad
  • Financial assistance
  • Forced marriage
  • Hijacking, hostage takings and kidnappings
  • Large-scale emergencies abroad
  • Lost or stolen belongings abroad
  • Missing persons
  • Passport security
  • Physical assault abroad
  • Sexual assault abroad
  • Sickness or injury

You should also be in immediate contact with the local Canadian embassy or consulate. A full list of where they are and how to contact them is in that link.

Travel Insurance

It’s not uncommon for many travelers to forego purchasing extra travel insurance. But it’s a situation not recommended by the federal government or travel companies.

The Canadian government said travel insurance is “essential” as you never know what can happen.

“Your Canadian insurance is almost certainly not valid outside Canada,” the federal government said on its travel website.  “Your provincial or territorial health plan may cover nothing or only a very small portion of the costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad.”

But it’s also important to know what ‘kind’ of insurance you are buying and what it covers.

“When assessing a travel health insurance plan, you should ask a lot of questions. Carefully research your needs and verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of your insurance policy before you leave Canada.”

It’s also recommended travelers check the Canadian government’s website for any travel advisories that may be in effect before they leave.

The government keeps an updated list on its website.

Sherridan Harris of Trafalgar Tours Canada and Michelle Fischer of Transat Travel had a few other tips for travellers in emergencies.

“You always want to make sure you take a photo of your passport, or a photocopy or both and make sure you have one with you and that you also leave one at home with somebody,” said Harris.

“In the event you do lose it or have it stolen, this way you can prove your identity and still get out of the country.”

Fischer has worked as a travel agent for 25 years and said she always recommends purchasing insurance.

“It is the number one thing, in all the years of experience,” she said. “It’s the unexpected. I think the most common answer is ‘nothings going to happen I don’t need it.’ But unfortunately life is unpredictable and things do happen.”

Interruption insurance is something else to think about, Fischer added.

“What if something happens to a family member or your house burns down?” she said. “You can be just arrived and with our insurance, you can be on that first flight home to take care of what has happened.”

Travelers Institute to Tackle Distracted Driving, Cybersecurity, Severe Weather in 2019

HARTFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Feb 13, 2019–The  Travelers Institute, the public policy division of The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE:  TRV ), today announced its series of 2019 educational forums focused on combating distracted driving, managing cyber risks, insuring autonomous vehicles and preparing for severe weather events. Programs are free and open to the public.

“We saw great engagement throughout our symposia series in 2018 and look forward to continuing to raise awareness of important social topics across the United States and Canada,” said Joan Woodward, President of the Travelers Institute and Executive Vice President of Public Policy at Travelers. “By bringing together community members, entrepreneurs, business leaders and students, we hope these events will help to identify solutions that will generate real change for widespread societal issues and help people and businesses stay safe.”

The first symposium of the year will be “Disrupting Distraction,” part of the Travelers Institute ® Every Second Matters℠ series. It will be held today at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, beginning at 6 p.m. ET. This series brings attention to alarming distracted-driving trends contributing to traffic fatalities and highlights innovative approaches to help prevent distractions and encourage safer behaviors.

“Constant connection is so highly valued in our society, but the urge to stay in touch can have devastating consequences,” said Lane. “The Every Second Matters initiative and today’s event will take us a step closer to reducing avoidable fatalities and injuries, and we’re proud to be a part of the effort.”

Travelers has also developed a new video series — “Unfinished Stories” — as part of its efforts to discourage distracted driving. The videos honor victims of distracted driving by imagining what might have been if the crash never occurred. The series is being shared across the company’s social media channels and during Travelers Institute and other events. To see the latest video and other distracted driving content, click here.

Additional educational forums planned for 2019 include Cyber: Prepare, Prevent, Mitigate, Restore ℠, a series that provides guidance for small and midsize organizations to help them prepare for and respond to data breaches and other cyber incidents, and the annual “Kicking Off Hurricane Preparedness Season” symposium to be held at the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, as well as other events focused on natural disaster preparedness, autonomous vehicles and small business solutions.

Visit the  Travelers Institute website to see the schedule of upcoming events and learn more about these initiatives.

