(WSPA) – Travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels, but that doesn’t mean COVID-19, or anything else that can derail your plans, is slowing down.

So how do you protect your wallet when you’re booking a vacation?

From trip insurance to booking hotels to your rights as a flyer, 7NEWS looked into how you can avoid travel mishaps in this consumer exclusive.

Travel insurance: One couple’s warning

For Carolyn and Thomas Keating in Hendersonville, N.C., travel is a love, second only to their five children.

“It’s one of the things that makes life worth living,” Mrs. Keating said.

But like many travelers in this post-COVID era, the Keatings thought it wise to buy trip insurance when they booked a vacation abroad.

One fractured ankle later, they had to cash in that insurance policy, but it wasn’t smooth sailing.

“And we kept getting notifications, please be patient, and oh, we need your medical record again, only on a different form, and this went on from February till July,” Mrs. Keating said. “Then in July we got notified that in three weeks they would make a determination on our claim and if it was approved, we would get the check.”

With still no word by October, the Keatings contacted 7NEWS.

“It was like, well maybe people need to know that there is the good the bad and the ugly,” Mrs. Keating said.

“You have to save the documentation, read the fine print, be patient, all of it,” Mr. Keating added.

Travel insurance and your rights

Greenville Attorney Rodney Pillsbury couldn’t agree more.

He said documentation is key because in states like South Carolina, the statute said if an insurance company does not pay a claim within 90 days it may be on the hook for attorneys fees if a judge rules in your favor.

Pillsbury said before you buy any travel insurance do the research.

“Ideally before you get it, you want to find out who the company is that is writing it and then do a quick Google search on do they pay their claims. Some have a better history than others,” according to Pillsbury.

He also cautions, don’t just read the contract for what’s covered, look deeper.

“Where most people get burned is on the exclusions which is usually somewhere further back in the contract,” Pillsbury said.

Hotel headaches to avoid

Speaking of getting burned, Eden Parker, the manager at Greenville’s La Quinta Inn, warns you can avoid travel headaches by booking directly with the hotel.

“We had some guests that actually booked on scam websites that are not familiar with third parties that are marketing our hotel,” Parker said. “And they were paying there and actually here the reservation showed not paid.”

Passenger rights

When it comes to flying, passengers should know their rights.

For instance, if an airline makes a significant change to your flight time, you have the right to request a refund or a change of flight.

As for baggage, flyers have recourse, too. Airlines are required to compensate you for major delays or lost items altogether with a cap of $3,800 for domestic travel.

The key to all airline issues is that you have to ask.

One more key travel insurance tip

The Keatings are quick to point out, many credit cards offer some type of travel insurance, so be sure to ask what is covered so you don’t double pay for a service.

Ms. Keating also said those same credit cards usually don’t cover medical expenses, especially outside of the United States, which is what can make travel insurance more worthwhile, just make sure that’s covered.

The Keatings were able to rebook their travel and even got that check, nine months later.

“The insurance company has already sent Carolyn a survey asking if she was happy with the survey,” Mr. Keating said.

“They sent it before the check even arrived, so I haven’t filled it out yet,” added Mrs. Keating, with a smirk.

Despite the hassle, the couple still recommends travel insurance, as long as you don’t expect that reimbursement, anytime soon.