When Buying Baggage Insurance Pays Off

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It was the beginning of December, and we would luckily miss the holiday travel crowds. We got to Las Vegas International Airport with plenty of time to check in straight through for our flight to Berlin. Our airline was Delta, then Dutch KLM—three legs, with stops in Detroit and Amsterdam. Our vacation was set for 2 weeks, visiting friends and catching shows in Germany. Since we had lived in Berlin before, I knew it was going to be cold and was ready for the normal city snow. After all, the streets were plowed daily. The metro was nice and warm.

My daughter was 14 months old. I had added a pack of diapers just so I wouldn’t have to figure out her size in cm or kg the same day we would arrive from halfway across the world. As a still fairly new mom, I was unusually over-packed for this 2-week trip, but my gut said I had to take the extra measure. On the walkway from the gate to the plane’s door, I called my credit card company and bought us baggage insurance.

I had never bought baggage insurance before and had thankfully never needed it. I had been flying internationally since I was a kid and had never had my luggage lost or delayed.

I thought, 3 planes, 3 countries, 3 suitcases, a freezing cold winter and a baby in diapers, I think I’d rather be safe than sorry. Besides a good book that I never got to because I had a squirmy and curious 22-pound being on my lap for the whole duration of this transatlantic journey, I also made sure to carry on our annoyingly big North Face winter coats and take up all our overhead compartment space with 550-fill down. Having kids really does change a person. This over-prepared, overly-cautious woman traveling to a familiar city used to be the traveler that wouldn’t bring shampoo to save room and would notoriously pack extremely light and freeze and fly standby to wherever close-enough-to-the-original-destination as long as the flight had a seat open and last minute and sleep in airports.

Well, my motherly intuition-slash-paranoia paid off. The $50 in baggage insurance I put in for myself and my husband saved our trip from becoming a total fiasco and costing us twice as what was budgeted for.

Our first flight was canceled as we sat in the plane on the runway for hours due to technical issues. We were finally transferred to another plane going through Minneapolis instead. By the time we got to Amsterdam a huge snowstorm was brewing. Luckily, our flight to Berlin was one of the last planes out before the Amsterdam airport closed. In Berlin, we were greeted with a raging blizzard of sorts and not a single one of our three suitcases. Many hours and phone calls to the Baggage Insurance Assistance Hotline later, we found out that our bags went to Detroit then back to Vegas and were slated to be sent to Amsterdam the next day where they would hop on a flight toward Berlin. But they got lost—again. The following day, the day of their supposed arrival, Berlin Tegel claimed they never received them.

And check out the snow! (This is my baby in the same clothes she flew in a few days after the fact, before we had found and bought shoes for her to walk around in outside; I had her in soft sole Robeez boots while traveling since she would be climbing all over me for 18 hours.)

Snowed In

Three days and three migraines later, I finally accepted the fact that we’d be spending our time in Berlin shopping more than I’d hoped. We couldn’t have been in a better place to do so being that our friends’ home is in Mitte next to Weinmeisterstrasse Bhf near the Hackescher Markt shopping area, full of European designer stores and Berlin independent designer shops. But still, just to get by and because of the crazy, unexpected snow, we needed to purchase everything from wool socks to toothbrushes to sweaters and infant snow pants and leather boots and diapers and baby wash—a ridiculous shopping list while on vacation, which seemed even more ludicrous to me since it included everything I had packed. We even had to get a new suitcase to carry home all the things we had to purchase.

We never got our bags during our whole 2 weeks in Berlin. They actually were sent from Berlin Tegel’s basement—where they indeed had been stored since Day 2 of our trip with the sea of unorganized bags misplaced during the snowstorm and needing to be sorted—back to our front door in Las Vegas a full week after our return home.

Had we not had baggage insurance we would have been forced to buy a new cold weather wardrobe for 3 people on our dime. But instead, our insurance reimbursement covered it. For $50, we got $1500 for our misfortune—each person in our party was covered for up to $500, my daughter included even though she wasn’t technically a ticketed passenger.

And this is how I learned it’s a really good idea to buy baggage insurance when:

1)   your flight includes multiple stops and especially if these involve plane changes. More stops makes a mess-up more likely.

2)   you’re traveling in extreme weather conditions. Storms, snow, hurricanes, monsoons—whatever. Flight cancellations, delays, and rerouting become common occurrences in these situations. The chances of your luggage perfectly and punctually following your halts and detours diminishes.

3)   you’re traveling with a baby. Babies go through more changes of clothes and have extra needs such as diapers, swaddles, bibs, pacifiers, and loveys. You want to make sure that if you lose what you need for your child, you have the cash to purchase everything stat—or at least get a bit of relief in knowing that all the cash you’re blowing on things you had already packed will be eventually reimbursed.

I don’t buy baggage insurance on every trip I take, but I will in the future when my travels meet the above criteria. As always before purchasing insurance, read the fine print. I know even the American Express baggage insurance I had purchased for this trip has new limitations and specifications now. KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. You’ll need to provide proof of purchase for the insurance claim. Safe travels, and may your bags go with you!

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Photo Credit: ALAMY

About Sam at Reading the Road

Hello, I'm Samantha, author and editor of READINGTHEROAD.COM, a blog journal of travelogues, travel stories, personal essays, articles, reflections, reviews, and poems in which travel and literature intersect.

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