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Beware of Travel Scams

by Lux Joseph 13. June 2014

Did you really win the luxury free vacation in the Caribbean? We all enjoy time off from work where we can sunbath, go sight seeing, and enjoy the natural wonders of the world, but you don’t want to be subject to a travel scam. Travel scams happen all over the world and it is important for you to be able to recognize them. Our nurses and physicians travel on a daily basis to different countries around the world and safety is our top priority not only for the patient, but also for the escort. At Commercial Medical Escorts we ensure that hotels and ground transportation are prepaid for, but there has definitely been times in which the drivers have informed the escort that it had not been paid for. This could simply be a miscommunication between the dispatch and the driver, or it could be a completely different company trying to gain additional cash. At CME we encourage you to be aware of the travel scams out there so that you do not become a victim of one.

 Some of these offers below sound intriguing, a deal of a lifetime, or the best bargain for a vacation, but typically it means a scam is brewing.

·      Free vacations often come with the stipulation that a second must be purchased at “regular price,” which is usually two to three times more than it would cost to purchase the ticket through a travel agent.

·      Lodging certificates may also require users to purchase a second ticket at an inflated rate. Moreover, this “free” stay probably comes with a long list of limitations and exclusions and may even require attendance at timeshare presentations.

·      So-called “free” airline certificates are often not really free. They require you to purchase hotel accommodations at inflated prices. Be sure to read the fine print for limitations, exclusions and refund restrictions. Some certificates might require attendance at a timeshare or real estate sales presentation.

·      Some Spring Break companies don’t use a formal contract, which further complicates matters. Tour company brochures often double as contracts and as a result, when students sign up for more information, they might be unwittingly signing a contract.     

·      Beware of travel offers extended by postcard, telemarketer or newspaper invitation.

·      Paying for travel in advance can be risky for customers who wait too long, or the company could very well go out business. Use a trusted travel agent or a well-known travel resource when making arrangements. Ask them for their credentials and business history to ensure they didn’t just start up yesterday.

·      Buyers should also be wary of paying for accommodations they’ve never seen or heard of being stuck in a poor quality motel in an inconvenient location is no bargain.

·      Education is the key to avoiding travel scams.  Know the vocabulary scam artists frequently use and book through a professional travel agent.

·      Avoid telemarketers. They have no further responsibility to consumers after the sale has been finalized.

·      Be wary of firms asking consumers to send payment by overnight delivery. It’s more difficult to detect fraud through mail correspondence. It is best to use a credit card when making these purchases.

·      Companies offer to make people instant travel agent, so they can receive the discounts offered to certified agents. But only suppliers such as airlines, car rental companies, hotels or cruises have the authority to offer discounts.

·      “You have been specially selected to receive our spectacular vacation offer” translates to “You have been offered an opportunity to pay for a trip that fits OUR definition of luxury, whatever that might be.”

·      “Blackout periods” are also common to the fine print. These are blocks of dates, usually during peak travel times and holidays, during which time discount rates do not apply.

·      “Subject to availability” means consumers could be denied the accommodations and times they requested.    

·      Be skeptical of ads that have large pictures without much text. Also, watch for trips that guarantee your dream vacation for seemingly impossible rates.

·      Prepaid timeshares, campgrounds or travel clubs are risky investments because membership and maintenance fees can increase, the company can go bankrupt and timeshares are difficult to resell and rarely appreciate in value.

·      Don’t be pressured into accepting limited time offers--choosing a vacation is a big decision and legitimate deals won’t expire after a night’s sleep. When in doubt, always say no.

·      Never give your credit card number or bank information over the phone, not even for so-called verification purposes. Only disclose this private information to trusted businesses you’ve used in the past and trust.  

·      Senior citizens should be especially cautious of travel fraud since they are the most targeted consumers, according to the FBI.

·      An AARP study revealed that three out of four victims were chosen solely on the basis of their age. Consumers over the age of 50 are targeted because they have more free time, are inclined to spend money on travel and have fixed incomes.

·      Planning your vacation can be fun and exciting if you follow this golden rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

·      What looks too good to be true, usually is. Talk to your travel agent when you are unsure about online deals and “free” vacation offers. They typically can price match and then you will know you are working with a reliable source.

 As we have shared with you before, traveling can be overwhelming and stressful to begin with. Knowing that you made your arrangements through a reliable source will make sure that your arrangements are secure and confirmed. The last thing anyone wants to experience is getting to a destination where his or her luxury vacation is supposed to be and upon arrival there is nothing. Travel scams can even happen to the most experienced and sophisticated travelers. If the bargain is too good to be true, most likely it is. Be smart: Know what you are paying for before handing over money, and always count your change. 

