Really good financial decisions usually involve some planning. Other times they come in a flash. Or a nightmare. And, occasionally, just in the nick of time.
About 12 months in the planning was our recent trip to Bali.
That was a feat in structural organisation on its own. (But not the truly great planning. I’ll get to that four-leaf clover in a second.) Many of you will know firsthand, but that’s just how far ahead you have to plan when combining kids, school holidays, using frequent flyer points and accommodation for multiple families.
It’s like a 1,000,000 piece jigsaw. Or painting the Sistine Chapel. Or, tougher still, negotiating with my brothers- and sisters-in-law for time at the beach house.
But sometimes, when planning, you can forget the really important details.
It’s not always the first thing you think of when booking your holiday. But it should be.
So, our trip to Bali. July 2015. Mt Raung volcano eruption. Time line.
Thursday, 2 July, 2015: Australian airlines cancel their first flights to Bali, because of the erupting Mt Raung.
Friday, 3 July: We leave Melbourne for Brisbane, for a connecting flight to Bali the following morning.
Saturday 4 July: Our flight from Brisbane to Denpasar was turned back to Queensland, while over Katherine, after the winds turned, blowing the Mt Raung ash cloud back towards Denpasar.
Yes, I realise the following, critical, piece of the timeline is out of date order … but you’ll understand.
Wednesday, 1 July …
… Mrs DebtMan, for some inexplicable reason (probably simply women’s intuition), realised that “we” hadn’t organised travel insurance.
She’d built the jigsaw puzzle. She knew it was her responsibility. She immediately called our regular travel insurer, organised the cover and paid up.
As I said, sometimes it’s just in the nick of time.
We always, always, ALWAYS, take out travel insurance for international travel. It’s not about getting robbed (“Take my clothes, dirty underwear and crappy old shoes! They’re yours!”), or having expensive equipment broken.
It’s really about the medical emergencies. Being stuck in a tin-pot town, in a third world country, sick or injured, and needing to fly back to Australia. It happens. A lot. The monetary damage can go berserk.
But when our flight banked right (see image) and we heard “This is your captain speaking. I have some bad news”, we knew that our beautiful travel plans were about to be turned to chaos.
And they were. We’d lost thousands of dollars in total for accommodation already paid for in Bali and new, unforeseen, costs in Brisbane, as we awaited our next flight, to hopefully, finally, get to enjoy some of the holiday we’d been planning for a year.
In many ways, we were lucky. Mrs DebtMan’s late realisation that she hadn’t organised our normal insurance arrangements was near unforgiveable.
It should have been done months earlier, which is when one of us would normally have done it.
We got dumb-arse lucky on this occasion. Had “we” not realised the insurance thing until a few days later, when flights were already being cancelled and panic had set in … well, why would an insurer take on the risk?
We should have taken out insurance when we paid for the accommodation and airline tickets.
Were we dead lucky that we took it out when we did? Absolutely. Insurers are, understandably, still covering people going to Bali. But not for problems caused by Mt Raung’s top exploding.
Learn from my near mistake. Take out your travel insurance when you book your holiday. Or at least three months out.
Footnote: We got to Bali, eventually, about four days late. And despite a constantly spewing Mt Raung, we got home … nearly as scheduled.