Take it or leave it: Important travel questions to ask before your next trip!

One of the most exciting parts about travel is that there isn't a specific rule book that is given for you to follow. So it requires a lot of exploration, trial and error, and personal experience to learn the ins and outs.

Have you ever found yourself asking: Do I really need travel insurance? Are all-inclusives worth the price tag? Will I benefit from booking through a travel agent? Today we are answering a few of the most pressing questions travelers have, which will help save you time and money!

Do I need travel insurance?

Each year in the US, over 22 million bags are mishandled, 300,000+ flights are cancelled, and over 6 million flights are delayed, according to FlightStats. Since travel mishaps are so common, it is worth considering travel insurance to secure your trip.

Pros:

  • Travel insurance provides a safety net to protect against the unexpected. It will help get non-refundable money back,
  • Includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for canceled flights, a death in the family, personal illness, a natural disaster, terrorism, mandatory evacuation at the destination and more.
  • Most policies include medical coverage for sudden illnesses or accidental injuries.
  • Includes coverage for when baggage and personal items are lost, stolen or damaged.

Cons:

  • Travel insurance will cost around 5-10% of your total trip price.
  • To qualify for full coverage, you need to buy travel insurance within 15 days of booking your trip.
  • Insurance policies only cover what is booked prior to the trip start date.
  • Very few insurance companies will cover you when visiting any country with current travel advisories.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions are usually not covered.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I able to risk losing money because of a canceled trip, lost bags, or medical emergency?
  • Am I traveling outside of my home country where my health insurance won’t cover me if needed?
  • What kind of coverage do I need? Be sure to read the policy terms and conditions to fully understand what is covered.
  • Does my credit card offer travel insurance? This coverage is not as extensive as a separate travel insurance plan but the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a credit card that offers decent coverage.
  • Will I be engaging in high-risk activities such as skydiving or scuba diving? Many policies don’t cover these.

Our advice:

While you're never required to buy travel insurance, it is recommended for travelers by the U.S. State Department. it is often worth the investment and provides a sense of security for expensive and longer international trips. Travel insurance is not worth it for last minute or cheap domestic flights where you don’t have much money invested and can use your US health insurance if needed.

The top US travel insurance providers are Allianz for the most flexible coverage options and World Nomads to cover adventure activities.

Should I enroll in TSA Pre✓®?

With airports getting busier and security lines growing longer every year, it makes sense to join a program that expedites you through screening at airports. TSA Pre✓® does just that, saving you time and alleviating unnecessary stress!

Pros:

  • Saves time: TSA reports that on average, PreCheck travelers wait less than five minutes to pass through security. Normal lines average around 30 minutes.
  • Convenience: You don’t have to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, belt or jacket.
  • Affordable: PreCheck costs only $85 for five years - that’s less than $20 per year!
  • Widely available: There are over 200 airports participating in PreCheck across the USA.

Cons:

  • Because of the program’s popularity, TSA PreCheck lanes can occasionally be longer than the normal security lines.
  • TSA PreCheck members are still subject to the discretion of TSA Agents, meaning that you can still be singled out for pat-downs and extra security screenings.
  • The $85 application fee is non-refundable. If you don't get accepted for any reason (ie. criminal convictions or customs violations), you won't get your money back.
  • TSA PreCheck services can only be used when flying domestically within the US.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does my credit card reimburse me for TSA Precheck? A handful of elite-level cards do!
  • Do I travel more domestically or internationally? PreCheck is only valid for flights within the US!
  • How valuable is my time to me when traveling?

Our advice:

TSA PreCheck is worth it for frequent fliers to alleviate the frustration of their airport experience and is totally worth $17 a year. If you travel internationally at all, opt for Global Entry which includes TSA Precheck at just $15 more!

How about Global Entry?

Global entry is ideal for international travelers since it gives the benefits of expedited customs and immigration lines upon arrival back into the US. After a long flight from overseas, you will want your arrival to run as smoothly and quickly as possible!

Pros:

  • Saves time: You won't have to wait in the never-ending customs lines.
  • Affordable: Cost for Global Entry is just $100 and includes TSAPrecheck benefits as well. That's just $20 a year!
  • Convenient: If you’re having trouble booking an appointment or don’t live close to an enrollment center, you can enroll upon arrival at airports in 25 US states.

Cons:

  • Global Entry will not allow you to skip security lines if you’re boarding a flight in a country other than the US.
  • Depending on where you are located, it may take a while to schedule an in person interview.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does my credit card reimburse me for Global Entry? A handful of cards do!
  • Do I travel internationally at least once a year?
  • Do I have multiple credit cards that are eligible for free Global Entry? You can use the $100 credit toward a friend or family member’s application instead.

Our advice:

If you travel internationally at least once a year, you will benefit from the convenience of the Global Entry program.

It is a good idea to travel with a carry-on bag only?

Traveling light is oh so possible! It's also cheaper, faster and more freeing than checking a bag.