The New Travel Protection: AirCare

by Lux Joseph 30. May 2014

A large percentage of the patients that CME transports with a medical escort are travelers that have travel insurance.  Travel insurance can save a traveler several thousand dollars all the way up to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the type of plan they purchase and what type of assistance they may need. A medical escort ranges in cost depending on the location of the patient, destination, and the type of arrangements, but it definitely saves a family a significant amount of money to have travel insurance. It is important to understand and recognize the different travel insurance and protection products that are available and their scope of coverage. We encourage you to contact your travel agent to discuss the different options available.

In this article, we are sharing with you one of the newest products to the industry provided by AirCare. While Commercial Medical Escorts works with the travel insurance and assistance companies in providing a medical escort for medical claims, many insurance products offer other travel protection services. AirCare is delivering a product to the market that will benefit a traveler somewhere every single day. Delays, missed connections, and canceled flights happen every day somewhere in the world. We all hope that it doesn’t happen to us, but you never know when it may and it is important for you to be covered and protected. That is what this product does. It isn’t insurance, it is protection.

AirCare is a product of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. This plan will compensate travelers for many of the travel inconveniences that occur on a daily basis and most of them require no claim forms to be submitted. The focus of the program is not only to provide protection, but to require minimal effort of the individual that is insured. The next time you are experiencing one of the following travel inconveniences see what AirCare is going to cover you for:

·         Lost or Stolen Luggage

·         Flight Delay Causing a Missed Connection

·         Luggage Delayed 12+ hours

·         Flight Delay 2+ hours

·         Tarmac Delay 2+ hours

Each of these unfortunate travel issues are all covered by AirCare. If your luggage is lost or stolen, AirCare will pay you $1000.00. If your flight is delayed so long that you miss a connection, Air Care will pay you $500.00. For those who check baggage to your final destination and your luggage is delayed more than 12 hours; AirCare will pay you $500.00. A flight delay more than two hours will result in a $50.00 payment and a tarmac delay more than two hours will result in $1,000.00. The compensation model that AirCare has developed is beneficial to the travelers especially considering it only costs $25 per trip. Even if travel goes perfect, the small amount the travel pays for the protection seems well worth it.

One of the great features of this protection is that you can purchase the protection up until one hour prior to the original scheduled departure. At the current time this program is only available on domestic travel, but I think we can expect to see the program expanded in the future. The program is designed so that a traveler could get multiple payouts from AirCare. If they have an unlucky travel day that is faced with a fly delay, that then results in a two hours on the tarmac, followed by a missed connection; the traveler would be looking at an automatic payout of $1,550.00. The team at AirCare monitors the flights and tracks each flight. They will know if a connection is missed, or if you are stuck on a plane and before you know it the funds are deposited into your bank account or PayPal.

Choosing the right travel insurance is never easy and that is why Commercial Medical Escorts recommends you speak with a trusted travel agent that is knowledgeable about the different products and what they have to offer. Many travelers are uneasy about travel insurance because of the complexity and AirCare is trying to remove that anxiety by providing a product that is simple to understand and manage. On March 3 Chris Isidore from CNNMoney reported that since December 1, there were over 1 million canceled or delayed flights. Just in January 2014, MasFlight reported 300,000 weather-related delays.

Consider protecting your travel for $25. Keep in mind this is not insurance and will not help you in the event you need a medical escort or air ambulance, but hopefully it will appease travelers who tend to run into travel inconveniences. If you are interested, you can purchase your plan today by visiting: https://www.bhtp.com/travel-protection/aircare.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend: The Importance of Vacation

by Lux Joseph 23. May 2014

AAA is estimating that approximately 36.1 million Americans were travel more than 50 miles this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. According to their reports, this is up approximately 1.5% from last year. It is unique to see that eight in ten travelers will be driving as their preferred method of travel. At CME, we primarily transport patients via commercial airline, but we have also transported patients by rail, car, and boat. This upcoming weekend will also be a busy weekend for Commercial Medical Escorts. Typically there is a trend that follows the medical repatriation industry. As more individuals are traveling, there will be a higher number of potential medical escorts for our team to assist in. If you have the weekend off, it is a perfect opportunity to take a short vacation even if it is what some people describe as a “stay vacation” in which you stay where you are, but do things you normally wouldn’t be able to do.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans put in more working hours during an average year than workers in Britain, France, Sweden, and Germany. As a country, we also have less parental leave and the least number of paid holidays and vacation—in some sectors it's as low as 10 vacation days per year. Meanwhile, the average European enjoys at least four weeks of paid vacation per year.

