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Tina and Tony Montgomery have always had a love-hate relationship with family holidays. On the one hand, it’s nice to spend time with their twin daughters. On the other, planning a trip with little people who don’t quite understand you is far from easy.
So when their new-parents friends asked for tips for a vacation with their toddler, Tony’s advice was: “Expect the best but prepare for the worst!” Any parent would agree that having children is the best gift there is. But life changes irreversibly. Parents quickly realize that travel planning will never be the same. The best-laid plans will go haywire. Baby, toddler, schoolkid, teenager – every stage of your child’s life will take you up and down a different kind of rollercoaster.
When Tina shared her ‘good news’ with Tony, they decided to celebrate by enjoying a last holiday alone as a carefree couple. Backpacking and adventure travels were ruled out. A pregnant Tina had different needs now that she was carrying a little person (which they later found were two persons) inside her. Safety was paramount. When was the safest time to travel? Which insurance product was the most suitable? To whom would they turn if something went wrong?
Tina spent hours poring over information booklets. The second trimester was the best time to travel. But a visit to the gynecologist was essential to confirm she was fit for her ‘babymoon’. For overseas journeys, some airlines ask for a health certificate from a doctor. Even if yours doesn’t, it helps to do a status check on your health to avoid nasty surprises.
The same meticulousness is required when picking insurance. Disclose all details of your pregnancy because in insurance lingo, it is a ‘pre-existing medical condition’. Travel insurance products include specific coverage definitions and restrictions. A careful read of the agreement can help you make informed decisions and prep for any uncertainties. What if the baby is born prematurely on your trip? What if the trip is cancelled due to a pregnancy-related complication? Tina and Tony tied up all loose ends before they took off. Tina’s purse had the number of not just her gynecologist but also the Allianz emergency hotline.
The twins were a delight, right from when they opened their baby blues to the world. But the joy of parenthood alternated with sheer exhaustion for the new parents. ‘Constantly tired’ was a feeling they were struggling to get used to.
One day, when Tony saw Tina lie exhausted on the sofa with bags of sleeplessness around her eyes, he felt he owed her a break. A vacation would be a good reward for the endless parenting. It was easier said than done. First, there were umpteen things to pack. Two days or two months, traveling with babies means taking the house with you. Unlike Tina and Tony, you don’t have to struggle to devise a packing checklist anymore. Allianz Global Assistance’s printable checklist simplifies it for you. Don’t forget the ‘baby passport’, even if your baby is yet to start crawling.
As for travel insurance, the good news is that kids up to certain ages are usually covered when traveling with their parents, depending on the country. You still need to pick the right plan to ensure all your needs are met.
“Since travel insurance is often bought by families, Allianz Global Assistance has put together special travel protection packages,” says Olaf Nink, General Representative of Allianz Worldwide Partners P&C S.A. “Besides trip cancellation, delays and disruptions, packages can also include other coverages, for example, health and luggage insurance. Extensive coverage is especially worthwhile for families for protection against high costs. If you are planning to go on a holiday with your whole family, insurance packages with family/couple rates are most cost-effective.”
Constantly curious, impatient, deaf to the word ‘no’ – that’s what toddlers are. The worst thing is, you can’t stay mad at them whatever they do. All it takes is an innocent look from somewhere in the vicinity of your feet and every transgression is forgiven.
Even chewed documents, as Tina found out.
When she was teething, one of the twins, Maya, decided to check if the travel insurance paper would make a tasty treat. When it didn’t, she decided to destroy evidence of her experiment by ripping it apart. Tony had a moment of panic: “What if something happens and we need those documents?” As fate would have it, his fear came true. Five days later, the other twin, Rosy, started choking on a plastic item she picked from the poolside and popped into her mouth. In panic, mommy and daddy Montgomery rushed to the reception, struggling to explain the situation to the receptionist and locate a nearby hospital.
Harrowing moments followed. In between trying to understand what the local doctor was saying, keeping an eye on Maya and caring for Rosy, the couple’s nerves were shot. Later, a massive bill appeared. How Tina and Tony longed for the comfort of their familiar couch back home!
Back then, the Montgomerys didn’t have the luxury of carrying all their travel documents in their smartphone. AllianzMyHealth App allows a customer to access all travel insurance documents on-the-go and also provides critical information such as nearest hospitals. The app even has a ‘symptom checker’, which reviews symptoms and suggests possible causes. Also, its ‘Health Assistant’ medical dictionary translates common illnesses into 17 languages and provides names of local equivalents of certain branded drugs.
The summer of 2010. Tina remembers it well. It was the first time the twins took a trip alone, to a summer camp. For Tina, a whole group of 10-year-olds traveling without parents was a worrying thought. Sure, they had supervisors but how would two adults watch every move of 35 kids filled with adventurous ideas? The first thing Tina packed, was a survival kit for the twins –from first-aid items and headache pills to sunscreen and bug sprays. For things that Maya and Rosy couldn’t handle on their own, she dialed her insurance agent to buy cover from Allianz for kids traveling alone.
Under the package, children have an Allianz contact to call 24/7 for any emergencies. Such packages include health as well as travel assistance and cover incidents not just during the trip, but also before the journey starts. Tina knows her daughters well enough to never exclude the possibility of one of them breaking an arm or catching the flu.
Seeing the bus take off with their kids for three weeks alone in the middle of nowhere was one of the hardest things Tina and Tony experienced. But the assurance that they were in safe hands helped them get through the separation.
Sweet 16. Tony could never really understand why they call it that. His daughters were anything but sweet as they made the transition from child to adult. ‘Grumpy 16’ was more like it. An article he recently read – ‘How to survive, and enjoy, vacations with teens’ – was some help. Being parents to teenagers is quite a challenge – they need as much sleep as babies, are as curious as toddlers, and find every activity with family ‘uncool’.
Parents Montgomery found a solution. They put the twins in charge of planning the holiday, laying some ground rules but nothing more. Of course, the travel insurance was an adult matter. They opted for a product that includes a ‘real-time insurance card’ from Allianz Global Assistance, offered in Germany and Canada. The card, which comes with certain travel insurance products, works like a credit card for any medical emergencies or delays in getting your luggage. Should a situation arise, a customer has to call a hotline and the card is immediately loaded with money to pay doctor, ambulance service or medicine bills or to buy essentials.
The Montgomerys have mastered the art of family travel. If you’re not quite there yet, reach out to Kim Orlando, a traveling mommy and avid blogger. Also, share your favorite family travel photo as well as advice and you just might be a lucky winner of a cool prize. #TMOMAllianz
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