About the Travelers Institute

The Travelers Institute, the public policy division of The Travelers Companies, Inc., engages in discussion and analysis of public policy topics of importance to the insurance marketplace and to the financial services industry more broadly. The Travelers Institute draws upon the industry expertise of Travelers’ senior management, as well as the technical expertise of many of Travelers’ underwriters, risk managers and other experts to provide information, analysis and solutions to public policymakers and regulators. Travelers is a leading provider of property casualty insurance for autohome and business. For more information, visit www.travelers.com.

Almost two-thirds of Canadians either don’t buy or are unsure if they have trip cancellation insurance before leaving on holiday.

Read more

These Are The Most Common Travel Insurance Mistakes

The excerpreted article was written by Christopher Elliott

It’s peak season for travel insurance claims, a time of year when vacationers are sending their reimbursement requests for their ill-fated year-end holiday getaways. If you’re one of the unlucky travelers who are about to file a claim, be careful to not make one of several common travel insurance mistakes,` any of which can potentially lead to a rejection of your claim.

Travel insurance claim denial rates are not publicly reported, but they are said to be somewhere between 2% and 5%.

Don’t worry, you can easily avoid the most common travel insurance claims mistakes. All you need is a cheat sheet of the most common claim mistakes and a few insider strategies for getting around them.

If you’ve purchased a policy through a third party, there’s good news: The company will help you and ensure that you’ve filed all the paperwork correctly. For example, G1G.com, a travel insurance comparison site, can process a claim either through a customer care representative or through an online portal.=

“Unfortunately not all travel insurance companies claims process are as easy as they should be,” says Zubair Jeewanjee, G1G’s CEO. “As a result, travelers often miss out on valuable compensation due to antiquated and time-consuming claims procedures. The best way to avoid claims mistakes is having us do it for you.”

These are the most common travel insurance mistakes

As a consumer advocate, I deal with travel insurance claims — especially denied travel insurance claims — on an almost daily basis. Travel insurance companies with great customer service reputations handle their claims quickly and fairly. Others — not so much.

It’s the perfect time to think about this problem. More people than ever will buy travel insurance in 2019. A survey by Squaremouth, a travel insurance site, predicts 24 percent more travelers will need to insure their international trips because of new travel regulations.

Here’s a list of common travel insurance mistakes:

Incomplete paperwork

That’s the most common obstacle to getting a travel insurance claim paid, according to Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com. “While not especially difficult, filing an accurate claim requires attention to detail and having your travel documents and receipts organized,” he says.

Insider tip: Keep either an electronic copy or hard copy of all of your travel purchases in one place. If you experience an unexpected issue while traveling that you believe is covered under your travel insurance, keep all of those receipts in a separate folder or envelope. “If you have to file a claim, you’ll already have most of your documents organized,” says Sandberg.

Bad timing

Another common claim problem: Your claim occurs before your effective date. “Most people naturally purchase coverage for the first day of their arrival at their destination,” explains Justin Tysdal, CEO of Seven Corners, a travel insurance company. “But what you may not think about is what can happen during your travel. Especially if you’re spending a whole day traveling across the world. You could sprain your wrist picking up heavy luggage, or you could eat some iffy airport food and end up sick. But if your coverage doesn’t start until the next day, you could be stuck with the doctor’s bill.”

Timing, as they say, is everything.

Another common timing problem is waiting too long to file the required paperwork. You typically have 90 days from the date of your loss to submit your claim. If you miss that deadline, you could get an automatic denial from a travel insurance company.

Insider tip: Make sure that coverage starts the day you begin your travel and that you file your claims paperwork as soon as you can. “Plan ahead so that if you do get sick or injured in an airport in a foreign country on a layover, you’ll be protected,” adds Tysdal.

Inadequate documentation

This may be one of the biggest roadblocks of all. If you can’t prove you have a claim, you’re out of luck. “The biggest barrier to processing a claim is missing or inadequate documentation,” says Beth Godlin, president of Aon Affinity Travel Practice. “Just like with your auto or home insurance, when you file a travel insurance claim most plans require backup in order to process your claim.”

Insider tip: Providing correct, complete documentation from the start can mean faster reimbursement. To make sure you’ve covered everything, call your travel insurance provider or check its app or website to confirm what you need to submit. “Different scenarios require different documentation,” explains Godlin. “For example, travelers might need to provide a completed attending physician statement, along with the original trip itinerary, for a trip cancellation due to a medical reason. For a trip delay, they might need to provide receipts for extra costs incurred, or verification from their airline in order to be reimbursed.”