Pros:

  • The airline can't lose or damage your luggage like if it was checked. This is especially useful if it isn’t a direct flight and your bags will need to be transferred to a new plane.
  • You save money. Check your airline’s policy to ensure they don’t charge a fee for carry-ons as many budget airlines do. You will end up paying much more if there is a fee and you don’t pay it in advance.
  • Avoid wasting time waiting for your checked bags at the luggage carousel.
  • In addition to a carry-on, airlines allow you to bring a personal item such as a purse or laptop bag, which you can take advantage of for packing a bit more.

Cons:

  • You have limited space and weight to work with when packing. Your wardrobe will be limited.
  • You may still have to pay for a carry on bag.
  • You can’t bring liquids over 3.4 oz due to TSA restrictions.
  • If you're near the end of the boarding line, all the bin space may be filled by the time you get to your seat and you will have to stow your bag at your feet which can be difficult.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need extra room for shopping or souvenirs bought in my destination?
  • Am I able to pack light for this trip? Or are the activities and weather varied enough that I need more room?
  • If I attempt to pack light, will I end up spending more money acquiring what I need on the trip? Or can I pack light and still have all the necessities?

Our advice:

If possible, carry on is the way to go! This is easiest for shorter trips, when you are going somewhere warmer with lighter clothing requirements, or for trips when you have to pack up and move from one destination to another and you’ll appreciate traveling light.

Is it worth it to upgrade to first class?

Ah, first class – larger seats, priority boarding and complimentary alcohol make long flights a little more comfortable. But of course, sitting in the lap of luxury comes at a price.

Pros:

  • More space: Seats can be 4-6 times the size of economy with tons of leg room.
  • Pampering: You can expect personal service where flight attendants anticipate your needs rather than just reacting to requests. Expect much better meals and free top shelf liquor. as well as pajamas, eye masks and noise canceling head phones.
  • Comfort: Airlines are known to boast padded seats, larger TV screens, a flat bed with bedding.
  • Privacy: sliding doors for solitude.

Cons:

  • First class is expensive! On average, first class tickets for domestic flights in the United States cost at least $1,300 but much more internationally ($3,500 to Europe or South America, $3,800 to Asia, $5,800 to Australia or Africa)

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How long is my flight? Will I be comfortable enough to work, sleep, and eat?

Our advice:

For those who can afford it, it's worth the luxurious experience to land at your destination refreshed, less stressed, and well rested. So that you can enjoy your trip right away! If the price tag is too high, there are often economy plus or business class options that offer upgrades at a lower cost to you.

Am I getting my money's worth at all-inclusive resorts?

All-inclusive resorts have their perks if you want to get away from it all without having to plan out much ahead of time, want to eat and drink your way through the week and want to know how much your trip will cost ahead of time.

Pros:

  • Great for budgeting! Your trip costs are presented in a single up-front price. There are relatively few hidden fees, and you may not even have to worry about tipping.
  • Convenience: Leave your wallet at home.
  • There are tons of included activities and shows so you (and your kids) will never get bored.
  • Resorts are often a lot safer than the local towns in tropical destinations.

Cons:

  • Not worth it if you aren’t a drinker or don’t intend to indulge in lots of alcohol or food. Plus it’s usually bottom shelf liquor.
  • Upscale alcohol brands, motorized water sports, spa treatments and off-site excursions are generally not included.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I prefer to spend my trips exploring the destination and eating in local restaurants?
  • Am I bringing kids with me or is my trip adults only?

Our advice:

Read and fine print of your package before booking and find out what’s included. If you’re paying for unlimited scuba diving (an activity quite pricey on its own), take advantage of it—you’re paying for it anyway. Don’t book an all-inclusive if you’re not planning on eating or drinking your way through the week.

Read the reviews for an unbiased opinion on the experiences people past visitors had.

Is it beneficial to book through a travel agent?

With so many online resources available now, it is a lot simpler to do your own travel research and planning than it was in the past. But, enlisting an expert does have its perks!

Pros:

    • Travel agents have years of expertise and established industry connections to find additional value and perks you may not have access to on your own. Most travel agents have been working in the industry for years now, and it’s their job to stay on top of travel trends and upcoming hot destinations and budget friendly alternatives.
    • They will save you time in researching and planning your trip.
    • They have access to technology to spot weather delays and natural disasters ahead of your trip.
    • They will sift through travel insurance policies and point you to the plan that best suits your individual needs and itinerary.
    • They will be your advocate should something go wrong, giving you peace of mind in helping to rebook your flights or accommodations quickly. They are there to help you get your trip back on track.
    • Most travel agencies don't charge traditional fees for their work but get paid via commissions from airlines, cruises and hotels. Some travel agents charge a fee for putting together an itinerary, but most will credit you that fee if you end up booking the trip through them.

Cons:

  • You have to do your homework to find a reliable and experienced agent that will prioritize your best interests rather than the higher commissions they may make from booking with certain suppliers.
  • A travel agent won't necessarily know your interests and preferences when they are searching for suggestions for activities, restaurants, and more.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this a domestic trip or one that involves traveling to a part of the world I've never been?
  • Is this a big-budget, special-event kind of trip?

Our advice:

Booking a complex vacation takes considerable time and effort, and if you skimp on the planning, your trip could end in disaster. A travel agent takes the reins and plots out your trip, allowing you to enjoy a hassle-free vacation.

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