What you need to do when you travel last minute.
On Dec. 31, 2017, I had a plan. I would relax for an entire week before classes began. On Jan. 1, 2018, I woke up to the news that my Grandpa had passed away. Goodbye, plan! I flew to Castlegar, BC for a day and a half, then to Moncton, NB for two days. I got back to Vancouver at 2am on Jan. 7th, 31 hours before my first class. I learned a lot about emergency travel. This is what you need to know:
1. Do Get Bereavement Fares
Family-emergency discounts are available from many travel companies, but they all have different policies. WestJet considers cousins to be immediate family — Air Canada and Via Rail don’t. Be prepared to provide information such as a death certificate, or the name and number of your family members’ doctor. Bereavement fares aren’t the cheapest available option, though. Travel companies say they’re meant to give the traveler flexibility and eliminate flight change fees.
2. Do Save Information
Do yourself a favour: write down every detail you learn over the phone. The name of the insurance agent you spoke to, when your sister’s flight is landing, etc. Email yourself any relevant information so you can access it anywhere.
3. Do Pack Wisely
Check the weather at your destination. The average low-temperature in Vancouver in January is 2 degrees Celsius. In Moncton it’s -13! Travelling with only carry-on luggage lightens your load and reduces the risk of lost bags. Make a list of what you really need and focus on those must-have items.
- Prescription medication
- Phone charger
- Funeral outfit
- Winter coat and boots
4. Do Get Travel insurance
It’s another expense, but it’s worth it if you get stuck somewhere overnight. Standard travel insurance can cover expenses like meals and hotels. Just make sure you read the fine print and keep all your receipts.
5. Do Look up Cultural Customs
Familiarize yourself with cultural customs that may come up. At my Grandpa’s Catholic funeral my partner was caught by surprise by the Eucharist (consuming bread and wine). He had no idea whether it would be more rude for an agnostic like him to sit it out or to partake.
6. Do Take Breaks
You need time to recover while dealing with the stress of grief, last minute travel, and making emergency arrangements. Allow yourself to rest, celebrate the life of the deceased, and enjoy some time with your family.
7. Don’t Take the First Answer You Get
Let the insurance agent you’re speaking to know that their competitor has a better offer. Find a cheaper flight on an airline’s website before calling and see if you can negotiate a deal. If your insurance claim is denied, call and ask why.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
No one wants to be a burden, or appear incompetent. It’s not selfish or weak to ask for help when you are overwhelmed. Especially when the clock is ticking and you need to be on the other side of the country! Ask for support from your friends and family.
9. Don’t Wait
You may feel like staying in bed all day after the passing of a loved one. Unfortunately emergency is the keyword in emergency travel. Putting off booking your flight can make it even harder to find decent prices and get to your destination in time.
Hopefully this list can help you get to wherever you need to be with a little less stress. If so, please pass it on!