Filing an invalid claim

This is perhaps the most frustrating of all blocks, and it’s a permanent one. “When it comes time to file a travel insurance claim, many travelers don’t read the fine print of their policies,” explains Joe Cortez, NerdWallet’s travel expert. “Just because a plan says ‘trip cancellation,’ it doesn’t mean they can cancel their trip for any reason. It’s important for travelers to understand what situations are covered and not covered before they make any decisions about that would result in an insurance claim.”

For example, a State Department travel advisory may not be enough for a successful travel insurance claim, but getting involved in a car accident while on the way to the airport could be a covered situation.

Insider tip: You can avoid filing an invalid claim by understanding what’s in your travel insurance policy before you leave. And it works both ways, Cortez adds. “Many travelers don’t realize when they are covered under a travel insurance plan,” he notes. In other words, you might not file a travel insurance claim even though you were covered for the event.

What are your travel insurance claims stories?

I asked readers to share their favorite travel insurance claims stories, and, did I get an earful. It turns out that making a travel insurance claim mistake is too easy.

“Before you buy a policy, read it,” says Paula Miller, a retired teacher from Kitty Hawk, NC. “And known the difference between canceling for a covered reason or cancel for any reason.”

Miller bought insurance for her last trip through Expedia. Her mother-in-law died the day she was supposed to leave. Fortunately, she knew what was in her policy and what she had to send her insurance company.

“The claims process has been pretty smooth,” she says.

Shirley Kroot, a retired teacher from Huntley, Ill., says she’s learned to hold on to every piece of paper, particularly when she’s seeking medical attention.

“This would be the procedure for minor medical expenses, such as having a cold in a foreign country and going to a walk-in clinic or needing to go to the medical office due to a fractured clavicle on a ship,” she says. “I experienced both, the first in Perth, Australia, and the second on a cruise ship in Norway.”

Kroot says she buys all of her policies through Travelex Travel Insurance. “We have never had a problem with claims,” she says.

Choose the right policy for you to avoid a travel insurance claim mistake

I second that. I have an annual travel insurance policy through Allianz and have found that the claims process is dead simple and payment is lightning fast. My last claim, for a doctor’s visit on Hawaii’s Big Island, was processed within 24 hours — now that’s quick!

Even better: Having a third party like G1G or Squaremouth that can advocate for you if something goes sideways with your claim. I also have some claim advice on my consumer advocacy site, just in case your claim falls through the cracks.

Bottom line — chances are you’ll buy travel insurance this year. And if you have to file a claim, you can avoid a rejection by reading your policy, ensuring your paperwork is in order and filing on time.

Source: Forbes

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t.

I’m a consumer advocate. I write about customer service.

 

Russian police recover painting stolen in broad daylight

By Nataliya Vasilyeva

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW _ Russian police on Monday found the painting that was stolen a day earlier from Moscow’s famed museum of Russian art in broad daylight before unsuspecting visitors.

The painting of mountain ridges by Arkhip Kuindzhi, titled  “Ai-Petri. Crimea,” was stolen in front of confused visitors on Sunday evening at the Tretyakov Gallery in one of the most brazen Russian art heist in recent memory.

CCTV footage released by the police shows a young man calmly walking up to the painting, stopping to take a look and then taking it off the wall with other visitors looking on. He then crosses the hall and walks away.

The Interior Ministry said Monday that they have detained a 31-year-old suspect in the theft and recovered the painting, which had been hidden at a construction side outside Moscow. Police said the man was detained last December for drug possession and has been on bail since.

The man said in the video of interrogation posted online by the police that he “did not commit any crimes” and that he could not remember where he was on Sunday.

The painting had an insurance estimate of $185,000 but some other works by Kuindzhi have fetched more that $3 million at auctions.

The theft raised questions about security at the Tretyakov Gallery, one of Russia’s most renowned museums.

The Tretyakov was hit by another brazen crime last May when a man attacked a famous 19th-century painting with a metal stanchion. The man reportedly damaged the painting, which depicts Russia’s first czar cradling his dying son after striking him in a fit of rage, because he thought it to be historically inaccurate.

Russia’s Culture Minister said after Kuindzhi’s painting was recovered that it would push for all temporarily exhibitions at state-owned museums to be equipped with motion detectors.

Investigators have yet to establish whether the man had an accomplice or not.

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