This is Not Jaws. It’s Real.

To bystanders, the sight of sharks attacking kids playing in the North Carolina surf may have been somewhat reminiscent of your first time watching the movie Jaws some 35 years ago—except this was real.  And the kids could have been your own:  a 12-year old girl has her arm bitten off just below the elbow; a 16-year old boy loses his arm above the elbow. Two victims, just two miles and 80 minutes apart.

Suddenly, without warning, the joy of a day at the beach turned about-face. None of the witnesses will ever forget where they were on this date, and at this time.

As often as I warn travellers, vacationers, and families gathering in unfamiliar places to be watchful of their environment, I know it often goes in one ear and out the other. “Don’t bother with that bizarre stuff when we’re on vacation,” they tell me. I know what they mean, but it takes tragic situations like these to shake the nonchalance out of our system: this could happen to you, or me. What would we do?

Do we know where the lifeguard stations are?  Do we know where the closest hospitals, or Urgent Care Centres, or pharmacies, or police stations are? Do we know what to do if one of the kids spikes a fever, or steps on a stingray or broken bottle, or slips on a rock and gashes her head? Do we know how far into the surf they can go to be absolutely safe from sharks or sting rays? Of course we don’t. Because unforeseen circumstances happen at the most inconvenient times, in the unlikeliest place.

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I can talk myself blue in the face trying to convince people to get travel insurance when they leave their home country, where at least they know their surroundings. But move into strange surroundings—be they in Myrtle Beach, Brownsville, Manhattan Beach, Waikiki, or Cable Beach—and a certain helplessness sets in. (If you don’t know where those locations are—which state or country—I have proven my point.)

Certainly, travel insurance will not prevent a shark from seeking his lunch, or keep kids off slippery rocks, or prevent them from trying to smash those large blue bubbles washing onto shore. But it will give you a good measure of security in knowing you are just one quick phone call away from someone who can tell you exactly where the closest medical care centre or hospital is, or advise you what to do if you run into a battalion of Portuguese Men-of-War.

Related: International Travellers: Please Register

Get your insurance from people you know and can trust: that’s rule number 1. And rule number 2: get policies that name every person in your party—you, your spouse or other significant other, and each child in your care. Your travel insurance will not cover them unless you specify it. And when kids need urgent treatment, the hospital emergency room does not offer half-off, or discounted specials.

Over the summer we’ll be offering up-to-the minute warnings and advisories about events that could threaten you, or give you peace of mind: like new insurance products. Stay with us and we’ll help you get the most out of your vacation.

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