About a month ago, I had to cancel a trip to St. Croix due to illness. I had booked the vacation package (flight + hotel) through Travelocity.com so I called them to cancel my trip less than 24 hours before my scheduled departure. After deducting non-refundable fees (imposed by the airline and the hotel), they were only able to refund me about $40 of my $800+ trip cost. I was a bit disheartened at the thought of losing that much money, but I remembered that, at the time of booking, I also purchased Travelocity’s Trip Protection Plan at a cost of $44.95, so I still had hope of recovering most, if not all, of what I had lost. After all, according to the terms of the Protection Plan, cancelling a trip due to illness (of yourself, an immediate family member or traveling companion) seems to be a situation that is covered by the plan “up to total trip cost”.
When I cancelled my trip on the phone with Travelocity, the customer service representative gave me the phone number to reach BerkelyCare, the company that administers the Travel Protection Plan, and told me that I should contact them as soon as possible to file a claim. So, I hung up with Travelocity and immediately called BerkelyCare to begin the process. The BerkelyCare representative that I spoke with was friendly and extremely helpful. I was really happy with the way he interacted with me because it seemed like his desire to help was more genuine than that of many customer service representatives these days. He took down my contact information, my Travelocity trip id, and the reason for my trip cancellation. He told me that, since I was cancelling due to illness, I would need to get a doctor to verify that the illness prevented me from traveling or else the claim would definitely not be approved. (I made sure to see a doctor the next day so that the illness could be documented.) He then provided me a claim number and told me that they would be e-mailing me a copy of the claim form within the next few days. Once I filled out the forms, I would need to send them back to BerkelyCare and, from that point, he estimated that it would take 4-6 weeks for the claim to be processed.
Within 48 hours of speaking to the BerkelyCare representative, I received the simple 3-page claim form via e-mail, as promised. On these forms, I just had to provide information on how much my trip cost, how much of a refund I was expecting, the reason for cancelling my trip, and brief information about the medical condition that prevented me from traveling. There was also a half-sheet form that my doctor needed to fill out where she could confirm the nature of the illness, the date I was seen in her office, and whether or not she believed the illness prevented me from traveling. (It took the doctor’s office over a week to fill out their portion of the form, but since they were swamped with all of the swine-flu patients and other sick people coming through, I can’t really fault them.)
Once the forms were completely filled out, I attached a copy of my trip itinerary (a printout of the trip confirmation e-mail from Travelocity that included the detailed flight and hotel information) as they requested and mailed it to BerkelyCare. After about a week, I called BerkelyCare to confirm that they had received my claim forms. Another friendly customer service representative told me that they had received it and that it was being actively worked on. She told me to call back about a week later if I hadn’t already heard from them to get an update. So, a little over a week later, I gave them another call to check the status of my claim. The BerkleyCare representative that I spoke with informed me that my claim had been approved and that a check to cover the cost of my trip (other than what had already been refunded) had just been mailed to me that day! I was ecstatic!
I received the check two days later and, just like that, I had all of my money back! It took just about 5 weeks from the day that I first called BerkelyCare (and only about 3 weeks from the time they received my claim forms) for me to have my refund check in hand. Not bad! All in all, I consider this to have been a positive experience… except for the illness, of course. I admit that before I knew that my claim had been approved, I was worried that there was some fine print that I had missed or that BerkleyCare would find some kind of loophole to prevent me from getting all of my money back, but neither of those was the case!*
So, based on this experience, I would definitely say that it’s worth spending the extra money to purchase Travel Protection Plan when booking through Travelocity. You never know when something is going to prevent you from traveling, and for a cost of only about $45 dollars (relatively little as compared to what could have been lost), I’d rather have the peace of mind of knowing that I can get my money back.
However, before cancelling any trip for which you are hoping to get a Travel Protection/Insurance refund, I would make sure to call the plan administrator, give them all of the exact details of your situation, and do your best to confirm that you are entitled to a refund under the plan that you purchased. I’m sure that there are some situations in which you believe you should get your money back but your provider will disagree. Of course, there are times where you will have to cancel due to reasons that are not covered by your plan, and in those cases, you will unfortunately be out of luck in terms of getting a refund. In those cases, check to see if postponing your trip (i.e. setting new dates of travel with your agent/airline/hotel) is a less costly option than cancelling and losing all of your money outright.
* I am, in no way, affiliated with Travelocity or BerkelyCare. I do not receive any compensation for what I write about them and my opinions stated above are based on my personal experience with their services in October and November of 2009. The circumstances and outcomes of others’ experiences may be different from mine.