When the water cooler runs dry, and your employer begins lopping off entire departments, it's no wonder you might hesitate to plan a getaway. Unemployment is at a 15 year high, or so says the newspaper, which -- by the way -- is also scrambling to stay in business. Maybe you'll play it safe and have one of those staycations you keep reading about in all those snoozy trend pieces. Can't you just picture it? The stale city wind in your hair as you graze on dollar menu small fries ... your inner clock adjusting to the rhythm of the Price is Right, followed by As the World Turns, and finally, Judge Judy. Before you know it, it's Monday all over again, and -- whooptydoo! -- you can return to the job you're still fearful of losing.
C'mon, people. Don't let the doom and gloom spook you into foregoing that summer vacation. After all, there are risks involved with any trip you plan. And just as you might purchase travel insurance as a safeguard against illness or some other unforeseen what-if, you can purchase similar protections against job loss. Conditions and coverage will vary according to policy, but most require you to have been employed full-time (or 30-40 hours) for a minimum of one to five years. For example, CSA Travel Insurance offers trip cancellation coverage in the event of "involuntary employer termination or layoff affecting the Insured or a person(s) sharing the same room with the Insured during the Insured's Covered Trip. Employment must have been with the same employer for at least 3 continuous years" (so even if your traveling companion is laid off and you're not, if you've bought insurance, you're covered).
Such policies are easily available online, but we suggest calling the insurer directly to ensure you get the coverage best suited to your trip. Why? There's a lot of vague language to trudge through in the fine print, and you'll appreciate having a real life human on the horn to answer your questions. Have the fine print in front of you when you call and make note of the agent you speak to.
As with any bargain search, the key is to shop around. Try using a travel insurance comparison site like Insure My Trip (www.insuremytrip.com), which checks multiple companies for the lowest rate based on your coverage needs. Searching its website, we priced a 6-day July trip to Las Vegas for a family of four, with nonrefundable expenses (flight plus hotel) totaling $2,600, and were able to find a policy offered by International Medical Group for $104. For an additional $31, Travelsafe offered the same coverage plus trip interruption (like most things, these prices are subject to change).
And while not all insurance companies provide coverage against the pink slip just yet, many have policies that protect against the opposite problem: unexpectedly being called into work. Under Access America's (www.accessamerica.com) Classic Comprehensive Bizpack coverage, insuring our Vegas odyssey (same parameters as above) against suddenly having to work would run us $160 (keep in mind that policies can vary depending on your state of residence).
Airlines are also making an effort to woo back the potentially unemployed. JetBlue has extended their JetBlue Promise Program (www.jetblue.com/promiseprogram/), offering full refunds on JetBlue airfares and vacation packages to the recently "reduced in force". Just be prepared to do a little paperwork: Refund-seekers must make a trip to the notary public (not kidding!), sign the terms of the offer (as well as your eligibility letter), which you must then fax and send by certified mail. There are so many forms to fill out, it's as if they're trying to give you the sensation of being employed again! But we wish more airlines would offer similar programs.
Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Air Travel Forum today.