America lags far behind Europe in time off the job. It’s no secret. Americans, almost as a rule, are overworked and under-vacationed. According to the Census Bureau, we're a nation of workaholics. Statistics show that 28 percent of workers 16 and older work more than 40 hours a week, and 8 percent work 60 or more hours a week. It is reported that Americans receive an average of 14 days off per year. Compare that with standards in these other wealthy industrialized nations, as reported by Expedia.com’s Vacation Deprivation Report.

  • British workers get a minimum of 24 days vacation time.
  • In Germany, the minimum is 27 days.
  • In Canada, the minimum is 19 days.
  • In France, workers get 39 days of vacation time, and the typical workweek is only 35 hours.

So if you do have the free time, take a vacation and enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend. The travel 2014 forecast from AAA is the second highest travel since 2000. People are traveling more and more as the economic factors become more favorable for families. During the economic recession most travel that was being done was by business and corporations like Commercial Medical Escorts, but as things are slowly improving travel is once again becoming a popular choice especially for vacations.

For the six years that the Vacation Deprivation survey has been conducted, the United States stands alone as the country with the worst vacationing habits. In 2006 workers in the United States left an extra day of vacation on the table—4 days in 2006 versus 3 days in 2005—despite an increase in average vacation days received—14 days in 2006 versus 12 days in 2005. (www.vacationdeprivation.com/)

The United States is one of the few wealthy countries in the world that does not have laws governing the minimum amount of time granted to workers each year. Even in Korea and Japan, countries noted for intense work schedules, workers are allowed to take twice as much vacation time as their American counterparts.

In almost all surveys, American workers complain of feeling overworked, stressed and anxious about their lives. Clearly, most Americans have a bad case of vacation deprivation and the problem is getting worse.

There are many historical, cultural, financial and technological reasons for this pattern. We could debate endlessly about how we got to this point and what the long-term implications are for individual workers and for our nation.

Without getting into that much detail, I simply want to point out that too much work without adequate down time causes high levels of stress, which, in turn, negatively impacts our quality of life.

Beyond quality of life issues, there are health implications to being overworked. Numerous medical studies show a disturbing correlation between overwork and stress-related diseases, even early mortality.

So if you have this weekend free, enjoy it. Knowing the importance of time off is the easy part. The hard part is acting on that knowledge. Some tips to maximize that vacation are:

  •  Mini-breaks, mini price. Talk to your travel agent about special 3- and 4-night offers being made by hotels in many major cities. Some tour operators offer airfare, hotel and theater packages for a long weekend in the city. Cruise lines, too, are offering short cruises to meet America’s new interest in short vacations. Your travel counselor can help you find the vacation that’s right for you and your budget.
  • Add-ons. Try adding on a day or two to a business trip to take in the sights. If possible, have your spouse or family join you. Your travel agent can help find you and your family the best deals, map out points of interest and take the hassle out of planning.
  • No phone, no TV. Consider visiting a “wireless” resort that features an electronics-free environment—no in-room phone, no TV, no Internet connection. Your travel agent can help you find the right resort for you, whether you want to leave all electronic gadgets behind or find a resort where you can still check in once a week from the business center.
  • Leave it behind. Leave your laptop, business cell phone and PDA at home. To lessen the temptation of checking in every hour or fretting over how the office is falling apart without you, put a game plan into place before you leave. Decide what tasks take priority in your absence, who will take care of these and other jobs while you’re away, and leave a set of instructions and client contact information.
  • Stick to a work schedule. For some, getting completely away from cell phones and laptops is impossible, or may even cause concerns about what will be waiting for them at the office upon return. For those people, I recommend scheduling a time of not more than an hour every day to check in with the office and take care of work issues. It’s up to you to establish your own boundaries, and taking a real break from work should not be viewed as a crime or paint you as a less-than-productive member of your company. In fact, coming back rested and refreshed can increase your productivity at the office and make you more receptive to new ideas and approaches to problem-solving.
  • Pay attention to your stress level. If you are feeling unusually fatigued, tense, or irritable or experiencing neck or lower back pain, it might be time to use a few of those vacation days to re-charge your battery. Listen to your body; it could be the best signal that you need a break.

From the entire team at Commercial Medical Escorts we wish you a safe and happy holiday. Enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend. If you are traveling remember to be safe! 


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